Shah Jahan Mosque, Woking

Khwaja Kamal-ud-Din
by Zahid Aziz

Khwaja Kamal-ud-Din (d. 1932) was the first Imam of the Shah Jahan Mosque, Woking, Surrey, who had this Mosque opened as a permanent place of worship for Muslims, under Muslim management, in August 1913.

Khwaja Kamal-ud-Din was born in 1870 in Lahore (British India at the time). He graduated in economics, arts and law, and joined the bar in 1898. His interest in Islam and its propagation was aroused by his contact with the Muslim reformer Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (d. 1908) of Punjab, India. Besides being a High Court advocate, he also became a popular and renowned speaker on Islam in India. In September 1912 he came to England in connection with a court case for a wealthy client which was before the Privy Council in London. He stayed on to establish a Muslim mission with the object of presenting the true picture of Islam in this country and correcting the very distorted image of Islam which prevailed in the West at the time.

In February 1913 he started a monthly magazine, the Islamic Review. This remained in print until 1971, and besides its articles on religious issues, it is a unique chronicle of Muslim activities and functions in the UK during this period.

Shah Jahan Mosque at Woking had been built in 1889 by Dr G.W. Leitner (d. 1899), a European scholar and linguist who had helped to establish the University of the Punjab in India. However, the Mosque was only opened up for special occasions and was generally deserted and disused. Just before Khwaja Kamal-ud-Din’s arrival, a small committee of prominent Indian Muslims living in England and sympathetic British non-Muslims was trying to place the Mosque and its property under a Trust for the benefit of Muslims. Khwaja Kamal-ud-Din supported their efforts and the Mosque passed to a Trust by agreement with the heirs of Dr Leitner. The Trust appointed Khwaja Kamal-ud-Din as the first Imam of the Mosque, and under his charge the Mosque was opened permanently on 12 August 1913.

His aim was not merely to provide a prayer venue for Muslims but to establish a base for presenting an accurate image of Islam to the British people and even abroad. He went around the country giving lectures on Islam. His activities were reported in the newspapers and also in newsreel films.

There was much demand for an English translation of the Quran done by a Muslim. His close friend and great Islamic scholar, Maulana Muhammad Ali, was already working on a translation in Lahore. When completed, it was decided to print it in England at Unwin Brothers of Woking and it was published from the Shah Jahan Mosque in November 1917. The Woking Mosque and Mission became the national centre of Islamic activity in Britain and retained this position till the 1960s. Khwaja Kamal-ud-Din had created a non-sectarian Muslim mission, which was run by him and other Lahore Ahmadiyya staff until the mid-1960s.

Khwaja Kamal-ud-Din was in England during 1912–14, 1916–19, 1921–23 and 1925–26. In these years he visited countries as far apart as Singapore, Egypt, Arabia and South Africa. He died in Lahore on 28 December 1932.

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