Woking Muslim Mission, England, 1913–1968

First public meeting of the British Muslim Society
Photographic archive
Film newsreel archive
Contact us
Search the website

First public meeting of the British Muslim Society at Woking Mosque, December 1914

In The Islamic Review for January 1915, pages 4 to 7, there is a report of the first public meeting of the British Muslim Society. One notable point is that this meeting was addressed by Prof. H. Mustafa Leon, who was in fact the same person as Abdullah Quilliam. After leaving England in 1908, his departure bringing his Liverpool Muslim centre to an end, he returned back to England within a few years and used the name Professor H.M. Leon. We find him participating in functions at the Woking Mosque and writing in The Islamic Review.

Below we reproduce in text form the report of the meeting of the British Muslim Society. It can also be read in the scanned image of the January 1915 issue of The Islamic Review available on this website.



A large gathering assembled in the Mosque, Woking, on Sunday, December 20, on the occasion on the first Public Meeting of the British Muslim Society, a gathering which included many distinguished people. The proceedings opened by the reading of a letter from Yehya-en-Nasr Parkinson, F.G.S., M.B.A.S., the Hon. Vice-President of the Society, who was unfortunately unable to be present. It is to be found upon another page.

Then the Right Hon. Lord Headley, B.A., M.I.C.E.I., F.S.E., delivered the Presidential Address, which is printed in full elsewhere in the Islamic Review. He was followed by our brother, Prof. H. Mustafa Leon, Ph.D., LL.D., P.S.P., who spoke with intense feeling. He pointed out that he had belonged “to the Faith most excellent” for thirty-one years, and gave us an account of the meeting in Morocco at the table of a Jew, a Muslim, and a Christian (as he was then), where, in a friendly way, they commenced to investigate those points upon which they agreed. One learned brother pointed out that all consented to the belief in the One Supreme Ruler of the Universe, the Provider of everything, and consented in the revelation made to Adam for the guidance of mankind. Further, they all accepted the Divine mission of Noah. The Professor showed that when the needs of the time demanded a further revelation from Allah, He sent a guide to teach mankind His will. Then Abraham came; and Muslim, Jew and Christian still were in complete accord. Then the great Law was revealed through the Prophet Moses, and each still agreed. Thus far Muslim, Jew, and Christian were in complete harmony; but then came the point of divergence. Yet another revelation was made by Allah through the person of the Prophet Jesus; here the Jew could not travel with the others, but still the Muslim and Christian were in accord; each accepted the Injil, the Gospel of Jesus. Then the Muslim said to Prof. Leon:

“You think your creed superior to that of the Jew because you have a later revelation, but Islam is superior to your creed, for we have an imperishable revelation in the Holy Quran given through our Blessed Prophet Muhammad (peace be ever to his soul !).”

The Professor pointed out that this is Islam; it is the same creed, the same simple guidance given by Allah to man since the commencement of time, and Islam confirms the earlier revelations, and Muhammad brought everything to perfection, and he was the “Seal of the Prophets,” as the Holy Quran is the final Word of Allah. He recounted when a man came to our Holy Prophet and said that he was an unlettered, an uneducated man, and he desired to know one thing about Islam which he could follow, and he promised to try his utmost to do so. Our Holy Prophet replied, “Do no evil.” The man departed, and in a year’s time returned and said to Muhammad, “It was hard, very hard, but I managed to act up to your words, I have done no evil, tell me more.” Then Muhammad replied, “Speak no evil,” and again the man departed. He returned after another year had elapsed and said, “It was a harder task, but I have succeeded; I have spoken no evil, tell me more.” Then Muhammad said to him, “Think no evil,” and the man again left the place. He came to the Prophet at the end of another year and said, “The task was the hardest of all, but I have accomplished it; I have thought no evil, tell me more.” The Holy Prophet replied with a smile, “There is no more, thou art a Muslim.” The Professor asked those present if this was not a creed to be proud of, a creed that taught us to “Do no evil, speak no evil, think no evil,” and was it not a creed to teach in the West?

He urged those present who had not accepted Islam, but who by their presence showed their sympathy with the movement, to study Islam for themselves, and to remember that Islam was the fulfilment and final completion of those revealed religions, Judaism and Christianity, which preceded the final revelation made to man from Allah by our Holy Prophet Muhammad.

The next speaker was our brother, Captain Abdur Rahman Stanley Musgrave, who wore uniform. He proposed a vote of thanks to the President, Lord Headley, and said that he had been a nominal follower of the Church of England, and on reading a copy of Samuel Laing’s book, “A Modern Zoroastrian,” he began seriously to consider his own beliefs. He placed himself in the hands of good teachers, and the rev. father of the Holy Catholic Church said to him, “You will never make a Catholic, you want to know too much.” Captain Musgrave pointed out that he could progress up to a certain point and then he was required to probe no further, but to “believe.” He again studied the teachings of the Anglican Church, and felt that he was not a Churchman. He went to the Congregationalists and the other sects, studying seriously their tenets, but with no satisfaction. He then read a book on “Islam,” by Major Leonard, and came to study it deeply. He had served in South Africa, India and Egypt, and he placed these writings side by side with his own personal knowledge of Muslims in the East. He found that the simplicity, the lack of dogma, the high plane of spiritual thought which Islam promulgated found an echo in his own thoughts — that he was a Muslim. He appealed to those present to investigate Islam, to study the life of Muhammad, and to think seriously for themselves about religions matters which are so vital to our prosperity. He was very happy to be present and wished to propose a vote of thanks to their President, Lord Headley.

He was followed by a Woking Muslim, our brother Ahmed Welch, M.B.M.S., who seconded the vote of thanks. He pointed out that Islam was cosmopolitan, and that all were brethren who embraced its teachings. He remarked how happy we were to have with us our brothers Lord Headley, Prof. Leon, Captain Musgrave and others, and paid a tribute to Khwaja Kamal-ud-Din, whose efforts had made this movement possible. He had laboured, and the present gathering was a visible sign of the success of his efforts. He hoped a great future for the British Muslim Society, which would bring more closely together all those British Muslims, who, though separated by distance, were yet one fraternity.

He was followed by Maulvi Sadr-ud-Din, B.A., B.T., the Imam of the Woking Mosque, who supported the vote of thanks to the President. He pointed out the democratic spirit of Islam, where all men meet as brothers, whether of high rank or simple men, white or coloured, all Muslims from whatever part of the world they came. This spirit of brotherhood made us sympathise with the Turks, who are Muslims. Whether Indian or Turk, yet this bond of brotherhood made us feel for them. He said that it was a matter for great regret that Muslim was pitted against Muslim; but Islam also teaches us loyalty, and so we must serve his Majesty the King, whose subjects we are. He agreed with Lord Headley that the essentials of Islam were the necessary factors, and recounted how Muhammad (on whom be peace !), when sending forth Mu‘az as the Governor to the Province of Yemen, told him to preach first of all the Unity of God, not mentioning the name of Muhammad even, then, when the people had firmly grasped this central belief, to teach them the prayers and the other beliefs of Islam. He said that many people of enlightenment had embraced Islam after a careful study of its teachings, and the community in the West was increasing daily. The misrepresentations were being exposed, and the truth of Islam reached many hearts. Many people were really Muslim although they themselves were ignorant of Islam. He was happy to inform them that last week three people embraced Islam, thus swelling the already large number of British Muslims, and that only that very morning in the presence of Prof. Leon, Captain Musgave, Muhammad Woodward, Khalid Sheldrake, and Mr. Perkins of London, a gentleman had made a declaration of faith in Islam, and the name Yahia was given to him.

During this day the full force of Islamic Brotherhood was brought home to all. In the daily prayers Lord Headley, Prof. Leon, Captain Musgrave, Muhammad Woodward joined with the rest of the community, following Maulvi Sadr-ud-Din in the prostrations. Those who take exception to the Islamic prayer should have been present and seen the complete accord of East and West in the fold of Islam. At the table, in conversation, there was no rank, whether that of private or captain, peer or commoner, professor or student, rich or poor, but all were on terms of equality, fraternising with true Islamic feeling. Here was an object-lesson for the people in the West. Islam has succeeded in abolishing all those invidious caste distinctions which form a barrier between man and man, and whilst others preach brotherhood, we in Islam practise it in our daily life. In Islam the brotherhood of man is an actual reality. It was a happy day, and one felt that this inaugural meeting of the Society boded well for its future.

Lord Headley rose, thanking those present, and concluded the proceedings with prayers, in which he prayed for the successful guidance of his Majesty the Sultan of Egypt, for the spiritual sustenance of all Muslims, and for the proper guidance of mankind so that this terrible war should cease and mankind again be dwelling in amity.

(Hon. Secretary).

The letter from Yehya-en-Nasr Parkinson read at the meeting, as mentioned in the above report, is printed in the same issue as below:

Byres Road, Kilwinning, December 17, 1914.

Glad to hear that the meeting of the British Muslim Society will be held on Sunday first, and regret that I cannot be with you on the auspicious occasion. Islam has now gained a secure footing in Britain, thanks principally to the energy and self-sacrifice of our brother Kamal-ud-Din and a few pioneers, who laboured hard for the same end some years previously. His generous action was the deciding factor; it gave us a periodical to expound our views in, and to draw the aims and ideals we held to the attention of others; while his personal power acted as a cementing-link between us and the brethren in the East. The tree of Islam is flourishing in Britain; it has borne fruit, and the British Muslim Society is the first offerings of its activity. May it flourish more abundantly in the future. Such a society was badly wanted — urgently needed to fulfil in reality the command of the Prophet on the hill without Mecca after the fall of the city; the command that all Muslims should be brothers. The Society will, I trust, keep us in touch with each, though separated by miles of land; bind us together into one great brotherhood; help us along the Islamic pathway; and strengthen each and all of us to play our part in the battle of life and the defence and exposition of those eternal principles of human conduct and Islamic religion and doctrine for which we are fighting. It. will, I hope, also serve to keep us in touch with the other parts of our world-wide brotherhood. Union is strength. May it be a uniting link not only between every British Muslim but between us and the Muslims everywhere, consolidating and binding the whole into one unbroken and unbreakable chain, stretching through the Orient and Occident, Africa, and the South and North American States. We have now planted the banner of Islam in the heart of the British Empire, its silken folds are fluttering on the breeze, good and noble men and true and gentle women are rallying beneath it. Let us keep it flying on the winds unstained, untarnished, as spotless as when it was first unfurled on Arabia’s burning sands over fourteen hundreds years ago. We are all privileged to do so — privileged to be among the first of our race to defend the principles for which it stands, to fight for truth against calumny and misrepresentation, and to declare undaunted the faith that is in us and of us. Our heritage is a glorious one; be it ours to maintain it unsullied, and to hand it on undimmed to those who may follow after us, leaving to the generations yet to be an example of which they may be proud, and which will enable them to tread more securely the paths of justice and truth, and help them to climb to higher heights than we shall ever climb and limn ideals we never saw or dreamt of. “Fear not, the future shall be better for thee than the past.” Be earnest, be honest in your endeavours in the cause you have pledged yourselves thereto. Work, for by work only can the aim be realised and the duty accomplished. Strong of heart and steady of hand, and faithful in all your dealings, even as he was, whom the Arabs of the desert called Al-Amin, and victory will crown your efforts. On for Islam!—Yala-al-Islam! let that be your war cry, that your watchword, and ye shall prevail. May Allah be with you all!

As-Salam Aliekoum,

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.