The Shah Jahan Mosque, Woking


149 Oriental Road
Woking, GU22 7AN
United Kingdom
Other names: 

Shah Jehan Mosque

Woking Mosque

Woking Mosque and Muslim Mission

Date began: 
01 Jan 1889
Precise date began unknown: 

The Shah Jahan Mosque at Woking was Britain’s first purpose-built mosque. It was established in 1889 by the Jewish ex-Registrar of the University of Punjab, Gottlieb Leitner, with financial backing from the Begum Shah Jahan of Bhopal. It fell into disuse after Leitner’s death in 1899, but was later resurrected by the Indian lawyer Khwaja Kamuluddin, who established the Woking Muslim Mission in 1912.

The mosque flourished under Kamuluddin’s management and became a hub for Muslims who lived in and visited England. In 1913, Kamuluddin established the mosque’s organ, the Islamic Review, which provides a sense of the mosque and its mission’s activities and approach to Islam. Regular Eid celebrations were held at the Shah Jahan, and Muslim dignitaries from all over the world visited the mosque when in Britain. Photographs printed in the Islamic Review as well as accounts demonstrate the eclecticism of the congregation, which included women and men of a range of nationalities, while articles on numerous subjects suggest the mosque advocated a tolerant and non-sectarian brand of Islam, and sought to accommodate itself to its British context and represent Islam to the British public as compatible with and relevant to their lives. Its success in this respect is suggested by the string of conversions depicted in the Islamic Review. These include some elite British figures such as Lord Headley. Indeed, worshippers were largely from a professional middle-class background, and the mosque retained friendly links with the British establishment, despite its highly controversial allegiance to Turkey and the Ottoman Empire during the First World War.

The Shah Jahan had numerous Imams over the years, as well as frequently hosting visiting preachers. A cemetery nearby on Horsell Common provided burials for Muslims, especially for Muslim soldiers who were killed in the World Wars. After the Second World War, the Shah Jahan lost some of its influence, and other mosques were established, such as the East London Mosque and later the Central London Mosque in Regent’s Park. The mosque remains an active place of worship today.

Key Individuals' Details: 

S. M. Abdullah (in charge of the mosque and mission from 1949), Aftab-ud-Din Ahmad (Imam and editor of Islamic Review), Khwaja Nazir Ahmed (Imam and manager/editor of Islamic Review), Syed Ameer Ali (chairman of the committee), Abdullah Yusuf Ali (involved in Woking Mission), Begum Shah Jahan of Bhopal (funded the original mosque), Khwaja Kamuluddin (established the Woking Muslim Mission and first Imam), Muhammad Yakub Khan (Imam and editor of Islamic Review), Mustafa Khan (Imam and editor of Islamic Review), Gottlieb Wilhelm Leitner (established the original mosque), Abdul Majid (Imam), Muhammad Marmaduke Pickthall (edited Islamic Review, preached at the mosque), Sadr-ud-Din (Imam), Hafiz Shaikh Wahba (preached at the mosque).


Lord Headley (convert, worshipped there), Mohammed Ali Jinnah (attended Eid congregations), Abdul Karim (worshipped there), Syedi Mohamedi (trustee), Firoz Khan Noon (attended Eid congregations), William Bashyr Pickard (convert, worshipped there), Khalid Sheldrake, Hassan Suhrawardy (attended Eid congregations).

Involved in events details: 

Eid celebrations

Second World War (burial of Indian Muslim soldiers at Brockwood Cemetery then Horsell Common)

Published works: 

Islamic Review

Secondary works: 

Ahmad, Nasir, Eid Sermons at the Shah Jehan Mosque, Woking, England, 1931-1940 (Lahore: Aftab-ud-Din Memorial Benevolent Trust, 2002)

Ally, M. M., ‘History of Muslims in Britain, 1850-1980’ (unpublished MA dissertation, University of Birmingham, 1981)

Ansari, Humayun, ‘The Infidel Within’: Muslims in Britain since 1800 (London: Hurst, 2004)

Salamat, Muslim P., A Miracle at Woking: A History of the Shahjahan Mosque


‘Woking – Arrangements with Imam of Mosque at-’, Mss Eur F 143/80, Asian and African Studies Reading Room, British Library, St Pancras, pp. 11-12


This is taken from a statement by Sadr-Ud-Din, Imam of the Woking Mosque, dated 27 August 1915, which was received by the India Office through Sir Walter Lawrence, Commissioner of the Indian Hospitals. In the statement, the Imam complains about the state of the burial ground at Woking and the manner in which the British Government treats dead soldiers. Much of this is disputed in correspondence by government officials and commanding officers at the Indian hospitals (in Brighton, Bournemouth, Brockenhurst) who claim that the Imam is ‘out for mischief’ and a difficult man.


At first the Government blankly refused to do anything, and many months went past. I could not bury the dead soldiers in the marshy piece of unfenced ground over which people and dogs could stray: therefore I buried twenty-five of them in the Mahommedan burial ground at Brockwood at my own expense. This is now full, and I have already buried three in the new burial-place but, though it is fenced in, it is in such a disgraceful state that it would not be policy to allow the Indian soldiers to go and see the burial-place of their comrades. They have frequently asked, but I have had to put them off because – being a loyal subject of His Majesty – I did not desire to raise the resentment which must inevitably be felt when the truth becomes known of the manner in which the British Government have treated their dead heroes.

I have had bodies sent to me bearing the wrong names: bodies sent without any flowers: bodies sent to me at any hour of the day or night without previous notice, and no respect shown for them whatever – not even any military demonstration at their graves.


I desire to point out to the Government the very grave danger or allowing the impression to gain ground in India that England is not showing sufficient respect to the memories of her Indian heroes.


While the Imam’s complaints suggest the treatment of Indian Muslim soldiers as second-class British citizens, despite their sacrifice of life for ‘King and Country’, the assertive nature of his requests also implies a justified sense of entitlement on the part of South Asian Muslims in Britain to the right to have their most fundamental cultural and religious needs met by the British Government. The Imam’s declaration of his loyalty to the King points to his (and potentially other Muslims’) desire to accommodate his faith to Britishness.

Archive source: 

Islamic Review, SV 503, British Library, St Pancras

‘Woking – Arrangements with Imam of Mosque at-’, Mss Eur F 143/80, Asian and African Studies Reading Room, British Library, St Pancras