Indonesia’s grand Istiqlal Mosque was built with a vision to stand for a thousand years. It is a symbol of the country’s independence and was designed by Soekarno, Indonesia’s founding father. The mosque’s seven gates represent the seven heavens in Islam and welcome visitors from across the archipelago and the world into its lofty interior. Istiqlal Mosque has recently gone green with a major renovation in 2019 that installed upwards of 500 solar panels on the mosque’s expansive roof, which is now a major and clean source of Istiqlal’s electricity. The mosque has also encouraged an ‘energy waqf’, a type of donation in Islam that continues to bear fruit over time, to grow its capacity to make renewable power.
Green Ramadan Initiatives
The Istiqlal Mosque’s climate push is just one example of different “Green Ramadan” initiatives in Indonesia and around the world that promote an array of changes during the Muslim holy month. Ramadan is a time when restraint and charity are emphasised, and recommendations include using less water while performing the ritual washing before prayers, replacing plastic bottles and cutlery during community iftars with reusable ones, and reducing food waste. Other suggestions include carpooling to mosques, using local produce, emphasising recycling, and using donations to fund clean energy projects.
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Limiting the Effects of Climate Change
For the world to limit the effects of climate change, which is already causing worsening droughts, floods, and heat waves, scientists say the use of dirty fuels for electricity and transport, petrochemicals to make products like plastics, and the emissions from food waste in landfills all need to be drastically slashed. Though individual initiatives are just a small part of that transition, experts say growing momentum behind climate goals can have an effect.
Groups taking an Islamic-based approach often highlight environmental understandings of certain Quranic verses and sayings and practices of Prophet Muhammad about the earth, water, and against wastefulness. Last year, at a meeting of the Muslim Congress for Sustainable Indonesia, the country’s vice president Ma’ruf Amin called on clerics and community leaders “to play an active role in conveying issues related to environmental damage” and asked for concrete action on climate change, including through donations to solar projects like those at Istiqlal Mosque.
Green Muslim Understandings
In the United States and Canada, environmental groups that began springing up in Muslim communities in the mid-2000s independently from one another formed “green Muslim understandings” from within their religious traditions. According to Imam Saffet Catovic, a U.S. Muslim community environmental activist, “in some cases, the mosques were receptive to it.” In others, mosque leaders “didn’t fully understand” the drive. Ramadan offers a “possibility for ecological training that’s unique to the Muslim community,” Catovic said. “Thirty days allow someone to change their habits.”
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The Istiqlal Mosque’s green initiatives show how the Muslim community is making strides towards environmental protection. Through solar panel installations, donations, and the promotion of green habits during Ramadan, mosques around the world are taking an active role in the fight against climate change. By drawing on Islamic teachings about the environment and encouraging individuals to adopt more sustainable practices, the Muslim community is demonstrating that a green future is possible.