Woking Muslim Mission, England, 1913–1968

Major J.W.B. Farmer, M.B.E.
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Major J.W.B. Farmer, M.B.E.

Major Farmer in uniform Major Farmer in 1950s
In uniform In early 1950s

The following tribute to Major J.W.B. Farmer appeared in The Light, 24 February 1967, on page 5.

In Memoriam of Late Major Farooq Farmer (5/10/1897 – 11/11/66)

by Mr Iqbal Ahmad (England)

The death of Major J. W. B. Farmer on the 11th November, 1966 at the West London Hospital, Hammersmith, after an operation, came as a great shock to the Muslim community in Great Britain. He first came in contact with Muslims during the First World War when he fought in the Middle East. During the battles in which he was involved, he was deeply impressed by the chivalry of Muslims in that part of the world. Ever since this first contact his interest in Islam never dwindled. In fact, the house in which he lived the early 30’s at 28 Oriental Road, Woking, near the Shah Jehan Mosque was called Khan Yunus, after a place where he was wounded in the Middle East. In those days the Imam of the Shah Jehan Mosque, Woking, was the late Maulana Aftab-ud-Din Ahmad (whom Major Farmer later affectionately called Mr. Din). A chance meeting between the two led to a deep and lasting friendship and also to Major Farmer’s formal acceptance of Islam. The following excerpt from a letter dated 19th July, 1940 which the late Major Farmer wrote to Mr. H. N. Casson of the Efficiency Magazine gives some indication to the reasons that led the late Major Farmer to join the faith of Islam:

“…Well now, this time I am not writing you about business matters, but concerning the enclosed paper that I have received from India. I do not know who has sent me this as there was no letter enclosed, but I believe it to be from a very dear friend of mine, the late Imam of the Woking Mosque who, when last in this country, very much wanted to see you and would have done so but for somewhat hurried recall to India. This gentleman Mr Aftab-ud-Din Ahmad B.A. took a very great interest in the Efficiency Movement and had read most of your books (how many Christian parsons have ever read a book on efficiency).

“I cannot personally claim to have been a religious-minded person, but my disgust at the way in which Christian Church handled things during the last World War etc., ultimately caused me to search into and embrace Islam. Hence my interest in your reference to Muhammad.

“In Islam I find a practical religion; a religion free from mystery and superstition, a religion that can be easily understood, that contains nothing irrational and that is unencumbered by theological subtleties. It deals with fundamentals and gets right down to the basic laws of nature. It knows of no split between science and religion but recognises that religion is the greatest of all sciences, the science of good and successful living. It offers a complete code for all man’s activities, it deals with worldly conditions, it is for worldly people.

“Islam is pure scientific management. Whilst other religions prattle about Trinities, Holy Ghosts and such like, for which no logical explanation can be found, Islam calls a man to seek to facts, to go after knowledge to find the one best way to accept responsibilities for our own environment etc. and not to pass the buck to some deity.

“The early Christian Church thrived on ignorance and frowned on learning. When Europe struggled under a Christian priest-craft that put to death any one who sought after knowledge, Islam was carrying the torch of learning to the four corners of the world. It were the Muslims under Muhammad that brought enlightenment to Europe and so long as a Muslim country followed the teachings of Islam they led the world and when they departed from their religious teachings they fell into complacency and finally into ignominy. Our Christian friends tell us that Christianity has not yet been tried; that surely after 2,000 years is its own indictment.

“Islam has suffered much misrepresentation in this country. The vested interests of the Christian Church are great and it is astonishing to what depths the Bishops will sink in trying to disclaim the works of The Great Prophet. The tale has even been spread that Islam is a fatalist religion, yet the Prophet himself gave the lie direct to this for he was one of the most active men who have ever lived. We might reasonably charge the Christians with fatalism, for has not the present international predicament been due to blind faith “trusting in the Lord” etc., instead of action. No doubt those well-meaning Christian gentlemen lately guiding our affairs and who with pious resignation thought only of the righteousness of our cause are now beginning to see that whilst God provides us with sustenance and all that we need, He does not put it in our mouths. We have to do that by our own skilled efforts…”

As years went by the late Major Farmer took an increased interest in the Mosque and its activities, so much so that he was made a trustee of the Woking Mosque Trust and for many years remained the President of the Muslim society in Great Britain — a body which at one time acquired a position of some significance but lost the importance due to the large influx of Muslims from abroad and the establishment of various Muslim centres. He was a very dedicated and sincere follower of Islam, and Muslims in Great Britain will remember him for the modesty with which he dedicated himself to the cause of Islam in this country. He will be particularly remembered for his selfless work on the occasion of the ‘Id festivals which he carried out for a number of years and gave up only on account of ill health.

Major Farmer was in the shoe business of John Farmer Ltd., a family concern started by his father. He retired as Managing Director of the firm about three yeas ago. During the First World War he served with the Tank Corp in the Middle East. He then served with the Territorial Army. He did outstanding work for the Home Guard for which he was awarded the MBE. He was also the Southern Area Training Officer for the Army Cadet Forces.

He leaves behind him a large circle of friends who mourn his death deeply.

The above obituary refers to the M.B.E. awarded to Major Farmer for his work in the Home Guard (civil defence in Britain during the Second World War). His name can be read on the Home Guard website in the list of those awarded medals “in recognition of Meritorious Service in the Home Guard” in December 1944. See the list here. He served in the 11th Battalion, the Surrey Home Guard.

This website is created and published by the Ahmadiyya Anjuman Isha‘at Islam Lahore (U.K.), Wembley, London,
the successor of the Woking Muslim Mission.