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The Decline of Christianity in the UK

All praise be to Allah and peace and blessings be upon his messenger Muhammad.

In wake of the Census statistics published this week one may rightly expect the Christian community to be showing signs of apprehensiveness and bother when reflecting on the dramatic decrease to their numbers in the UK. The latest census revealed that the number of Christians in the UK dropped by a massive 4 million people to now only form 59% of the population (33.2 million). In the previous census of 2001, the Christian segment of Britons constituted a more dominant and favourable 72% of the population (37.3 million). In a previous article I quoted the justification provided by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales where its spokesperson said, “While this is a challenge, the fact that six out of 10 people in England and Wales self-identify as Christians is not discouraging. Christianity is no longer a religion of culture but a religion of decision and commitment. People are making a positive choice in self-identifying as Christians.”[1] One may view the spokespersons outlook as defensive and unrealistic to say the least. Instead of accepting the current trend amongst their community it seems that many bishops and community leaders prefer to remain in a state of denial, which is a position that Dr Leon Moosavi, a lecturer at the University of Liverpool and expert on Muslims in Britain, chose not to adopt. In stark contrast to the views of Bishops he explains in his article (on www.huffingtonpost.co.uk), “These conversions are triggered by a combination of increasing missionary activity by Muslims but also by a seemingly widened disaffection with Christianity. It comes as no surprise then that while the number of Muslims is rising; the number of Christians is declining. Quite simply, some Christians are converting to Islam”.

Another attempt to provide an attractive explanation was given by Nick Spencer, research director at think-tank Theos. He said, “The census measures religious identification, not beliefs or practice. It’s about what people call themselves and which group they wish to identify with.” He added, “These figures show that we have a plural religious landscape but that doesn’t mean we’re atheists. Digging deeper, we see that even those who say they have no religion often have a variety of spiritual beliefs but they don’t want to associate these to religious institutions.”[2] Robert Booth, a reporter from the Guardian suggested, “Christians could be in a minority in England and Wales by 2018, according to analysis of the latest census.”[3]

In a follow up post-Census research conducted by the British Humanists Association (BHA) to verify the integrity of the Census results, we find exposed an increasingly desperate situation faced by the Church today. Those groups who do not believe in God nor associate themselves with any particular religion have expressed their doubt over the official results published by the 2012 Census. They are adamantly claiming the wording of the questions used caused confusion and thus giving rise to inaccurate results. For example, we find in the results of the BHA’s follow up research, published one week after the official census that 65% of ‘Census Christians’ said they were not religious, only 6% of ‘Census Christians’ had attended a church in the last week, and only 48% of ‘Census Christians’ believed Jesus was a real person who was the son of god, died, and came back to life. Among their other findings that support their claim over the misleading Census figures in relation to the number of Christians in the UK, are that only 30% of ‘Census Christians’ claimed to have strong religious beliefs whilst a massive 60% of ‘Census Christians’ had not even read the Bible from choice in the last year. More astoundingly the BHA found that the majority of those who ticked the ‘Christian’ box were not actually Christian nor attended the Church. Their profound results showed that only 28% of ‘Census Christians’ said that it was due to their belief in the teachings of Christianity which encouraged them to tick the ‘Christian’ box whilst the remaining overwhelming majority (72%) opted for the ‘Christian’ box simply because they were christened and from them 38% also added that it was due to their parents identifying themselves as Christians.[4]

Surprisingly, the retiring Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams spoke ahead of the Census data release and both resisted and dismissed the idea that the Church was fading away and instead highlighted the continued popularity of Cathedrals. Yet in contrast we find the Methodist General Secretary, Reverend Dr Martyn Atkins wisely choosing to disagree stating, “These figures are a challenge to the Churches and reflect how British society has changed.”[5]
 
Compounding the Reverend line of thinking with some analysis of  why Islam as a practiced religion in Briton has not suffered a similar fate and instead witnessed dramatic increases in its numbers over the last ten years would give rise to very interesting conclusions.
 
Moving the discussion forward I find that the conservative attitudes of the Senior Church members are not playing well with the public at large. I propose that Christianity today simply is not appealing to those identified as Christians for whatever reason. Not only are Churches being abandoned or put up for sale, but Christianity is on the decline as a religion and a way of life. The fate of Christianity seems almost certain when harbouring a theology that is unable to rationally define or describe it’s God to it’s followers but instead leaving  them confused in trying to make sense of a some how monotheistic trilogy of God, Son and Spirit.
 
A fundamental error Christians continue to repeat is the altering of their religion to meet the needs of society and the elite few while ignoring the rights of God. Instead they continue to promote a liberal brand of Christianity with the hope of fitting into a liberal era. Yet all their plotting and planning has increasingly proven to be counterproductive as they have neither pleased the people nor God. In fact, they have attempted to define God and his will according to their own which has led them into even deeper shirk [associating partners] and kufr [disbelief].
 
Allah says,

“Indeed, We sent down the Torah, in which was guidance and light. The prophets who submitted [to Allah] judged by it for the Jews, as did the rabbis and scholars by that with which they were entrusted of the Scripture of Allah, and they were witnesses thereto. So do not fear the people but fear Me, and do not exchange My verses for a small price. And whoever does not judge by what Allah has revealed – then it is those who are the disbelievers… And We sent, following in their footsteps, Jesus, the son of Mary, confirming that which came before him in the Torah; and We gave him the Gospel, in which was guidance and light and confirming that which preceded it of the Torah as guidance and instruction for the righteous. And let the People of the Gospel judge by what Allah has revealed therein. And whoever does not judge by what Allah has revealed – then it is those who are the defiantly disobedient.”[6]

We should not make the same errors as the Jews and Christians who mistakenly allowed politicians and clerics to hijack their religion. We as Muslims must apply the religion of Allah completely and we must not and cannot dictate what Allah likes and what He does not like according to our own whims and desires. It would be erroneous to do exactly this   and then claim it is merely a new interpretation of Allah’s religion. It was narrated from ‘A’ishah (may Allah be pleased with her) that the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said, “Whoever pleases Allah by angering the people, Allah will be sufficient for him. But whoever angers Allah by pleasing the people, Allah will leave him to the people.”[7] Altering the implementation of this great and perfect religion would thus produce a failing system, unappealing to the people.

I appeal to all Christians and Jews  to reflect upon the following verse; “Say:  “O  people  of  the Scripture (Jews and Christians) come to a word that is between us and you, that we worship none but Allah, and that we associate no partners with Him, and that none of us shall take others as lords besides Allah. Then, if they turn away, say: “Bear witness that we are Muslims.”[8]I believe that If the Christians and Jews were truly sincere and faithful to God by parting with their own whims and desires they would follow what brings their fellow converts to God. Most know in reality that this is and can only be  Islam.
 
Having said that about Christianity, can the opposite be true about atheism and Godless belief as we see a dramatic increase in their numbers? 14.1 million people (25.1% a quarter of the population) in the UK reported they had no religion in 2011 compared to 7.7 million (14.8%) in 2001. At least one out of four Britons does not believe in any religion.
 
If we accept the Humanists’ argument that the consensus was confusing, the number would be far greater than that of one quarter of the population. Whatever the case, Christianity is unappealing and fading away and people are looking for alternatives. It is not expected however that such people will come to Islam due to the derogative and negative portrayal of Islam in the media. This negative perception may be the very reason that will keep such people from ever considering Islam as an option.
 
Can we then consider Atheism or no religion as the main challenge for Islam and Muslims in dawah? This is something that we as Muslims and those engaged in dawah should analyse carefully. The other question to pose is, do people really believe in nothing or is it that they just want to be free to do whatever they please? Is this a theological/intellectual challenge for our dawah or a matter of following ones desires? I strongly believe that people are living according to their own desires and ideologies, which is more difficult to deal with. Islam can easily overtake any ideology as it is the religion of one’s natural disposition and common sense but it is more difficult to control desires when a spiritual connection with God is incredibly weak or non-existent. As people working in dawah, we need to conduct workshops and further our research in order to analyse this phenomenon and its impact on our dawah.
 
Although this new phenomena may be a challenge for us as Muslims, I believe that whatever desires people follow, they will never be truly content and tranquil without prostrating their forehead to the ground before their one and only Lord, Allah subhana wa ta’ala.

“They (Jews and  Christians) took their  rabbis and their monks to  be their lords besides Allah (by obeying them in things which they made lawful or unlawful according to their own desires without being ordered by Allah), and (they  also took  as  their  Lord)  Messiah, son of Maryam (Mary), while they (Jews and  Christians) were commanded [in the Taurat (Torah) and the  Injeel (Gospel)) to worship none but One Ilah (God – Allah) None has the right  to be worshipped but He, praise and glory be to Him, (far above is He) from having the partners they associate (with Him).” They (the disbelievers, the Jews and the Christians) want to extinguish Allah’s Light with their mouths, but Allah will not allow except that His Light should be perfected even though the disbelievers hate (it). It is He Who has sent His Messenger (Muhammad) with guidance and the religion of truth (Islam), to make it superior over all religions even though the polytheists, pagans, idolaters, disbelievers in the Oneness of Allah, hate (it).”


Notes: 

About Shaikh (Dr) Haitham Al-Haddad

Dr. Haitham al-Haddad is a jurist and serves as a judge for the Islamic Council of Europe. He has studied the Islamic sciences for over 20 years under the tutelage of renowned scholars such as the late Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia as well as the retired Head of the Kingdom's Higher Judiciary Council. He specialises in many of the Islamic sciences and submitted his doctoral thesis on Islamic jurisprudence concerning Muslim minorities. Shaikh Haitham is highly respected having specialised knowledge in the field of fiqh, usul al-fiqh, maqasid al-shari'ah, ulum al-Qur’an, tafsir, aqidah, and fiqh al-hadith. He provides complex theories which address the role of Islamic jurisprudence within a western environment whilst also critically re-analysing the approach of Islamic jurists in forming legal rulings (ifta’) within a western socio-political context. He has many well known students most of whom are active in dawah and teaching in the West. The shaikh is an Islamic jurist (faqih) and as such is qualified to deliver verdicts as a judge under Islamic law, a role he undertakes at the Islamic Council of Europe as Islamic judge and treasurer. Dr Haitham al-Haddad also sits on various the boards of advisors for Islamic organisations, mainly in the United Kingdom but also around the world.

2 comments

  1. 'Umar Abdessalaam

    While da’wah to non-Muslims should never be discouraged, I do feel we ought to be looking at putting our own affairs in order before critically pointing fingers at other faiths.

    Many of the questions posed to ‘Christians’ could be re-worded and posed to Muslims. For example, how many Muslims on an average day walking through the city centres of the West, if asked, could say they have established the Salaah? How many would readily give up their family, wealth and status to meet the Prophet (s.a.w)? How many could even name all 5 Pillars of Islam? And so on and so on …

    Let us help mend ourselves before we help mend others, insha’Allah.

  2. Decline of Christianity
    We witness the decline of Christinianity globally. Prime reason being dialuting what Jesus preached with so called secular values. In the end neither Christianity nor secularism will survive. Time for Muslims to open their religious eyes, and must not allow any state or individual to hijack islam to their ends.

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