Lisa Worth has written an article about the oldest mosque in the UK, which is based in Brougham Terrace, Kensington, Liverpool.
Brougham Terrace, Kensington, is the address of the oldest mosque in the UK.
The eponymous “Abdullah Quilliam” Mosque was built in 1887, and it was named after a Liverpool solicitor who discovered Islam while in Morocco.
And now the mosque has another unique claim – a ladies choir!
Amirah Scarisbrick offered me a warm welcome, and introduced me to the group who are using their faith to feed their musicality.
Over a cup of tea and a croissant, she explained: “We all have busy lives, children, and homes. But on Friday mornings, we relax and reaffirm our faith through our ensemble.”
The association between music and Islam is unusual, which was an initial concern. But for Zaynab James a trip to Yemen silenced these worries.
She said: “Music has been played by the women of the tribes for centuries. For some reason we lost this connection here at home.”
Amirah added: “Our Malaysian and Indonesian sisters were bewildered by our worries. For them singing has always been a part of their faith.”
Yemen was also where Zaynab learned how to play the drum, known as the daff, out of necessity to begin with.
She said: “My Arabic was non – existent, and my hosts spoke little English. I asked the lady who played the daff to teach me. It was hard, especially with the language difficulty, but it helped me integrate.”
Their repertoire consists of music from the Islamic faith, sung in both Arabic and English, and even includes a song written by Abdullah Quilliam himself.
The blend of their voices, accompanied by the gently, rhythmic drum, hung beautifully on the air.
We discussed whether their religion informed their music, or their music reaffirmed their religion. It didn’t matter, but for them the two are intertwined.
But while their spirituality is important to their music, there are more mundane reasons for them to share this experience.
Amirah said: “It offers a way to de-stress, to take time out just for ourselves as individuals, and as a group of women. We often arrive feeling a little stressed, but leave feeling able to cope with anything.”
Certainly, their calm expressions while singing, communicate an inner peace.
Some of these ladies have found their singing voice for the first time. This form of expression has been a real boost to their self – esteem.
The ladies are calling themselves “The Quilliam Choir”, and they have already appeared at small events in the area, something which they are keen to do more of.
As well as their own pleasure at sharing their music, they feel that they can help to promote greater understanding. Building friendships and strengthening the community at a time when there is an increase in social disunity.
And I tell you what, they make a lovely cup of tea!