|The History of the Shah Jahan Mosque in Woking|
The Shah Jahan Mosque in Woking, England is the fist purpose built mosque in the UK and reportedly in western Europe outside of Muslim Spain. It was commissioned by the linguist and orientialst Dr Gottlieb Wilhelm Leitner. Leitner was born in Budapest, Hungary, on 14 October 1840 to a Jewish family. At the age of fifteen he acted as an interpreter in the Crimean War. He entered King's College, London, in 1858, and in 1861 at the age of just twenty-one was appointed professor of Arabic and Mahammedan law. In 1864 he moved to India and took up the post of Principal of the Government College in Lahore which he developed into what is now University of Punjab. He was known to speak, read and write over twenty five languages. In 1883 he returned to England and established his Oriental Institute and with a donation from the Begum Shah Jahan, the Nawab Begum of the princely state of Bhopal, built England's first mosque in 1889.
The building is square with a three bay front articulated by four panelled piers with open turrets above linked by battlement type decoration. Built of dressed rubble stone, with stucco facing and a copper dome with finials. The mosques Indo-Saracen design was inspired by drawings taken from Prisse d’Avennes’ book L’Art Arabe. It was built by architects W. I. Chambers in Bath and Bargate stone. Its Onion Dome was once blue and gold and the entrance lay with fine mosaic. The fountain was initially built to be used for ablution but was later redesigned as an ornamental piece.
After Dr Leitners death in 1899 the Oriental Institute soon closed and with that the mosque doors closed too. It fell into disrepair until Khawaja Kamal-ul Din rediscovered it in 1912 and managed to buy it from Leitner’s heir.
Many famous people have visited this mosque, they have included: