Woking Muslim Mission, England, 1913–1968

Lord Headley

Hajj with Khwaja Kamal-ud-Din: 3. Lord Headley’s speech in Cairo
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Lord Headley’s Hajj with Khwaja Kamal-ud-Din, 1923

  1. British Foreign Office documents relating to it
  2. Departure from London and stay in Egypt
  3. Lord Headley’s speech in Cairo
  4. Report in The Times
  5. Related at first annual meeting of British Muslim Society

3. Lord Headley’s speech in Cairo

In The Islamic Review issue for September 1923 (p. 313–315) there is a report of Lord Headley’s speech in Cairo, which he delivered during his passage through Egypt along with Khwaja Kamal-ud-Din in June 1923, while on their way to perform the Hajj. The report is indicated as reprinted from the Egyptian Gazette, July 9th, and is quoted below.


Lord Headley prefaced his speech by reciting the first Fatihah of the Koran, “In the name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful, Lord of the Judgment Day, Thee we worship, and for Thy assistance we ask. Guide us in the straight path of those whom Thou favourest and not of those on whom Thou visitest Thy displeasure,” etc.

Addressing the gathering as “Brother Moslems,” Lord Headley went on to say how deeply he had been touched by the welcome accorded to him and the Khwaja Kamal-ud-Din ever since the first moment of their arrival at Port Said. During the journey to Cairo crowds had gathered at the stations en route, and the same cordiality had been displayed on their arrival at Cairo station and ever since. The speaker was not so conceited as to think that there was anything personal in these demonstrations of friendship; he recognized that it was simply the desire which was held by everyone nowadays to see the West joining the East.

He was not going to mince matters: he knew that he was among brethren, and that anything he said would be taken in good part. There were in England alone, not speaking of other European countries, tens of thousands of good Moslems. Probably if you went up to any of them and said, “You are a Moslem,” they would reply, “What on earth are you talking about? I am a Christian.” But the answer would be, “No, you’re not; you’ve thrown over all the dogmas with which the Christian religion has been encumbered.”

The brotherhood of man

The teachings of Islam were essentially the doctrine of the brotherhood of man. All present knew that their absolute duty, after surrender to the will of God, was their obligation to their fellow-creatures, to treat them kindly, as they themselves would wish to be treated. That was a very simple religion; it was really pure Christianity as taught by the Prophet Jesus — he taught his beautiful lesson and then went away, all too early. The teachings of Moses, Christ and Mohammed were all in essence the same, varied a little according to the locality in which the prophets delivered their messages. They all taught our duty to God and our neighbour.

The various Christian sects — and there were so many — were all the same in principle, but differed in details. Those differences were in priest-made dogma. There were all sorts of creeds in which, unless a man believed, the priests told him that he could not be saved. Most of these articles of faith were the manufacture of monks who had lived hundreds of years ago.

Lord Headley referred to various Christian beliefs which, he said, were laid down by the priests as essential to salvation, and remarked that Islam did not say “Unless you believe this or that you cannot be saved.” The speaker, and Moslems generally, did not want to abuse anybody. They recognized the good in other religions and that if a man was born into another faith it was natural for him to hold to it. But at the same time the hardship came in when a Moslem was told by his Christian friends and relatives that he could not be saved because he was a Mohammedan. Religion must appeal first to the heart and then to the head. A faith which did not appeal to both the heart and the reason could not be worth very much.

The speaker did not believe that the young men of today were becoming more irreligious. Young men nowadays would not sit in churches, they preferred to go out and play golf, but that did not mean that they were becoming more irreligious. This was an age of reason, and any religion, to attract, must appeal to the reason. That was why Islam was making so strong an appeal today.

Of course it was very difficult to go into a country and change things all at once, but despite that, the Khwaja Kamal-ud-Din was doing a wonderful work in England.

A Moslem for fifty years

The speaker had been a Moslem at heart for fifty years, but at one time it would have been unkind — in fact, cruel — to declare his belief. In 1913, however, all the old people whom he had had to consider had gone, and he did not care a penny for what the young people thought, so he felt that it was time for him to come out and declare himself in his true colours.

Lord Headley told the story of how, to please his father, he had been confirmed, against his own real beliefs, and said that it had always been a problem to him whether it was his duty then to profess his faith in something which he rejected, and so tell a lie, or whether he should have declined to be confirmed, and so break the commandment to obey his father. As regarded his own son, the speaker had not in any way tried to influence him. He had told him to accept whatever faith he could honestly believe in; to be a Moslem if he thought right, or not if he did not wish to be.

Lord Headley concluded by again thanking them all for the welcome they had given him. He did not suppose that he had many more years to live, but the memory of the reception which had been given him in Egypt would remain for the rest of his life.

Notes by Website editor:

The statement in this article, “Lord Headley told the story of how, to please his father, he had been confirmed, … whether he should have declined to be confirmed”, refers to the Christian rite of confirmation. By this ceremony, a person who was baptized as a child becomes a full member of the church, now having attained to an age of understanding.

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