Some of the earliest Muslim funerals in Lancashire took place in the 1960s we can reveal. But the first Muslim to be buried in the county was back in 1906.

Muslim sections in cemeteries have grown due to obvious demographic changes. 

A Muslim funeral can attract hundreds if not thousands of people but little is known about how this service has developed since the first Muslims arrived in the UK.

Many Muslims believe that one should be buried where one dies. But the practice of burying our loved ones in South Asia continues due to the last wishes of the deceased.

However, this practice has slowly diminished and most families will choose to bury their loved at local cemeteries.

We know that Liverpool’s Abdullah Quilliam, who established the first mosque in the UK, died in Bloomsbury, London in 1932 and was buried in Brookwood Cemetery near Woking. 

Other prominent Anglo-Muslims Abdullah Yusuf Ali, Muhammad Marmaduke Pickthall (who each translated the Qur’an), and Lord Headley were later buried near him.

But in the North West little is known of the first Muslims to be buried at local cemeteries and the work of cemetery staff.

Mystery of 1906 grave in Preston is revealed in report

The first Muslim to be buried in Preston and the county may well have been a renowned travelling acrobat.

A grave states that Achmed Ben Ibrahim, originally from Morocco (Marrakech), died on 24 January, 1906.

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The burial place of Achmed Ben Ibrahim (Pictures Courtesy: @ChishtiSufi79 and Preston to Places)

Accordning to Ismaeel Nakhuda little was known of the background of the deceased until later a newspaper cutting revealed a message from his nephew.

His nephew wished to notify interested parties that his uncle Achmed Ibrahim of Morocco had died and was buried according to Islamic rites in Preston in 1906. The letter is dated March 1906.

The first Muslim section at Preston Cemetery opened in 1960. This was well before any other cemetery in Lancashire had a Muslim section. 

A Jewish burial area was established within the site in the early-20th-century.

The cemetery based along New Hall Lane is another that has seen the old Muslim section fill up and now also includes a dedicated prayer area.

When a funeral is held a team of volunteers help to ensure traffic is kept flowing at the entrance to the cemetery as it is based next to one of the main thoroughfare into the city.

Preston cemetery itself can trace its history back to July 1855. 
When the cemetery opened all the burial grounds in Preston were closed, with the exception of those connected with St Ignatius’s and St Augustine’s Catholic Churches.

BLACKBURN: Muslim graves can be found in four distinct areas.

A short walk up from the crematorium the first Muslim graves are seen on the side of the path dating to the 1960s. 

The earliest of which is dated at May 28 1962 – the grave of toddler who died aged only 19 months. Several more graves are spotted in this section dated between 1967 and 1968.

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It is hard to imagine how the community at the time would have organised and then buried their loved ones.

A  few yards from here and more graves can be seen on the side of the path, again dated in the early 1970s. 

Further up, the Muslim community was given its own small section and many of them, now unmarked, from the seventies can be found here. A closer look at some of the headstones sees birth dates ranging from 1903 onwards.

It was not until 1976 that the Muslim community was given a larger area and this is where the majority of the marked graves can be found.

Even this plot soon filled up and spilled over on the area where burials take place. This area now also has a prayer area which is used for funeral prayers.

It is believed this area will soon fill up within two years and a new area close by has been put aside for the next graves. 

NELSON: First Muslim section opened in 1995

Many people will be surprised to learn that in Nelson the Muslim section only opened in 1995.

The community predominantly made-up of those of Pakistani descent tended to send the body back to their homeland for burial. That is not to say that burials did not take place in the area but these would have been held within the general cemetery area.

Now known as the old section (plot 23) this area filled-up and was followed by a new Muslim section opening in 2009. The new section has enough space for approximately 140 graves.

The first person on record to be buried at the new Muslim section was Mohammed Amin who died on May 28 1995.

Cemetery workers say they realise that Muslim families wish for their loved ones to be buried as soon as possible after death. And they are keen to assist where they can.

Rob Careswell, cemeteries services officer at Nelson Cemetery said: “I am normally the first point of contact for families and mosques and we as a team are on call throughout the year.

“When we get a call we have to fit in designated time and I have to say ninety-nine per cent of the time we can arrange this pretty fast.

“Even during the holidays we have the phones and I will contact the team and make the necessary arrangements.”

Paying your respects on Eid

Many Muslims are accustomed to visiting their loved ones on Eid day to pray.

It is a common occurrence in many areas and Eid mornings can become very busy.

In Blackburn, volunteer marshals now arrive early in the morning to assist with traffic management. The exercise has proved to be a huge success and has cut down traffic issues at Pleasington Cemetery.

This year all worshippers are again reminded to park in designated areas to ensure the cemetery remains open for all users on the day.