Author: Ron Geaves
Published: November 2017
Professor Ron Geaves specialises in the subject of the history of Islam in Britain. My first introduction to the author was through his book Islam in Victorian Britain. As an Ahmadi, I naturally went to the index to see where the Ahmadiyya Jamaat was mentioned in the book. But since the book focused on the Muslim community established by Abdullah Quilliam, there wasn’t much on the subject. Then I saw him in a BBC programme on Mosques in Britain and I again felt that the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community wasn’t given due coverage despite their remarkable efforts in establishing the first ever mosque in London and being the representatives of Islam in Britain beyond any sectarian divisions.
My first meeting with Ron Geaves was in his office at the Liverpool Hope University. I had taken along quite a lot of material that I had gathered during my research on Fazl Mosque. Ron showed great interest in the subject and this is where it all began. This meeting in his office was where I see the foundations of this book being laid. I had offered Ron to visit the mosque in London which he happily accepted. In a few weeks’ time, Ron was touring the mosque and was intrigued to write a story of how the Ahmadiyya missionaries preached the message of Islam in Britain, established a mosque with very little resources and how the mosque turned into a hub of Islamic missionary activity and continues to be so. In his meeting with Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad, Khalifatul Masih V, Ron expressed his desire to write a book on the role of the Ahmadiyya missionary activity in Britain taking the starting point to be their arrival in England in 1912.
This book is one of its own kind as never before were the Ahmadiyya archives available to researchers, for the understandable reason that most of the archives from that time are in Urdu. Ahmadiyya Archive and Research Centre was founded by His Holiness Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad, Khalifatul Masih V in London with one of its objectives being making archives available to researchers. Ron travelled to Rabwah and with the help of a team, went through the records, collecting any piece of information that could in any way be relevant to the early missionary activity in Britain. I remember a huge box arriving from Rabwah with all the photocopied material from Rabwah, all of which was in Urdu.
I will always cherish the weeks that Ron spent at the London of Ahmadiyya ARC, working tirelessly from around nine o’clock in the morning to eight in the evening. I must admit that just by seeing him work, I learnt how determined and sincere one has to be with their work if the goal is to be achieved. My colleagues, Qaasid and Sabahuzafar, worked with him translating every word from the bundles that could be of any help to the work that Ron was in the process of producing.
Around three years of reading and two of writing has the bore the fruit that we have now in the form of this book. The book covers the vision of Hazrat Mirza Bashiruddin Mahmud Ahmad, Khalifatul Masih IIra, about the mission being established in the west, the guidance he had provided, the efforts of the missionaries to live up to his expectations and, of course, his own visit to London where he laid the foundation of the Fazl Mosque – London’s first mosque.