Woking Muslim Mission, England, 1913–1968

Khwaja Kamal-ud-Din’s report of his first visit to the Woking Mosque
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Khwaja Kamal-ud-Din’s report of his first visit to the Woking Mosque

After his first visit to the Woking Mosque, Khwaja Kamal-ud-Din sent a report of his visit in Urdu, addressed to the Head of the Ahmadiyya Movement, Maulana Nur-ud-Din, which was published in the Ahmadiyya Community newspaper Badr (27 February 1913, pages 6–7). That report is translated below. This visit most likely took place in January 1913. [note 1]

Mosque in England

Woking is a place thirty miles from London. Dr Leitner, who had been Registrar of the Punjab University and the Founder and first Principal of the Oriental College [Lahore], collected funds from some leading Muslims, promising to build a mosque in England.

Woking would probably be his birth-place. [note 2] He selected this place and bought a large amount of land, upon which he constructed a vast residential house, a room for keeping mementos from the East, and a small mosque on one side which is in fact a room, five yards square. There is a very beautiful dome over it, on top of which is affixed a crescent. It has a high pulpit and a rihal [low stand] on which is placed a three-volumed copy of the Quran in large print, having the Husaini commentary in the margin.

In the mirhab [niche for the Imam] the Sura Fatiha is inscribed in Arabic. Some small plaques with the Divine names on them are on the walls. There are three or four prayer mats in the mosque. In one corner of the mosque there is some equipment for performing the wudu and in the other is a small enclosure for the Imam. In front of the mosque there is a large, open courtyard, within which is a fountain occupying an area one, or one and a half, yards square. All around the courtyard is a wire fence and trees have been planted. In this non-Muslim land, this is truly a scene having all the attributes of an Islamic mosque, and if its builder has not done justice to the amount of money he collected in the name of the mosque, then seeing this mosque a lover of Islam can forget all the injustice. A few yards from this mosque is a small resthouse known as the Sir Salar Jung Memorial Hall, where a traveller is permitted to stay for a day or so. Apart from the courtyard of the mosque, there are a few more acres of land attached to the mosque.

After the death of Dr. Leitner all this property attached to the mosque came into personal use. But after much effort, the mosque, courtyard, the memorial hall and some acres of land were separated and became a trust along with the mosque. The remainder of the property and residential houses, which had been built as private property in the first place, remained in private hands.

You, sir [Maulana Nur-ud-Din], had referred to this mosque in a letter, [note 3] and here too there was a movement. After last Friday prayers, I and Chaudhry Zafrullah Khan went to Woking, reaching there at 5 p.m. Here the sun sets at 4.10 p.m. and even the isha prayer is at 6 p.m.

From the station we hired a carriage and reached our destination where a polite young man agreed to show us the mosque. The courtyard and the mosque were locked. Upon my enquiry it was discovered that for years no Muslim has come here nor prayed here. O Allah! Only thirty miles from Woking is London where there are hundreds of Muslims full of national spirit, day and night. But no one came to see the mosque. Please do not judge thirty miles according to India. Here we travel fifteen, twenty, thirty miles in the course of ordinary, daily business in half an hour to three-quarters of an hour.

Anyhow, all the sadness I had felt towards Dr. Leitner for many years vanished upon seeing this mosque. We entered the mosque, and upon opening the Quran anywhere the passage that appeared was by a fortunate coincidence. Reading it, we prayed for Dr. Leitner because the verse that appeared on the right hand page — and here I copy the whole of that page because the text was in large letters and this occupied the entire page — was as follows. The page also begins at this point:

“Certainly the first house appointed for men is the one at Bakka, blessed and a guidance for the nations. In it are clear signs: the place of Abraham; and whoever enters it is safe; and pilgrimage is a duty which men owe to Allah, whoever can find a way to it. And whoever disbelieves, surely Allah is above need of the worlds.” [Ch. 3, verses 96–97]

Glory be to Allah! Today, after full four months, in a non-Muslim land, I saw a mosque of God, and then a Quran in it, moreover this verse appearing from that Quran as a coincidence! I was out of control with joy. I said to the English gentleman that I wanted to say prayers if he could wait. He went outside and we prayed as a Jama‘at. My voice is usually loud in any case, but now I recited the Quran even more loudly, the dome echoing with the recitation of the Quran after many years. In the first rak‘a I recited the prayer of Abraham: “And when Abraham said: My Lord, make this town secure …” [14:35], to the end. I felt so much pleasure that my own voice and its echo was enough to make me exuberant. We made a lengthy prostration, crying and pleading to be given the opportunity for the preaching and propagation of Islam, and praying that the mosque may become the place for the dawn of the light of Islam. This mosque, in a non-Muslim land, is truly “the first house appointed for men”. What a wonder if God were to make it an Islamic centre.

In the second rak‘a I recited Sura Ikhlas several times. Thus our prayer came to an end. Although the journey cost us nine rupees, the solace and joy we felt outweighed this cost very greatly. May Allah be gracious and let the vision of the Promised Messiah be fulfilled soon through a lowly servant of his. Amen.


Notes by Website Editor

Note 1. In the article by Kazi Abdul Haq in The Islamic Review of July 1930 it is stated that this first visit took place in November 1912. I think it took place in January 1913, on Friday 3rd or 10th. In his letter published in Badr dated 20th March 1913, the Khwaja gives an account of his second visit which definitely took place on Friday 17th January, and that letter, as it shows, is the next one he wrote after this one. Also he writes above that he has seen a mosque after four months. As he arrived in England on 24th September 1912 (having departed from India on 7th September), this clearly places his first visit to the Woking Mosque in January 1913.

Note 2. This is his guess. Dr. Leitner was born in Budapest, Hungary.

Note 3. The letter of Maulana Nur-ud-Din referred to here by Khwaja Kamal-ud-Din was published in Badr, 31 Otcober 1912. Its image is shown below:

Badr, 31 October 1912, p. 3

It is stated in this letter: “I had heard that there is a mosque in London [meaning England] and it is in Woking. Dr. Leitner had collected donations for the mosque.”

The letter translated above (‘Mosque in England’) is immediately followed in that issue of Badr by a short note signed Khwaja Kamal-ud-Din, and is given the heading in the paper Fog in London. For completion and interest, this is translated below:

Today there is fog here. It began at 11 a.m. Outside, it is pitch dark as at night. It is now 1.00 p.m. and the same condition is persisting. Although we are inside the house and the door is closed, it is somewhat difficult to breathe even in here. The condition outside must be very bad.


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From Badr, 27 February 1913, pages 6–7.
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the successor of the Woking Muslim Mission.