By: E–Da`wah Committee
As water has become a matter of concern for the modern world and its international organizations, such as the UN- officially designating a yearly World Water Day observed on 22 March, Islam was the first to place such importance on the matter.
Being the most important element of nature, and therefore the very basis for all life on Earth, water in Islam in terms of importance and necessity is as old and deep-rooted as the religion itself. Islam is a comprehensive way of life based on the guidance of Allah. That’s why it came for the good of humanity – for man’s well-being and welfare in this life and in the hereafter, calling for every good and prohibiting every evil.
As a comprehensive way of life, Islam cares for environment and calls for protecting all its elements that keeps life’s balance. The following are some aspects of Islam’s concern for water as a critical element in protecting life.
1-The Importance and Necessity of Water
There are tens of verses that talk about the importance and necessity of water as life-giving and how important it is to protect and reserve this source of life on earth:
Have not those who disbelieve known that the heavens and the earth were of one piece, then We parted them, and we made every living thing of water? Will they not then believe? (Al-Anbiyaa’ 21:30)
Allah has created every animal of water. Of them is (a kind) that goes upon its belly and (a kind) that goes upon two legs and (a kind) that goes upon four. Allah creates what He will. (An-Nur 24:45)
It is He Who has created man from water: then He has established relationships of lineage and marriage. (Al-Furqan 25:54)
In another place in the Qur’an, God speaks of such importance differently:
And we send down from the sky water in measure, and We give it lodging in the earth, and lo! We are Able to withdraw it. (Al-Mu’minun 23:18)
Being sent “in measure” means, as God indicates, that water is a highly valuable and precious resource.So if it is not used efficiently, it is therefore in Allah’s power to “withdraw it”. About the blessings arising from water, God says:
Then We produce for you therewith gardens of date-palms and grapes, wherein is much fruit for you and whereof ye eat.(Al-Mu’minun 23:19)
2- Islam Forbids Wastage and Water Misuse
Islam is a moderate religion standing firmly against abuse and overuse of anything:
And waste not by excess, for Allah loves not the wasters. (Al-A`raf 7:31)
And squander not in the manner of a spendthrift. Verily spendthrifts are brothers of the evil ones; and the evil one is to his Lord (himself) ungrateful.(Al-Israa’ 17:26-27)
Also, there are many hadiths that forbid the abuse of water as Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) urged moderation and thriftiness in the use of water during ablution.
Upon seeing a man making ablution and using too much water, the Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “What is this waste?” The man said: “Is there waste in ablution also, O Messenger of Allah?” The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “Yes, even if you were near a flowing river.” (IbnMajah)
The Prophet (peace be upon him) manifested these words with action.
“Narrated `Aishah (may Allah be pleased with her) that Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) used only onemudd(equals a handful of an average-sized man) of water for ablution and one sa’ (equivalent to 4 mudds) of water for his bath.” (Agreed upon)
3-Islam Prohibits Monopoly
Due to the essential role water plays in life, Islam prohibits monopoly or exclusive control of some people over water resources. Being a gift from God needed by people all, water should be freely available to all, and any Muslim who withholds and deprives others of it commits a sin.
Inciting believers to share the earth’s resources, the Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “All individuals share alike in three things: water, pasture and fire.” (Abu Dawud, Ahmad and Ibn Majah)
Abu Hurayrah reported that the Prophet said: “Don’t withhold excess water so as to prevent therewith the (growth of) additional herbage.” (Al-Bukhari and Muslim)
4-Giving Water in Charity
Supplying water to those who don’t have easy access to it is an appreciated good deed in Islam. As we see in the following Hadith, a drink of water is considered a charity by the Prophet.
Reported Ibn `Abbas, the Prophet (peace be upon him) said:
“Every kindly word is a charity; help rendered by a man to his brother is charity; a drink of water given to someone is charity; and the removal of harmful objects from the road is charity.” (Al-Bukhari, Ibn Hibban, and Al-Albani)
Thus, the simple deed of giving water to others is a way for a Muslim to get closer to God.
In another hadith the Prophet said: “Receiving your friend with a smile is sadaqah (charity), helping people load their animals is charity, and pouring some water in your neighbor’s bucket is also charity.” (At-Tirmidhi)
Not only for humans, even a drink of water given to an animal,a dog, is a charity in Islam:
The Prophet (peace be upon him) said:
“While a man was walking he felt thirsty and went down a well and drank water from it. On coming out of it, he saw a dog panting and eating mud because of excessive thirst. The man said, ‘This (dog) is suffering from the same problem as that of mine.’ So he (went down the well), filled his shoe with water, caught hold of it with his teeth and climbed up and watered the dog. Allah thanked him for his (good) deed and forgave him.” The people asked, “O Allah’s Messenger! Is there a reward for us in serving (the) animals?” He replied, “Yes, there is a reward for serving any animate being.” (Al-Bukhari)
Abu Hurayrah reported Allah’s Messenger as saying:
“There was a dog moving around a well, which thirst would have killed. Suddenly a prostitute from Bani Isra’il happened to see it and she drew water in her shoe and made it drink, and she was pardoned because of this.” (Muslim)
5- Digging Wells
There are repeated encouragements by the Prophet for his followers to do what is good and helpful to others.
The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “Whosoever digs a well will receive reward for that from Allah on the Day of Judgment when anyone among jinn, men and birds drinks from it.” (Al- Bukhari and Muslim)
It is thanks to the Prophet’s exhortations that`Uthmanibn `Affan (may Allah be pleased with him) purchased the well of Rumah and endowed its water for public use:
“Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) said: “The one who would dig the well of Rumah will enter Paradise.” So, `Uthman dug it. (Al-Bukhari)
It is also considered a great act of “sadaqah-jariyah” (continuous charity) to dig a well; to bring this critical source of life to those who have water supply problems, and don’t have easy access to it, like South Africa.
6- Combating Water Pollution
As it is the Muslim’s duty to protect and conserve Allah’s creation, preserving water and safeguarding its purity is no exception, particularly with the critical role in preserving life on earth in mind.
We must use water wisely and we have to save this resource and keep it clean and pure as much as possible. The Prophet for example warned against water pollution by forbidding urination in stagnant water.
Reported Abu Hurayrah that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said:
“Avoid the three actions that bring people’s curses: defecating in water sources, on roads, and in the shade.” (Ibn Majah)
The Prophet even taught us not to leave food or drink exposed overnight, in order to be protected from pollution or harmful creatures:
“Cover the vessels and tie the water skin, for there is a night in a year when pestilence descends, and it does not pass an uncovered vessel or an untied water skin without some of that pestilence descending into it” (Muslim)
The Importance of Water in Hinduism
Water in Hinduism has a special place. According to Hindu faith it has spiritually cleansing powers. There are seven sacred rivers, namely the Ganges, Yamuna, Godavari, Sarasvati, Narmada, Sindhu and Kaveri.(1)
Hindu holy places are usually located on the banks of rivers, coasts, seashores and mountains. Sites of convergence, between two or three rivers are sacred in Hinduism and carry special significance. Kumbha-mela is a pilgrimage of Hindu devotees and is held every three years at four different places in turn – Hardwar, Nasik, Prayaga and Ujjain.(2)
The Ganges River in Hinduism
Ganges River is the most important of the sacred rivers. Its waters are used in puja (worship) and a sip of this water is given to the dying person due its blessings. It is believed that those who bathe in the Ganges and those who leave some part of themselves (hair, bone etc) on the left bank will attain Svarga (the paradise). The river is said to flow from the toe of Vishnu to be spread into the world through the hair of Shiva.(3)
It is noted in the above-mentioned quote that Hindus believe that leaving hair and bone after death on the north bank of the river leads to paradise. This belief leads to leave the remains of dead bodies of Hindus after burning them. Undoubtedly, every Hindu individual hopes that some parts of his dead body should be left on the left bank of the river to seek paradise. Can you imagine how many people dies every day in all parts of India, taking into account that India occupies the second place in population that reached about one billion, two hundred fifty three million, eight hundred twenty thousands (1,253,820,000).(4) and there are about 3.14 million deaths a year and most of them are cremated. Also the most cremations are still done the way they have been done for centuries.(5)
It goes without saying that the above mentioned belief played a big role in the pollution of the Ganges River.
This conclusion can be verified by a lot of photos and videos of human dead bodies thrown here and there on the banks of Ganges River.
Furthermore, Hindus believe that “The river flows from the toe of Vishnu to be spread into the world through the hair of Shiva.” This belief contradicts the evident reality as the beginning and end of every river are known; there is neither toe nor hair.
Some Hindu Rituals and Water Pollution
In addition, the funeral grounds are always located near a river. After the cremation the bones and ashes of the deceased are thrown into the Ganges. Even those who are not cremated near the Ganges have their ashes placed there. In the old days thousands of un-cremated bodies were thrown into the Ganges during cholera epidemics, spreading the disease and producing more corpses.(6)
Today only bones and ashes are supposed to be scattered in the river. Even so the cremation process, especially among those who can not afford the large amount of wood needed to burn the entire body, leaves behind a lot of half burned body parts.
It is noticeable that some Hindu religious traditions led to the contamination of a lot of clean rivers in India, particularly the Ganges and Yamuna, including many other famous rivers in India, because of burning the dead bodies of Hindus and throwing the dust and remains in these rivers.
Immersion of Hindu Idols in the Ponds and Rivers
As well as throwing the statues of the gods and idols such as Ganesh and Sarswati and others in the rivers and ponds leads to the water pollution across India that happens every year in all parts of India.
I think the teachings of Islam have no place for such religious traditions that lead to water pollution in rivers, ponds and seas. Undoubtedly, the Islamic concept of monotheism and abolishing the worship of idols are a guarantee to reduce such harmful phenomena.
In addition to that, the burial of dead on Islamic way is better and more distant from polluting the environment. This shows that Islam is a religion that coincides with human nature and instincts. As well as everyone can find that Islamic rituals meet the requirements of the nature and environment and Islam presents an integrated vision to preserve the environment, especially rivers, ponds and seas. Thus, it is clear that human being would be more happy and safe if they follow the path of Islam as a way of life.
(1) http://hindi.speakingtree.in (Last accessed on 20-3-2015).
(2) http://www.africanwater.org/religion.htm (Last accessed on 20-3-2015).
(4) http://ar.wikipedia.org/wiki/ملحق:قائمة_الدول_والتبعيات_حسب_عدد_السكان/الدول_العشر_الأولى (Last accessed on 20-3-2015).
(5) http://factsanddetails.com/asian/cat64/sub413/item2627.html (Last accessed on 20-3-2015).