On 5th December Yusuf attended the official opening ceremony of The Central Mosque in Cambridge, Europe’s first ‘eco-mosque’. Designed around the concept of being a calm oasis within a grove of trees, the mosque’s design marries traditional Islamic architecture, geometry and horticulture with indigenous English materials, plants and craftsmanship to create a unique synthesis. The timber used was sustainably sourced and innovations such as rainwater harvesting, solar panelling, and air source heat pumps combine to result in zero on-site carbon emissions.
Dr Timothy Winter (Abdal Hakim Murad), who conceived of the project and was the driving force behind its realisation, has underlined the fundamental relationship between Islam and ecological sustainability, “The Koran emphasises the beauty and harmony of the natural world as a sign of God’s creative power and wisdom. 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.”
Yusuf, a trustee of the mosque, has worked diligently alongside Dr Winter as a passionate advocate of the project. He has spoken of the mosque’s potential to help reassert the true nature of Islam, to reveal its harmony with the balance of the universe. At the opening ceremony he spoke movingly about the building’s many virtues and especially of its capacity to promote cross-cultural unity and to promote peace:
As Salamu ‘Alaykum –
Mr President, respected guests, brothers and sisters – Peace be with you and welcome.
It was this same month, in cold and shivery winter weather, forty-two years ago, when I first walked into the newly built Central Mosque in London to embrace Islam.
It was my study of the Qur’an which had brought me to take that great spiritual step. Before that, I had hardly met any Muslim.
Today, we are stepping into the doors of a wonderful new stunningly beautiful Mosque here in Cambridge, the first ecologically-friendly Mosque in Europe.
Times have certainly changed, but this time I stand, a somewhat more aged and weathered British Muslim, and slightly more enlightened about the issues and mysteries of bricks and mortar, let alone the intricate cultural groundwork on which a space like this is built, in one of the most prestigious academic and intellectually endowed University towns of Britain.
My hope is that—maybe unlike certain other mosques and cultural centres in the country—this one will provide a much needed space of openness, to promote better understanding between faiths and religions, and cooperation in the great quest for knowledge and unity, that lead us closer to the Face of the Divine.
And for the worshippers, a place of tranquility to simply bow and connect with their Lord in peace and prayer – away from extremism and ignorance.
I’d like to acknowledge the generosity and thank all of those who contributed to help this noble project see the light of day, the offices of the Turkish Diyanat, and indeed the assistance of President of Turkey himself, as well as thousands of generous donors from around the world, without whom this model Mosque would have remained just a blurry sketch of our dreams and hopes.
May the Lord of the universe—Who has no peer or partner—reward all those connected to its establishment, particularly Professor Tim Winter, and his team, who worked selflessly and tirelessly towards this day, in this month, in this year, in this great town of history and academic enlightenment.
As salaamu alarm
– YUSUF ISLAM