One of Britain’s youngest Imams says he knew he wanted to dedicate his life to a Caliphate as a teenager, while his siblings dreamed of being doctors – and he’s leading five prayers a day at just 26.
Imam Adeel Shah, 26, who lives in East Hampshire and attended a Catholic secondary school in South London growing up, decided to pledge allegiance while in his teens and began studying to be an Ahmadi Muslim Imam at just 17.
Now fully qualified as an Islamic leader, Shah, who came to the UK from Pakistan as a baby, slams terrorists who use the religion to commit atrocities and says his Caliph promotes only ‘love, harmony and brotherhood’.
Shah has four siblings, including two who are now training to be NHS doctors, and says the doors of his mosque are open to anyone, even those who practice different religions.
Members of the LGBTQ community are welcome too, he says, as long as they respect ‘it’s a place of Islamic teachings’.
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Adeel Shah, who lives in East Hampshire, says he knew he wanted to be an Imam from a young age…and says he’ll dedicate his life to trying to build bridges between communities (Pictured on a charity trip to Ghana in 2019)
Frustration: Shah says it’s disheartening to see the way British media portrays young muslim me, saying ‘I only have to read the headline to know it’s about a muslim’
Pictured as a child; Shah decided to ‘serve’ his community of Ahmadi muslims at a young age, taking a seven-year degree at 17 to qualify as an Imam
In 2017, after Shah saw that Westminster Bridge terrorist Khalid Masood, 52, had killed five people and injured 49 in the attack near the Houses of Parliament, he says his first instinct was to go to the scene to protest against Masood’s actions.
After unfurling a banner at the scene of the attack with ‘love for all, hatred for none’ written across it, he wore a t-shirt with the words ‘I am a Muslim, ask me anything’ on it, and some of the questions were harder than others, he admits.
‘A gentleman walked by and looked at the banner…and he looked at me and he said: “Why are you here?” with a tone that suggested “this atrocity has been because of you”. The good thing about him though, was that he was open to dialogue.’
The day after the Westminster terror attack in March 2017, Shah, pictured left, went to the London monument to protest against the actions of terrorist Khalid Masood, 52, who killed five people
He says he received abuse from a passer-by for being a muslim…but the pair eventually chatted and his aggressor ended up hugging him
Shah says he explained about the charity work he’d done – he helped raise £1million for ten British charities last year – and the man admitted he’d been living in London for nine or ten years and had never spoken to a Muslim.
‘We ended up hugging’, he adds.
Ahmadi Muslims, one of the 73 different denominations within Islam, read the Quran and pray five times a day but, unlike other many other religions, they believe the Messiah came in 1835, and they’re currently on their fifth caliph, Mirza Masroor Ahmad, who lives in Guildford.
Shah says attacks such as the one that saw French teacher Samuel Paty beheaded after he showed cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad to his students have nothing to do with Islam (Pictured at Crystal Palace football ground)
He says the current Caliph ‘has nothing to do with ISIS or extremists and terrorists’ and that his role is to promote peace, love and brotherhood wherever he goes.
Shah says: ‘He’s been to Capitol Hill, the Houses of Parliament, New Zealand’s parliament – he’s travelled to country after country visiting political leaders explaining how there’s a dire need for world peace to be established in the world.’
The young Imam is perpetually frustrated by the portrayal of British Muslim men in the media, saying he only needs to ‘read a headline’ to know by the ‘tone’ that the story will involve a Muslim.
He says his community is encouraged to vote if they want to change things. Pictured right: Shah leading prayers at his community mosque
‘If someone who belongs to the LGBTQ community comes to us, the doors of our mosques always open for everyone. If they start preaching, we’d say this is not what Islam teaches…
He tells FEMAIL terrorists who use the name of Islam to cause bloodshed have ‘misunderstood’ the Quran, explaining: ‘I have read the Quran word for word and I have failed to find a single verse or a single narration of the founder of Islam where he’s inciting people to cause bloodshed, to pick up the sword, or to ram you car into people.’
Referencing Samuel Paty, the French teacher who was beheaded for showing cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad to his students in October 2020, Shah says of the murder: ‘He was not to blame. He was teaching the syllabus, the answer was not to be behead him.’
He says his community is encouraged to vote if they want to change things.
‘Get those people in power that you think that using it will be able to echo your voices, your thoughts in the best manner possible.’
Ahmadi muslims believe the Messiah came in 1835, and they’re currently on their fifth Caliph, Mirza Masroor Ahmad (pictured right), who lives in Guildford.
To serve: Shah says he intends to spend his life serving his own community and building bridges with others
When quizzed about the intolerance maybe people in the LGBTQ community still experience in the Muslim community, Shah maintains everyone is welcome but admits only if they don’t ‘preach’.
‘If someone who belongs to the LGBTQ community comes to us, the doors of our mosques always open for everyone. If they start preaching, then we’d say this is not what Islam teaches and this is a place for Islamic teaching.’
Shah’s own focus remains on charity work – picking up litter on New Year’s Day, planting trees, donating blood – and working with other religions to promote tolerance.
He says: ‘Islam is a peaceful religion. We haven’t got any hidden agenda. We want to promote love, peace and harmony and we are we continuously looking to find how we can do that.’