Muslim Women in Britain, 1850–1950

100 Years of Hidden History

Edited by
November 2023 9781805260400 328pp
Available as an eBook Available from Oxford Scholarship Online
EU Customers


The history of British Islam and British Muslims is a growing area of interest among historians and the general public. But, whilst Muslim women have featured in some research, their lives and experiences prior to the present day have remained obscure, if not ‘hidden’, in both academic and popular discussion. Uncovering Muslim women’s experiences and contributions to society in past generations is essential for us to build a full picture of Muslim life in Britain, then and now. 

This is the first book to address that gap, telling the stories of Muslim women who lived in Britain between the mid-nineteenth and mid-twentieth centuries, from Victorian times to the years immediately after the Second World War—just before immigration profoundly affected the size and composition of Britain’s Muslim communities. It reveals a rich variety of experiences, including Muslim women who travelled to or away from Britain, and many who converted to Islam within the British Isles.

Underpinned by feminist historical approaches, this groundbreaking book aims to make women visible where they have been hidden from or within history. Its fascinating accounts will reinstate Muslim women as actors, storytellers and storymakers who have shaped the history of Britain and of ‘British Islam’.


‘A collection of remarkable and… hidden stories of Muslim women who helped shape the history of Britain.’ — BBC News

‘Groundbreaking.’ — Morning Star

‘Provides a fascinating selection of individually authored chapters on nine Muslim women.’ — The Muslim World Book Review

‘A fascinating and eclectic collection of biographical essays on eight strong-willed women with a connection to Muslim life in Britain.’ — Salaam

‘Reveals a rich variety of experiences… . Its fascinating accounts will reinstate Muslim women as actors, storytellers and storymakers who have shaped the history of Britain and of ‘British Islam’. — Abrar

‘Providing unique insight into the stories of extraordinary Muslim women—from an aristocrat to a teacher and a WWI spy—this remarkable book reshapes our understanding of their profound impact on British history.’ — Sadiya Ahmed, founder of Everyday Muslim Heritage and Archive Initiative

‘This important and timely book sheds new light on the active and inspiring part that these pioneering women played in shaping the history of Islam in an increasingly multicultural Britain.’ — Humayun Ansari, Emeritus Professor in the History of Islam and Cultural Diversity, Royal Holloway, University of London, and author of ‘The Infidel Within’: Muslims in Britain Since 1800

‘These captivating narratives transcend the limits of time and tradition, speaking to the multifaceted identities of Muslim women in colonial Britain. Their stories are not only tales of the past, but an enduring testament to the strength, diversity and spirit of women who have walked these shores.’ — Umar Ryad, Professor of Arabic and Islamic Studies, University of Leuven


Sariya Cheruvallil-Contractor is Professor in the Sociology of Islam at Coventry University. Funded by the British Academy, she has written about Muslim women’s lives in Britain’s earliest mosques.

Jamie Gilham is a historian of Western Islam whose books include Loyal Enemies: British Converts to Islam, 1850–1950, also published by Hurst, and The British Muslim Convert Lord Headley, 1855–1935.

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