The city of London with over 8 million inhabitants provides a breadth of opportunity for every Londoner. Shopping centres are numerous, halal restaurants abundant and with an ever growing Islamic community prayer spaces can be found with relative ease.
However, when it comes to leisurely activities aside from the above-mentioned you might find yourself scratching your head when it comes to alternative things to do in the city. If you’re a lover of the arts and literature you will be happy to know that there are quite a few Islamically oriented spots you can check out in London.
Here are some places where you can escape the city vibes, reflect and reconnect with the Islamic tradition…
Located in the heart of London’s affluent Kensington district Leighton House Museum at first glance may seem rather ordinary to the passing onlooker but take a look inside and you’ll find a most pleasant juxtaposition.
The building was once the home of affluent painter and sculptor Frederic Leighton, his passion for the arts and travel lead him to collect an impressive array of artwork during his trips throughout the Arab and Islamic world.
Leighton passed away in 1896 and 33 years later his house alongside his collection of artwork was made available to the public. The museum's rooms are filled with countless pieces but perhaps the most impressive area would be the Arab hall, which contains both original and replica antiques dating back centuries.
The walls are covered in damascene tiles from as far back as the 16th century, a wooden lattice Zenana imported from Egypt hangs above the hallway, and the floors are covered with intricately sewn Persian rugs. A truly mesmerising site in the heart of London city and a great way to witness an architectural culture far from its original home. If you ever want to take a break from London’s megalopolis vibes Leighton house is a welcome retreat for all.
12 Holland Park Rd, Kensington, London W14 8LZ
The Jameel Gallery
Situated within the Victoria and Albert museum, the Jameel Gallery of Islamic art houses over 400 objects, including ceramics, textiles, carpets, metalwork, glass and woodwork, which date back to the 8th and 9th centuries of the Islamic Khilafa (caliphate).
The collection was made possible through the support of the family of a wealthy Saudi businessman Abdul Latif Jameel. The standout piece from the collection is the Ardabil carpet which is considered the oldest dated carpet in the world. Admission to the museum is free and for more information on specific exhibitions check out the link below.
Cromwell Rd, Knightsbridge, London SW7 2RL
The School of Oriental and African studies is the standout institution when it comes the study of the near and far eastern world. So it comes of no surprise that the Library houses over 1.2 million volumes at the Russell Square campus alongside a major collection of archives, manuscripts, rare books and special collections.
Bibliophiles will be in awe of the large collection of Islamic and Arabic literature that is available for reading and the pleasant atmosphere provides a perfect environment to delve into research. The library is open till 11:30 pm seven days a week and if you are a student currently at University being granted access will be considerably easier through the SCONUL access scheme. For more information on memberships check out the university's website below.
10 Thornhaugh Street, Russell Square, WC1H 0XG
Dar Al Taqwa
Bookworms interested in a variety of Islamic literature would be pleased to come across Dar Al Taqwa. Located a few minutes walk from the Regents Park Masjid Dar al Taqwa stocks a variety of books from an array of Islamic scholarship.
The bookshop is noted for its unique but also all-encompassing literature meaning there’s something for people of all interests. Support Islamic business while also supporting the legacy of the old-school bookshop. If you’re not able to visit in person check out their website:
7A Melcombe St, Regent's Park, London NW1 6AE
Know of some locations that should have made the list? Let us know your thoughts by tweeting us: @bahathmag
Author: Muhammad Yousuf Shuwekh