The London Central Mosque (more commonly known as Regent's Park Mosque for its location), is the principal mosque of London and the spiritual focal point for Muslims throughout the UK.
It is also home to the Islamic Cultural Centre, which provides education on Islam to Muslim children and the community at large.
History of Regent's Park Mosque
The London Central Mosque was founded during World War II, in recognition of the substantial Muslim population of the British Empire and its support for the Allies during the war. On October 24, 1940, the Churchill War Cabinet allocated £100,000 for acquisition of a site for a mosque in London. The site chosen was a 2.3-acre spot in a prime location next to Regent's Park.
The Islamic Cultural Centre, which would later include the mosque, was officially opened in November 1944 by King George VI. But development of the mosque itself foundered. Various designs were proposed while the Mosque Committee had difficulty acquiring necessary building permits.
Not until 1969 was a design approved (after an international competition) and construction begun. The mosque was designed by English architect Frederick Gibberd, and the expense supported by a donation of £2 million by King Faisal of Saudi Arabia. The mosque was finally completed in July 1977, at a total cost of £6.5 million.
What to See at Regent's Park Mosque
The London Central Mosque is easily recognizable by its large golden dome and stout 140-foot minaret on the edge of Regent's Park. Aside from these traditional aspects of mosque architecture, the building is quite modern and resembles other buildings from the same era.
As with most worldwide mosques, the London Central Mosque is actually a large mosque complex that also includes a library with over 20,000 books, administrative offices, a conference room, a Muslim bookshop and events hall. A new educational and administrative wing was added in 1994.
The main prayer hall is oriented towards Mecca and features lush red carpets, a vast dome decorated with mosaics, and a huge central chandalier. It holds 1,400 worshippers at prayer times, but can be extended outside to accommodate up to 4,000 for festivals (and even more including the typical overflow into the courtyard).
Up to 50,000 Muslims visit London Central Mosque for the two main Muslim festivals (Eids) of the year, typically worshipping in six groups. Around lunchtime on most Fridays (the main Muslim day of worship), the mosque is full to overflowing with Muslim worshippers from all over London and beyond.
The Sacred Destinations team stopped by the London Central Mosque on a Saturday in April. We seemed to be the only visitors, but the mosque was otherwise an active place, with several worshippers at prayer in the hall and others arriving at the mosque regularly.
The mosque itself is not terribly attractive, in my opinion, but that's only because of the era in which it was built - many London buildings from the 1960s have a similar unfortunate concrete look. But the great gold dome and minaret make for an interesting departure from the western architecture of the rest of the city.
As we entered the courtyard, both wondering whether my husband's cargo shorts were acceptable attire, a friendly member of the mosque saw our hesitation. He made a welcoming gesture towards the mosque and said, "It's okay, they cover the knee!"
Inside, we were mostly ignored, though some stared at us a little (probably because I was using my jacket's hood as a makeshift headscarf and looked rather odd). We loitered quietly near the doorway of the prayer hall and looked in for a minute or two, then browsed the windows of the Muslim bookshop before heading back out.
On our way out through the courtyard, we were approached by another friendly man who said "Welcome to the mosque!" and asked if we had received "a very important book."
Hearing that we hadn't, he rushed off to get us a small book that aims to demonstrate the truth of Islam from the Qur'an, science and prophecy. As he handed it to us, he said earnestly but gently that while many people believe in many gods, there is only one God, and he will reveal himself to us as he did to Muhammad.
Quick Facts on Regent's Park Mosque
|Names:||Islamic Cultural Centre · London Central Mosque · Regent's Park Mosque|
|Visitor and Contact Information|
|Coordinates:||51.528947° N, 0.165153° W|
|Phone:||020 7725 2212|
|Hours:||Open to visitors anytime the mosque is open|
|Lodging:||View hotels near Regent's Park Mosque|
- Personal visit (April 15, 2006).
- The Islamic Cultural Centre and London Central Mosque - official website
- Martin and Nigel Palmer, The Spiritual Traveler: England, Scotland, Wales (2000).
Map of Regent's Park Mosque, London
Below is a location map and aerial view of Regent's Park Mosque. Using the buttons on the left (or the wheel on your mouse), you can zoom in for a closer look, or zoom out to get your bearings. To move around, click and drag the map with your mouse.