In the beginning the mosque was mainly used by visiting dignitaries and notables from Muslim nations. It fell into disuse briefly between 1900 and 1912 when a visiting Indian lawyer, Khwaja Kamal-ud-Din, was so moved by the neglect of this beautiful mosque that he was inspired to establish an Islamic mission here.
By the time that Khwaja Kamal-ud-Din arrived on the scene Leitner’s son was on the point of selling the mosque and its land to a developer. But the Khwaja took him to court arguing that the Mosque was consecrated ground and enjoyed the same rights and status as a church. He won and as a result was able to purchase the mosque and its grounds for a nominal sum from the inheritor.
‘Amongst one of the early converts was Lord Headley who became a lifelong friend of the Khwaja, and together they worked tirelessly for the cause of Islam.’
Khwaja Kamal-ud-Din was learned and charismatic and an inspired leader. He set up residence in the Imam’s house, established daily prayers in the mosque and with helpers brought from India, founded the Muslim Mission Woking to spread the message of Islam to the people of Great Britain. At home in India they considered him to be completely foolish, giving up a lucrative legal practice, to embark on a project that they were certain was doomed to failure.
But they had almost immediate success and very soon there was a small but growing group of influential, well educated and articulate converts who devoted themselves to spreading the Truth of Islam. Amongst one of the early converts was Lord Headley who became a lifelong friend of the Khwaja, and together they worked tirelessly for the cause of Islam.
This was something of a coup for Kamal-ud Din. England was very much dominated by class at that time and to have on board a well educated peer of the realm, who was qualified as an engineer, gave the movement a great deal of credibility. Visitors to the mosque were impressed by the equality within Islam, and the brotherhood that existed between those of such different backgrounds and social class, something that was lacking in Christian society.
Later Lord Headley campaigned avidly for the establishment of a mosque and Islamic centre in London and felt that the British Government should assist in making this happen. In a speech that he made to this effect in the House of Lords he pointed out that under the British Empire there were more Muslim subjects than Christians and the Government had a duty to ensure that the faith of its subjects was properly represented in the capital city. He compared the British Governments attitude unfavourable with that of France where there had been a central mosque in Paris since 1926.
The Woking Mission under the editorship of Khwaja Kamal-ud Din published a quarterly periodical called the Islamic Review, which was widely distributed, and highly respected, and was used not only to spread the message of Islam but also to inform and encourage the converts in their new religion. Regular meetings were also held both in Woking and London for the same purpose. Converts came from all walks of life, from the aristocracy through to workingmen. Amongst early converts were such figures as Lord Stanley of Alderlay. Charles William Buchanan Hamilton, Deputy Surgeon General in the British Army and nephew to a former President of the United States.