‘First Khilafat Delegation’ in Woking for Eid Prayer, 1920

A Rare Photograph Documents an Eid Prayer in Woking, 1920, with Sheikh Quilliam and the First Indian Khilafat Delegation.

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I am sharing below a very rare photograph, that is one hundred years old. A few months ago I bought this photograph from a dealer. The image would not ordinarily capture our eyes unless we know or have an interest in the history of Islam in Britain.

Eid Prayer in Woking, 1920, with Abdullah Quilliam and the Indian Khilafat Delegation
I imagine that the main focus of the photographer was to capture a man wearing West African attire(2). A gentleman can also be seen rather dapper in a black suit and fez. What draws my attention to this photograph is the man on the right (1). He was known as Prof. Henry Marcel Leon among the Muslim community of England in the 1920s. He is one of the most famous Victorian converts to Islam, Sheikh-ul-Islam William Abdullah Quilliam.

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Abdullah Quilliam was the founder of the Liverpool Muslim Institute in 1889 and publisher of the famous Muslim weekly journal of his time ‘The Crescent’ and the monthly magazine ‘Islamic world’. This photograph was taken in Woking after the Eid prayer in 1920. At that time no one apart from his very close friends knew that he was the famous Sheikh of Liverpool, living with a new identity. Even the person who took the photograph didn’t mention his name on the back of the photograph. Instead, he wrote ‘WOKING MUSLIM FESTIVAL EID – CHIEF OLUWA of LAGOS, 1920. The man of African heritage in the centre of the photograph is Chief Oluwa of Lagos. It appears to me, that he was the main person who was the subject of his interest.

Thus, it appears that Sheikh William Abdullah Quilliam had successfully managed to hide his real identity from the general public at the time.

The Indian Khilafat Delegation

I have also conducted a little more research, which makes this photograph even more interesting and historic. This photograph was taken in the year of 1920. The same year when the ‘Indian Khilafat Delegation’ under the leadership of Mohammad Ali Jauhar with two other Muslim scholars Syed Sulaiman Nadvi, and Mr. Sayyid Husain (please refer to a few of my previous posts) visited Shah Jahan Mosque and presented the case of the preservation of the Khilafat.

The delegation visited Woking in March 1920. However, they stayed in England for a few more months and performed Eid prayer in June 1920 at the Shah Jahan Mosque in Woking. Hence the man in white Fez (3) in the back, I conclude that this is none other than Mohammad Ali Jauhar. I come to such a conclusion because this is the same white fez that Mohammad Ali sported when he visited the Shah Jahan Mosque with the Indian Khilafat Delegation in March 1920.

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I make further evidence that it is Mohammad Ali Jauhar as The Islamic Review reported the Eid prayer. According to The Islamic Review (June–July 1920, p. 224–225):
“The most important guests were: the Hon. Sahibzada Aftab Ahmad Khan, member of India Council; Mr. Mohammad Ali, Head of the Indian Khilafat Delegation, with his colleagues; the Paramount Chief of Lagos (Africa), with his devoted son who held the gorgeous umbrella over his father’s head; Nawab Sarwar Ali Khan, Chief of Kurwai, with his nephew Faiz Mohammad Khan, Chief of Maler Kotla; Dr. H. M. Leon, M.A., Ph.D.; Mr. Marmaduke Pickthall; Mr. Habib-Ullah Lovegrove; Mr. Abdul Karim Lofts, Magnetic Healer; Dr. Charles Garnett, M.A., D.D.; and other British Muslim brothers and sisters.”

A Collector’s Quest

Another gentleman, I am unable to recognise (4). Is he Mr. Marmaduke Pickthall, Dr. Charles Garnett or someone else? He looks very similar to Lord Headley. However it has not been mentioned that Lord Headley was present on the Eid of 1920. And the man in the photograph looks rather young. The gentleman (5) standing very close to Sheikh Abdullah Quilliam seems is in conversation with him. I will leave researchers to guess and comment if they know the gentleman marked (4) and (5).

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This rare photograph is a new edition in my personal collection of ‘Photographic record of Islam in the West and in Britain’. I am sure this rare photograph will generate more interest and excitement amongst people. Especially those who are interested in Sheikh Quilliam’s life and the history of Islam in Britain.

I find my interest in collecting ‘historical’ photographs is growing with time along with the personal archive. Hopefully, I will have enough time and resources to collect more. God willing, I have the intention to digitalise them and make them available for research.

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