A group of Bangladeshi and Pakistani Muslims from Chelmsford were desperate for a mosque close to where they lived and worked, some of whom had to travel to London or Southend to attend Friday (Jumu’ah) Prayers. As a first step, a house was rented on Redcliffe Road to pray Jumu’ah. It was difficult to keep up with rent which was shared with Malaysian Muslim students.
Qur’anic classes were started on Saturdays by Brother Sufi Ishaaq at Brother Alauddin’s takeaway (7 Baddow Road) called Allauddin (which has now become Bilash Restaurant)
Janab Ghulam Mustafa (aka Bangladeshi Raja Miah) made an intention to buy a property to open a restaurant (Taj Mahal) and share that space for a mosque.
He bought 6 Baddow Road and donated part of the first floor for the mosque.
Entrance to the mosque was through the restaurant and worshippers were given access at all times of the day including during business hours.
Brother Raja Ghouse contacted his friends in Birmingham to find an Imam that had memorised the Qur’an (Hafiz) to lead Ramadan Prayers (Tarawih).
On 21st June 1981, Hafiz Imam Saghir Ahmad arrived from Punjab, Pakistan to Birmingham.
1st July 1981 was a special day, a Friday, the first day of Ramadan where Imam Saghir arrived in Chelmsford. The Imam led the Tarawih Prayers for 12 people for the first time in congregation. People from Southend also started to attend the Tarawih Prayers. In November Imam Saghir went back to Pakistan. Hafiz Iliyas Ahmad travelled from Birmingham every Friday and stayed for the weekend, leading Friday Prayers and teaching Qur’an and Islamic classes on the weekend.
Brother Mustafa gained planning permission to change the attic to another room for more space to pray. At this point the entrance was changed to Parkway which remains to this day. There were 15 local worshippers at this time. Billericay, Maldon, Braintree and Witham did not have any mosques at this stage so people came to Chelmsford for the Friday prayers. This increased the congregation size to 25-30 people.
About 25 children started to attend Islamic classes over the weekend.
Imam Saghir returned to Chelmsford in November 1982 as a permanent Imam and has been serving the community ever since.
A derelict building
with land owned by King Coffee adjacent to the current premises came on the
market for £33,000. Mr Jackson a nearby neighbour offered £45,000 for it. A
meeting was called to discuss a counteroffer and a price of £47,000 was agreed
to purchase the land. Mr Jackson proposed that if the ground floor was given to him, he’d get the first and second floors built for free. This was a tempting offer that caused much debate but in the end around 30 Muslim households managed to raise funds of over £100,000, which was a huge amount for the time.
Mencap Hall on Mildmay Road was regularly hired for Friday Prayers as fitting 60-70 people in the original mosque was impossible.
An application for the construction of purpose-built mosque on the land was applied to the council.
The initial requirement was for the front part of the ground floor to be a shop with a community room behind it. It was planned that the first floor would be a praying area and the second floor for the caretaker’s living area.
Permission was granted and the work began.
A builder agreed to do the foundation for £16,000 – a much lower quote than other offers. This worried some members of the community but was successfully completed.
By this time the congregation using Mencap Hall had grown to 150 people for Friday prayers.
Building work on the mosque was close to being finished. The Staircase proved particularly difficult and cost £5000 to be built with cranes and specialist equipment.
A decision was taken not to open a shop and caretaker room because of the need of space for worshippers.
Brother Ghulam Mustafa sold 6 Baddow Road to Brother Majnu Miah.
Until this time water, electricity bills and expenses for the mosque were fully paid by Brother Ghulam Mustafa. Brother Majnu Miah donated the space for the Mehrab.
The newly built mosque opened up for prayers.
Hafiz Mohiuddin Ahmed was hired as a second Imam to help support Imam Saghir and the growing community.
First ever school visit occurred at the Mosque.
Until this time, Muslims who passed away would be buried in Great Baddow’s cemetery.
Brother Jahirur Rahman (Motti) & Abdul Baki attended a Muslim burial in Birmingham and discovered that Muslims could have a Muslim area for burials.
A meeting was held with the Bangladeshi community and with the Chairman Raja Ghouse and they agreed to approach the council. The Council allocated 200 spaces at Writtle Road Cemetery.
In October, second Friday prayers began at the mosque due to the increasing demand.
The Muslim community wanted to formalise and establish a working mosque Committee. The first Constitution was drafted by Brother Ayman Syed (who then became General Secretary) and was then agreed by the community.
The new Committee was tasked to find another space for the growing needs of the Community.
An offer was given for a community building in Moulsham Lodge for £700k but was declined even though it was a higher offer.
On 6th January the Muslim community became a registered Charity called Chelmsford Muslim Society.
On 27th August (27 Ramadan), Raja Mohammad Ghouse Saheb, the first Chairman, passed away just after dawn (Sehri). Brother Allauddin became Interim Chairman
In November Brother Mohammad Nawaz became Chairman of Chelmsford Muslim Society. At this point the community had saved £70k in the bank account
A building on New Street for £1.3 million was found however the Committee were not able to raise the funds required in the specified time frame. The bank account had now grown to £200k.
During the year an area of land in Great Baddow was put on sale for £1.4 million. The council after some negotiation rejected the offer and withdrew the land from sale.
This was a huge blow for the society. The money raised had now reached £700k.
15th November, first Mosque Open Day was held with over 400 guests.
On 18th September the first Interfaith Cricket match held (Imams vs Vicars).
After 15 years of service Moulana Hafiz Mohiuddin Ahmed moved on.
CMS were shortlisted for the Best Outreach Programme by British Beacon Mosque Awards.
In October the first offer was made for Hamptons Sports & Leisure Centre for £2.5 million.
Followed by a number of fundraising events, activities and discussions with the community to raise the funds, one private donor made a significant difference donating £400k.
The same private donor contributed a further £125k and on 14th February the community was given the keys for the Hamptons Centre.
CMS then faced the new challenge of not only running a Sports and Community Centre but also maintaining it’s survival during the COVID-19 pandemic.
On 23rd March, the Central Mosque was closed for the first time and not available for public prayers. Both Eid and Friday prayers were cancelled.
In September the Central Mosque reopened for social distanced prayers followed by the Centre reopening for Friday prayers in October.
Hamptons Foodbank opened to the General Public.
In December the Centre opened for all daily prayers too, still socially distanced.
The first Ramadan Tarawih prayers were held at Hamptons on on 13th April.
The First Eid in the Park Event with over 1,400 people in attendance.
In April, the first members elections were held with 11 members of the community elected in to the committee. Brother Ayman Syed was appointed as the Chairman.
Both locations adopt technology such as Wi-Fi, information screens, donation kiosks, mobile phone apps and radio receivers. We also saw CMS re-branded and a new website launched.