Ismail de Yorke was closely associated with the Woking Muslim Mission and was President of the British Muslim Society for many years. He is mentioned in several issues of The Islamic Review from 1937 to the late 1940s.
Given below is his obituary which appeared in The Islamic Review, July 1953, p. 33, and included the photo displayed below.
The Late Ismail de Yorke
By ALEXANDER ENGELHARDT
Ismail de Yorke, born of an Egyptian lady of the Royal
House and a Russian father in Kensington, London, in 1909, was
to all who had the pleasure of knowing him a just, humble and
very lovable person whose presence will be greatly missed.
I first met Wally, as he was affectionately called by his
friends, in Oxshott, Surrey, where we attended kindergarten,
being sent there by our respective parents, who were also very
good friends. It was here and at this early age that his good
nature manifested itself and his infectious
laugh endeared hirn to me so much that we
remained the firmest of friends for thirty-seven
Educated ar St. Lawrence, Ramsgate, and
Trinity College, Cambridge, he had the good
fortune of having the best education money
could give, and this fact, coupled with his
charm and ability to mix easily with all types
of men, turned hirn into a useful, God-fearing
In 1929, while still at Cambridge, he
married Miss Maria Kiknadze, a Caucasian, and
a year later Nermine, his only child, was born.
In the same year he passed his law examinations,
was called to the Bar, and became a member
of Gray’s Inn. He joined Sir Percival
Clarke’s chambers and practised there until
Answering the call to duty at the outbreak
of the last great world war, he offered his services
to the 12th Finsbury Rifles (which later
became known as the 12th L.A.A. Regt., R.A.), an old-established
Territorial unit. His ability to mix with everyone soon gained
hirn many friends in the unit, and it was not long after the
beginning of the war that the Commanding Officer named hirn
for promotion to officer status. Unfortunately, however, his health
was not good at this time, and it was soon decided by the
authorities that he should be discharged.
Thereafter, and until the end of the war, he helped the war
effort by working in the Foreign Exchange Control at the Bank
As our families were so united, when his father died in the
autumn of 1936, my father became even more arrached to Wally,
and during the long weary years of the war they spent many long
hours together in and around London, cheering up others and
themselves in the knowledge that in the end right would prevail.
Due to the fact that his home, on the ruins of which stands
his present house, was bombed in 1940, he moved with his
family and spent two years at the Shah ]ehan Mosque in Woking,
Ismail was passionately fond of tennis, and followed it
closely, both as a player and as a spectator. The fortnight at
Wimbledon was always awaited eagerly. His other hobbies
included rnodel railway construction and model
yacht racing. The latter he raced on the round
pond in Kensington Gardens, and he was for a
time Secrerary of the British Model Yacht
Association. The long winter evenings were
often spent with a handful of friends lisrening
to music, chosen from his extensive and varied
library of records.
It is difficult to say whether these hobbies
kept him young in spirit or whether it was his
youthful mentality which caused hirn to choose
such hobbies. In any event, in this quality lay
his great charm. He was a boy with a good
heart and a big smile.
In religion a devout Muslim, he not only
did a lor of work in bringing this religion to
the forefront, but tried sincerely to live his
life in a way that would bless and serve as an
example to others. He was President of the
Muslim Society in Great Britain for many years.
The aftermath of war brought, as was to
be expected, various problems, amongst which
the housing shortage was one of great urgency. Ismail decided
his legal qualifications could be put to good use if he joined an
organization which tackled this important human problem. As
a result of these thoughts, and with his usual desire to help the
underdog, he joined the Hampstead and St. Pancras Rent
Tribunal. He gave loyal and devoted service both to the Tribunal
and to the many landlords and tenants who brought their
grievances to him.
One cannot write about Ismail without mentioning the
great variety of his friends. They ranged literally from princes
to East End barrow boys, and this fact, above all others, showed
his true character, his love of humanity and his understanding
that in the eyes of God each and every one of us, irrespective
of colour or creed, is alike and a brother.
— The Islamic Review, July 1953, p. 33
Parents and their marriage
The above obituary mentions that Ismail de Yorke was “born of an Egyptian lady of the Royal
House and a Russian father”. To be more exact, his parents were the Egyptian princess Saliha Hilmi (1878–1953) and Serge Yourkevitch (d. 1936) who was a Russian count and diplomat from St. Petersburg. His acceptance of Islam and their Islamic nikah was described by Khwaja Kamal-ud-Din in his report from the Woking Mission dated 24 December 1913. He wrote:
“In some previous letter I had mentioned Princess Saliha of Egypt, whose husband, a Russian, accepted Islam in Woking at my hand. Events which came to light yesterday shows that this happened by the great grace of God, and this Russian count’s change of religion saved the honour of a high Muslim family, removing from that family, by my hand, the disgrace they had been suffering for the past five years. Princess Saliha is in fact the paternal grand-daughter of Prince Ismail Khedive, during whose rule European powers obtained concessions in Egypt, gaining a foothold in that country. Princess Saliha first married Prince Ibrahim who died in 1906. … In 1907 the princess married a Russian count who was a protestant Christian. This marriage caused uproar in Egypt, as a result of which the princess and her husband had to leave Egypt. They lived in various European countries, and have been living in England for the past few months.
It was by the will of God that they met me. I started preaching Islam to them, as a result of which the husband came to Woking three weeks ago to become a Muslim at my hand, out of his own accord. I did not consider this sufficient, and on 12th December, in the presence of fifty to sixty Muslims for Friday prayer at Lindsey Hall [Notting Hill gate], I accepted the affirmation of Islam again from the Russian count. I then advised them both to enter into an Islamic nikah. Consequently, two days ago, that is, last Sunday, I conducted their nikah in the Islamic form at the Woking Mosque, the mahr being 2,000 Pounds, in the presence of fifty Muslims from India, Egypt, Turkey and Iran. Apart from these, I had also invited some European gentlemen and ladies. Lord Headley was present with his four sons. After the wedding, there were arrangements to have plentiful refreshments.”
— Ahmadiyya newspaper Paigham Sulh, Lahore, 13 January 1914, p. 3. (More from this report, whcih also conatins a further note about this couple, is at this link.)
Grave of father and son
Ismail de Yorke and his father are buried in the same grave at the Brookwood cemetery, near Woking. Below is a photograph of their grave taken on 13 November 2014 by the Website Administrator of this website, Dr Zahid Aziz:
Woking Mosque and Mission related activities
In the archives available on this website, there are some photographs of Ismail de Yorke at functions held at the Woking Mosque, and reports of meetings in Woking and London, chaired by him or at which he made a speech. The list below summarizes all such references to him, and provides links to the source where details can be read.
- Photograph on the occasion of the visit of Crown Prince Faisal bin Abdul Aziz Al-Saud (later to be King Faisal of Saudi Arabia from 1964 to 1975) to the Woking Mosque in February 1939.
- Report of the above occasion from The Islamic Review, May 1939, p. 162-167.
- Photograph with Sultan of Kedah (Malaysia) at Woking Mosque, May 1951.
- Speech at the celebration of the birthday of the Holy Prophet Muhammad, 12 May 1938, in The Islamic Review, August 1938, p. 282.
- Speech Benefits of Ramadan, in The Islamic Review, April 1939, p. 132-137.
- Letter of condolence to wife of a Muslim personality, in The Islamic Review, June 1939, p. 237.
- Chairman of meeting in celebration of the birthday of the Holy Prophet Muhammad in London, 2 May 1939, reported in The Islamic Review, July 1939.
- Report of the celebration of the birthday of the Holy Prophet Muhammad, 20 April 1940, in The Islamic Review, September 1940, p. 321-325.
- Speech at the celebration of the birthday of the Holy Prophet Muhammad, 20 April 1940, in The Islamic Review, February 1941, p. 62.
- Chairman of meeting to welcome new High Commissioner for India, 16 May 1942, reported in The Islamic Review, October 1942, p. 331-332.
- Chairman of meeting in celebration of the birthday of the Holy Prophet Muhammad in London, 28 March 1942, reported in The Islamic Review, December 1942, p. 410-411.
- Chairman of meeting in celebration of the birthday of the Holy Prophet Muhammad in London, 16 February 1946, reported in The Islamic Review, July-August 1946, p. 245-246.
- Letter in The Islamic Review, November 1949, p. 55-56, about Muslims in the USSR.