‘Rev. Carr made me think differently about this country and what I could contribute while I was here’
Imam Dr Abduljalil Sajid, 64, is a Muslim. He was born in Rajanpur in Pakistan and now lives in Hove, England. He was a founder member of the Muslim Council of Britain and has been involved in pioneering interfaith work across Europe for four decades. He came to England in the autumn of 1972 to study at the London School of Economics. Here he tells about a Christian man who he met a few months after he arrived in the UK - and who changed the course of his life.
The thing that struck me most about London was the immense loneliness. My wife wasn’t with me and I knew nobody. Everyone was in a rush, telling people to mind their own business. I had come from a bubbly, loving and caring family of fourteen brothers and sisters. When you sit on a bus in Pakistan, you get talking to your neighbour and the journey would always finish before your conversation did. Here, everyone in the carriage of my train had their faces hidden behind newspapers.
One day in December, I saw a phone number on a notice board at LSE, saying you should ring it if you’re lonely this Christmas. I did, and two or three days later I received a message from a Reverend Carr in Reigate. The message said I had been selected to be Rev. Carr’s guest for two weeks, asked where I should be collected from and whether there was anything I needed. As it happened I needed a small fridge for my medicines as there wasn’t one in my room. When I called Rev. Carr back he said “I have eleven fridges in my garage, so I will bring one when I come to get you.”
Reverend Carr was a lovely, caring family man from Scotland living in Redhill area. Not only did he have eleven fridges in his garage, he also had eleven children. They were all there when I went with him to his home, along with his brother, Harold, who also lived with them. Uncle Harold gave me my first Good News Bible. I still have it with me. That Christmas, I had exactly the same loving, caring, hospitable, life as I used to have back in Pakistan with my own father and mother.
I learnt more about Jesus from Rev. Carr’s church sermons that Christmas, which had a great impact on me. Years later I found myself speaking in the Norwegian Parliament, being asked to reflect on what Muslims feel about Jesus. I said shared three things that I learned from Rev. Carr that Christmas. First, Jesus was a great saviour of mankind because his three year ministry was all about the poor, the needy and the helpless, and lifting them up. Secondly, he believed in the dignity of mankind – like when he saved the adulterous woman from being stoned to death – and therefore, just as it says in the Quran, it is not for us to judge others. And most importantly, that Jesus has left an example for us. Even the Prophet Mohammed quoted him saying, ‘as my brother Jesus had lived, we should be doing the same thing.’
One evening Rev. Carr said to me, you know a little about our faith, but we don’t know anything about yours. Will you educate us? No-one had ever asked me that before. I thought to myself, I really respect this man.
As well as being lonely, I was a little bit selfish at that time. I was studying, doing my own thing, not doing anything for those around me. Reverend Carr made me think differently about this country and what I could contribute while I was here. He also told me I must find a mosque, find my own community here. And so I found the UK Islamic Mission, and went on to become the Imam at Brighton Mosque. Instead of returning to Pakistan to teach, I took British nationality and my wife and children joined me here. Yes, Rev. Carr had a great impact on me. And I’m so grateful to him.