Rasia Nayeem Hashmi
The past week saw the passing of Queen Elizabeth II the longest serving monarch of Britain after 70-year reign. At the moment the Queen died, the throne passed immediately to her son, King Charles III, who became the oldest person in history to assume the British throne at the age of 73. He will be known as King Charles III. Charles will be officially proclaimed King on Saturday at St James’s Palace in London.
Over the past few decades, King Charles’ fascination and admiration for Islam was quite evident and he has made several speeches on Islam over the last 30 years. Taking this into consideration, some even suggest that he had converted to the faith a long time ago. While this is unlikely, King Charles III’s fascination with Islam and Muslims is well known; he made several public speeches in support of the community when he was the Prince of Wales.
King Charles is patron of the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies, founded in 1985. In his first major address on Islam at the Sheldonian Theatre for the Centre for Islamic Studies on October 27, 1993, the then Prince of Wales made a speech titled ‘Islam and the West’. In which he made numerous references to the fact that modern history had a lot to owe to the Islamic world and that due to modern prejudices “we have tended to ignore or erase its great relevance to our own history.”
He said, “Islam nurtured and preserved the quest for learning. In the words of the tradition, ‘the ink of the scholar is more sacred than the blood of the martyr’.
He added, “If there is much misunderstanding in the West about the nature of Islam, there is also much ignorance about the debt our own culture and civilisation owe to the Islamic world. It is a failure which stems, I think, from the straitjacket of history which we have inherited. The medieval Islamic world, from Central Asia to the shores of the Atlantic, was a world where scholars and men of learning flourished. But because we have tended to see Islam as the enemy of the West, as an alien culture, society and system of belief, we have tended to ignore or erase its great relevance to our own history.”
He is quoted to have said, “Our judgement of Islam has been grossly distorted by taking the extremes to be the norm. That, ladies and gentlemen, is a serious mistake. It is like judging the quality of life in Britain by the existence of murder and rape, child abuse and drug addiction. The extremes exist, and they must be dealt with. But when used as a basis to judge a society, they lead to distortion and unfairness.”
In his speech entitled ‘A Sense of the Sacred: Building Bridges Between Islam and the West’ delivered in 1996, King Charles suggested that developing a better appreciation for the Islamic views on natural order would “help us in the West to rethink, and for the better, our practical stewardship of man and his environment”
He asserted, “I feel that we in the West could be helped to rediscover those roots of our own understanding by an appreciation of the Islamic tradition’s deep respect for the timeless traditions of the natural order. I believe that process could help in the task of bringing our two faiths closer together. It could also help us in the West to rethink, and for the better, our practical stewardship of man and his environment – in fields like healthcare, the natural environment and agriculture, as well as in architecture and urban planning.”
Acknowledging the role of Muslims in development of Mathematics, Kings Charles during his visit to The Islamic Foundation, the Markfield Institute of Higher Education in Leicester in 2003, declared “Anyone who doubts the contribution of Islam and Muslims to the European Renaissance should, as an exercise, try to do some simple arithmetic using Roman numerals. Thank goodness for Arabic numerals and the concept of Zero introduced into European thought by Muslim mathematicians!”
In 2004 King Charles visited to the Muslim College, Ealing, London and partook in Eid celebrations with the Muslim community. On the occasion he gave a speech and spoke about the importance of religious education in Britain stating, “I see Muslim Religious education as a key factor in helping Muslims integrate into British and western society without losing their identity – and am particularly encouraged by the success the College has had in producing successful imams with responsibility for spreading this message in countries as different as Afghanistan and Malaysia.”
Two years later, in the eulogy for scholar Zaki Badawi, who founded the Muslim College, Charles mentioned how Badawi was part of a group of people he organised to learn more about the Muslim community and Islam.
He maintained, “I wanted to learn and understand as much as I could about the rich complexities within Islam; about the subtle nuances surrounding a whole framework for life; about the origins and history of one of the three great Abrahamic faiths founded, above all, on the profound mystery of divine revelation.”
At the time anti-Muslim sentiments were high across the West, King Charles in 2006 delivered a speech titled Unity in Faith at Al-Azhar University, Cairo, Egypt. During the speech he said, “We need to remember that we in the West are in debt to the scholars of Islam, for it was thanks to them that during the Dark Ages in Europe the treasures of classical learning were kept alive.”
In the UK, King Charles set up Mosaic in 2008, an organisation that provides mentoring for the young and disadvantaged in the Muslim community and others.
In 2010 he suggested how the west can learn from Islamic principles to save the environment.
He said, “The Islamic world is the custodian of one of the greatest treasuries of accumulated wisdom and spiritual knowledge available to humanity. It is both Islam’s noble heritage and a priceless gift to the rest of the world. And yet, so often, that wisdom is now obscured by the dominant drive towards Western materialism – the feeling that to be truly “modern” you have to ape the West.”
He added, “The inconvenient truth is that we share this planet with the rest of creation for a very good reason – and that is, we cannot exist on our own without the intricately balanced web of life around us. Islam has always taught this and to ignore that lesson is to default on our contract with Creation.”
During the World Islamic Economic Forum in London 2013, King Charles highlighted how the Islamic principles relating to finance were a model that should be replicated to provide a more sustainable and fairer society.
He suggested, “Where, then, might the solutions lie? It is clear from the Quran and, indeed, from the Bible too, that humanity has a sacred responsibility for the stewardship of the Earth. The time has surely come for our financial institutions to recognise that the Earth is not a limitless resource that can be plundered at will, and to integrate that principle of stewardship into our financial structures. This is where I believe the World Islamic Economic Forum and Islamic or “Alternative” Finance can make a significant contribution. What interests me is that it is based on very important teachings at the heart of Islam the notions of “unity through diversity,” of equity and compassion, as well as the requirement for natural capital to be properly acknowledged.”
He added: “There is also a welcome emphasis implicit in Islamic Finance on the real economy, and the idea that finance cannot be divorced from wider ethical and moral codes. So, I wonder, is it possible to build financial and business models that seek to share risk more fairly, between our and future generations, between rich and poor and between financial organisations and society? As it stands, I suspect that if the strict injunction of the Quran against Riba were to be applied to the economic system that prevails at the moment, then the debt we have effectively incurred for future generations by the depletion of the Earth’s natural capital would surely be found to be usurious and profoundly unacceptable.”
Following the terrorist attack in Finsbury Park in 2017 where Muslims were targeted, King Charles showed solidarity with Muslims saying he had always taken a “great interest in the Muslim community in this country.”
A book entitled ‘Charles At Seventy: Thoughts, Hopes and Dreams’ published in 2018 mentions how he studies the Quran and thinks Christianity can learn from Islam. The book says he is sympathetic to Palestinians, opposed the war in Iraq and disagrees with the ban on burqas in Europe.
During the holy month of Ramadan this year, King Charles praised the Muslim community’s selflessness by saying, “There is much we can all learn from the spirit of Ramadan – not only the generosity, but also abstention, gratefulness and togetherness in prayer which will give great comfort to many across the world during this blessed month.” He added, “The generosity of spirit and kind-hearted hospitality of Muslims does not cease to astound me and I am sure that as we enter more uncertain times, with many now struggling to cope with increasing challenges, the Muslim community will again be a source of immense charitable giving this Ramadan.”
King Charles is quoted to have said, “My own family benefitted from Islamic wisdom too – Queen Victoria, my great, great, great grandmother, was taught Hindustani using Persian script by Hafez Abdul Karim, one of several Indian staff in her household.”
Sources: themuslimtimes., islamchannel.tv, aljazeera.com, bbc.com,