Woking Muslim Mission, England, 1913–1968

‘London Mosque Fund’ sets up the Woking Mosque Trust and appoints Khwaja Kamal-ud-Din as Imam
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‘London Mosque Fund’ sets up the Woking Mosque Trust and appoints Khwaja Kamal-ud-Din as Imam

The London Mosque Fund was a body founded in 1910 by certain prominent Muslims, mainly of Indian origin, and some British sympathisers of Islam, with the aim of building a mosque in London worthy of Islam and of an international city like London. Its work led eventually to the establishment of the East London Mosque, now located in Whitechapel, London.

The minutes of the meetings of its Executive Committee have been published by Cambridge University Press and are available online (see link). These contain several references to the Woking Mosque and Khwaja Kamal-ud-Din. We have compiled a document of the early such references between April 1912 and March 1914.

Link to our document: References to the Woking Mosque and Khwaja Kamal-ud-Din in the minutes of the early meetings of the London Mosque Fund.

Below we comment further on two matters reported in these minutes.

  1. Creation of the Woking Mosque Trust and appointment of Khwaja Kamal-ud-Din
  2. Grant to Khwaja Kamal-ud-Din for rent of building in London to hold Friday prayers

1. Creation of the Woking Mosque Trust and appointment of Khwaja Kamal-ud-Din

These minutes show that Dr G.W. Leitner, builder of the Woking Mosque, had created a “Woking Mosque Endowment Fund” and that the Executive Committee of the London Mosque Fund at its meeting on 17 April 1912 decided to appoint trustees for this fund and to takeover the Mosque and its property. Three trustee were appointed: The Right Hon. Syed Ameer Ali, Mirza Sir Abbas Ali Baig and Professor Sir T.W. Arnold.

Khwaja Kamal-ud-Din had not yet arrived in England, which was not until September 1912.

The appointed trustees were going to obtain the title deeds of the Mosque and its property from Henry Leitner (son and heir of Dr G.W. Leitner). The minutes of the meeting of 30 April 1913 recorded that: “no documents had so far been made over but that the matter was still in the hands of the lawyers”.

By this time Khwaja Kamal-ud-Din had arrived in England, started his missionary work and had visited the Woking Mosque (see the accounts of his first visit and his second visit, both in January 1913).

In a letter addressed to the Ahmadiyya community in its hometown of Qadian (India), which was published in the community’s newspaper Badr (issue dated 10–17 July 1913), Khwaja Kamal-ud-Din wrote:

“Brethren! Allah willing, that time is very near when you will hear the good news from me that I am permanently settled in a place where five times a day the Azan is called out loudly and prayer is held. … The first part of the prayers which I said in the locked-up Woking Mosque four months ago is shortly to attain fulfilment. Of course, this is a time for prayer. God is providing the resources so that this worthless person will sit in a place which the whole world can see as a recognisable centre for the propagation of Islam.” (See link.)

After settling at the Woking Mosque premises on 12 August 1913, Khwaja Kamal-ud-Din wrote in a letter to Maulana Nur-ud-Din, Head of the Ahmadiyya Movement, dated 22 August 1913:

“What grace of God it is, that from India four and a half million Rupees were spent in the construction of a mosque and a hall, and only a few months before my arrival it became a trust, and I took charge.” (See link.)

It is clear that while the Woking Mosque Trust was established before his arrival, yet the matter was far from complete even in April 1913. The settlement was still being agreed with Henry Leitner in July 1913 and was completed shortly afterwards, enabling Khwaja Kamal-ud-Din to take residence in the Mosque in August. This shows, quite obviously, that Khwaja Kamal-ud-Din had a role in the creation of this Trust.

The minutes of the next meeting of the Executive Committee of the London Mosque Fund, on 19 November 1913, record that the Trustees of the Woking Mosque held a meeting on 20 October 1913 and they sanctioned:

“the provisional arrangement made by Mr Abbas Ali Baig for the supervision and maintenance of the Mosque by Khwaja Kamaluddin who was asked to insure the Mosque and the Memorial House, for the present, for £1000”.

Indenture document

The Woking Mosque, the Memorial House and related property was passed into the ownership of the Woking Mosque Trust by a document of Indenture dated 12 April 1915. For information about this Indenture, see this link.

Other authentic sources on how the Woking Mosque Trust was created

1. When Mirza Sir Abbas Ali Baig died, his obituary appeared in The Islamic Review, written by Khwaja Nazir Ahmad, son of Khwaja Kamal-ud-Din who himself had served in the Woking Muslim Mission. In it he writes:

“It was Sir Abbas Ali Baig who saved from the hands of the Leitner family the Shah Jehan Mosque and Sir Salar Jung Memorial House at Woking and thus rescued them from the fate of being converted into a private factory. He subsequently founded the Woking Mosque Trust and raised funds for its maintenance. It was, indeed, Sir Abbas Ali Baig who invited Al-Haj Khwaja Kamal-ud-Din to take charge of the Mosque, and later helped him in starting the Muslim Mission and Literary Trust and himself became one of its Trustees.” (See link.)

2. In the January–February 1962 issue of The Islamic Review marking the start of its 50th year of publication, the editorial entitled To the Memory of Khwaja Kamal-ud-Din informs us that when Khwaja Kamal-ud-Din with his helper Shaikh Nur Ahmad visited the Mosque and found it “almost deserted and gradually falling into ruins”, they decided that they “could not leave this house of God in such a desolate condition”. So they stayed there in the house adjacent to the Mosque. When the heirs of Dr Leitner tried to evict them:

“At this stage the Khwaja Kamal-ud-Din approached Sir Mirza Abbas Ali Beg, at that time the Muslim advisory member of the Council of the Secretary of State for India. Together they found the means for the satisfaction of the heirs of Dr. Leitner. A Trust was formed to hold the title deeds of the Mosque, of which, in 1913, the Khwaja Kamal-ud-Din became the first Imam.” (See link.)

2. Grant to Khwaja Kamal-ud-Din for rent of building in London to hold Friday prayers

The minutes for the meeting on 22 January 1914 show that Khwaja Kamal-ud-Din applied to the Fund for “the payment of the rent of a building in London for the purposes of a Mosque”. The Committee recommended to the Trustees of the London Mosque Fund to approve a grant of £120 per year for this purpose..

The next meeting, held on 19 March 1914, records the approval of this grant by the Trustees “for the purpose of renting a building or room for the performance of Muslim prayers” and that it should take effect from 1 January 1914. The meeting also approved the wording of the invitation to prayers at this location. The wording was as follows:

Allah – O – Akbar
The Jooma Namaz will be held at the Lindsay Hall, Notting Hill Gate, W.,
regularly every Friday at 12 Noon until further notice.

Mr Khwaja Kamal-ud-Din of the Mosque, Woking will deliver the sermon and the Dua will be recited by Haireddin Effindi and Lord Headley respectively in Arabic and English.

All Moslems are cordially invited.

In this connection a news item appeared in the Review of Religions, monthly of the Ahmadiyya Movement in Qadian, at that time edited by Maulana Muhammad Ali, in its February 1914 issue on pages 79–80. Its image is shown below.

Then the letter by Syed Ameer Ali is printed, as below:

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the successor of the Woking Muslim Mission.