Members of the Mosque Foundation in Bridgeview not only have seen the light, they will rely on it from now on when they pray inside their house of worship.

On Thursday, the Bridgeview mosque earned a distinction as the nation’s first mosque to go solar when leaders installed solar panels on the roof to help heat the building’s water.

The solar thermal system will tie into the existing water heater, powered by natural gas, to provide hot water for people as they wash their hands, face and feet before prayer.

When faithful Muslims wash before worship, it is more than a sanitary practice. It is a sacred ritual. Praying five times a day is one of the five pillars of Islam, and Muslims believe these prayers are not accepted unless wudhu or ablution is performed beforehand.

“Islam teaches us to conserve and protect God’s wonderful creation,” said Imam Jamal Said of the Mosque Foundation. “This solar hot water system helps us do just that. … The Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, was quick to teach his companions: ‘Never waste water even if you have river flowing to your door.’ We will be mindful of his teaching as we wash for prayers with this water warmed by the sun.”

Connecting environmental stewardship with a sacred ritual awakens people of faith, said Sara Spoonheim, deputy director of Faith in Place, the Illinois chapter of Interfaith Power and Light. That national non-profit says it has helped hundreds of congregations install energy-saving devices, purchase wind energy and explore geothermal heating systems.

In Chicago, the group has helped synagogues go green and bakes organic communion bread for churches. In San Francisco, it has helped Buddhist temples go solar too. (MORE)


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