First public meeting
of the British Muslim Society at Woking Mosque, December
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
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.
THE BRITISH MUSLIM
PUBLIC MEETING IN THE
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
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 years 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
Laings 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
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 Muaz 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.
KHALID SHELDRAKE, M.S.P.
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 Karnal-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 Arabias 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!