Woking Muslim Mission, England, 1913–1968

Lord Headley

Lord Headley’s visit to India, 1927-28:
Report of the meeting of the Ahmadiyya Anjuman Isha‘at Islam Lahore
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Lord Headley’s visit to India, 1927-28:

Report of the meeting of the Ahmadiyya Anjuman Isha‘at Islam Lahore

See main article: Lord Headley’s visit to India, 1927–28

Given below is a translation of extracts from the report in Paigham Sulh, Lahore, 4 January 1928 (pages 5–8, 4), of the proceedings of the Annual Meeting of the Ahmadiyya Anjuman Isha‘at Islam Lahore. Parts of the report not related to Lord Headley’s visit are omitted in this translation. All headings are from the original report.

Brief proceedings of the Annual Meeting (Jalsa)

Address presented to Lord Headley and his reply

Speeches for his presidency

Proceedings of 28 December 1927

As per the announcement, the Annual Meeting (Jalsa) of the Ahmadiyya Anjuman Isha‘at Islam opened in the vast grounds of the Islamia College at 3.00 pm on 28 December 1927. The venue for the Annual Meeting was, as usual, the Ahmadiyya Buildings mosque. However, as today an address was to be presented to Lord Headley, and such large numbers of people were expected to attend to hear his reply that the space in the Jalsa marquee would not have sufficed, it was deemed suitable to hold today’s proceedings in the grounds of the Islamia College, where arrangements were made for a large marquee with stage, chairs and seating on the ground.

Long before the appointed time the marquee was entirely filled with the audience. His Lordship arrived at about 3.30 pm and took his seat on the stage amidst resounding cries of Allahu Akbar.

Offer to preside over the meeting by Maulana Muhammad Ali

As soon as he sat down, our Ameer Maulana Muhammad Ali gave a short address, proposing him for the chair. He said:

I am standing at this time to hand over the chair of the President of the Ahmadiyya Anjuman Isha‘at Islam to our honoured guest who has travelled seven thousand miles to be with us. I want to explain to you briefly the status of the family to which our guest belongs. You have heard his well-known name Lord Headley. More than that, he holds two peerages and two baronetcies. He is also descended from a great royal line, being a descendant of Owain Gwynedd, King of North Wales. He was born on 19 January 1855, which means he will be 73 years of age next January. His undertaking such a long journey at this age shows the zeal of his faith in Islam which fills his heart. He received his early education at Westminster School and a degree in Mathematics from Trinity College Cambridge. He was Editor of Salisbury and Winchester Journal. He is a specialist in engineering. In 1896 too he came to India and was responsible for the construction of the Baramula-Srinagar Road.

What is pleasing to us is that he has always held true beliefs, which were contrary to the doctrines of Christianity. He was frustrated with these doctrines since childhood, and what he entertained in his mind was just the same as the simple teachings of Islam, which are in accord with human nature.

After Khwaja Kamal-ud-Din went to England in 1912 and started the work of the propagation of Islam there, contact was made between him and Lord Headley. After this, they met and talked about Islam. The result was that Lord Headley declared his acceptance of Islam. Before him, a Lord Stanley in England was also a Muslim. But for some unknown reason he did not declare this during his life. After his death, it was found written in his will that he was a Muslim and wished to be buried according to Islamic rites. Lord Headley is thus the first peer to declare his acceptance of Islam in his life.

After embracing Islam, his lordship performed services to Islam in various ways. His zeal to act upon Islam practically took him to the Pilgrimage in Makkah where he saw the scene of brotherhood and equality which is distinctive to Islam. He also visited Egypt, and last year he went to South Africa for the propagation of Islam. He has so much enthusiasm for the propagation of Islam that he is involved in this work day and night, writes books, preaches by letter and correspondence, and sometimes gives lectures. He was offered the throne of Albania, but he rejected it only because it would confine his work to one country. Therefore it would not be unjustified to say that by rejecting worldly kingship he attained the spiritual kingship of Islam. There have been in the history of Islam persons belonging to exalted families who became kings, as well as poor persons who became kings. These features are combined in Lord Headley. He belonged to a royal line, yet he also rose from an ordinary position to reach the throne.

Who, then, could be more suitable to preside over an association whose object is the propagation of Islam? It seems to be the will of Allah to illumine the hearts of great persons with the light of Islam, and this is why He has sent to us such a great man having made him a Muslim.

Speech by Sir Muhammad Shafi

After Hazrat Ameer [Maulana Muhammad Ali], Sir Muhammad Shafi stood up to support his proposal and said:

Brethren of Lahore! I have great pleasure in supporting the proposal presented by my learned friend Maulvi Muhammad Ali. He has given a brief life-sketch of his lordship. As he said, Lord Headley is of a noble descent, and our respect for him in our hearts is because his passion for the propagation of Islam has drawn him here from six thousand miles away. It is due to his determination and efforts that Khwaja Kamal-ud-Din was successful in England. His lordship is the right-hand man of Khwaja Kamal-ud-Din. After passing seventy-two years of his life, this was the time when he should have been resting at home, but the love and devotion for Islam, with which God has entirely filled his heart, takes him to South Africa and to India. We, the citizens of Lahore, are truly grateful to him for giving us the opportunity of meeting him and benefitting from his thoughts. I believe that this Anjuman, which was founded for the propagation of Islam, is worthy in all respects of having Lord Headley preside over this great meeting.

Support from Maulvi Zafar Ali Khan

After Sir Muhammad Shafi, Maulvi Zafar Ali Khan stood up and said:

Dear brethren! The Holy Quran, which is the guide for our religious and worldly success, and our salvation, says: ‘He it is Who sent His Messenger with guidance and the religion of truth that He may make it prevail over all other religions. And Allah is enough for a witness’ (48:28). The Holy Prophet Muhammad came as the Prophet of the last ages and he spread Islam, and informed that this religion shall triumph over all other religions because it is not for people of a particular colour, race or nation, but just as a white person can benefit from it, so it is for an African too. It does not discriminate between black and white, eastern and western, touchable and untouchable.

I went to England in 1913, and when through the efforts of Khwaja Kamal-ud-Din the conversion of Lord Headley to Islam was announced, the Khwaja sahib asked me for advice on what name he should be given. I proposed for him the name Al-Farooq at that time. By seeing him, this living fact would have become clear as daylight to you that the knowledge brought by the Holy Prophet was not meant only for Asia and the Himalayas but his sacred message was to reach Europe and America as well. The Arabs rose and spread, on the one side, to Iran, India and China, and on the other to Italy, Morocco and Spain.

Even though today people raise objections about Khwaja Kamal-ud-Din, nonetheless his jihad-like efforts must be acknowledged. The truths taught by Islam which, at one time, the world was not prepared to accept, are today being accepted by other religions on their own. In the past Hindus did not regard the marriage of widows as permissible, but today they try hard to get them married. Only yesterday a conference to remove caste distinctions was established in Delhi. This was the privilege of Islam, which is gradually influencing the hearts of others, and will after this show its effect on England and America. With these words, I support the proposal.

During his speech Maulvi Zafar Ali Khan repeated someone’s allegation against Lord Headley, doing so in English presumably to make Lord Headley listen to it, that he considers the five daily prayers to be impracticable for Europeans and considers consumption of alcohol to be permissible. His lordship immediately declared his innocence of this charge by shaking his head.

Reply by Khwaja Kamal-ud-Din

Khwaja Kamal-ud-Din immediately answered the allegation presented by Maulvi Zafar Ali Khan and spoke in English. He said:

Although medical advice does not allow me to make a speech, and on the last occasion my speech lasting merely half an hour caused me to be ill for six months, still it is essential to reply to this allegation. It is the worst kind of vulgarity and pettiness to make such charges against his lordship. Only the other day, at the Delhi Tabligh Conference, in his presidential address he proved Islam to be the religion of peace and progress and declared the five daily prayers to be necessary. In fact, explaining the Surah Fatihah, he went as far as to write that it is a prayer of such purity as to make one want to pray fifty times a day. In the same address he has stated that the Holy Prophet Muhammad was the first man to recognize the dangers of alcohol and has forbidden it. It is the height of mischief-making and meanness to make such allegations against a man holding these views.

After giving this reply, the Khwaja sahib sat down, saying that speaking just this much was enough to make him ill for a week.

Further support of motion by Dr Sir Muhammad Iqbal

After the Khwaja sahib, Dr Shaikh Sir Muhammad Iqbal rose and said:

“Sometime ago I wrote the following verse about Europe: ‘Europe has polluted the fountains of knowledge.’ They say that poetry is a part of prophethood. It may be that Allah, by means of the efforts of our friend Khwaja Kamal-ud-Din and his co-thinkers, will cause Europe to make these fountains pure and clean again through Islam. At least the time has come when Europe is starting to feel that its salvation lies in Islam, and only in Islam. The movement which began in 1400 C.E., and which led Europe to make many advances in so-called civilization, has been shown today to be unsuitable by the people of Europe themselves. Western civilization has been shaken to its foundations. For the last two centuries, it has striven to establish peace in the world, but has met with utter failure. Its well-being now depends on Islam only, and it is our good fortune that we see among us today a member of the British nobility. On the one side, there is a member of the British nobility, and on the other (pointing towards Khwaja Kamal-ud-Din) a commoner from among us.

He added:

Muslims must be united in the face of their enemies who are on the attack from all sides. In our own country, on the one hand the Hindus are our enemies, bent on eradicating Muslims from India, and insisting that they have no right to live in India as Muslims. Those who think thus are foolish. They are under a misconception: Islam can never be driven out of India. It has ruled India for centuries, and shall rule the hearts of the Indians forever.

He said further:

Besides this, Muslims face an internal danger at this time. A party has arisen among us, asserting that Muslims are not a separate entity in India. Such people are destroying Islam with their own hands. Islam is a distinct entity in this country, and Islam has resolved to maintain its separate identity in this country. Islam shall never be overcome, it shall triumph in the end.

Someone objected at this point, asking how Islam could triumph while it was under the rule of the British. Sir Muhammad Iqbal said in reply:

Do you not know that the example of the Tartars is being revived today? The very nation to which we are subject shall itself become Muslim. A living proof of this is Lord Headley who is among us. The powers of Islam are not limited. One age was that of the sword, today is the age of the pen (cheers from the audience!). It attacks from inside and out, and compels the acceptance of its case in every way.

He added:

Yesterday I felt much disappointment when I read Maulvi Zafar Ali Khan’s speech (who had departed after his speech). When he was leaving I asked him to stay for a while, but he did not. This speech of his is most regrettable, and was not to be expected from him.

With these words, I support the proposal presented by my friend Maulvi Muhammad Ali.

Address presented to Lord Headley

After this, with the unanimity of the audience, Lord Headley took the chair. Hazrat Ameer Maulana Muhammad Ali presented an address to his lordship on behalf of the Ahmadiyya Anjuman Isha‘at Islam. In this address, after congratulating Lord Headley and briefly mentioning his services to Islam, an outline of the propagation efforts of the Anjuman and its various sections was presented. The text of this address is available to readers elsewhere.

Reply to address and presidential speech

After the reading of the address, Sir Muhammad Shafi said to the audience:

Lord Headley has written his reply to the address presented by Maulana Muhammad Ali and it has been printed. Bearing in mind that his lordship, having spent a long time in the procession, is tired, and in view of his age, he has been requested to read two or three pages from his reply, after which its Urdu translation will be read out.

Then, amidst cries of Allahu Akbar, Lord Headley rose and read the opening pages of his learned speech. In it, after thanking the Anjuman and declaring that he did not belong to any sect of Islam, he drew the sacred picture of Islam in very attractive language.

As to the translation, Maulana Mustafa Khan, B.A., Editor of the Islamic World, was asked to read it. He had read only a few pages when, due to the time for maghrib prayers, it was postponed for another time, and the session of the meeting for the day was concluded.

Proceedings of 29th December 1927

… …

Lord Headley’s love for Islam

Even before the speech of Hazrat Ameer Maulana Muhammad Ali had started, Lord Headley arrived at the meeting and was requested to say a few words in person. Before he said anything, Maulana Sadr-ud-Din told the gathering of some examples of his lordship’s kindness, love and sincerity and his services to Islam. He related:

His lordship has so much true love and affection for us that in his house he has set aside a room solely for the purpose that if any of us should happen to go to his house, day or night, whether he is at home or not, we are at complete liberty to stay in that room. Whenever we stayed there, all his domestic servants acted as our servants. Once I was delayed in London [i.e., it was too late to return to Woking], and went to his house. He was not there. I had a meal and went to sleep in that room. Around mid-night I was woken by Lord Headley who was standing by my bedside holding a cup of milk. He said: First drink this, and then I will let you sleep.

Whenever we faced any difficulty, he stood shoulder to shoulder with us. The most difficult work was that of setting up the cemetery in Woking which I got established for Muslim soldiers. His lordship encouraged me to the utmost. At the end of the war [i.e., the First World War] he approached the government and met the authorities and said: Why is it that while Muslims come from afar to give their lives, there is not even one mosque for them in London?

Lord Headley’s speech

After this his lordship stood up to speak, and after saying Bismillah ir-Rahman ir-Rahim, he said:

Brothers and sisters! assalamu alaikum. I don’t know how I can thank you for the grand welcome you have given me. Your love and sincerity have made a deep impression on my heart. Maulvi Sadr-ud-Din is our old friend. I thank him for the remarks he has just made about me, and I value his love and sincerity. Ever since I have come here I have been drawing attention to the fact that at this time Islam does not face as much danger from an external enemy as from the internal enmity. The internal danger is simply that there are sects among Muslims who expel one another from Islam on the basis of minor differences. This weakens our efforts. From Bombay to Lahore I have been saying that Muslims must try to remove this internal danger, and not only in their relations with other Muslims who differ from us in some views, but must also treat non-Muslims with tolerance. The tolerance I wish to see is this, that other people should be thought of and treated as our brethren. As regards the present condition in England, according to that I can say that people there are entirely prepared to adopt a fine religion like Islam forthwith. Very few people now believe in the doctrines of Christianity because they are highly irrational; for example, the doctrine that a mediator is required to access God or that Jesus atoned for our sins, while these are entirely against reason. Only we ourselves can bear responsibility before God for our deeds; no one else can take the burden of our responsibility.

After his speech Lord Headley returned to his place of stay.

Proceedings of 30th December 1927

… …

Lord Headley’s speech

Lord Headley came to the meeting during the speech by Mr Fahmi [the previous speaker] and after him he made a brief speech in which he said:

This is the last day. I bid you farewell and I thank you for gathering here in such large numbers and assisting the Anjuman by your financial donations. In my speech of yesterday, the main point was that Muslims must not divide their religion into sects. The danger we face is internal, not external. The external danger is only that we are suffering due to the misrepresentations of Islam by Christians. But the internal danger, which is related to sects in Islam, is much greater than the external ones. Just as you should publish a large number of books to defeat the external danger, you must also try to combat the internal danger. You must create mutual love and brotherhood between Muslims, and establish ways of showing forbearance and tolerance in matters of differences in opinion. By the internal sects of Islam I mean only religious sects, not political.

After this he again thanked the audience and said:

I will come to Lahore again and hope to see you. Pray for Khwaja Kamal-ud-Din, whose disciple I am, that Allah may grant him health.

Khwaja sahib

After Lord Headley, Khwaja Kamal-ud-Din rose and said:

I have stood up for only one reason, to ask that whenever you think of me, pray for me. This entire illness is a wonder. For many years I have had sugar. Doctors could do nothing, and God Himself had mercy. Illness may come as a result of Divine will, or for purification of body, or for reform of character, or to remove the bad within oneself. I am prepared to face death. I do not regret for one moment having to depart from the world. No family ties are an impediment, no comfort or pleasure of the world is an attraction. Rather, if God pleases, the life after death will be better. If I have any desire, it is only to perform some service to the Quran. It is possible that God knows of someone better who can take up this work. If there is, I am ready to depart. Nonetheless, whenever you remember me, and you have the opportunity — and I know you have many such opportunities — pray for me at that time.

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