Woking Muslim Mission, England, 1913–1968

A Muslim wedding at the Woking Mosque, July 1914
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A Muslim Wedding at the Woking Mosque, July 1914

Reproduced below are the proceedings of a Muslim marriage service held at the Woking Mosque in July 1914, as published in The Islamic Review for August 1914 (p. 310–314). The bride and groom were both British converts to Islam. The Imam was Khwaja Kamal-ud-Din.

A Muslim Wedding Sermon
in the Mosque, Woking

The 2nd of July 1914 brought us a happy scene at the Woking Mosque. The Muslim and other friends of Mr. Usman-el-Mehdi (alias Mr. John Barlington Fisher), of Woking, met in the Mosque to celebrate his marriage according to Muslim rites with a young Muslim lady from Tarbet, Argyllshire, Scotland — Rasheeda (alias Miss Margaret Ross). The ceremony began with a recital from the Quran by Maulvi Abdul Mohy Arab, our Arabic translator, who appeared in his full Arab dress. The Imam then, reciting the usual opening words of the Khutba Nikah (wedding sermon) in Arabic, proceeded thus:

These which have just been cited are the opening verses of a chapter from the Quran. This chapter goes under the title of “The Women.” Our Holy Prophet (hallowed be his name!) often read these verses in his sermon when he had to celebrate marriages among his followers. We Muslims do the same on such auspicious occasions. Marriage is a most sacred relation. It entails various duties and obligations which are often ignored, thereby making home-life a curse. Our Prophet therefore recited these verses, as also similar other verses from the Quran dealing with female rights, in order to remind the marrying couple of the grave responsibilities they were incurring in entering into connubial life. In fact, in this marital partnership, which unites two souls together, woman has often been the sufferer. She is treated as a dainty little thing, a beautiful embellishment in the household. She has lavished upon her epithets like “better-half," but the fact remains the same, she is hardly ever awarded the treatment she is entitled to by her very position as partner in life. The reason thereof is not difficult to find out. From times unknown in history man’s estimate of women has been very, very low. Even civilisation could not ameliorate her conditions. Rome, Greece, Egypt, Persia, India, China — all had their palmy days, but woman was always treated as a -chattel-a marketable thing transferable at the sweet will of the man at the head of the household. Even religion before Islam could not better her condition. Woman remained always in the shade till the final Book of God — the Quran — was revealed. In order to do her honour one complete chapter was revealed after her name and every justice was done to her rights. The very first verse of the chapter strikes the keynote:

“O people fear your Lord, who hath created you one soul, and of his kind created his wife I from these hath spread abroad many men I women. And fear ye God, in whose name ye ask mutual favour, and reverence the womb that bear you. Verily is God watching you.” [1]

Man and woman coming out of one soul; they proceeded from the same origin. Equality in origin demands equality in treatment and gradation. Therefore it is ordered that man, finding woman weak and frail, should not slight her or make light of her position in any way, as she comes from the same soul as man. The verse quoted is very important in one respect: it gives the lie to what the Christian writers say about us, that we do not believe in woman possessing any soul.

In order to perpetuate the human species, man and woman have to perform various functions of marital life. That love and kindness should be the only rule of life, and no enforcement of the authority by man and no subservience on the part of woman, but that affection, tenderness, and benevolence should regulate their mutual dealings and feelings, has been brought home to us in the following verse:

“And one of His signs is that He has created wives for your own species that ye may be comforted with them, and has put love and tenderness between you.” [2]

This is the ideal of wifehood in Islam, and one cannot find elsewhere a higher ideal of the mutual relations of man and woman based upon love, affection, and equality.

That men and women are equally indispensable to each other’s happiness has been taught in another verse, which to illustrate the truth uses a simile of exquisite beauty:

“Hunna libásun lakum wa
Untum libásun la hunna.”


“Your wives are a garment for you as you are a garment for them.” [3]

What a beautiful and apposite metaphor to explain the varied duties and obligations of man and woman in the married life. The garment when worn is next to our body; let man and wife be so attached to each other in their mutual love and affection. The garment hides one’s nakedness and such physical defects as ought to be concealed; we have moral defects as well. They may remain hidden from the public eye, but man and woman become cognisant of each other’s secret defects after the connubial knot is tied; and though we may be passed as the best of society in public estimation, yet we do possess some sore points in our life, which should always remain too sacred for public knowledge. This privacy is also useful for the good of human society. If our other half will not come to our help in this respect the exposure would lead to dire results, and the peace of domestic as well as of social life will be in peril. Let man and woman therefore hide each other’s defects as the garment does in the case of physical deformities. Again, our clothes bring comfort to us against the inclemency of the weather. In winter and in summer they protect us against the cold and the heat. One may stand the severities of the weather, but to cope with social inclemency, when chill and breeze find their way into our domestic circles, is a trial severe enough to exhaust all patience and perseverance. Wife or husband are the only comfort in these trials. Again, the garment brings grace, beauty, and embellishment to the body; so, too, are wives to their husbands, as the latter to the former. Thus pithily in one laconic verse the Quran gives the best that can be imagined of all the mutual duties and obligations of man and woman in their matrimonial life.

No disrespect and disregard of female rights and claims is suffered in Islam. “Live and associate with (your) wives kindly” is another injunction in the words of God.[4] One may cite several other verses from the Quran indicating female rights, but I quote one which gives them the best they may desire:

“And if you men have certain rights on them (women) they have similar rights on you in all fairness.” [5]

This establishes equality of rights between man and woman. Every Muslim husband should therefore always keep this in view in his dealings with the fair sex.

We have met today, ladies and gentlemen, in this assembly of Muslim and other friends to celebrate marriage between two Muslims — Usman-el-Mehdi, alias Mr. John Barlington Fisher, of Woking, and Rasheeda, alias Miss Margaret Ross, the unmarried daughter of Mr. John Ross, of Tarbet. They accept each other for husband and wife willingly, with free consent and without any coercion. The dower of this marriage under Muslim rites has been fixed at five hundred pounds, half of which is two hundred and fifty pounds, with the mutual consent of the parties. This sum will be payable to Rasheeda, the bride, at her demand, by Mr. Fisher Mehdi, the bridegroom, and will become the private property of Rasheeda — to be used by her in any way she likes without any interference or participation by her husband. This sum is in addition to what she will be entitled to from Mr. Fisher as his wife.

After this the Imam asked the bride and the bridegroom to stand up in their places, and the following questions and replies were made:

The Imam: Do you, Usman-el-Mehdi, alias Mr. John Barlington Fisher, accept with your free consent and without any coercion, Rasheeda, alias Miss Margaret Ross, the unmarried daughter of John Ross, of Tarbet, Argyllshire, as your wife with dower of five hundred pounds payable to Rasheeda at her demand by you, which dower will be her private personal property?

Usman-el-Mehdi: I do accept.

The Imam: Do you Rasheeda, alias Miss Margaret Ross, accept Usman-el-Mehdi as your husband, with dower five hundred pounds payable to you by the said Mr. Fisher on your demand, which will be your private personal property ?

Rasheeda: Yes, I do accept.

The Imam then said : I do declare you, Usman-el-Mehdi and Rasheeda, as married, in the presence of this assembly of Muslims and others, as witnesses to your marriage, which is valid according to our rites. May God bless you, and grant you a happy life. But, before we depart, let me give you a word of advice, and in doing so I cannot do better than to read to you, and for the benefit of the others present here, some of the blessed sayings of our holy Prophet. You are Muslims, and you have accepted Lord Muhammad as your Guide and Teacher; then let his sacred words be the torchlight of the life you have now to begin. First I will invite the attention of Usman-el-Mehdi to the following words of his Lord and Master:

(1) Women are the twin-halves of men.

(2) God enjoins upon us to treat women well, for they are our mothers, daughters, and aunts. Those men who beat their wives do not behave well. He is not of my ways who teacheth woman to stray.

(3) The rights of women are sacred: see that women are secured in the rights attributed to them.

(4) Woman is sovereign in the house of her husband.

(5) Do not prevent your women from coming to the mosque.

(6) The world and all things in it are valuable, but the most valuable thing in the world is a virtuous woman.

(7) A Muslim must not hate his wife, and be he displeased with one bad quality in her, then let him be pleased with another which is good.

(8) The best of you, before God and His creation, are those who are best in their own families, and I am the best to my family.

(9) Give your wife good counsel, and, if she has goodness in her, she will soon take it and leave off idle talking; and do not beat your noble wife like a slave.

(10) That is the most perfect Muslim whose disposition is best; and the best of you are they who behave best to their wives.

(11) The Prophet said, when asked by Moawujah about wife’s right over her husband: Feed her when thou takest thy food; give her clothes to wear when thou wearest clothes;
refrain from either giving a slap on her face or even abusing her; and separate not from thy wife, save within the house.

(12) Fear God in regard to the treatment of your wives, for verily they are your helpers. You have taken them on the security of God, and made them lawful by the words of God.

To you, Rasheeda, I have to say only one or two words from the holy words of your Master Muhammad (glorified be his name!):

“A virtuous wife is a man’s best treasure.”

“She is the ideal wife who pleaseth thee when thou lookest at her, obeys thee when thou givest her directions, and protectest thy honour and thy property when thou art away.”

The Imam resumed his seat and the clerk of the Mosque brought two copies of the marriage deed, written on parchment, which were then duly signed by the bride and the bridegroom in the presence of the assembly, and attested by the said witnesses of the marriage, and some of those present. One copy of the deed was given to the bride and the other to the bridegroom.

This concluded the marriage ceremony, and the whole party left the Mosque and went to refreshments.

Notes by Website Editor

[1] The Holy Quran, 4:1.

[2] The Holy Quran, 30:21.

[3] The Holy Quran, 2:187.

[4] The Holy Quran, 4:19.

[5] The Holy Quran, 2:228.

See scanned images of the pages of The Islamic Review where the proceedings are reported.
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the successor of the Woking Muslim Mission.