Woking Muslim Mission, England, 1913–1968

Dr G.W. Leitner

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Further information about Dr. G.W. Leitner on websites

There are articles and documents on websites mentioning the work of Dr. G.W. Leitner, paying tribute to his contributions, particularly in the field of education in Lahore. Some of these are quoted below.

1. Punjab University, Lahore

It is stated on the history page of the website of the University of the Punjab Lahore:

“The contribution of Dr. G. W. Leitner, an enlightened Hungarian and a naturalized Britisher, was instrumental in the establishment of this University. He became its first Registrar.”


  • History page on website of the University of the Punjab Lahore.
  • Locally here at www.wokingmuslim.org we have saved the above webpage for permanence.

2. Letter in Pakistan Link

Pakistan Link is a well-known newspaper published from California, U.S.A. In an issue in May 2002 the following letter appeared:

Ravians Recall the Good Old Days
By Intizar Husain

Like the Aligarians, the Ravians, too, appear to be very nostalgic about their past. How fondly they talk of the good old days at the Government College, Lahore. They are easily carried away by the sweet memories of those days, which now stand transformed into a golden age in their imagination.

It appears that this institution is now struggling hard to regain that glory, which, as the Ravians say, it had lost in the riot-torn years of partition. The new publications I have recently received are very expressive of this sentiment. Last month, the Ravians - old and the new - gathered together and solemnly remembered their first principal, Dr Leitner, the great scholar, who is regarded as the real architect of their institution. The occasion also saw the launching of a book, a volume of Dr Leitner’s selected writings compiled by Ikram Chaghatai and published by the research and publications society of the college with the cooperation of Sang-i-Meel Publications, Lahore.

But it was not Government College alone, which benefited from Leitner’s services and turned into an institution which was much more than a college. As Ikram Chaghatai tells us in his introduction to the book, the city of Lahore is indebted to him for all its educational activities. It was he who saw to it that the Punjab should have its own university. It was because of his strenuous efforts that the Punjab University came into being.

But Dr Leitner was not among those educationists who faithfully followed the line given by Lord Macaulay and insisted solely on English education. Himself a scholar of oriental languages and allied cultures, he was aware of the value of these languages and of their need in education. So after his success in the campaign for the Punjab University, he came out with the proposal of an educational institution devoted to the study of oriental languages. Though the anglicists bitterly opposed him, he stuck to his proposal and succeeded in founding an institution which is now known as the Oriental College, Lahore.

But Lahore is not indebted to this great man for its educational institutions alone. As is well known, soon after the fall of Delhi and Lucknow in 1857, Lahore emerged as a center of literary activities, encouraging new trends, whose chief advocates were Hali and Azad. For that, too, Lahore owes much to Dr Leitner. The Anjuman-i-Punjab, which played a great part in promoting these trends and which revitalized the institution of the mushaira, was, in fact, Dr Leitner’s brainchild.

Apart from being an educationist with innovative ideas, Dr Leitner was a great scholar, who had studied Islam and the languages related to it, Arabic, Persian, and Turkish. Along with it, he was deeply involved in the research and study of local languages and cultures in this part of the world. A number of articles, which bring before us his research about the northern areas of Pakistan, have been included in this volume. His studies in the fables, folk tales and folk songs of Chitral and his research on tribal religion and customs, provide precious information to us.

Even after his return to England, his interest in the cultures and languages of this part of the world did not wane. There he made efforts and succeeded in founding a school of oriental studies. And keeping in view the religious requirements of the students from India, he thought of building a mosque, a temple and a gurdwara in London. The mosque he built there is known as the Voking [Woking] Masjid.

Let me now say a few words about another publication of the Government College, which also speaks of its earnest desire to revive its academic and literary traditions. The Ravians had often been seen talking nostalgically about the Sondhi Translation Society which, in the good old days, was actively engaged in translating from European literature into local languages. After lying dormant for long years it has once again been revived. Here is its fresh publication under the title, Takhleeq-i-Mukarrar 2001.

An attempt has been made here to introduce to us in Urdu those distinguished writers who have won the Nobel Prize during the last ten years. A short introduction about the writer is followed by an Urdu version of the lecture he delivered on the occasion of the prize distribution ceremony.

This in a way is an introduction to twentieth century literature, an attempt to have an access to what has been acknowledged as the best during the past decades.

Such an attempt on the part of the students is expressive of the courage to know and to understand. The attempt is laudable and deserves our appreciation.

See link to above webpage.

3. Cornell University

In the Wasom Collection on East Asia at the Cornell University Library, under the section International Association of Orientalist Librarians, there is a document entitled:

Sir Aurel Stein’s early years: Setting himself on the track by Gabriele Zeller. Here is a local link to this document.

Sir Aurel Stein was an explorer of the remote mountain regions of today’s Pakistan and Afghanistan, and originated from Budapest, Hungary, like Dr. Leitner. In Jesus on Heaven on Earth by Khwaja Nazir Ahmad, two works by Sir Aurel Stein are cited in chapter 26 Chronology. Within the above document it is related that Sir Aurel Stein lived in the Oriental Institute at Woking for a short while during 1884 with Dr. Leitner. For further details, please search for Leitner in the above document.

4. Sikh website

On a Sikh website (www.allaboutsikhs.com), in the History section there is an article about the Singh Sabha Sikh Reform Movement in which it is mentioned:

“In Lahore, for example, several Sikhs were members of Dr. G.W. Leitner's orientalist Anjuman-i-Punjab, set up in 1865, where they became skilled at literary criticism and debate over historical issues. Debates were held on whether Urdu or Hindi was the more appropriate language to replace Persian as official language. Punjabi in Gurmukhi script was ignored even by the Punjab Education Department as a mere dialect without a written literature. The Oriental College established at Lahore in 1864 to encourage oriental studies had courses in Sanskrit, Urdu and Persian but not in Punjabi. Some Sikh members of Anjuman-i-Punjab like Raja Harbans Singh and Rai Mul Singh pleaded the cause of Punjabi but without success until Sardar Attar Singh of Bhadaur presented a list of 389 books written on different subjects in Gurmukhi script and collected in his personal library. Dr. Leitner was convinced and he not only introduced Punjabi as a subject in the Oriental College but also got it introduced in the Punjab University of which He was the first Registrar ; but that was later in 1877.”

— See link to above webpage

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the successor of the Woking Muslim Mission.