Woking Muslim Mission, England, 1913–1968

Report of ‘Id-ul-Adha at Woking, 16th April 1932
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Report of ‘Id-ul-Adha at Woking,
16th April 1932

Published in the Sunday Times

Prayers led by English Muslim, William Bashyr-Pickard

From The Islamic Review, August 1932

The report of this ‘Id-ul-Adha was published in the Sunday Times, 17th April 1932, and is reproduced below from The Islamic Review, August 1932, pages 248–249. For a photograph of the occasion see this link.


It is raining hard, and brightness pierces through heavy leaden skies, and from the sloping top of a large marquee, pegged out on a sodden field, to-day drip rivulets of water.

And yet inside are over four hundred of the most happy and contented people I have ever seen. Indians, Malayans, Persians, Arabs, Afghans and Moroccans mingle with French and English, their racial differences forgotten in their common faith of Islam.

The marquee is erected near the blue and gold Shah Jehan Mosque, whose whited dome can be seen from the railway line, and has been needed because the Mosque is far too small for the celebration of Eid-ul-Azha. One of the most sacred Muslim festivals, it is held yearly to commemorate God’s restraining of Abraham when he attempted to make a sacrifice of his son Ishmael.

Coverings had been spread over the grass under the marquee, and stoves were dotted about to bring a little physical warmth to the damp atmosphere, which had no effect on the good spirits and fellowship of the worshippers.

Before and after the service they laughed and chatted together, often breaking off to give the double heart embrace of their faith. Young students kept darting about, eager to meet and embrace each other, and older members, to whom they showed a respect that was marked by affection but not awe.

The officiating Imam, Aftab-ud-din Ahmad, had issued the invitations, but he smilingly stood aside for an English Muslim, Mr. William B. Bashyr-Pickard, B.A., (Cantab), and who is the librarian of Hertford, to conduct the prayers.

The portion of the Koran relating to Abraham’s sacrifice was read, and Mr. Bashyr-Pickard told of the brotherhood of man, without antagonism of race or class, which is the basis of the Muslim religion.

Mr. Bashyr-Pickard (the Arabic prefix means “one who brings good news”) is the first English Moslem to conduct the prayers at the festival of Eid-ul-Azha

Many of the congregations were seated on the ground, and some, feeling that the marquee was a veritable mosque, had removed their shoes. Most of the men wore European clothes, with fezes and turbans. A few Eastern women, wearing saris, sat in chairs at the back, near the many English women.

Lord Headley, who is president of the British Muslim Society, wore a red fez almost as impressive as the white headdress of Sir Umar Hayat Khan, who, in a yellow tunic and white trousers, stood near him.

Lunch was served in the marquee after the service, and a number of young students acted as stewards. There was no “top table” and no place-names.

Among those present were their Excellencies The Egyptian Minister, The Hedjaz Minister and the Charge d’Affaires of Afghanistan, Colonel Nawab Sir Umar Hayat Khan, Al-Hajj EI-Farooq Lord Headley, Rt. Rev. Bishop James, Prof. Haroun Mustafa Leon, the merchant prince Zainul Ali Raza, Mr. Abdullah Yusuf Ali, Mrs. Buchanan Hamilton, Nawabzada F. M. Khan, Sir Bramwell and Miss Thomas, and Mr. Habibullah Lovegrove. The members of the spiritualist community attended the function in a number never witnessed before.

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the successor of the Woking Muslim Mission.