Who wants to think about death, dying and cemeteries?
Well, as Muslims we are supposed to always remember the Akhirah (our life after this world), but most of us go about our daily business and try not to think about it. A group of us however did think about it and did not like what we found.
If we arranged the burial of our loved ones in council run cemeteries, we found ourselves having to book a time for the burial, which could be a few days away, contrary to Sunnah (Prophetic practice), which requires burial as soon as possible.
At privately run cemeteries we found that although we could lay to rest our loved ones as soon as possible the condition of these cemeteries was often poor not surprising as they were run for profit!
We then did some more research and found that a shortage of burial space was predicted for Greater London. Most people think that councils have a duty to provide burial space but this is wrong, they are not required to do this.
As most Christians are cremated and the Jewish community have their own cemeteries, Muslims were going to suffer
Out of this was borne a vision: for us to have a cemetery of our own, open to all Muslims (not just those living in a particular borough or those belonging to a particular community)
really all Muslims!
We also wanted it to be a cemetery that our community could justifiably be proud of, a place where we would want to take our loved ones to be buried and be assured that their graves would be respected and looked after in the correct Islamic way.
Our prayers were answered when in the month of Ramadan in 1998 we discovered that 21.5 acres of freehold land that could be used as a cemetery was available, about 10 minutes drive from Ilford town centre. Just imagine, 21.5 acres, about the size of 10 football pitches!
Having bought the land, we then went about the business of fund raising and appointing professional architects, engineers etc. to help us come up with the plans we needed to get detailed planning permission.
We encountered various problems along the way, not least resistance from the local residents who were concerned about the impact on their property values among other things, but also opposition from the British National Party (BNP). We overcame all these obstacles and were given planning permission in November 2000.
The process of getting tenders organised for what was such a large project then took just over a year and, with the help of Allah, work finally began on the site in January 2002.
The cemetery opened for burial in Ramadan 2002 and has enough space for over 10,000 graves - enough to meet the needs of the Muslim community in East London for generations. Already there have been over 160 burials.
It has a peaceful atmosphere with a gentle stream running through it, landscaped gardens, enough space for 76 cars in its car park, a small administration building for the 3 staff that work there and provision for making Wudu (ablution) and Salaah (prayer). A place that fully lives up to its name: Gardens of Peace.
Two awards for its design and peaceful atmosphere, one of these in an international competition, have been awarded to the cemetery. Truly a resting place that belongs to Muslims and for all Muslims to be proud of!
Gardens of Peace Muslim Cemetery is situated in Elmbridge Road, Hainault, Ilford, Essex IG6 3SW. Telephone numbers: 020 8502 6000/07729 707013. Email: email@example.com Please take the time to come and visit - the cemetery is open 7 days a week from 10am to 5pm.