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West London Islamic Centre & Jamia Masjid

Community News

Commemorating our Heritage

In an age-old, silent corner of Willesden Cemetery, in the shadow of willow and horse chestnut trees, lies a Victorian gentleman who history had forgotten until now.

Imam Haji Mohammed Dollie came to England in 1894 with his wife and two sons and quickly became involved with the city’s Muslim community.

When he arrived in London he found a small Muslim community of no more than a couple of hundred. They gathered together in public buildings like the Holborn Restaurant, but had no dedicated Mosque. Haji Mohammed Dollie decided to offer up a room in his house on Albert Street to the community as a Mosque. He taught children and adults about their faith, performed religious ceremonies and gave guidance to newly arrived Muslims. 

Abdul Malik Tailor, a local tour guide from Acton who operates London’s Muslim History Tours service, first read about Imam Dollie in a biography of the renowned Shaykh Abdullah Quilliam, who opened England’s first mosque in Liverpool in 1887. Imam Dollie was a friend and confidant of the Shaykh and they are said to have communicated regularly. After researching Imam Dollie and liaising with his descendants in South Africa, who generously provided a suave and dapper looking photo of the late Imam, he found newspaper accounts telling the story of how he had opened London’s first mosque. One 1899 story reported:

'Coming to England five years ago, he took a house in Albert Street, Regent's Park, and soon made the acquaintance of the heads of the Moslem families settled here. 'Will you teach our children their prayers?' they asked, and he assented. Gradually the parents themselves took to assembling in Mr Dollie's house for worship. Gladly did he suffer the intrusion and gladly did he set apart his drawing room, first at Albert Street and now at Euston Road, for the purposes of a mosque.'

Other letter's from the period also imply that Imam Dollie was working in a challenging social and political environment for the growing Muslim community, but his personal sacrifice, perseverance and tenacity was unshakeable. This community pioneer who established London’s first Mosque in 1895 in Albert Street NW1, passed away on 18th February 1906 in West Ealing, London. 

The West London Islamic Centre was honoured to be part of a recent, community-led collaboration with Muslim History Tours, in organising and funding the restoration of Imam Dollie's memorial. The memorial is now complete, Muslim History Tours will be including it as a point of interest, as part of their guided package tours for overseas and local visitors. It has been said that studying the past helps you to define the future and amongst the now common discourses on identity, belonging and citizenship, we hope Imam Dollie and other men and women like him, will continue to inspire future generations of British Muslims. We would like to thank Brent Council, the Muslim Council of Britain's Research & Documentation Committee and Kenward & Sons, Greenford for their cooperation and support.

'The history of the world is but the biography of great men.' [Thomas Carlyle 1840]

The Prophet (pbuh) said, 'Allah the Almighty has said: "Whosoever shows enmity to a friend of Mine, I shall be at war with him. My servant does not draw near to Me with anything more loved by Me than the religious duties I have imposed upon him, and My servant continues to draw near to Me with supererogatory works so that I shall love him. When I love him I am his hearing with which he hears, his seeing with which he sees, his hand with which he strikes, and his foot with which he walks. Were he to ask [something] of Me, I would surely give it to him and were he to ask Me for refuge, I would surely grant him it.' [Related in Bukhari]