Victorian Muslim

Abdullah Quilliam and Islam in the West

Edited by
April 2017 9781849047043 224pp


After formally announcing his conversion to Islam in the late 1880s, the Liverpool lawyer William Henry Abdullah Quilliam publicly propagated his new faith and established the first community of Muslim converts in Victorian Britain. Despite decades of relative obscurity following his death, with the resurgence of interest in Muslim heritage in the West since 9/11 Quilliam has achieved iconic status in Britain and beyond as a pivotal figure in the history of Western Islam and Muslim–Christian relations.

In this timely book, leading experts of the religion, history and politics of Islam offer new perspectives and shed fresh light on Quilliam’s life and work. Through a series of original essays, the authors critically examine Quilliam’s influences, philosophy and outlook, the significance of his work for Islam, his position in the Muslim world and his legacy. Collectively, the authors ask pertinent questions about how conversion to Islam was viewed and received historically, and how a zealous convert like Quilliam negotiated his religious and national identities and sought to indigenise Islam in a non-Muslim country.

Table of contents


Humayun Ansari



Jamie Gilham and Ron Geaves


1. Abdullah Quilliam: A Muslim Revolutionary Socialist?

Mohammad Siddique Seddon


2. Abdullah Quilliam and the Rise of International Esoteric-Masonic Islamophilia

Patrick D. Bowen


3. The Significance of Abdullah Quilliam’s Literary Output

Ron Geaves


4. ‘Fairer to the Ladies’ and of Benefit to the Nation: Abdullah Quilliam on Reforming British Society by Islamising Gender Relationships

Diane Robinson-Dunn


5. Abdullah Quilliam, Marmaduke Pickthall and the Politics of Christendom and the Ottoman Empire

Geoffrey Nash


6. Abdullah Quilliam, First and Last ‘Sheikh-ul-Islam of the British Isles’

Jamie Gilham


7. Abdullah Quilliam’s International Influence: America, West Africa and Beyond

Brent D. Singleton


8. Preachers, Patriots and Islamists: Contemporary British Muslims and the Afterlives of Abdullah Quilliam

Yahya Birt



Victorian Muslim is an admirable work of collective scholarship, for its multiplicity of voices is entirely suitable to the slow exploration of Quilliam, a man for our times.’  — Times Literary Supplement

Victorian Muslim [asks] questions such as: how did Britons receive Quilliam, did Quilliam subvert or follow Victorian norms, and what effect did British imperialism have on his Islamic mission? These are engaging and fruitful questions that have produced excellent works. This collection of essays is among the best.’ — ReOrient

‘This book reflects the rich and rewarding outcomes that arise when two established scholars – building on their earlier research – go on to assemble a group of eminent and authoritative scholars who write about a subject – or rather a person – of both historic and contemporary significance.  This accomplished project has resulted in an illuminating and masterful volume that makes an important contribution to the study of Muslims in Britain, past and present.’ — Sophie Gilliat-Ray, Professor of Religious Studies and Director of the Islam-UK Centre, Cardiff University

‘This is a timely collection of essays exploring the life and legacy of the Victorian British Muslim, Abdullah (William) Quilliam. In these essays, historical analyses and contemporary concerns coalesce to inform discussion about the compatibility of Islam and British values and traditions. The volume resists offering easy answers or minimizing the complexities involved in the current debate on pluralism, belonging and identity.’ — Clinton Bennett, State University of New York at New Paltz, and author of Victorian Images of Islam


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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