‘First Khilafat delegation at Woking for Eid Prayer-1920’

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 we have an interest in the history of Islam in Britain.

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 1920s. He is actually one of the most famous Victorian converts to Islam, Sheikh-ul-Islam William Abdullah Quilliam. He was the founder of the Liverpool Muslim Institute in 1889 and publisher of famous Muslim weekly journal of his time ‘the crescent’ and 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 is 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 had 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, at the time it appeare that Sheikh William Abdullah Quilliam had successfully managed to hide his real identity from the general public.

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 ‘Indian Khilafat Delegation’ under the leadership of MOHAMMAD Ali Jauhar with two other Muslim scholars Syed Sulaiman Nadvi, Mr. Sayyid Husain (please refer to few of my previous posts) visited Shah Jahan Mosque and presented the case of preservation of Khilafat. The delegation visited Woking in March 1920. However they stayed in England for few more months and performed Eid prayer in June 1920 at Shah Jahan Mosque – Woking. Hence the man in white Fez (3) in the back, I am concluding that this is none other than MOHAMMAD Ali Jauhar. I come to such a conclusion because this is the same white fez MOHAMMAD Ali sported when he visited Shah Jahan Mosque with Indian Khilafat delegation in March 1920.

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.”

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 Eid of 1920. And the man in the photograph looks rather young. The gentleman (5) standing very close to Sheikh Abdullah Quillium seems is in conversation with him. I will leave researchers to guess and comment if they know the gentleman marked (4) and (5).

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 among people who are interested in Shaikh Quilliam’s life and history of Islam in Britain.

I find my interest of collecting ‘historical’ photographs is growing with time, as well as the personal archive. Hopefully in 2021 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.

Wish everyone a happy and prosperous new year.

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M S Siddiqui

Dr. Mohammad Siddiqui is a UK based Medical doctor. Apart from Medicine he is interested in history, culture, art and architecture. He is an avid collector of rare photographs, postcards, maps, artefacts, rare books and magazines on different themes like ‘Hajj pilgrimage’, ‘Delhi’, ‘Islam in Britain’ and ‘The role of Indian soldiers in WWI.’

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