Woking Muslim Mission, England, 1913–1968

The year 1914

Return of Khwaja Kamal-ud-Din, November-December 1914
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Return of Khwaja Kamal-ud-Din after his first visit to England: November-December 1914

After his first visit to England, during which he launched the monthly Islamic Review and founded the Woking Muslim Mission at the mosque in Woking, Surrey, Khwaja Kamal-ud-Din reached Lahore at the end of November 1914. He was given a grand welcome by the general Muslim community. A report of it was published in Paigham Sulh, dated 1 December 1914, written by the editor, starting on its front page.

The report says that a poster entitled Welcome, produced on behalf of the leading Muslims of Lahore, was put up at many public places in the city. The poster read as follows:

“Our honoured haji of the holy places of Islam, Khwaja Kamal-ud-Din, has shown the highest example of sacrifice in laying the foundations of such noble work in Europe which will, Allah willing, become a magnificent building sometime in the future. It is hoped that the future greatness of Islam will come through Western nations. These are, anyhow, hopes in the hearts of the believers. Therefore it is our heart-felt desire that a grand welcome should be arranged for him at the [Lahore railway] station on 28 November 1914 at 9.00 a.m. The Khwaja sahib’s life is truly enviable and worthy of respect. It is essential to accord him the honour that he deserves. It is therefore hoped that the Muslim community will take part in his welcome.”

(Note: The reference to Khwaja Kamal-ud-Din being a haji is due to the fact that on his way back from England to India he performed the Pilgrimage to Makkah in October/November 1914.)

Under this announcement there appears a list of names of those who issued the poster:

  1. Honourable Nawab Zulfiqar Ali Khan, C.I.E.
  2. Dr Syed Muhammad Husain Shah, L.M.S.
  3. Khan Bahadur Mian Muhammad Shafi, barrister-at-law.
  4. Dr Shaikh Muhammad Iqbal, barrister-at-law.
  5. Khan Bahadur Shaikh Nasir-ud-Din.
  6. Chaudhry Shahab-ud-Din, lawyer.
  7. Haji Shams-ud-Din, Secretary, Anjuman Hamayat-i Islam.
  8. Khan Sahib Shaikh Khair-ud-Din, government pensioner.
  9. Khan Bahadur Sardar Abdur Rahman, Honarary Magistrate, 1st class.
  10. Khan Sahib Chaudhry Ghulam Haidar.
  11. Shaikh Rahmatullah.
  12. Khan Sahib Syed Sardar Shah.

Out of these twelve, only two (numbers 2 and 11) were members of the Ahmadiyya Movement. The other ten were leading figures in the general Muslim community. Khan Bahadur and Khan Sahib were titles accorded by the British government of India. At least four of these received the title of Sir from the British government in later years: Nawab Zulfiqar Ali Khan (d. 1933), Mian Muhammad Shafi (d. 1932), Dr Shaikh Muhammad Iqbal (d. 1938) and Chaudry Shahab-ud-Din (d. 1949).

The editor continues his report as follows:

“Many people from Lahore had travelled to Amritsar on the day before to greet him at the station. At Amritsar station there were several hundred people from Amritsar itself waiting on the platform to catch sight of him. … Those especially worthy of particular mention included Khan Bahadur Shaikh Ghulam Sadiq, honorary magistrate, President Anjuman Islamia, Shaikh Muhammad Umar, barrister-at-law, Khwaja Mazhur Husain, lawyer, Khwaja Samad Shah Mukhtar, Khwaja Yusuf Shah, and other leading persons of Amritsar, who considered it important to come to the platform to see the Khwaja Kamal-ud-Din. … There are many others whose names could not be included here, although they should have been.…

At Lahore railway station, all the leading figures of the city, which included Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs, were present. There was such a large crowd on the platform that no space was left. As soon as the Khwaja sahib disembarked from the train, flowers were rained down upon him. The Head of the [Lahore Ahmadiyya] community Maulana Muhammad Ali, Dr Mirza Yaqub Baig and Shaikh Rahmatullah, and others, could be seen embracing him. After that, it seemed as if the thousands of people on the platform were being attracted by a powerful force towards one centre. The nearer a person was to that centre, the greater the struggle he was involved in. Everyone was being pushed from behind and his right and left, as if he would be crushed. It was most unusual to see this spontaneous fervour and jostling in a large crowd of civilized and educated people, which would be a rare sight in the world. What other reason could there be for this than the love which the inhabitants of Lahore have for the Khwaja sahib?…

I saw the scene outside the railway gate that thousands of men had lined up in two rows [facing each other], in between which there was a path leading to the carriage that the Khwaja sahib was to take to reach his house. With some effort I was able to come out of the platform before anyone else and see this beautiful scene of the men lined up. Accompanying me was Maulvi Rahim Bakksh. As we had to reach Ahmadiyya Buildings quickly, we took the path that was between the two rows, which made our passage easy and very fast.…

I was the first to reach Ahmadiyya Buildings. Here, Dr Shaikh Muhammad Iqbal, barrister-at-law, and some of his friends were already in wait. The Khwaja sahib and the crowd accompanying him reached Ahmadiyya Buildings. They went first to the Ahmadiyya mosque, where suitable arrangements had been made for seating on the floor, chairs, and a marquee [i.e. large tent]. First, Dr Mirza Yaqub Baig recited Surah Fatiha very movingly. He then spoke briefly and very finely, mentioning the works of the Khwaja sahib and expressing happiness at his return. Then the Khwaja sahib stood up to make a brief speech. A friend of mine noted down the speech and it is reproduced elsewhere in this issue. After that, the meeting concluded with a prayer. Tea was then offered to those present.…

It is 1.00 p.m. now. The Khwaja sahib is sitting in his house, surrounded by people all around him. He is to speak at 3.30 p.m. and perform the opening of the college [Isha‘at Islam College of the Anjuman]. I have found a few spare minutes to write these lines and hand them to the copyist for him to write out. I now go to perform wudu for zuhr prayer. Wassalam (Editor), 28 November, 1.00 p.m.”

The report then resumes as follows:

“After the asr prayer finished at 3.15 p.m., a crowd of thousands, consisting of respectable people from Lahore and outside, could be seen in the courtyard of the Ahmadiyya mosque. Till 3.30 p.m. the arriving crowd built up quickly. … The Honourable Nawab Zulfiqar Ali Khan of Malerkotla arrived and was offered the presidency of the meeting.… He made a speech before the speech of the Khwaja sahib as follows.

Speech of the Nawab sahib: Gentlemen, before I present to you my honoured friend the Khwaja sahib, it is required according to the rules of such meetings that he should be introduced. That is unnecessary for you, as there is no one who does not know of the achievements of the Khwaja sahib in going to England for the propagation of Islam, while leaving his small children behind. I have known the Khwaja sahib for a long time, and I can say truthfully that ever since I first met him, his sincerity and true love for Islam has made such an impression on me that I am sure whatever work for the religion he does he would be successful in it. You know that there came many speakers and leaders in the world, and will continue to come, but none can be successful unless he works with sincerity. The Khwaja sahib has achieved this astonishing success only because of his sincerity. And as long as he continues to have such a determination, and I am sure he will continue to have it, he will be successful just like this. You must have read in the history of Islam of many such junctures; for example, at the destruction of Baghdad, though Muslims were large in number, there seemed no way for Islam to survive, but God protected Islam after the Tartars had destroyed the Islamic civilization. The same happened at one time during the crusades. However, those who conquered Islam became themselves followers of Islam. Through them, Islam even acquired the glory which it did not possess before the fall of Baghdad. Now this is the age today in which, I think, the same condition has befallen Islam. I see that among those people working for the propagation of Islam there are very few who are working purely and truly in the way of God. Although it would appear to be harsh for us to face, but we must accept that unless we create sincerity and truthfulness within ourselves, we will not be successful. The progress of Islam now requires the kind of venerable persons who leave all their comforts and pleasures, and small children, and their land and country, as the Khwaja sahib did to go to England. [End of remarks of the President]

Then the Khwaja sahib began his speech. There were several thousand persons present from the respectable and leading sections of society, the exact number of whom is known only to God. The audience sat still in their places as if they were photographs, as if their souls had been removed, leaving only motionless bodies. However, their eyes and ears were fixed upon one face, from which words were emerging and, passing through their ears like sweet drink, they were being inscribed upon their hearts. That condition cannot at all be described in words. A friend of mine has indeed noted down that speech, but the effect of merely reading that speech in print bears no comparison to the effect it had on the hearts of the hearers. Until sunset, the waves of the river of his speech were satisfying the spiritual thirst of the audience and keeping them disconnected from any worldly matter.”

The editor then mentions short speeches and appeals for the support of the propagation of Islam being done by the Lahore Ahmadiyya community that were made by various persons after Khwaja Kamal-ud-Din had concluded his speech. It then continues:

“The meeting concluded successfully. Immediately afterwards, the maghrib prayers were said. At night, when all the guests were eating at the Khwaja sahib’s house, I arrived there and found that company to be interesting as well. All around in the talk of the diners, the mention of God and His Messenger could be heard. I joined those who were serving water, but I did not serve as much water to the guests as the water which replenished my soul coming from the cups of the knowledge of the Quran which Dr Basharat Ahmad made to flow after the meal.

Editor, 28 November, after Isha.

Khwaja Kamal-ud-Din’s speech

As mentioned in the report above, Khwaja Kamal-ud-Din made a brief speech upon reaching Ahmadiyya Buildings from the railway station. This was reproduced in the next issue of Paigham Sulh, from which we translate it as below:

Brief, first speech by the Khwaja sahib
on 28 November at 9.15 a.m.

Brothers, assalamu alaikum! It is certainly a most happy occasion for a man when he returns home from his travels and sees his near and dear ones again. However, as Allah knows, my nature has now so become that I was myself surprised that when I landed in Bombay I felt no such strong desire, urge or passion, nor do I feel it now on having arrived in Lahore. I am as happy as I ought to be. It is natural that when a man sees his relations, elders and children after a long time his heart is overwhelmed with love and passion. But God knows that there is no such feeling in my heart. Why is that? Only God knows the real reason. However, when I departed from my friends in England, the sadness I felt at that time was greater than the pleasure I should have felt upon reaching home. I wish to be like a physical body which God takes to whichever place He wishes, and I want to be ready to bear every kind of difficulty. I do not mean any political difficulty: those are disputes of worldly people and are always happening. God assigns that work to a person which He sees him capable of doing. By difficulty I mean the difficulty that is falling upon Islam. At the present time, Islam is being presented in the West in a form which is worse than the worst that you can imagine. I saw in a cinema the scene of a mosque in which there was the statue of a lion and a Muslim was bowing before it. I have seen a shop selling lights. To brighten the shop, the shopkeeper has hung a photograph of the sun, and a Muslim is shown bowing before the sun. Mr Shams-ud-Din is an English Muslim convert. He saw such a photograph before embracing Islam. To find out more about what he saw in the photo, he came to Woking with the intention of seeing how Muslims worship the sun. By coincidence I was delivering a lecture on the oneness of God (tauhid). He was looking at me with astonishment, and was startled again and again. In short, when he fully realised that we do not worship the sun and that Islam is full of merit, he embraced Islam. From this connection, I gave him the name Shams-ud-Din.

By telling you this I mean that while Islam came to spread belief in the oneness of God, its image in the minds of Europeans is the worst possible. There are many widespread misconceptions about Islam. Therefore the work of a missionary is not only to convert people to Islam, but his most important task is to remove these misconceptions.…

I believe in the division of labour, and I know that God chooses a man for the work which He considers him capable of doing. I would like any Muslim to do this work. I am happy to be at my home, but my real pleasure would be if the work which I have started bore fruit, whether today or tomorrow. I would be happy whether I do it or someone else does it. I do not wish to inconvenience you any further at this time. Since it has been decided for me that I should not rest at all, I will be addressing you in the afternoon. Now I thank you all. May God reward you all greatly!”

Paigham Sulh, 3 December 1914, p. 2.

Reply to some allegations in a Muslim newspaper

In the issue of Paigham Sulh dated 15 December 1914, the editor refers to some articles which appeared in the Muslim newspaper the daily Paisa Akhbar, making allegations against the Ahmadiyya Movement and Paigham Sulh on various matters. One allegation concerns the reporting in Paigham Sulh of Khwaja Kamal-ud-Din’s public welcome in Lahore (as translated above). The editor has not quoted the allegation but given the reply, as follows:

“To the slanderous words it is perhaps a sufficient reply that, in addition to several newspapers of Lahore, the Civil and Military Gazette of 1st December has also written:

Khwaja Kamalud Din Muslim missionary after a stay of about two years in England returned Lahore on Saturday morning. Nearly 4000 people assembled at the Railway station to receive him.”

Paigham Sulh, 15 December 1914, p. 2, col. 3. (The lines quoted from The Civil and Military Gazette are written out in the original English text in the Paigham Sulh article.)

Note: In March 2023 we discovered the issue of The Civil and Military Gazette of Lahore mentioned here and have added the image of this news item as below:

The Civil and Military Gazette, Lahore, 1 December 1914, p. 9, col. 2

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