Woking Muslim Mission, England, 1913–1968

Reports of ‘Id-ul-Fitr at Woking, 28 May 1922
Photographic archive
Film newsreel archive
Contact us
Search the website

Reports of ‘Id-ul-Fitr at Woking, 28 May 1922

Khwaja Kamal-ud-Din leads prayer and gives khutba

From The Islamic Review, June–July 1922

We present on this page reports and a photograph of ‘Id-ul-Fitr at the Woking Mosque on Sunday 28th May 1922, taken from The Islamic Review, June–July 1922. This is presented as an example of the celebration of such festivals at the Woking Mosque in the early years of the Woking Mission, to illustrate how these occasions were conducted and the kind of international Muslim dignitaries who graced them by their presence.

The photograph below shows the khutba being delivered in the grounds of the Woking Mosque (see this photograph in a larger size).

The Islamic Review, June-July 1922

We first quote below most of the report of this‘Id-ul-Fitr written by Rudolf Pickthall in The Islamic Review, June–July 1922, pages 246–250.


EID DAY 1922 (the 28th of May) broke with a cloudless sky, and a promise, duly redeemed, of unstinted sunshine and intense heat.

The oasis of the Woking Mosque in its sylvan setting of pine, rhododendron and the fresh green of woodland bracken, seemed more than ever a reproach to the desert of brick and mortar and corrugated iron with which Industrialism has sought, of late, to hem it in; while the attendance was even greater than in previous years, Muslim being present representing well-nigh every nation; and a brilliant diversity of Eastern costume and headdress splashing the scene here and there with unexpected colour.

By 11 o’clock — the hour of Prayer — it was estimated that upwards of two hundred persons had arrived; over three hundred sat down to lunch, which was served at 1.15 on the lawn and under the trees; while the advent of a new and large contingent for the afternoon lecture and the subsequent tea brought the attendance of the day to a total of well over four hundred.

To one who is present at the Eid festival for the first time, it is by no means easy to analyse his impressions, or, when analysed, to record them. He is apt to be trammelled not a little by an old point of view, seeking to reconcile it, in all its differences, with the new; never doubting the while but that the two may be, fundamentally, one and the same.

Religion and ceremonial have been so long and so closely associated together in the minds of men, that mankind is prone to judge a Faith — one way or the other — by the pomp of its externals; some arguing that these, be they never so elaborate, are seemly, if inadequate, attempts to express our veneration for Eternal Truth; others, that their very magnificence is but a mask for make-believe.

Neither view is of course just; for Eternal Truth can surely stand in need of no adornment from us, and yet, to withhold too straitly the marks of man’s homage may tend perhaps to neglect or irreverence. In a world of men, there is much to be said for Pomp and Circumstance. The solemnity of chant and procession, incense and altar lights with which the Catholic Church surrounds the mystery of its worship, is not to be condemned as symbolizing something which most of its worshippers have perhaps forgotten long ago — if, indeed, they ever actually realized it — any more than it is to be commended for a vain endeavour to breathe life into a valley of dry bones, or to perpetuate the dying cult of a dead myth.

All these things may be so, the faith forgotten, the cult dying and the myth dead; yet nothing that tends to promote a spirit of reverence, to induce thought in the thoughtless, or to remind man of his Maker, can ever be altogether mischievous or useless.

Is ceremony essential to devotion? And if it be so, and yet, in excess, a source of danger, what is the measure of ceremony which will serve to turn man’s mind to God, without, at the same time, luring it, as it were, to earth?

To such a question the Eid Day ceremony seems to suggest an answer. The very absence of what may be called, perhaps, the mechanics of devotion, which the Catholic is too apt to take for granted, counts for much. The stage-managed procession, the carefully trained choir, the organist alert not to miss his “cue” — neither to be premature with a kyrie or behindhand with an Amen — the elaborately musical colouring given to the Creed and the Lord’s Prayer, the strict precision of gesture and genuflexion, all, things which, however excellent and seemly in themselves, must fully occupy the thoughts and minds of those concerned with their proper presentation — that is one picture. The other — a carpet spread on the grass beneath the Surrey pines, the voice of the Imam reciting the Quranic verses, the silent praying multitude, high and low, rich and poor, one with another, wherein is neither priest nor layman, prostrate, their faces turned towards Mecca — has about it an altogether strange dignity, a solemnity that tends to quicken rather than give pause to thought.

After the Prayers, the Sermon.

The Imam, Khwaja Kamal-ud-Din, spoke of “that great Mysterious Power” which the Atheist seeks to express in terms of chemistry, and the Agnostic doubts, simply because he does not know. He spoke of the Attributes of God — how they are revealed in Nature and how they may be revealed in man; they are there for all men to follow, be they rulers or ruled; and that if both rulers and ruled would even now, at the eleventh hour, set those Attributes before them, the tumult and unrest which to-day threaten to engulf the world like a tidal wave, would be stayed as by the Hand of God.

The address is printed in full elsewhere, but it may not be out of place to recall here a further aspect, new and impressing, of its argument.

Science in discovering new secrets of Nature, so called, is but revealing God, and the laws of Nature, so discovered, illustrate one after another the Attributes of God precisely as those Attributes were revealed to the Prophet Muhammad 1300 years ago and recorded in the Holy Quran.

The theme is to modern ideas, however unconventional even, sufficiently startling; but the preacher handled it fearlessly, indeed convincingly, and his earnest eloquence and close reasoning, couched in language which even the least academic could understand, produced a profound impression.

… …

The Afternoon Lecture, which dealt with God’s message to mankind — that it has been directly revealed to all nations and not one alone — was largely attended, that is to say, as largely as was humanly possible. But the beautiful Mosque — the princely gift of Her late Highness the Begum of Bhopal — a gem of a building, perfectly proportioned and a delight to the eye, is all too small for a gathering such as this, and could barely contain one tenth of those who were anxious to enter. Had the weather been wet, the success of the day and its memories must, for this reason, have been marred.

After the lecture, tea; and a general intermingling of groups and conversation, and so a striking and memorable day drew to an end — a day not, it may be, without its answer for many whose minds are “clouded with a doubt”.


Reports in the British national and Woking local press

The same issue of The Islamic Review (June–July 1922, pages 250–256) reproduces six news reports of the occasion from the British press. We quote four of these below.

Daily News, 29th May 1922:



There has been rejoicing in Islam — fervent prostrations in the name of Allah at the Mosque of Woking, the Moslem prayer-house which you can see through the trees outside the railway station. For the first time for thirty days all Moslems have eaten to-day between sunrise and sunset. Now the Month of Fasting is over and the great feast of Eid-ul-Fitr has been held in the cool shadow of the scented pines. From now onward it is permissible for Moslems to eat in daylight.

A British peer, an Indian millionaire importer from Mincing Lane, and British followers and their blue-eyed Saxon wives who have answered the clarion call of Islam, joined to-day in the festival.

Lord Headley, who is the president of the British Moslem Society, is said to be our second peer who has embraced Islam, the first having been the late Lord Stanley of Alderley.

The Mosque at Woking is the only one in England where the stranger — the unconverted — is besought to enter. It was the gift of the mother of the present Queen of Bhopal, the only Indian state where a woman rules. Here, you can bathe your fevered brow in the waters of Islam. Here is a fount that never seems to cease its outpourings, where you can trace and read the written word of Islam or its followers lying at the crystal depths of its gushing waters.

It seemed as if an Eastern sun shone down upon the Mosque lawn this afternoon, where Arab, Egyptian, Indian and Englishman and Englishwoman rejoiced exceedingly, and said: “Allahu Akbar” — God is great. Some of the Englishwomen were clad in silken Oriental robes, and broke bread at the same table as Arab potentates in native dress. The Afghan Minister and the Turkish Chargé d’Affaires, the Palestine delegation and the representatives of Hedjaz and Irak broke their fast.


A vast Oriental carpet was spread on the lawn and strange postures of prayer were watched by porters and navvies on the railway line. Then, in the name of Allah, those who rejoiced raised their hands to their ears, then folded their hands across the body and placed them on the knees and bowed the head and body. In the final prostration the body touched the carpet.

Then came the feast, which was spread on white tablecloths beneath the trees. It consisted of: Rice cooked in meat gravy and butter; currie, potatoes, and meat; blancmange and drinking water.

The Imam of the Mosque, a gorgeous figure who wore a raiment of many colours, spoke on the subject of “Islam as the basis for a world creed,” which was followed by an English tea of bread-and-butter and pastries.


Daily Telegraph, 29th May 1922:


Moslems throughout the world yesterday celebrated the great festival of Eid-ul-Fitr, Kuchak Bairam — which marks the conclusion of the Month of Fasting. It was celebrated in London by a picturesque and notable gathering at the Mosque, Woking, the only Mosque in England — which was the gift some thirty-five years ago of the ruler of Bhopal. Indians, Arabs, Turks, Syrians, Afghans, and Moroccans were among the races of the world, and of the British Empire in particular, who were represented at the service conducted by the Imam, Khwaja Kamal-ud-Din. Many of the devotees brought their English wives and children with them. They formed a strange congregation under the trees of the lawn of the Moslem Mission House, the little Mosque being too small to hold them all. At eleven o’clock the muezzin was heard from the temple calling to prayer. The congregation thereupon gathered in rows on the greensward facing towards Mecca. In the front rows came the men, and behind them their women. All of them discarded their shoes, and performed the familiar salutations by raising the hands to the head. The Imam then delivered a brief religious address in which he emphasized that the Moslem religion is essentially a universal religion whose broad ancient tenets and benign toleration embrace members of all the great races of the world. Fasting, too, was common to the Moslem, Christian, and Jewish faiths. Purification came with fasting. The illumination of life by which alone we could see God came with fasting. At the conclusion of the Month of Fasting the Moslems in England were glad to meet together again and to meet their English co-religionists and friends.

At the conclusion of the simple service the congregation greeted and embraced each other in Moslem fashion, and afterwards took part in a very pleasant and appetising repast in the open air under the trees, in the course of which the members and staff of the mission, rich and poor alike, vied with each other in discharging the kindly office of host and servant, irrespective of social station. Tea followed in the afternoon after a further religious celebration, and afterwards the visitors returned to London.

Among the notable persons present were the Princes of Mangrol, the Persian Chargé d’Affaires (in the unavoidable absence of the Minister in Paris), the Afghan Minister, the Turkish Chargé d’Affaires, the President and Secretary of the Palestine Delegation, and representatives of Hedjaz and Iraq.

Note by Website Editor: ‘Minister’ was the term for Ambassador. ‘Hedjaz’ refers to what is now Saudi Arabia.

Morning Post, May 29th 1922:


The Moslem festival of Eid-ul-Fitr Kuchak (Little) Bairam, which marks the conclusion of the Month of Fasting, was observed at the Mosque, Woking, yesterday.

Among those who attended were Lord Headley, the Princes Aziz and Sadiq of Mangrol, the Afghan Minister, the Turkish Chargé d’Affaires, the Chief Secretary of the Persian Embassy, the President and Secretary of the Palestine Delegation, the Nawab Sahib of Tohru, and representatives of Hedjaz and Irak. Muslims from Arabia, Syria, India, America, Afghanistan, Turkey, China and Java constituted the congregation.

Khwaja Kamal-ud-Din, the Imam of the Mosque, who conducted the service, delivered an address, in which he said that things created were sustained, and brought to their final perfection under a perfect system of laws and regulations, which he would sum up under three heads: the law of creation, the law of sustenance, and the law of evolution, and Allah was the creator, sustainer, and evolver of the various worlds around us. That Mysterious Power was the same as the laws and forces of Nature, which worked as did the Creator, and so it was that science and religion were in perfect harmony. He exhorted his hearers to study the Quran, on every page of which was inscribed the name of Allah reproduced in ninety-nine forms, each one of them representing His various attributes. If they lived up to these attributes their morality would be secured; to deviate from them was to tread the path of sin. As God was merciful, so let them be merciful to others, even though they were not of their nationality. God had not shown partiality in the matter of any nationality, and if we did not show partiality for race, creed, or colour, all unrest in the world would be over.


Woking News and Mail, June 2nd 1922:



Sunday was the conclusion of the month of fasting in the Islam religion, and all Muslims that day ate for the first time for thirty days between sunrise and sunset. To celebrate the Muslim festival of Eid-ul-Fitr Kuchak Bairam several hundred Muslims of all races and colour made the pilgrimage from far and near to attend the festival at the Woking Mosque in Oriental Road.

Under a sky of azure blue, beneath the rays of a tropical sun, and surrounded with scented pine trees, the faithful gathered on the rolling lawn in front of the Mosque ready for the call to prayer. The scene was gorgeously spectacular to the visitors’ eye, and brilliant sunshine showed up to wonderful effect the variety of colour to be seen in native costume worn by both sexes. Every race seemed to be represented. There were Arabians, Egyptians, Hindus, Afghans, Turks, Chinese, Americans, Javanese, Syrians, etc., some in robes of many-hued colours representative of their race or rank, some in correct English dress, while others wore European dress with a distinctive fez or turban. Some, on the other hand, were accompanied by their English wives. There was a very large percentage of English Muslims present, and the many English visitors who had been given an invitation to attend at the festival were given a cordial reception and made to feel at ease, for this is an occasion when the Mosque is a common meeting-ground, when colour, creed or caste is not considered, when Prince and ruler meet peasant and subject on a common footing. Some of the Englishwomen were clad in Oriental robes.

The company was much larger than in previous years, and showed an increased number of English adherents to the Eastern faith. Among the notabilities present were Lord Headley (the President of the English Muslim Society), the Princes Aziz and Sadiq of Mangrol, His Excellency Sardar Abdul Hadi Khan (the Afghan Minister), the Turkish Chargé d’Affaires and staff, the President and Secretary of the Palestine Delegation, representatives of Hedjaz and Irak, the Nawab Sahib of Tohru, Secretary of the Persian Embassy, and the other representatives of the nationalities mentioned formed the congregation.


A large Oriental praying carpet was spread on the wide lawn, and when the time arrived the call to prayer was sounded throughout the grounds, the faithful assembling and prostrating themselves on the carpet, having first removed their shoes. A large percentage of the general public were accommodated with chairs at the rear, where they watched the proceedings, so strange to European eyes, with interest. In the name of Allah the prayers were led by the Imam of the Mosque (Khwaja Kamal-ud-Din), who afterwards read from the Quran and delivered an eloquent address in English on Religion. He set out the tenets of the Islam faith, and said that behind all laws of nature and others, behind everything that had been discovered by man, behind all things, there was a great mysterious Power. Putting the whole thing briefly, this Power was the Creator, Maintainer and Sustainer of the universe. The little that was known of the great Power at work behind the scenes came from the knowledge of the laws of nature. Every moment creation was going on, and if the Unseen Power could be accepted as the origin of such it could be rightly attributed the title he had named. The Imam went on to speak of the Quran, and characterized its moral code, and then spoke of the conflict which there should not be in religion if they believed in the Unseen Great Mysterious Power who made no difference in colour or race. False theology and untrue science were at daggers drawn. If they were to have comfort and civilization, and to secure perfect happiness or success in life, then they must, in the words of Muhammad, imbue themselves with Divine attributes. Islam meant complete submission to Divine laws and a Muslim was one who submitted to those laws. There was not one law discovered by man that could not be traced to the Mysterious Power. He spoke of the guidance the Quran gave to many millions of people, and also referred to the ninety-nine names of God in the Quran. In conclusion, he asked the faithful if they had ever contemplated those ninety-nine names of God. If they had not, then their prayers were a farce. God was merciful — let them be merciful to others. God was just — let them be just. All over the world to-day there was a great upheaval between rulers and ruled. If those rulers would only walk humbly with the Lord, who knew no difference between race and colour, then their troubles would be over.

Following the address the faithful embraced each other, and the company then sat down to a luncheon at which native dishes figured, among which were rice cooked in meat gravy and butter, curry, potatoes and meat, blanc-mange and drinking water. The lunch was served on white tablecloths on the lawn. Afterwards many of those present made a tour of inspection of the surrounding countryside, and later returned to an English tea of bread and butter and pastries. After tea the festival was brought to a conclusion.


Note: There are two more reports of this occasion from newspapers quoted in The Islamic Review (from Daily Herald, May 29th and Woking Herald, June 2nd) which we omit to avoid repetition.

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.