report of his second visit to the Woking Mosque
Gives his first Friday khutba
Encounters Abdul Baha, head of Bahai
Khwaja Kamal-ud-Din sent the following report
of a function held at the Woking Mosque, at which he had been
invited to lead the Friday prayers. This, we think, was his
second visit to the mosque and evidence shows it was on Friday
17th January, 1913. It appears from other sources that the
function was hosted by Mr Henry Leitner, son of Dr G.W. Leitner.
His report is entitled Opening of the Woking Mosque.
In my last letter
I wrote an account of my visit to Woking and saying the isha
prayers there. This week God the Most High enabled me to say
well-attended Friday prayers there. I wrote in my last letter
that the founder of this mosque was Dr. Leitner, who had built
the Punjab University and Oriental College in the Punjab.
When he left Punjab, he collected much funds from Punjab and
India generally under the name of the mosque. Only Allah knows
how much funds were collected and where they were spent. He
did build at Woking, which is a town thirty miles from London,
a fine oriental-style residential house containing some memorabilia
from the East. About a hundred yards from the house is a small
mosque in grounds of a few acres and a guest house named the
Sir Salar Jung Memorial House. The courtyard of the mosque
contains a fountain of Eastern style. The mosque has a dome,
on top of which is affixed a golden crescent. The mosque is
probably five to six yards square internally, in which there
could be a gathering of perhaps forty people.
On Tuesday of last week we went to the funeral of a young
Muslim and discovered there that this Friday the Head of the
Babi religion, Abdul Baha, will come to Woking with his followers
and the opening of the mosque will also take place. [note
1] To my knowledge, the Babi religion is not a
sect of Islam but a separate religion. I was deeply saddened
at this combination of the Head of the Babi religion and the
opening of an Islamic mosque. At the funeral some Muslim friends
were present. Anyhow, at the invitation of the Secretary of
the Anjuman Islam the young Muslims of London were invited
to Woking at 12 midday. The invitation card stated that the
Jumua prayer would be held and led by Khwaja
You are aware that whatever reform we manage to bring about
in the religious condition of the people of Europe, that is
yet to be seen, but the condition of our own people is bad
enough. The young Muslims here have very little to do with
Islam. The first thing I did after arriving in England was
to gather them together by means of Jumua prayers.
As a result of the efforts of a few months, there is a sizeable
gathering for Jumua. When we went to Woking on
Friday there were some twenty Muslim students with us. Muhammad
Husain, a young man from Amritsar, gave the adhan in
such a loud volume that it drew the attention of the neighbourhood.
Having performed the wudu we went into the Divine presence,
and before the khutba Shaikh Muhammad Husain again
gave the adhan loudly. I delivered the khutba
on the verse: Certainly the first house appointed for
men is the one at Bakkah, blessed and a guidance for the nations
(3:96). I then gave an exposition of the prayer of Abraham
and showed that the prophecies indicated in his prayer were
fulfilled in their letter and intent. The khutba was,
as usual, in English. At the end of the khutba I became
full of anguish and after rising for the second part of the
khutba I addressed my young congregation as follows:
My dears, this is your mosque. After the death of
its builder it remained locked in the hands of non-Muslims
for long. Today it is in your hands. But what is the difference
between its past and present conditions if no one prays
in it? Why are you happy today if no Muslim will come here
to take the name of God? If it is again going to be locked,
why are we celebrating today? Take heed of your responsibilities.
Having come to Europe, why dont you acquire the good
qualities of the Europeans? They are a people devoted to
their national identities. For Gods sake, think: you
are Muslims who take the name of Muhammad (peace be upon
him). You should have some communal identity as well. Why
dont you take up an Islamic identity as they have
taken up a European identities? You shout and cry about
nationalism, but to create a nation you need some identity.
Do you not believe Muhammad, peace be upon him, to be the
prophet and messenger of God or not? Do you not believe
that whatever he did in his life was in obedience to the
commands of God? Among the identifying features of Islam
one he appointed for us is prayer. This is soundly based
on the Quran. The Holy Prophet acted on this all his life.
You people say that the benefits of prayer were required
by the people of that time. I am not discussing here the
benefits of prayer. This is not the time, otherwise I would
have shown you that it is not by means of the sword, cannon
or battle, but by means of developing certain good qualities
and character that man comes to rule over countries and
hold sway over nations. And I would also have shown the
indissoluble link that exists between creating those qualities
and character and the basic teachings of Islam, one of which
is prayer. But I give you a simple way of deciding. You
call yourselves Muslims and are the followers of the Holy
Prophet Muhammad. Did he prescribe prayer as a fundamental
of Islam or not? If prayer is not necessary then you may
give up prayer, but then also give up Islam. If by nationalism
your aim is only to seek worldly betterment then you may
as well become members of some other nation, such as Christians.
In their case the belief in atonement has relieved them
to a great extent from such religious obligations. You being
Christian and the government also being Christian would
make a good nation, so why are you bothering with Islam?
But if you want to remain Muslims then why are you shy of
prayer? Remember, you probably do not realize how deep an
impression the maintenance of the Jumua prayer
will make upon the people of Europe, who are devoted to
the idea of communal identities.
I have another request for you. If religion is indeed
obsession and fanaticism, why dont you rescue me from
this obsession? I am a reasonable man. I have so far spent
more than two thousand Rupees, and if I remain here another
year I will need several thousands of Rupees. My family
depends on me and they have expenses. I have abandoned my
flourishing legal practice, which in the eyes of a worldly
person is a great loss. I have no worldly aim here. If you
consider religion to be an obsession then why dont
you save me from losing thousands of Rupees? I am your Muslim
brother, so help me, and if you prove to me that I am needlessly
wasting my time and money, I will go away. But if it is
really a noble work, as some of you have said to me, then
why dont you become noble as well? Come and work with
me and help me. I am not asking you to help me with money,
but just come and join me for Jumua prayer
and if there are any future meetings then increase their
attendance. Come, bring others, and advise me how to do
my work. I am all alone and I need advice as I am unfamiliar
with the ways of this country. I am ready to spend time
and money and to sacrifice personal comforts. Are you not
able to help me with advice and guidance? Today, in this
house of God, the first house of God built in this country,
I have conveyed to you my message before God with great
pain, whether you accept it or not.
This was the last part of the khutba. After this I
led the prayer and recited the Quran in the loudest possible
I have forgotten to write that as I was standing delivering
the khutba Abdul Baha arrived with a few friends in
a motor car and stood at the gate of the mosque, some fifty
yards from me. He saw us, stood there for a few minutes and
then went towards the guest house. He is after all the son
of a Muslim, and used to be a Muslim and knows what the Jumua
prayer is. After finishing the prayer, when we went to the
guest house, we found Abdul Baha seated at a table with his
food. Our eating arrangements were in the same room. When
they finished and emerged from the room, Abdul Baha extended
his hand towards me and greeted me. After a formal exchange
of words, I said to him: You came here in connection with
the opening of the mosque and today was Friday. Why didnt
you join the prayer? Being familiar with worldly expediency,
he replied: The prayer time came when we were still at home,
so we performed this duty there. I said: Yes, but now the
time for asr is approaching.[note
2] He would have to join in it. He had no choice
but to answer in the affirmative.
Anyhow, we entered the dining room, and as I emerged after
the meal Abdul Baha approached me and began to walk with me,
taking me to the mosque while talking to me. Finding the mosque
empty he immediately entered it, called out the takbir
and pointed me to lead the prayer. If he had said his prayer
at that time no one else would have known what happened in
the mosque. I said to him that there were many Muslims who
had yet to pray and he should wait till the congregation was
ready. He was about to say something when I went outside and
called everyone to come inside. Immediately I had the adhan
called loudly for the asr prayers. People started to
gather. Meanwhile Abdul Baha had started praying and performed
the prayer in the manner of Sunni Muslims. While the adhan
was being called out he finished his prayer. However, when
the adhan came to an end he said loudly La ilaha
illallah Muhammad-ur Rasulullah like Muslims. Then we
stood for prayers, which I led. Abdul Baha joined us in the
congregation and two Europeans who were with him, probably
Bahais, also joined. Others just watched. His Persian companions,
including Hakim Mahmud, also joined the prayer.
After the prayer Abdul Baha stood outside at the threshold
of the mosque and some forty people were present in the courtyard
to listen to him, including ourselves and some other Muslim
students who had not been able to come in time for the Jumua
prayer. The gist of Abdul Bahas speech was that the
basis of religion is harmony and love, and it was the mission
of every prophet to spread harmony and love in mankind. This
was also the real mission of Moses, Jesus and the Holy Prophet
Muhammad. In past times there was much discord and ignorance.
Now Bahaullah had brought light and his mission was to teach
love, harmony and brotherhood. The reason for mans existence
is to show humanity and love, so we must adhere to love and
There was a Persian interpreter with him who translated each
sentence into English. No doubt the speech was well constructed
but it was certainly not impromptu.
Anyhow, after asr, having listened to this speech,
we went to the railway station and reached home safely.
Badr, 20 March 1913, pages 911.
Notes by Website Editor
1. Abdul Baha, original name Abbas Effendi, 18441921,
was son of Bahaullah and his successor as head of the Babi
or Bahai religion. During 1911 to 1913 he went on a tour of
Europe and America, in which time this visit to Woking took
2. As it was the month of January, the asr prayer
would be shortly after the Jumua prayers at about
News in the Woking local Press
In January 2003 a news item appeared
on the website of the Woking News and Mail under the
title Commemoration visit to Mosque from which
we quote below:
MEMBERS of the Bahá’í
faith visited Woking Mosque on Friday (January 17) to commemorate
a similar visit made 90 years ago by the son of their founder.
Abdu’l-Baha son of Baha’u’llah,
founder of the Bahá’í faith made
his visit on the same date in 1913.
On that occasion Abdu’l-Baha was joined by members
of the Christian, Muslim and Jewish faiths together with
distinguished visitors from east and west.
A special interest was taken in a copy of the Koran, which
had been a gift from Queen Victoria.
On Friday Bahá’ís from Woking, Guildford,
Godalming, Leatherhead, Camberley, Egham, and Bracknell
visited the mosque for private prayer and the reading of
a special prayer by Abdu’l-Baha.
The Bahá’ís present were representatives
from several different countries including England, India,
Iran, Tunisia and Zambia.
Afterwards members of the group were warmly welcomed by
the secretary of the Shah Jahan Mosque, Munawar Ahmed, at
a reception held in the Memorial House. This was the same
place in which Abdu’l-Baha had been received after
his visit to the mosque 90 years before.
The gathering was shown an article from the Surrey Advertiser
from 90 years ago entitled "An Interesting Gathering".
Consulting the article in the Surrey
Advertiser referred to in the above news item, we find
that it covered the Woking function only from the aspect of
the visit of Abdul Baha. It begins as follows:
Representatives of East and
West met at the Woking Mosque on Friday afternoon last week,
the occasion of a visit by Abdul Baha (H.E. Abbas Effendi),
the pioneer of the doctrine of Bahaism, which makes for
unity of nations. His Excellency, who recently returned
from a tour in America, was greeted by a large assembly
of Christians, Mahomedans and Jews. The host for the day
was Mr. Henry Leitner, whose late father, Dr. G.W. Leitner,
built the Mosque in conjunction with the Begum of Bhopal
some thirty years ago.
The article lists among the company
present a Dr. J. Pollen representing East India Association,
and says near the end:
Dr. Pollen, in a happy speech,
extended a hearty welcome to the East, in the name of the
West, and announced that the Mosque was a public place,
open to all Mahomedans.
25 January 1913, p. 6.
first visit to the Woking Mosque
Life of Dr.
about Dr. G.W. Leitner on websites