Europe's first green mosque is hoping to harness the power of Islam to tackle climate change, urging Muslims who worship in the British newbuild to do more to protect the planet.
As one of the fastest growing faiths in the world, Islam could be a powerful force if Muslims were stirred to environmental action, climate activists say. Which is where Cambridge Central Mosque steps in.
Located in the world-famous British university city, the mosque opened its doors in May just in time for the fasting month of Ramadan. It is adorned with latticed columns, clad in solar panels and surrounded by crab apples, with space for 1,000 and a mission to become a force for climate good. "The mosque symbolizes the spiritual heart of the Muslim community, it's the central locus where the worshipper connects to God," said mosque trust patron and musician Cat Stevens. He told the Thomson Reuters Foundation that Muslims had an important role to play in tackling the climate crisis.
"It (the mosque) is part of the re-education process, digging deeper into the true nature of Islam to reveal its harmony with the balance of the universe," said Stevens. "Many Muslims have forgotten this and are not contributing enough to the present climate crisis."
The 24-million-pound ($30-million) building, funded largely by the Turkish government, will welcome hundreds of worshippers for night prayers every night, during this month of Ramadan
- following a 18-hour fast from food and drink in daylight hours.
With recycled rainwater to irrigate the gardens and energy-harvesting heat pumps, the mosque says it produces close to zero carbon emissions and boasts better green credentials than the thousands of other mosques that are scattered across Europe.
"The Quran emphasizes the beauty and harmony of the natural world as a sign of God's creative power and wisdom," said mosque trust chairman and Cambridge University professor, Timothy Winter, also known as Abdal Hakim Murad. "The struggle against climate change and the mass extinction of species is not only a practical question of human survival, but is a battle to respect and protect God's gifts."
The mosque follows broad Islamic principles that favor environmental protection, say Muslim climate experts, be it the stewardship of God's earth or sacred teachings on preserving water, planting trees and protecting animals.
In 2015, Islamic faith leaders came together to urge Muslims to play a more active role in combating climate change in a declaration that was welcomed by the United Nations. The declaration lamented the "corruption" that humans had caused and called for lower emissions, an end to deforestation and greater commitment to renewable energy sources.
According to the Alliance of Religions and Conservation charity, the world's big faiths could galvanize some 5 billion people into climate action, 85% of the world's population.