Television Review: ‘Encounter’ on ITV (Sunday, 26th January 1990)

Central London Mosque Imam’s Work and Brookwood Cemetery

The Muslim Thinker, April/May/June 1990 Issue (Issue 3, pp. 15–17)

This programme in the Encounter series showed the daily work of the senior Imam of the Central London Mosque, Gamal Solaiman. Through the activities shown, the Imam came over as a moderate, balanced and enlightened figure. It was clear that the programme was presenting the lenient, accommodating and gentler side of Islam, as must have been the Imam’s intention, manifested in the solution provided to various individuals’ problems.

An office worker was seeking the Imam’s advice about his anxiety that in performing his ablutions (wudu) at work, he was only wiping over his socks, not having the facilities to wash his feet. The Imam reassured him that Islam allowed this concession for such circumstances, and that his wudu was indeed proper. It could also have been added that what really matters is how far one attains the object of prayer. A wudu performed most meticulously is useless if the ablutions and the prayers are treated as nothing more than rituals.

A Shariah [Islamic Law] council was shown, which seemed to have the functions of an Islamic domestic court. A woman had applied to it to have an Islamic divorce decree issued. She had been divorced for some time in the civil courts, but wanted the marriage nullified under Islamic law as well. Her husband had refused to give her the Islamic divorce, and hence she took the case to this body. The council considered the case and agreed to her application. While this instance showed Islamic law acting sympathetically towards a wife against her unreasonable husband, why should a man in the first place have the arbitrary and absolute power of divorcing his wife and of withholding the divorce? If the positions are reversed and the man wants the divorce, the woman cannot withhold it from him and compel him to approach courts or councils to obtain an Islamic annulment. These inequities are due to mistaken interpretations given to Islamic teachings.

Brookwood Cemetery:

A scene in the film showed the Imam arriving at a cemetery, indicated on the caption as Brookwood Cemetery, Woking, praying for all the deceased, and then attending to a couple of graves. We wish it to be known that it was through the strenuous efforts of the late Maulana Sadr-ud-Din (d. 1981), the second head of the Lahore Ahmadiyya Movement, while he was incharge of the Woking Muslim Mission during the First World War, that the Muslim burial ground at this cemetery was established. Buried there are several early British Muslims associated with the Woking mission, and some members of the Lahore Ahmadiyya Movement who served at Woking. As Muslim prayers for the dead are meant only for the Muslim deceased, the Imam’s words of prayers show that he includes Ahmadis among Muslims, and we congratulate him on his generosity of spirit.

We must also point out that while the Lahore Ahmadiyya Movement obtained a cemetery in England to be used by all Muslims, our members in many parts of world are being denied the right of burial in Muslim cemeteries by the so-called orthodox Muslim religious leaders. In some countries, such as South Africa, there have even been civil court actions to determine whether Ahmadis could be buried in cemeteries allocated for Muslims. Thus, does tolerance stand in contrast with bigotry.