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The schism in Tablighi Jamaat and the ownership of the Abbey Mills Mosque: Mohammed & Ors v. Daji & Ors [2023] EWHC 2761 (Ch)

Mark Sefton KC recently acted for the successful Claimants in Mohammed & Ors v. Daji & Ors [2023] EWHC 2761 (Ch), instructed by Daniel Levy, Chhavie Kapoor, Sabrina Furneaux-Gotch and Michael Clarke of Mishcon de Reya. The case was about the ownership of 16 acres of valuable development land in East London. It had been bought in 1996 by adherents of the Tablighi Jamaat movement of Sunni Islam. The movement had come to England in the 1940s, and by the 1990s it was centred on a mosque and madrasa in Dewsbury, South Yorkshire. Funds had been raised from within the movement to purchase the land in East London, with the aim of building Europe’s largest mosque on it. In 2017, however, there was a leadership dispute resulting in a schism in the worldwide Tablighi Jamaat movement. It divided into two opposing factions, one following the leadership of Saad Kandhlawi at the Nizamuddin mosque in New Delhi, and the other following the leadership of a council of elders at the Raiwind mosque in Lahore, known as the ‘World Shura’. The schism led to a dispute about the ownership of the East London site. Did the legal proprietors hold it on trust for the society of elders in Dewsbury, who had been the leaders of the movement in the UK at the time when the land was originally purchased? Or did they hold it on trust for the local London community of Tablighi Jamaat followers? The case involved a detailed investigation into the nature and organisation of the religious movement in the UK and, after a trial over three weeks in June and July, the High Court has now handed down judgment in favour of the London community. Mark Sefton KC acted for the London community, leading Jonathan Fowles of Serle Court, a trusts and charity law junior. A copy of the Judgment is here.

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