Water occupies a pivotal role in Islam, and is recognized by Muslims as a blessing that “gives and sustains life, and purifies humankind and the earth”. The Arabic word for water, ma’a, is referenced exactly 63 times throughout the Holy Qur’an and is a recurring topic in many of the sayings of the Prophet Mohammed (peace be upon him).
Water is not only praised for its life providing and sustaining properties, but it is essential in the daily life of a Muslim. A follower is required to complete ablution prior to the performance of the prayer, five times a day. This ritual cleansing before the prayer signifies the attainment of cleanliness and purification of the body and soul. According to a Hadith narrated by Hazrat Abu Huraira, no prayer is accepted without ablution (Sahih al Bukhari, Vol. 1, Book 4).
The Holy Quran and the Hadith teach its followers principles of social justice and equity which extends into the practice of preserving earth’s natural resources, particularly water conservation. According to Islam, water is community resource and is a right for all humankind. Prophet Muhammad (SAW) highlights this in the following hadith:
“Muslims have common share in three things: grass [pasture], water, and fire [fuel]” ( Musnad Vol. 2, Book 22 ).
The Holy Qur’an has set down the foundations of water conservation and demand management by making it known to humankind that earth’s water resources are finite in verse 23:18 of Surah Al Mu’minun (The Believers):
“And We sent down from the sky water (rain) in (due) measure, and We gave it lodging in the earth, and verily, We are Able to take it away.”
Furthermore, God has instructed humankind not to be wasteful in the following verse: “O Children of Adam! Eat and drink but waste not by excess, for God loveth not the wasters” ( Surah al Araaf, The Heights 7:31 ).
Prophet Mohammed (peace be upon him) exemplifies the “logical approach to sustainable water use” through the manner in which he performed the ritual ablution. The principle of water conservation is beautifully illustrated by the rule which says that while making ablutions (wudu) we should be abstemious in the use of water even if we have a river at our disposal. : “Do not waste even if performing ablution on the bank of a fast flowing large river” (Al Thirmidhi). The Prophet himself would perform ablution with just one mudd of water (equivalent to 2/3 of a liter), and take bath with one saa’ of water (equivalent to around 3 liters in modern volume measurements).
As per Islamic law (shariah), there is a responsibility placed on upstream farms to be considerate of downstream users. A farm beside a stream is forbidden to monopolize its water. After withholding a reasonable amount of water for his crops, the farmer must release the rest to those downstream. Furthermore, if the water is insufficient for all of the farms along the stream, the needs of the older farms are to be satisfied before the newer farm is permitted to irrigate. This reflects the emphasis placed by Islam on sustainable utilization of water.
- Naser I. Faruqui, Asit K. Biswas, and Murad J. Bino. (2001) Water Management in Islam, UN University Press
- Abumoghli, I. (2015), Islamic Principles on Sustainable Development, EcoMENA <available on https://www.ecomena.org/islam-sustainable-development/>
- Zafar, S. (2016) Environment in Islamic Teachings, Cleantech Solutions <available on http://www.cleantechloops.com/islam-environment/>