Scottish Islamic & Cultural Centre Dundee (Jam’i Mosque Bilal) is a well-established and well-known centre which caters for the religious, social, cultural, welfare as well the educational needs and requirements of all sectors of Muslim community in Dundee. It was established about seven years ago. It is not a purpose built mosque. Instead, an already existing building is converted in Mosque and Islamic Centre. This building has two main halls on two different levels. The upper hall is used for daily, Friday and Eid prayers as well as for all other religious congregational purposes. While the ground floor hall is dedicated to the children’s education, ladies activities and all other social and cultural purposes.
As mentioned earlier, Scottish Islamic & Cultural Centre (also known as Jam’i Mosque Bilal) is one of the three well-known centres and places of worship for Muslim community in Dundee. It is not a purpose built mosque or centre but an existing building has been converted to mosque by making some necessary changes. The Scottish Islamic & Cultural Centre was established in December 1996 in a building situated at 5 / 7 Dura Street Dundee.
Describing the process of its establishment, all persons to be interviewed and more specifically Mr Mahmud Sarwar Rathor, the founder member and trustee of the centre, said, ‘Actually, before establishing this centre, me and some other members of the present committee of the Bilal mosque were the committee members and office bearers of Tajdar-e-Madina (Victoria Road) mosque. There we needed a new Imam as our current Imam moved to England. But this time our intention was to appoint a well educated English speaking scholar who could communicate with the younger children in their own language. In the meanwhile, I met Dr Muhammad Tahir-ul-Qadri at the residence of Sayyid Husain Zia Shah, one of our friends, in Glenrothes and requested him to provide us with a scholar and Imam graduated from his university in Lahore. Dr Tahir-ul-Qadri then appointed Allama Hafiz Muhammad Ishfaq Alam Qadri who was graduated from Minhaj University and also had a degree in Law. He was very good at English as well. He showed very tremendous performance which was even beyond our expectations.
Outlining the primary aims and objectives of the Scottish Islamic and Cultural Centre,
Mr Muhammad Khalid Yousuf, chairperson of the centre, said,
‘According to the constitution of the Scottish Islamic & Cultural Centre (Jam’i Mosque Bilal), the primary aims of the centre include;
• Fulfil the religious and cultural requirements of the Muslim community of
• Provide religious, moral and cultural education to Muslim children.
• Create awareness about Islam and its teachings among Muslims and other communities of Dundee.
• Promote the Muslim Sunni School of thought in the Muslim community.
Many religious, educational, social, welfare and cultural activities are carried out occasionally or permanently at the Scottish Islamic & Cultural Centre (Bilal Mosque). In a very short the Centre has acquired a very respectful status in the Muslim and non- Muslim community of Dundee. A brief summary of the educational, social, welfare as well as the religious activities of the centre are outlined as under.
As for as the religious and ritual activities are concerned, as being a mosque, all five daily, Friday and Eid prayers are performed here on regular basis. Although the attendance at regular daily is comparatively poor, but about 150-200 people including attend the mosque on every Friday. This number is increased during holidays and on Eid prayers.
Various religious festivals are also organised on specific occasions e.g. Martyrdom of Imam Husain (grandson of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH)), Milaad-un-Nabi (celebration of the birthday of the Prophet (PBUH)), Mi’raj-un-Nabi (night journey of the Prophet to the Heavens), Lailat-ul-Qadr (night of power) etc. round the year. In these programmes, guest scholars are invited both from in and outside Scotland who deliver talks regarding the particular event in both Urdu and English languages. Qurraas (people who recite the Holy Qur’an in a good tone and voice) and Na’t Khawan (people who recite the praise of the Prophet in Urdu, Punjabi, Arabic and English) also perform in those programmes. Furthermore, the students of the Bilal mosque also give their performance by taking part in different activities e.g. recitations, speeches etc. Occasionally, religious, educational, social and cultural programmes for ladies are also organised. In these programmes, all activities including speeches, discussions, recitations and entertainments are delivered and organised by the ladies and girls. Also in these programmes guest speakers are invited from Glasgow, England etc. All these programmes and social activities prove to be very successful. In fact we were the first one among all three mosque of Dundee, said Mr Rathor, to provide religious, cultural and social facilities to the Muslim ladies in Dundee, and also we got very good response from the community. That is the reason that all of our ladies programmes and activities have always been successful. (M S Rathor: 9/4/04)
Education is the main area of work for the Scottish Islamic & Cultural Centre, as it was the main issue because of which the centre came in to being. Since its establishment, this centre has been comparatively more popular in providing religious education than other mosques in Dundee. Even some of those families who are associated with other mosques, they send their children in Bilal Mosque for education. At present about 60 students, including male and female, are studying in the mosque who attend the mosque for one and a half hours after school six days a week. These students are divided in to two classes, one for boys and second for girls. The girl’s class is taught by the lady teacher. The educational activities of the Bilal Mosque include the following.
In the first hour, students are taught how to read the Holy Qur’an? The teaching in this case mostly takes place on one to one basis. In this class, students are taught how to recognise and pronounce the letters, word and signs? They are also taught how to join different letters to make words? The student of an average ability may take about two to three years to complete the whole reading of the Holy Qur’an.
In the remaining time, students are taught very basic teachings of Islam including basic beliefs of Islam, pillars of Islam, memorisation of different short chapters (suraha) of the Holy Qur’an and the prayer, how to perform the prayer, Islamic etiquettes and manners etc. All these things are taught to them in English language and with English meanings where appropriate.
Besides the Qur’anic reading and Islamic Studies, students are also taught Urdu language up to very basic level. By this children may be able to communicate with the people who cannot speak English, more specifically when they go to visit their relative in Pakistan.
Once a week, normally on Saturday, Bazm-e-Minhaj is organised for the students of
Bilal Mosque. In this programme, students, both boys and girls, take part in different
activities including, recitation of the Holy Qur’an, Na’ts (poems in the praise of
the Prophet (PBUH)), speeches, poems, quiz competitions, colouring competitions,
These activities are a good source for children to build up their confidence while speaking to others in the form of big gathering. Students are get trained first in Bazm- e-Minahj before they perform in big gatherings or programmes organised by the mosque.
Regular examinations of students are also held, twice a year, in the Bilal Mosque. In these examinations, students are tested against what have been taught in the very last six months. After examinations, a ‘Paren’s Day’ is organised in which prizes and certificates are awarded to the students who show good performance during the examination.
Many social and cultural programmes and activities are also organised at the Centre at occasions round the year. These activities and programmes provide a good chance to the community to get together and interact with each other. Most prominent of these are Peace March on the Birthday of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) The birthday of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) is of great importance for the vast majority of the Muslim community round the globe, therefore, at this blessed occasion different programmes, conferences and marches are organised by the Muslim community everywhere in the world.
In Dundee, since the last three years, a ‘Peace March’ is organised by the Scottish Islamic & Cultural Centre (Bilal Mosque) on the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). The Peace March starts from the Bilal Mosque (Dura St.) and ends at City Square where guests express their views regarding the event in the form of short speeches. In this March, Muslim scholars and people from different towns and cities of Scotland and England actively participate. Lord and Deputy Lord Provost, local MPs, MSPs, Councillors of all political parties also take part in this March. Representatives from all religious communities in Dundee including Christian, Jewish, Hindu, Sikh and Buddhist community are also invited at this occasion. This precious event has proven itself to be an excellent mode of extending Islam’s message of peace to the wider community of Dundee. It is also a way of gearing up the interfaith dialogue among all religious communities.
This year, the said ‘Peace March’ is going to be organised on Sunday, 9th
Ramadhan, the ninth moth of the Islamic Calendar, is also of great importance for Muslims of the world. In this month, Muslim carry out one of the five primary duties and that is fasting. In this month, short term community radio stations are also managed in different cities and towns round the country. These radio stations broadcast different religious, educational, social and cultural programmes in their community languages in the whole month of Ramadhan.
Since the last two years, SICC have been organising, with the financial support of Dundee City Council, Ramadhan Radio in Dundee. This radio is broadcasts religious, social and cultural programmes in Urdu, Punjabi, Arabic and English languages. Interviews of the leading personalities from different walks of life e.g. MPs, MSPs, local councillors, doctors, lawyers, educationists etc are also broadcasted on the radio. Through these interviews, guidance is provided to the listeners regarding their day-to- day problems. Also this radio is a good source of bridging up the gap and promoting dialogue between different communities.
To provide help and counselling to the Pakistani community about the problems regarding passports, visas, and ID cards, SICC has planned to organise Pakistani Consulate’s surgery in the centre. The first surgery of this kind, said Mr Mahmud Sarwar Rathor, will be held on Sunday, 25 April 2004 in the community hall of Bilal Mosque.’ (M S Rathor: 09/04/04)
Along with all other activities, welfare activities are also organised at the centre. As Scottish Islamic & Cultural Centre works and co-operates very closely with Minhaj-ul-Qur’an International Organisation and Minhaj Welfare Foundation – UK, therefore, all MWF’s campaigns and appeals including Zakat, Qurbani, drought, earthquake appeals etc., said Mr Khalid Yousuf, chairperson of the centre, are also launched at SICC as well and all donations collected then go to MWF-UK. In this way, we have contributed a lot in the welfare work carried out by MWF – UK. (M K Yousuf: 05/04/04)
Since its establishment, we have tried our best on every level to co-operate and work together with other centres and mosques, said Mr Talat Mahmood, the secretary of the Bilal mosque, to provide better services to the community. But the response has not been very good at the beginning. Although we have achieved some success in this regard, there is much more to be done yet. Last year a joint meeting of all three mosque was arranged by the Tajdar-e-Madina mosque for one Eid and Ramadhan timetable. After some discussions, one timetable for all three mosques was designed but one Eid in Dundee could not be assured. (T Mahood: 01/04/04)
On the contrary, Mr Muhammad Iqbal, on of the trustees of Bilal mosque said, ‘the response from other mosques have been very poor. The reason of the little co- operation from the Imam and the management of Brown St. mosque which is also the biggest of all three mosque, could be because of the different School of thought they are associated with than that of the Bilal mosque, while in the case of Victoria road mosque, the reason probably is our separation from the mosque and association with Minhaj-ul-Qur’an. (M Iqbal: 02/04/04)
Mr M K Yousuf added that ‘as the management of the Victoria Road mosque have now changed, there might be some change in the previous policy of the mosque. However, if they are willing, we will be happy to co-operate and work together for the benefit of the community. (M K Yousuf: 05/04/04)
Scottish Islamic Centre and its management do its best to promote dialogue and interaction with all other religious and ethnic communities in Dundee. It is the only way to remove misconception misunderstanding and misunderstanding and create better understanding among different religious and ethnic communities. To promote this interaction and mutual understanding, SICC carries on organising different programmes and events on occasions. The annual peace march on the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and Radio Ramadhan are examples of these kind of efforts, in which people from all religions and communities take part. Also visits of RE classes from different primary schools of Dundee and surrounding areas are organised. During the visit, students are shown different section of the mosques and their purpose and importance. Students and teachers are also invited to ask any kind of questions regarding Islam and its practices which they are not sure about. These visits could also be a source of better understanding of each other.
When asked about any future plans and projects of the SICC, Mr Rathor, Mr Mahmood and Mr Yousuf said, ‘the first plan on our priority list, at present, is the purchasing of the current building. As this building belonged to Dundee City Council, And was provided to us for 21 year lease with first seven years of rent-free. The rent free period is expired, therefore, now our plan is to purchase it. Negotiations with the council in this regard are under progress.
All other persons to be interviewed also outlined some educational social and cultural projects to be started in future if possible. That list of projects included regular religious education class for ladies and young girls, Hifz (memorisation of the Holy Qur’an) class both for boys and girls, indoor sports facilities for the students of Bilal mosque, advisory sessions for men and women in which doctors, lawyers, educationists, police officers, social security officers and others will provide guidance regarding various relevant issues.