Charting history of the Shah Jahan

Saturday, June 11, 2011 - 16:40

A VETERAN soldier has published a pioneering book about a 120-year-old Woking landmark.

Brigadier Muslim Salamat, a Woking resident since 1984, spent five years writing about the famous Shah Jahan Mosque, in Oriental Road. His book, entitled A Miracle at Woking, plots the colourful history of the oldest purpose-built mosque in northern Europe. The mosque, built in 1889, is still flourishing today. Around 100 people attend daily after-lunch prayer sessions and about 3,000 Muslims attend its Eid celebrations each year. In the early days, the landmark, founded by linguist Dr Gottleib Wilhelm Leitner, flourished for a decade before falling into decay. Dr Leitner’s death in 1899 almost resulted in the mosque’s demise but Muslim lawyer Khwaja Kamaluddin revived the building in 1912. It was the only building of its kind in Britain until 1940, when the East London Mosque was built. Brig Salamat, 82, a former chairman of the Shah Jahan committee, is fascinated by the mosque and felt it was necessary to write a book outlining its heritage and history. He said: “I thought it was important for people to know something about it. I like the history of the mosque. “I used to give short talks to visitors and schoolchildren and gradually realised I knew a fair bit. I’ve never done anything like this before and thought it was time someone put the information down in writing.” Brig Salamat was born in Lucknow, India, in 1926, but he moved to Pakistan with his family at the age of 14. He gained a degree in Civil Engineering before joining the Pakistan Army in 1948. He paid his first visit to the Shah Jahan Mosque at the age of five, when he came to England with his father. During subsequent visits to the UK between 1950 and 1952, he attended an engineering ‘works course’ at Loughborough College in Leicestershire. But Brig Salamat’s fascination with the historic mosque only began in 1984 when he moved to Woking with his English wife, Dolores, who sadly died two years ago. He said his late wife gave him the inspiration to write his book. His three children, daughters Aliya, 50, and Ambereen, 45, and son Rishard, 40, all live overseas. Comparing Woking’s mosque to others around the world, Brig Salamat added: “I have travelled extensively and the Shah Jahan is one of the smallest mosques I have encountered. But I do not think any other mosque has a history quite like this one.” Meanwhile, Brig Salamat insists he is not a writer and added: “I will not write again unless I can find something else interesting to write about.” The book will be officially launched at the Shah Jahan Mosque Friday November 7 at 1.30pm. A Miracle at Woking costs £9.99 and all proceeds will go to the future maintenance and development of the mosque. It is also available at Waterstones bookshops in Woking. Source:

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