Woking Muslim Mission, England, 1913–1968

Abdullah Quilliam

Maulana Sadr-ud-Din visits Quilliam’s home in 1914
Photographic archive
Film newsreel archive
Contact us
Search the website

Maulana Sadr-ud-Din visits Quilliam’s home and family in Liverpool in 1914

Maulana Sadr-ud-Din (d. 1981) arrived in England from Lahore in June 1914 to take charge of the Woking Muslim Mission, to enable Khwaja Kamal-ud-Din to return to India till 1916. Later in 1914 Maulana Sadr-ud-Din paid a visit to Liverpool to trace any remains of Quilliam’s mission, and wrote a report about his visit which was published in the Lahore Ahmadiyya Urdu organ Paigham Sulh (20 October 1914, front page). This report is translated below:{1}

“Ever since my arrival here [in England] it occurred to me again and again to check up on the Liverpool Islamic organization, to restart the work there, and re-awaken the spirit of Islam in those people. It is only by the favour of Allah that newcomers are joining the banner of the Holy Prophet Muhammad, but as regards those who have previously adopted this holy faith it is very important and useful to establish contact with them and bind them in a relationship. I mentioned this to the honourable Khwaja Kamal-ud-Din many times, and once or twice he made a plan to go to Liverpool, but could not do so due to pressure of work. With difficulty I spared only two days of the week to spend there.

Liverpool was at one time the centre of Islamic activities in this country, and we had heard that there are some fifty to sixty Muslim homes there. We also knew that a house in the city was used as a mosque. All this information rendered it necessary to pay a visit to that city, to meet the Muslims there, and to gladden one’s own heart by seeing this house of God the fame of which has spread far and wide.

In view of this information, it was naturally expected that something of Islam would be seen there. However, when I arrived there, the situation was as if there had never been an Islamic movement in that city. I had knowledge of only three households. Residents from two of these had come to Liverpool railway station, while those from the third one did not know of my coming. It was because of my arrival that these three households had the opportunity to meet one another, and it was with astonishment that I heard from them that since the departure of Shaikh Abdullah Quilliam they had never met together even once, nor did they know of any other Muslim household — absolutely astonishing.

Anyhow, I asked them for names of Muslims of old. There are some thirty of these. I have given the sons of Shaikh Abdullah Quilliam the task of tracing these thirty Muslims and to send me their addresses so that we can send literature to them and establish correspondence with them.

I intend to produce a list of the Muslim converts of England from the past, and by publishing this list to facilitate communication among British Muslims and to make them aware of their community. This is no doubt a means of strength. I have perhaps not mentioned before, that besides Mr Khalid Sheldrake and Yahya Parkinson, there is another very learned Muslim in England who possesses doctorates in philosophy and other branches of knowledge. His name is Professor Haroun Mustapha Leon.{2} He does work of propagation of Islam in his own way, and in his city of residence Nottingham{3} there are three Muslims.

In Woking a British Muslim Society has been established. Forty of its members are those British Muslim converts who have joined Islam through our Mission. Among the earlier converts there are: Mr Usman al-Mahdi, Mr Omar, Mr Khalid and Mr Yahya, and the Dr Haroun Mustapha mentioned above who has been made Vice President. Lord Headley is President of this association. The Imam of the Woking Mosque is Patron, and the association carries out all its activities under his supervision.

It will be of interest to you to hear about the present three households in Liverpool and about the mosque. In one house lives a 70 years old woman who has one son. Both mother and son are staunch Muslims. They are both writers, and do no other work. In their writings they bear in mind the opportunity to mention some teaching of Islam or reply to some objection. The second house is in the city adjacent to Liverpool, and a man by the name of Mr Mortimer lives there. The third house is known to the entire Islamic world. It is that of the family of Shaikh Abdullah Quilliam. One of his sons, Bilal Quilliam, is a lawyer. The other, Ahmad Quilliam, M.A., is now only a clerk but was previously the vice-consul for Turkey. When trouble came upon his father, he suffered too. Quilliam has two very able daughters, Halima Quilliam and Hanifa Quilliam.

Our friends will be pleased to know that Shaikh Abdullah Quilliam is still alive and I have his address. I am about to correspond with him. His sons showed me his photo. He is just under 5 and a half feet tall, slim, with a small beard and considerable moustaches. He was a lawyer, and was editor of an Islamic magazine entitled Hilal.{4) He wrote several books on Islam. His religious mission was started in 1889. As his scholarly ability was of a very high order, and he was an accomplished speaker and very articulate, and being a lawyer he had an impressive personality, Allah enabled him to bring some fifty to sixty persons into the fold of Islam.

Six years ago there was a court case against him, due to which he fled. The house which he left, which was used as a mosque, was confiscated by the authorities. It is possible that readers, hearing the words ‘court case’, will think of all sorts of things, so I will explain it briefly. In some court case he had said that in 1906 at a certain time he was in court in Glasgow. Informers provided proof to the authorities that he was in Liverpool that day. God knows well the real matter, but cases have to be decided on evidence. He was a proud man. When he saw that the evidence was strongly against him, he thought it better to leave his country.

The Shaikh, besides being eloquent, was also strong willed. A weak man, not firm in his opinions, cannot lead others successfully. Muslim converts here have to be treated with the tendermost love and sympathy. But great firmness of opinion is also necessary. Their whims have to be borne and they have to be brought under supervision. There must be no policy, but only transparency of the heart, like the clarity of glass. It should be that the more these people observe what we are like on the inside, the greater should be their love. They must also feel that better guidance is found in Islam than through their own knowledge and experiences.

Now about the mosque. From the moment I arrived there, at mid-day, I passionately wanted to visit the mosque. This house is located in a well known shopping area. We went there and tried much, but no one allowed us in. The following day I had a meeting with an official. With great kindness he passed me to his assistant, who showed me the house. Now the vaccination department is located in it. It is a three storey building, with two rooms on each floor. There is a basement, where sometimes the poor are fed. Behind the house is a small hall where lectures used to take place. There is a board on the house, still there, with a crescent and other Islamic symbols on it. In the house I met another official. It was the work of God that both of them, after our conversation about Islam, began to show interest. In the end they said clearly: Send us your magazine, we like Islam.

My intention is that, besides compiling a list of people in Liverpool and joining them together in brotherhood, and leaving them to it, some means of meeting them should be set up. An Islamic movement is there, and rapid progress can be expected. If Allah wills, He will provide the means. The problem is that this work is important and I am alone here. There are many sorts of matters requiring attention.”

Translator’s Notes

1. A summary of this report appeared in the monthly Urdu magazine of the Woking Muslim Mission entitled Isha‘at Islam (November 1914, p. 204–206), written by the editor of the magazine.

2. We can speculate that Maulana Sadr-ud-Din has mentioned the name of Prof. H.M. Leon here because he knew that this was Quilliam.

3. In the Urdu article the initial letters of this name are not printed legibly, while the final letters “tingham” can be read clearly. It must be Nottingham since Quilliam as Prof. Leon was residing there at this time (see Loyal Enemies by Jamie Gilham, published by Hurst and Company, London, 2014, p. 76, 78).

4. The title of the magazine given in this article is Hilal, and obviously refers to The Crescent, the weekly started by Quilliam in 1893.

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.