The biggest mosque in London which was partially destroyed in a fire in 2015 is finally reopening this weekend. The Baitul Futuh Mosque is celebrating its rebuild after being partially destroyed by a blaze nearly eight years ago. The fire at the centre in Morden, south London, happened while management were preparing for a wedding set to take place that day. It happened just one day after 13,000 worshippers had packed into it for Eid. While the mosque itself and its community was unharmed, the administrative space was damaged in the fire. It took 70 firefighters and 10 fire engines to bring it under control, with offices, function halls and residences all destroyed.
After years of reconstruction, Baitul Futuh will be inaugurating its new complex at the National Peace Symposium of the Ahmadiyya Muslim community today. Speaking to Metro.co.uk, an imam of the Ahmadiyya Muslim community Farhad Ahmad opened up on the devastation of the fire, as well as how beneficial the new-look mosque building will be. Farhad, 31, explained the impact of the blaze on the community: ‘When the fire broke out, that was a massive shock for us. We were pretty devastated because it was so central to our community. ‘It was such a big Mosque, the worldwide head of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, who based in London at the time, used to deliver the Friday Sermons from the mosque and held a lot of events there – it was a quite a hub for the community.
‘A lot of people from London used to come there for Friday prayers on a weekly basis and it was just part and parcel of our lives really, but when we heard about [the fire] everyone rushed down to see if anyone needs any help or anything.’ While many local organisations who used the mosque, such as schools, offered to help fund the rebuild this was turned down. The new £20 million project was funded entirely by members of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community. Farhad said: ‘We don’t get any government funding, it’s all from the community.
‘We even had where some of the local schools saying they wanted to contribute to the rebuilding of the mosque and that was nice of them. ‘Obviously, we said to them we weren’t going to take any funds from schools to rebuild it and of course, the mosque will still be open for the local community to use. ‘In a way, it definitely brought people together and a lot of people sent very nice messages and good wishes were sent but also within the community that uses the mosque as well. ‘Everyone’s been trying to contribute as much as they can to for the restructure of the mosque. And I definitely say there’s a sense of gratitude to God Almighty, for the fact that we’ve been able to rebuild it and also the community and togetherness.’
Farhad revealed some of the special new features of the mosque, which incorporate sustainable technologies. ‘There are solar panels on top of the mosque, they’ve gone out of their way to try and make it more environmentally friendly, with less of a carbon footprint,’ he added. The complex also has efficient heating and cooling systems, and other energy and water-saving features which contribute towards its green footprint. The five-storey complex includes two large multipurpose halls, offices and guest rooms, which will be used by visitors as well as the local community.
The main message the young imam wanted to get across ahead of the landmark opening was Islam’s ‘message of peace’. He noted: ‘This mosque is opening with a peace symposium and that’s quite telling of what we want to achieve with the mosque, an environment of peace that we want to create around us. ‘The fact that it’s the UK’s biggest mosque, we want to lead by example in terms of showcasing the true peaceful message of Islam and that’s why the mosque is open to everybody.’ He’s keen for as many people as possible to come and visit the mosque and see the new complex too: ‘We want more schools and organisations to come and engage with the mosque. ‘Even local neighbours, we’re inviting them to come and see the mosque and attend some of our events and see what’s actually going on. ‘We’re not a closed mosque, we want to open up ourselves and I hope the reopening of the mosque will allow us to do that in a better way.’