Britain’s first ever Turkish mosque at risk of closing

A mosque that has a close connection to the Ottoman royal family, this special legacy is at risk of disappearing altogether


In the name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful. All praise is due to Him, and may His peace and blessings be upon His final Messenger, Muhammad.

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Many British Muslims are aware of the illustrious history of the Ottomans, but few may know about a special, and recent, connection to the dynasty found right here in the UK.

Shacklewell Lane Mosque, also known as Masjid Ramadan, sits off Stoke Newington Road in Hackney, East London. The Turkish Cypriot-origin community opened Masjid Ramadan back in 1977, converting a former synagogue into the UK’s first ever Turkish mosque.

The mosque serves a diverse local Muslim community, but continues to meet the religious needs of British Turkish Cypriots. For instance, supporting with funeral services and the repatriation of the deceased to the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC).

Founded over 50 years after the end of the Ottoman state, the Islamic centre’s connection to the empire is not immediately clear — barring the roots of its founders, of course.

And yet, some 18 years ago, in 2006, the mosque held the funeral of Dürrüşehvar Sultan, the daughter of the last Ottoman Caliph, Abdülmecid II.

Fascinating story of Princess Dürrüşehvar Sultan

When the newly established Turkish Republic abolished the caliphate in 1924, Dürrüşehvar and her family started a new life in exile. During this time, the former Ottoman princess married Prince Azam Jah, the son of the Nizam of Hyderabad.

While living in Hyderabad, Dürrüşehvar learned Urdu and was a dedicated servant of her people. She had a great passion for charitable deeds, establishing public and children’s hospitals, as well as a college for girls.

Towards the end of her life, she spent her final years living between London and India.

Disappointed by the refusal of the Turkish authorities to allow her father to be buried in Turkey following his death in 1944, the princess refused to be buried in her homeland.

After she passed away some six decades on, she was buried in Brookwood Cemetery, Surrey, after funerary prayers at Shacklewell Lane.

The princess’ legacy could be permanently lost

Tragically, the princess’ London legacy is now at risk of disappearing forever.

Worse still, this could happen within a year. Masjid Ramadan, the very site of Dürrüşehvar’s funeral, faces closure by next Ramadan.

Erkin Güney, the mosque’s Chairman and the son of its founder, told Islam21c that mounting utility bills and repair costs, alongside a shrinking congregation, are making it harder to sustain the place of worship.

Güney explains,

“We need at least £200,000 to get on top of the work and to meet health and safety requirements and standards.

“Funeral services have been funding some of the upkeep. But the building dates back to 1903, and needs a lot of work.”

Indeed, the mosque needs an extensive catalogue of repairs, from its washing facilities, to its roofing, brickwork, windows, and carpeting.

But in addition to funerary income, collections only bring in some £2-300 per week.

Mosque attendees at an alarmingly low figure

The congregation has dwindled significantly in recent times, depriving the mosque of a large portion of its former support base.

While some have simply moved out of Hackney, many British Turkish Cypriots passed away during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Güney tells Islam21c,

“The pandemic had a big effect on us, we lost over 1,000 people in our community in the space of two years.”

Britain’s first ever Turkish mosque at risk of closing
ERKIN GÜNEY, CHAIRMAN OF MASJID RAMADAN. EDITORIAL CREDIT: ERKIN GÜNEY

Standing resolute and seeking £200,000

Most impressively, the management team have stood firm in the face of this devastating tragedy, and are striving to keep the mosque open.

After all, they continue to serve the many families who lost their loved ones in the pandemic, alongside Hackney’s wider Muslim and non-Muslim communities.

To this end, the management have made a valiant fundraising effort to keep the mosque open, raising over £28,000 with support from friends and members of the congregation so far.

Yet, without attaining the full amount, Masjid Ramadan could close fully, or be partially sold, with the prayer space scaled back, and parts of the building transformed into residential or commercial property.

As Erkin Güney warns,

“This mosque is very important, not just for Muslims in the United Kingdom, Turkey, or North Cyprus, but for the whole Islamic world.

“It is the first Turkish mosque in the UK, and the daughter of the last Ottoman Caliph’s funeral took place here.

“To lose our mosque would be an absolute tragedy, we need to preserve that legacy; it should be supported indefinitely.”

Action points

  • Bullet 1Make du’ā for Masjid Ramadan and those who manage and support it, du’ā is one of the most effective tools at our disposal.
  • Bullet 2Donate to the centre whilst remembering that to support a mosque carries immense reward!
  • Bullet 3If you hadn’t heard of this masjid before, let this be a gentle nudge to learn about Islamic history, including that of the UK.

Source: Islam21c

Notes

[1] https://www.launchgood.com/v4/campaign/save_masjid_ramadan

 

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