In the late Victorian era, Britain presided over a vast empire in the East which included millions belonging to the Islamic faith. British upper-class soon became intrigued, and some even converted. Al Jazeera reports, “many of the early British converts to the religion were young aristocrats or the children of the mercantile elite. Some were explorers, intellectuals and high-ranking officials of empire who had worked and lived in Muslim lands under British colonial rule.”
“There was the carnage and chaos of the First World War, the suffragette movement, the questioning of imperialism and the right of the British and other Western empires to rule over vast numbers of people,” says Professor Humayun Ansari of Royal Holloway, University of London. “In many ways, [those who converted] were living in a very troubled world. In Britain’s wars in Sudan and Afghanistan, and later Europe, they saw terrible slaughter, with armies and governments on all sides claiming God was with them… They had experienced what they saw as the peace, the spirituality and simplicity of Islamic societies, and it appealed greatly to them.”
From William Quilliam (1856-1932), who was the son of a prominent Methodist preacher and watch-making magnate in Liverpool and converted in Morocco as a young man, to Lady Evelyn Cobbold (1867-1963) ,who at the age of 65, announced her conversion, and became the first Western woman to make the Hajj pilgrimage, Al Jazeera walks you through these historical converts to Islam and puts it all in context for you.