Thursday 5th December 2019 will be hailed as a historic day for Muslims of Cambridge, it marks the opening of Britain’s First eco-mosque. Cambridge Central Mosque, on Mill Road, cost £23 million to build and has the capacity for 1000 worshippers.
The brainchild of Shaykh Abdal Hakeem Murad. He is one of the most admired Muslim scholar and spiritual leader of the British Muslims, an intellectual giant. Shaykh Murad is a lecturer at Cambridge University, the Chairman of the Cambridge Mosque Trust, the founder and rector of the Muslim college Cambridge. A man of many talents and deeply rooted in the spiritual ideals of Islam. His speeches and writings have inspired millions globally.
About the mosque, he said “the city’s estimated 6000 Muslims have had to pray in shifts at smaller, overcrowded Islamic centres locally as well as converted houses. There has been an urgent need for a proper mosque in Cambridge, it’s an overdue idea, Cambridge is a global city but it’s been slow off the mark in having a multicultural space like this.”
The significance of the Masjid for the Muslim community
The Masjid is known as the ‘house of Allah’ as it symbolises the place where God is worshipped. This is the place of devotion and proclamation of his Greatness and Majesty. Although the Prophet (peace be upon him) declared that ‘the entire earth has been made a masjid for me’, in other words, we can pray anywhere. However, the Masjid has a special place in Muslim society. This spot of land designated as the Masjid is “the best place on earth” (prophetic tradition).
The three-story-high, attractive design subtly weaves Qur’anic phrases into the Gault brickwork that is traditional in Cambridge. The mosque complements its neighbouring structures on Mill Rd, while the gardens and café make it a welcoming space for all members of the community. This serene, quiet and simple environment of the Cambridge masjid will lift the spirit of the worshippers, help them to focus and get absorbed in divine thoughts. This will provide an oasis of spiritual retreat for stressed Brits. “The person who visits the Masjid is God’s guest and divine hospitality is forgiveness,” said the Prophet (peace be upon him). The one who prays in the congregation in the masjid gets his reward multiplied twenty-seven times (Hadith). “Whoever waits in the Masjid for the next prayer is protected as he is in a Ribat- fortress, which gives him protection from the attacks of the Devil and one’s ego” (Hadith).
Scholars have likened the masjid to a ‘magnifying glass’, since it focuses the rays of the sun on one spot, similarly, the rays of Divine Kindness are focused in the Masjid on the worshipper. The masjid is the house of Allah, the best place on earth and it is a fortress. Whoever visits the Masjid is indeed Allah’s guest, graced with Divine hospitality; he is honoured as a true believer. It is the place for enriching one’s spirituality and building social relations. Its an inclusive place for men and women. Shaykh Murad has truly built the UK’s “first green mosque”, it will be an effective cultural bridge for Muslims and non-Muslims alike.
The Cambridge Central Mosque design was inspired by Islamic and English religious architectural traditions. “Above all, we sought to develop the idea of a British mosque for the 21st century” explained Shaykh Abdal Hakim Murad, “creating a brand new sacred space has been the main challenge, to bring together something that’s very ancient and timeless with the very latest technologies.” In 2009, Marks Barfield Architects won the competition to design the building with their concept of the mosque as a calm oasis within a grove of trees. The final design marries traditional Islamic architecture, geometry and horticulture with indigenous English materials, plants and craftsmanship to create a unique synthesis. The defining feature of the Cambridge Mosque is its timber structure. The columns, or ‘trees’, reach up to support the roof in an interlaced, octagonal, lattice vault structure evocative of English gothic fan vaulting, famously used at the nearby King’s College Chapel. Roof lights are located above the ‘trees’, bathing the prayer hall in light. The octagonal geometry has strong symbolism in Islamic art, suggesting the cycle of inhalation and exhalation – the ‘Breath of the Divine’.
Shaykh Abdal Hakim Murad has shown how Islam promotes simplicity as opposed to waste; he said “Islamic civilization has been based on the rejection of waste… and so in the construction of the new mosque here in Cambridge, we were very much at the forefront of the local environmental movement”. The building is naturally lit all year round by large skylights in the roof, supplemented by low energy LED bulbs, while photovoltaic cells on the roof help generate renewable energy from sunlight. As well as being very well-insulated and naturally ventilated, the mosque is heated and cooled by locally generated energy. The building’s carbon footprint, which is already low will improve over time as mains electricity from renewable sources becomes more easily available.