Brief History of the Woking Muslim Mission
Khwaja Kamal-ud-Din was born in 1870 in Lahore (British India at the time), and qualified as
a lawyer during the 1890s. As a college student he came under the influence
of Christian missionaries, who were working very actively among
Muslims throughout the world at that time, and was considering
converting to Christianity. However, before he took this step, he
happened by chance to come across a book written by the Founder
of the Ahmadiyya Movement, Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (d. 1908),
containing powerful arguments in support of Islam and in refutation
of opposing creeds. After Khwaja Kamal-ud-Din read this
book, all his doubts about Islam were removed and he became entirely
convinced of the truth of the religion of Islam and the Holy Prophet
In 1893 he joined the Ahmadiyya Movement and became a close associate
of Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, serving the Movement and the Founder in various
leading capacities. Through Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmads teaching and influence,
Khwaja Kamal-ud-Din was inspired to become a successful lecturer, orator
and missionary of Islam, who presented the truth and excellence
of Islamic teachings powerfully before large multi-faith audiences in many countries of the world.
Goes to England and starts
Woking Muslim Mission
In 1912 Khwaja Kamal-ud-Din came to England in connection with
pleading a court case before the Privy Council (the highest court
of appeal for India at the time). After the conclusion of the case,
he stayed on to establish a Muslim mission in England with the object
of presenting the true picture of Islam in this country and refuting the highly
distorted and hideous image of Islam that was widely-prevalent in the West at
the time. He thus abandoned his lucrative legal practice in India
to serve Islam as a missionary.
A few years earlier, in 1889, a mosque along with a spacious residential
house adjacent to it had been built in the town of Woking, about
30 miles south-west of London, in the county of Surrey, by one Dr.
G. W. Leitner. The costs were largely met by financial help that
Dr. Leitner received from Muslims in India, particularly the lady
Muslim ruler of the state of Bhopal (Begum Shah Jahan) and the rulers of the state
of Hyderabad Deccan.
Dr. Leitner had been Registrar at the University
of Punjab in Lahore, and was intending to establish an Institute
in Woking to be a centre in Europe for the study of Oriental languages,
culture and history. He had built the mosque for the benefit of
Muslim students who would come to study at his proposed Institute,
and he also planned to build places of worship for other Indian religions.
However, Dr. Leitner died in 1899, and none of his plans came to
fruition except that the mosque and the residential house were left
At this link read more about the life of Dr. Leitner.
When Khwaja Kamal-ud-Din was starting his Muslim mission in 1913
in London, he learnt of the existence of this mosque at Woking. The mosque had only been
used on a few occasions over the years and was usually deserted and neglected.
Khwaja Kamal-ud-Din, after visiting the mosque, succeeded in getting
it opened for use as a mosque. For this purpose, he had to go to
court, with the help of prominent Indian Muslims living in England and sympathetic British non-Muslims, to get the status of this entire property established. The
court set up a Trust, consisting of certain prominent Indian Muslims,
to manage the mosque and its property.
Without the initiative taken
by Khwaja Kamal-ud-Din, the mosque and the residential house would
have become the private property of the Leitner family who were
intending to sell the entire premises for use as a factory. Khwaja
Kamal-ud-Din then established the Woking Muslim Mission and Literary
Trust at the mosque.
At these links (1), (2), read about How Khwaja Kamal-ud-Din first
opened the Woking Mosque.
Glorious work of the Woking
The Woking mosque and mission was the centre of Islamic activity in England
from 1913 to the mid-1960s. Although the mission was run by people
connected with the Lahore Ahmadiyya Movement, it was supported by
all other sections of the Muslims. Khwaja Kamal-ud-Din regarded
it as his main work to remove the deeply-entrentched misconceptions
about Islam prevailing in the West and to refute the doctrines of
the Christian church. To do such work in England, which was a staunchly
Christian country at that time, and which ruled over Muslim lands
including the country that the Khwaja came from, required the greatest
courage and conviction. But the Khwaja had been inspired by Hazrat
Mirza Ghulam Ahmad with the firm belief that the truth of Islam,
presented in its original purity, shall win over the hearts of the
people of the West, despite all the deep prejudice and hatred against
this noble faith.
Also in 1913 the Khwaja started a monthly journal, The Islamic
Review, which for over 55 years was the main Islamic journal
in the West. The Woking Mosque and Mission became world-famous,
and many a Muslim dignitary visiting England paid a call there.
In the pages of the Islamic Review from the year 1913 to
about 1968 one can read about, and see photographs of, famous Muslim
figures, including religious and political leaders, professionals
from all walks of life, diplomats, writers, students, intellectuals,
and leaders of business and industry, visiting the Woking Mosque
People converting to Islam in England during the years 1913 to
the mid-1960s generally did so through this mission. One of Khwaja
Kamal-ud-Dins earliest converts was Lord
Headley (1855-1935), who was not only a peer of the realm but
a highly educated man, professional civil engineer and writer. Lord Headley
did tremendous service to the cause of Islam after his conversion.
Other very distinguised British men and women also embraced Islam
at the hand of the Khwaja.
At this link read more about Lord Headley.
Lord Headley is buried in the old Muslim plot in the Brookwood
Cemetery, near Woking. Some Muslim soldiers of the First World War, wounded at the Western front in Europe and brought over to England for recovery, were buried at Brookwood, following their funerals at the Woking
Abdullah Yusuf Ali and Marmaduke Pickthall, both world-famous translators
of the Quran into English, are also buried at Brookwood. Both had
close association with the Woking Mission.
of Islam, but influenced by Ahmadiyya interpretation
The Islam which Khwaja Kamal-ud-Din (and later imams) presented from Woking
was the broad, common Islam that all Muslims believe in, and made
no reference to promoting any particular sect or movement in Islam.
The people that were converted to Islam did not become members of
the Ahmadiyya Movement, but only Muslims (even as recognised by
opponents of the Movement). However, the approach to the propagation
of Islam taken by the Woking mission, as well the interpretations
it presented of Islamic teachings, were entirely based on the Lahore
Ahmadiyya outlook of Islam.
Khwaja Kamal-ud-Din also wrote a large number of books on Islam
and religion which were published from Woking. The Woking mission
also promoted the books written by Maulana Muhammad Ali, head of
the Lahore Ahmadiyya Movement, such as his English translation of
The end of the Woking Mission:
dream of united Islam shattered by mainstream Muslim leaders
Khwaja Kamal-ud-Din died in December 1932 and the mission continued
along the same lines till the mid-1960s. It was headed by various
imams sent from Lahore by the Lahore Ahmadiyya Movement.
then changed as Muslim workers migrated to England from Pakistan
in large numbers. Soon after, the narrow-minded religious leaders
also arrived and made their authority felt. They could not tolerate
a Muslim Mission being run by Lahore Ahmadis. Immediately they started
a campaign to wrest the mosque from Ahmadi kafirs,
and succeeded in taking over the mosque and terminated the mission.
So long as the Muslims in England consisted of the educated and
the professional (e.g. students, diplomats, writers, scholars, businessmen)
and the British converts to Islam, they accepted the Lahore Ahmadis
running this mission and preaching Islam. The moment the small-minded
mullahs from Pakistan arrived in England, they brought the Woking
Mission to an end.
Some books of Khwaja Kamal-ud-Din have been reprinted by general
Muslim publishers. They either do not know, or certainly do not
want to tell people, that a man closely connected with Mirza Ghulam
Ahmad wrote those books. Some Muslims have written short histories
of Islam in England, with no mention of the Woking Mission (which
was the centre of Islam in England for over 50 years). The religious
leaders do not want Muslims to find out that such great work for
Islam was done by followers of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, as they
seek to portary him as an enemy of Islam.
There is a well-known book Islam Our Choice, containing accounts
of various converts to Islam, where they explain how and why they
embraced Islam. It was compiled and published by the Woking Muslim
Mission in 1961. Other Muslim publishers have published an “abridged” edition which is in general circulation today.
It has been censored to delete from the converts accounts any mention
they made of the Woking Mission, Khwaja Kamal-ud-Din, or the
names of other Lahore Ahmadiyya missionaries. For further details, please see our webpage on the book ‘Islam Our Choice’.
— Above text revised, September 2018.