Guest Opinion

Islam makes it clear that there is a moral duty when it comes to protecting water

It is interesting to note that the word 'water' is referenced 63 times in the Muslim holy book the Quran in relation to its uses, water as a blessing, and its importance. The Quran clearly says that human beings are to act as vicegerents of God, "And when your Lord said to the angels: Behold, 'I will create a vicegerent on earth.'" (2:30). One of the interpretations of this verse is that we are to safeguard our environment for our own sake. Everything in the world is made for us and given to us as a trust. Thus, careful use of water and other natural resources is more a 'religious' duty than social responsibility. We can't imagine life without water. The importance of water is highlighted in one of several verses as follows: "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. (23:18)" Furthermore, in 21:30, God says that 'We made from water every living thing".

In addition to the routine use of water in our daily lives, believers are asked to wash hands, face and feet before offering five daily prayers if they are not clean. And the prophet Muhammad made washing hands before each meal a religious command by asking followers, "Food is blessed when one washes his hands before and after it." (Tirmidhi) Other creatures are also in need of water to live and flourish, as mentioned in 50:9-11, "We sent down water from the sky, blessed water whereby We caused to grow gardens, grains for harvest, tall palm-trees with their spathes, piled one above the other – sustenance for (Our) servants. Therewith We gave (new) life to a dead land ..."

It is a general advice to human beings not to be wasteful in any aspect of life in the following verse: "O Children of Adam! Eat and drink but waste not by excess, for God loves not the wasters" (7:31)

Although the believers may have to make ablution five times a day, still we are asked to cleanup ourselves with least amount of water. Muhammed exemplified the careful use of water by saying to his followers: "Do not waste water even if you are performing ablution on the bank of a fast flowing large river" (Tirmidhi). He is reported to have himself showed his followers how he could wash up for prayer in just two-thirds of a liter water, and took a bath in three liters of water.

Muslims were told that water is a community resource and all human have a right over it, "Believers have common share in three things: grass [pasture], water, and fire [fuel]" (Musnad). He advised his followers to care for others' need: "One of the people God ignores (is not happy with) on the day of Judgement is the person who hoarded water excessively to the detriment of others."

And this command is not limited to human beings alone. The Prophet declared: "Excess water should not be withheld so that the growth of herbage may be hindered" (Sahih Muslim).

Water is described as a gift to humanity, animals, and plants that benefit from it as chapter 'the Ant, 27', verse 60 says: "Who has created the heavens and the earth, and Who sends you down water from the sky? With it We cause to grow well-planted orchards full of beauty of delight..."

Lastly, the Prophet, according to some recorded reports, prohibited people from defecating or urinating in the proximity of water sources to avoid contamination and keeping water useable by others.

Irfan Sheikh, a resident of Tucson, has been an interfaith acctivist for 30 years. He's working on his MA in diplomacy with a focus on interfaith dialog from Euclid University. World Water Day was March 22.

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