The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community
The following is a brief guide to the history of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community and their presence in Surrey. The full and preferred history of the community is that featured on Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ahmadiyya
The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community worldwide
The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community was established by Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (1835-1908) in 1889, in the small and remote village of Qadia in Punjab, India. Ahmad claimed that he was the promised Messiah and Mahdi, contrary to mainstream Islam. The Ahmadiyya movement believe him to be a reformer prophet and follow his teachings which they believe are based upon pure Islam. Following Ahmad’s death, the institution of Khilafat (the system of spiritual leadership in Islam as set out in the Qur’an) was re-established. A Khalifa is elected for life and the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community today is led by Mirza Masroor Ahmad, who was elected in 2003; his official title is Khalifatul Masih V.
Worldwide, the community has branches in more than 190 countries, with an estimated membership of 160 million. They have a TV channel (MTA TV), radio station called The Light (see www.ahmadiyya.org.uk/, website (www.alislam.org) and run Islam International Publications for translations of the Qur’an (currently 60 languages). The community’s motto is ‘Love for all, hatred for none’ and has inspired their campaign to promote peaceful co-existence and respect through their vision of Islam (see www.LoveForAllHatredForNone.org). The community runs a worldwide disaster relief through an independent charitable organization, Humanity First.
Each year, the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community hold their Jalsa Salana, or annual convention, at Oaklands Farm, Alton, Hampshire. The convention is a unique event in the community’s calendar and is the largest of its kind in the UK, bringing together 30,000 participants from more than 50 countries to increase religious knowledge and promote a sense of peace and brotherhood. To read more see http://www.jalsasalana.org/uk/.
In 2004, Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad, the current Head of the Community, initiated The National Peace Symposium and the Ahmadiyya Muslim Prize for the Advancement of Peace. This event is held at the Baitul Futuh Mosque in Morden and includes the awarding of The Peace Prize, which in 2015 was presented to Mrs Sindhutai Sapkal, in recognition of her work with orphaned children; find out more at https://www.alislam.org/peaceprize/.
The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community in Surrey: early history
The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community is one of the oldest and most widely established Muslim organisations in Britain, with over 90 branches across the country. It has played a prominent role in the Muslim community in Surrey since the early twentieth century. In 1913, under Khwaja Kamal-ud-Din, the first overseas mission was established at the Shah Jahan Mosque in Woking.
Mirza Ghulam Ahmad was succeeded by Maulana Nur-ud-Din but upon his death in 1914 the community was divided as to his successor. Mirza Basheer-ud-Din Mahmood Ahmad was elected which gradually led to doctrinal differences between those who accepted him as Khalifa and those who preferred to follow the central Ahmadiyya council. The former became the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community; the latter formed the Lahore Ahmadiyya Movement (also known as Ahmadiyya Anjuman Ishaat Islam Lahore). The Lahore Ahmadiyya Movement ran the Woking Muslim Mission at the Shah Jahan Mosque as its UK centre until the late 1960s. Thereafter the mosque came under Sunni administration.
For a full detailed history of the Fazl (London) Mosque and the Baitul Futuh Mosque, and the early history of the Woking Muslim Mission and Literary Trust at the Shah Jahan Mosque, see Shahed Saleem, The British Mosque: An Architectural and social history, Historic England, 2018.
The Fazl Mosque, Southfields
Following the split the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community built the Fazl (London Mosque) in Southfields, Wimbledon, in 1925, which is now Grade II listed. Entirely funded by the ladies section of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, it was the first of its kind in London. A newsreel of the opening of the Fazl Mosque by British Pathé can be viewed online at https://www.britishpathe.com/video/londons-first-mosque
The original plans for the the Fazl Mosque, drawn up by architect Thomas H Mawson, are held at Cumbria Archive Service (CAS Ref. WDB 86). The unique and beautifully drawn plans have been painstakingly conserved as part of a commissioned project by the Ahmadiyya Archive and Research Centre. Mawson, who died in 1933, was from Windermere. The Mawson Archive includes 29 plans relating to the mosque, including drawings of the Dome, minaret and plans of the grounds. The plans are in a variety of media including blueprints and brittle tracing paper.
Click here to download a pdf () copy of an April 2015 ARC Magazine article on the conservation of the plans for London’s first ever purpose built mosque.
Historic England have listed the Fazl Mosque as Grade II, read more about this at https://historicengland.org.uk/whats-new/news/Mosques-listed
The Lahore Ahmadiyya Movement in Woking and Woking Muslim Mission
The Woking Muslim Mission was founded in 1913 by Khwaja Kamal-ud-Din (1870-1932), a lawyer from India and follower of Mirza Ghulum Ahmad, and at the time was based at the Shah Jahan Mosque, Woking.
Following the death of Dr GW Leitner in 1899, the mosque had been closed until 1912 when it was restored as a place of Muslim worship. Khwaja’s first stay in England was from September 1912 to August 1914, when he came to plead a court case before the Privy Council (the highest court of appeal for the Indian sub-continent at the time). His visit had been facilitated by the help of prominent Indian Muslims, such as the Right Honorable Syed Ameer Ali. After the conclusion of the case, Khwaja stayed to establish a Muslim mission in England with the object of presenting the true picture of Islam and refuting the distorted image that he felt was widely prevalent in the West at the time. With the encouragement of Maulana Nur-ud-Din then head of the Ahmadiyya Movement, the Woking Muslim Mission and Literary Trust was duly established.
In February 1913, Khwaja started a monthly journal, ‘The Islamic Review’, which for over 55 years was the main Islamic journal in the West. Following the split in the Movement in 1914, Khwaja became associated with the Lahore Ahmadiyya Movement. The Mission went on to publish the first English translation of the Qu’ran in 1917. For an online history of the Woking Muslim Mission, which includes digitised versions of the Islamic Review magazine, 1913-1971, see www.wokingmuslim.org. The Shah Jahan Mosque remained the pre-eminent centre of Islam in Great Britain until the mid-1960s. From this time onwards, Woking’s Muslim community grew. Many came from Pakistan in the 1960s and in 1968 Sunni Muslims took over the running of the Mosque. For an online history of the Shah Jahan, see www.shahjahanmosque.org.uk.
The Baitul Futuh Mosque, Morden
The Ahmadiyya Community in Woking currently hold Friday prayer meetings at the Arch Community Centre, or attend the Baitul Futuh Mosque in Morden
The Baitul Futuh Mosque in Morden is the largest in Western Europe and was opened in 2003 to cater for the needs of the growing Ahmadi Muslim population in north Surrey and south London.
The 5.2-acre site was once occupied by the Express Dairy bottling plant with its own railway sidings. The Dairy site was derelict when the Ahmadiyya Community purchased it for £2.3m in 1996. Although there was some hostility to the building of the mosque, planning permission was granted and the late Mirza Tahir Ahmad, the fourth Khalifa (d.2003), laid the foundation stone on 19 October 1999. The mosque cost around £15m to build, all of the funds being raised through donations from the Ahmadiyya community.
Berkshire-based architects, Sutton, Griffin and Morgan, had the task of designing the structure, guided closely by the mosque’s construction committee. The complex also features the Aftab Khan Library and Khilafat Centenary Gallery, which houses a vast collection of religious and other works. Many community functions are administered from Morden, including the broadcast of Friday prayers. See the Mosque’s website for further details http://www.baitulfutuh.org/.
Surrey Heritage staff visited the Baitul Futuh Mosque, click here to find out more.
From 1984, the Ahmadiyya Community sought a permanent home for their annual Jalsa Salana convention and the former site of Sheephatch School in Tilford was duly purchased. Sheephatch School had housed evacuees during the Second World War and eventually closed in 1977. For a film of Sheephatch (Camp) School, c.1950-1951 (click here to download (pdf ) the catalogue sheet for this short film). Renamed ‘Islamabad’, conventions were held at the site until 2004 when the event moved to Alton. The Islamabad Jama’at began with just a few families of missionaries and today there are around 130 residents. The site houses a publishing business called Islam International Publications Ltd, offices, meeting rooms and sporting facilities; the premises are also used for national events such as the Ahmadiyya Muslim Youth Association convention. It is also the resting place of the Fourth Head of Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, Hazrat Mirza Tahir Ahmad, who passed away in London in April 2003, and his wife. For more details of the site see the Women’s Auxilliary of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community website http://lajna.org.uk/regions/islamabad/introduction-to-islamabad/
Community work with Surrey Heritage
Surrey Heritage has been working with the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community as part of an ongoing commitment to community engagement. Mr Hameed Ahmed (Woking President), Mr Ahmad Syed, and his daughter Monevra Siddique Syed have been instrumental in this work. History Centre staff have had the opportunity to tour the Baitul Futuh Mosque in Morden in May 2011 – read more here. Shortly afterwards, the Woking Ahmadiyya Muslim Community records were placed with Surrey History Centre, and included the first Qur’an in our collections.
In April 2012, the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community launched their new Peace Bus campaign at the History Centre and the event was attended by staff, community members and political representatives. Read more here.
Inter Faith Week at Surrey History Centre has also been celebrated with the Woking AMC and has featured an impressive display of Qur’an translated into dozens of different languages. Read more here.
Records at Surrey History Centre
Records of the Woking branch of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Association were presented by the branch president, Mr Hameed Ahmad, in June 2011 (SHC ref 8859). The records comprise press releases of events and activities, publications and a unique set of cassette recordings of Friday sermons and lectures and videos of community events and sermons. The main Ahmadiyya Muslim Community archive is held in America.
Papers relating to the sale of Sheephatch School to the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community (SHC ref 5369)
Correspondence and papers of the Shah Jahan Mosque, including a brief history of the Woking Muslim Mission, 1920-1985 (SHC ref 8382)
Contemporary photographs of Morden South train station and ‘Alislam’ [Baitul Futuh] Mosque, Morden, from the London Road, can be found in Merton Historical Society’s ongoing photographic survey of the area (SHC ref 7811/1/170-171 and 7811/2/11)
Film of Sheephatch (Camp) School, c.1950-1951 (click here to download (pdf ) the catalogue sheet for this short film)
Bibliography and useful links
Shahed Saleem, The British Mosque: An Architectural and social history, Historic England, 2018;
M P Salamat, ‘A Miracle at Woking : A history of the Shah Jahan Mosque‘, Phillimore, 2009;
Ansari, K H, ‘The Woking Mosque: a case study of Muslim engagement with British society since 1889’, Immigrants and Minorities, vol. 21, no 3, Frank Cass Journal Offprint, London (see SHC ref 7553/6/2);
For an online history of the Shah Jahan Mosque, see the mosque’s website www.shahjahanmosque.org.uk; this includes a brief history of the Woking Muslim Mission.
The Light, the Ahmadiyya Muslim community radio station, www.ahmadiyya.org.uk/
The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community website, www.alislam.org
The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community peace campaign website is www.LoveForAllHatredForNone.org
The Baitul Futuh Mosque website is http://www.baitulfutuh.org/
Information about Islamabad, Tilford can be found on the Women’s Auxilliary of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community website http://lajna.org.uk/regions/islamabad/introduction-to-islamabad/
For an online history of the Woking Muslim Mission, see www.wokingmuslim.org
Film of the opening of the Fazl Mosque by British Pathé and can be viewed online at https://www.britishpathe.com/video/londons-first-mosque
Click here to discover more about the Muslim community in Woking during the First World War
Read more about Surrey Heritage’s work with the county’s diverse communities