Published On:13 June 2012
Posted by Indian Muslim Observer

Water in Islam

By Franscesca De Chatel

As a universal religion born initially in the harsh deserts of Arabia to complete the message of former prophets and convey the divine revelation in its last testament (Qur’an), Islam ascribes the most sacred qualities to water as a life-giving, sustaining, and purifying resource. It is the origin of all life on earth, the substance from which God created man (Al-Furqan 25:54). The Qur’an emphasizes its centrality:(We made from water every living thing) (Al-Anbiyaa’ 21:30). Water is the primary element that existed even before the heavens and the earth did:(And it is He who created the heavens and the earth in six days, and his Throne was upon the waters) (Hud 11:7).

The water of rain, rivers, and fountains runs through the pages of the Qur’an to symbolize God’s benevolence:(He sends down saving rain for them when they have lost all hope and spreads abroad His mercy) (Al-Furqan 25:48). At the same time, the believers are constantly reminded that it is Allah Who gives sweet water to the people, and that He can just as easily withhold it:(Consider the water which you drink. Was it you that brought it down from the rain cloud or We? If We had pleased, We could make it bitter) (Al-Waqi`ah 56:68-70). In this verse the believers are warned that they are only the guardians of Allah’s creation on earth; they must not take His law into their own hands.

Saving Water

“Cleanliness is half of faith,” the Prophet tells his Companions in one of the hadiths. These well-known and oft-repeated words reveal not only the central importance of purity and cleanliness, but also the essential role water plays in Islam. Purification through ablution is an obligatory component of the Islamic Prayer ritual; Prayers carried out in an impure state are not valid. This means Muslims are obliged to carry out ritual ablution before each of the five daily Prayers. In addition, a more thorough ritual is required on specific occasions.

The Prophet Muhammad urged moderation and thriftiness in the use of water during ablution. He warned that each step of wudu’ (ablution) should not be performed more than three times before each Prayer; the Prophet himself washed each part only two or three times without ever going beyond three, even if water supplies were abundant. Commentators add, “The men of science disapprove of exaggeration and also of exceeding the number of ablutions of the Prophet.”

Islam also offers advice for times of scarcity, using the Prophet’s actions as a guideline. One day when the Prophet Muhammad was traveling through the desert with his Companions, his wife `A’ishah lost her necklace. They spent time searching for it and when Prayer time came, the company was nowhere near a water source. It was then that Allah revealed the ritual of tayammum (dry ablution) to the Prophet:(O you who believe, … if you are sick or on a journey … and if you can find no water, then have recourse to clean dust and wipe your faces and your hands with it)(An-Nisaa’ 4:43). Clean earth can thus be used as a substitute for water in exceptional circumstances. Indeed, the Prophet acknowledged the pure nature of earth when he said, “The earth has been created for me as a mosque and as a means of purification.”

Water and Islamic Law

The harsh desert climate of Arabia, the Near East, and Saharan North Africa makes water a highly valuable and precious resource. Islamic Law, the Shari`ah, goes into great detail on the subject of water to ensure the fair and equitable distribution of water within the community.

The word Shari`ah itself is closely related to water. It is included in early Arab dictionaries and originally meant “the place from which one descends to water.” Before the advent of Islam in Arabia, the shari`ah was, in fact, a series of rules about water use: the shir`at al-maa’ were the permits that gave right to drinking water. The term later was technically developed to include the body of laws and rules given by Allah.

Water is a gift from God. It is one of the three things that every human is entitled to: grass (pasture for cattle), water, and fire. Water should be freely available to all, and any Muslim who withholds unneeded water sins against Allah: “No one can refuse surplus water without sinning against Allah and against man.” The hadiths say that among the three people Allah will ignore on the Day of Resurrection there will be “the man who, having water in excess of his needs refuses it to a traveler.”

There are two fundamental precepts that guide the rights to water in the Shari`ah: shafa, the right of thirst, establishes the universal right for humans to quench their thirst and that of their animals; shirb, the right of irrigation, gives all users the right to water their crops. 

Water in Images of Islamic Paradise

The Qur’anic metaphors in which water is used to symbolize Paradise, righteousness, and Allah’s mercy are quite frequent. From the numerous Qur’anic references to cooling rivers, fresh rain, and fountains of flavored drinking water in Paradise, we can deduce that water is the essence of the gardens of Paradise. It flows beneath and through them, bringing coolness and greenery, and quenching thirst. The believers will be rewarded for their piety by(rivers of unstagnant water; and rivers of milk unchanging in taste, and rivers of wine, delicious to the drinkers, and rivers of honey purified) (Muhammad 47:16). The water in Paradise is never stagnant; it flows, rushes, unlike the festering waters of Hell. The Qur’an also equates the waters of Paradise with moral uprightness:(In the garden is no idle talk; there is a gushing fountain) (Al-Ghashiyah 88:11-12).

The many specific statements about the topography of Paradise in the Qur’an led to many attempts to map Paradise. Throughout history, Muslim rulers from Moorish Spain to Persia sought to reproduce the image of Paradise in the design of their palace gardens, creating elaborate water features, pools, and fountains. The gardens of the Alhambra in Spanish Granada, the Bagh-é-Tarikhi in Iran’s Kashan, and the gardens of the imperial palaces in Morocco’s Marrakesh all testify to this desire to emulate Qur’anic Paradise on earth. All are designed around water features and fountains that have been subtly woven into the layout of the beautiful parks, hence combining water and the beauty of natural landscape to fill the human soul with faith, joy, and happiness.

(Courtesy: OnIslam.net)

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Posted by Indian Muslim Observer on June 13, 2012. Filed under , , , , . You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Feel free to leave a response

By Indian Muslim Observer on June 13, 2012. Filed under , , , , . Follow any responses to the RSS 2.0. Leave a response

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