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King Charles, the first Muslim monarch of the United Kingdom

Elizabeth II, King Charles III, Prince Charles, England, Islam

Opinion

King Charles, the first Muslim monarch of the United Kingdom

Following the death of Queen Elizabeth II, who was the direct descendant of the Prophet of Islam, her son Prince Charles now becomes King Charles III of England. It was earlier reported that Charles had already gone through a stealth conversion to Islam.

The first Muslim monarch of England?

Charles, 73, now King Charles, has been next in line to the throne for seven decades – by a distance the longest wait in the history of the British monarchy. Neither he nor his courtiers have ever wished to speak publicly about the moment it is over. The prospect of the Queen’s death has always been considered a matter of great private sadness.

A new, inevitably shorter, chapter of Charles’s life will begin. Becoming monarch of the United Kingdom and 14 Commonwealth realms from Canada to Australia will allow him to answer a question that has followed him for decades: after a lifetime of outspoken interventions in public life, what kind of king will he be?

It was earlier reported in Blitz that a 1997 Middle East Quarterly article titled “Prince Charles of Arabia,” Ronni L. Gordon and David M. Stillman looked at evidence that Britain’s crown prince might be a secret convert to Islam. They shifted through his public statements (defending Islamic law, praising the status of Muslim women, seeing in Islam a solution for Britain’s ailments) and actions (setting up a panel of twelve “wise men” to advise him on Islamic religion and culture), then concluded that, “should Charles persist in his admiration of Islam and defamation of his own culture,” his accession to the throne will indeed usher in a “different kind of monarchy”.

Charles continues this pattern of admiration and defamation, keeping alive the question of his stealth conversion to Islam. This weblog entry continues to document the topic, starting with a report, “Charles Breaks Fast with the Faithful in Muscat,” in the Dubai-based Gulf News, on some of Charles’ activities during his current five-day visit to Oman:

He toured the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque for almost two hours and “took keen interest in studying various sections at the mosque, including the main prayer hall.” As his spokesman put it, “The Prince was particularly keen to come to the mosque today to see the fantastic building and remarkable architecture which Prince was fascinated with. The Prince has a great love for Islamic architecture and I can’t think of finer example than this mosque.”

He “spent a considerable time at an exhibition of Islamic calligraphy and held meetings with Sheikha Aisha Al Siaby, Head of Public Authority for Craft Industries and Taha Al Kisri, the Head of Omani Society for Fine Arts to discuss various aspects of Islamic art”.

He “broke fast with a large congregation of people from different nationalities as he sat with folded legs on the floor in the open. He ate date and drank juice at the call of Iftar”.

None of this, of course, is evidence that the Heir to the British Throne has changed religions, but his actions most certainly would be consistent with such a move, and especially the implication that he had kept the Ramadan fast. (November 9, 2003).

June 21, 2004 update: Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah of Brunei will award Prince Charles a $50,000 prize chosen by an international jury set up by the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies for his contribution to understanding Islam in the West during a London ceremony on June 24. He is the first non-Muslim to receive the prize established in 1992. Other winners have included Youssef Al-Qaradawi, Abdul Fattah Abu Ghudda, and Adnan Mohd Zarzar.

Dec. 18, 2004 update: Prince Charles put himself in the middle of an Islamic theological issue that again could suggest his conversion to Islam – for if that is not the case, then on what basis does he opine on the Islamic law requiring that apostates from Islam be executed? Jonathan Petre of London’s Daily Telegraph reports on a private summit of Christian and Muslim leaders at Clarence House on this topic sponsored earlier in December by the prince. Apparently, however, he did not get the results he hoped for, with one Christian participant indicating that Charles was “very, very unhappy” about its outcome. That may have been because the Muslims at the meeting resented his public involvement in this topic.

July 14, 2005 update: And what does the good prince have to say about the murder by Islamists of 55 in London a week ago? He put fingers to keyboard and produced “True Muslims Must Root Out The Extremists” for the Mirror:

Some deeply evil influence has been brought to bear on these impressionable young minds. … Some may think this cause is Islam. It is anything but. It is a perversion of traditional Islam. As I understand it, Islam preaches humanity, tolerance and a sense of community. … these acts have nothing to do with any true faith. … it is vital that everyone resists the temptation to condemn the Muslim community for the actions of such a tiny and evil minority. If we succumb to that temptation, the bombers will have achieved their aim. Likewise, in my view, it is the duty of every true Muslim to condemn these atrocities and root out those among them who preach and practise such hatred and bitterness.

Comment: This sounds to me like the same apologetics churned out by the Muslim Council of Britain and other Islamist bodies.

Aug. 2, 2005 update: At the funeral of King Fahd in Riyadh, the Associated Press reports, “Non-Muslims were not allowed at the ceremonies.” So far as I can tell, Charles did not attend the ceremonies. (There surely would have been a press uproar if he had.) We can conclude that whatever his inner faith, he is not presenting himself as a Muslim in public. In brief, he is not a Muslim at this time.

Sep. 4, 2005 update: Prince Charles revealed in a letter leaked to the Daily Telegraph that he had strained relations with George Carey, then archbishop of Canterbury, over his attitude toward Islam. Particularly contentious was his expressed intent, on becoming king and supreme governor of the Church of England, to ditch the centuries’ old defender of the faith title and replace it with defender of faith and defender of the Divine. The letter reveals the archbishop’s reaction.

I wish you’d been there for the archbishop! Didn’t really appreciate what I was getting at by talking about “the Divine” and felt that I had said far more about Islam than I did about Christianity – and was therefore worried about my development as a Christian.

According to royal aides, Charles did not much respect Lord Carey’s views and the feelings were reciprocated.

Oct. 29, 2005 update: “Prince Charles to plead Islam’s cause to Bush” reads the Sunday Telegraph headline. The text by Andrew Alderson tells how the prince of Wales will try to persuade George W Bush and Americans of the merits of Islam this week because he thinks the United States has been too intolerant of the religion since September 11. The Prince, who leaves on Tuesday for an eight-day tour of the US, has voiced private concerns over America’s “confrontational” approach to Muslim countries and its failure to appreciate Islam’s strengths.

Nov. 3, 2005 update: Ali Sina proposes a reason for Charles’ attraction to Islam, suggesting that he may be tired of democracy: “Does he secretly envy the Islamic system of government where the rulers have absolute power and can even impose morality on their subjects?”

Nov. 13, 2005 update: Charles’ efforts to promote Islam does his mother no good in Al-Qaeda’s eyes. In a just-reviewed videotape, the organization’s number two, Ayman al- Zawahiri, calls Queen Elizabeth II “one of the severest enemies of Islam” and blames her for what he calls Britain’s “crusader laws.” In addition, he criticizes British Muslims who “work for the pleasure of Elizabeth, the head of the Church of England” and ridicules them for saying (his words, not theirs): “We are British citizens, subject to Britain’s crusader laws, and we are proud of our submission . . . to Elizabeth, head of the Church of England.”

Jan. 19, 2006 update: As patron of the Festival of Muslim Cultures, which its website describes as a national celebration of “the rich cultural and artistic expressions of the Muslim peoples,” Charles will be visiting Sheffield soon. He will tour an exhibition there, “Palace and Mosque: Islamic Treasures of the Middle East,” that launches the festival. The prince is said to be keen to see the exhibition. He will also meet school and community groups and watch a performance by a group of Muslim women and girls.

Jan. 26, 2006 update: The Prince of Wales expressed his pleasure today at the progress in the UK of Shar’i banking products at a conference in London to mark the 30th anniversary of the Islamic Development Bank: “I am certain that with the support of the Islamic Development Bank my charities will be able to increase their efforts to address the challenges we face in Britain’s cities and help those younger British Muslims who feel they have little or no stake in society to play a fuller part in the country’s affairs by promoting community and entrepreneurial development.”

Mar. 25, 2006 update: As the first Westerner ever to address the Al Imam Mohammad Bin Saud Islamic University in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Charles (as was the case in December 2004 – see the update above) chose to give Muslims some advice about modernizing their religion. Note the “we” in the following quote: “I think we need to recover the depth, the subtlety, the generosity of imagination, the respect for wisdom that so marked Islam in its great ages.” He also said Jews and Christians should learn from Islamic teachings:

What is so distinctive of the great ages of faith surely was that they understood, as well as sacred texts … the meaning of God’s word for all time and its meaning for this time. … it was Islam’s greatness to understand this in its full depth and challenge. This is what you … can give not only to Islam but by example to all the other children of Abraham.

Oct. 31, 2006 update: There’s been a strong reaction to a Kuwait News Agency report that “Prince Charles Tuesday said that the world problems could be resolve by following Islamic teachings, as Islam is a religion of peace and brotherhood.” But a look at the speech in question, to the Fatima Jinnah Women University in Rawalpindi, Pakistan, finds no such statement. All Charles did was to quote the Koran in a favorable way in the context of a new-agey-style discussion of the Planet Earth:

This planet’s survival will depend on you understanding that you can achieve unity through diversity; that you can in fact build on living, timeless traditions that are a part of your unique culture and still be “modern”. It will also depend on you realizing that the planetary crisis we face is so profound in its rapidly developing consequences that we simply cannot afford to go on squabbling amongst ourselves while we destroy the world around us at a truly terrifying rate. As it says in the Qu’ran – “Only they pay attention who have hearts; only they believe (or see signs) who have hearts.” Have you seen the signs? Will you trust in what your hearts are telling you?

Sohail Choudhury is the Executive Editor of Blitz

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