WATER is a basic and absolute element of life whose wise use is emphasised in Islamic teachings. It is also a moral obligation on one's part to conserve water because it is meant to perpetuate life on Earth.
Everything Allah has created is bonded in the philosophy of rendering service to humankind, and life forms are interlinked to maintain a balance; it requires knowledge to perceive the concomitant links. Water is not only indispensable for maintaining the integrity and sustainability of the Earth's ecosystems and their ecological functions but is equally important for fulfilling the needs of the contemporary world, especially in the face of increased consumption patterns.
Unsustainable use and pollution of waterways affect the quality and quantity of water which will have devastating effects on the survival of human beings and other creatures. From an Islamic standpoint, over-exploitation and misuse of water is termed as transgression against divine design. The protection of all natural resources from abuse is mandatory for believers. Over-utilisation has been discouraged by the Quran, which is reflected in Surah 7, verse 31. It is forbidden to pollute and over-exploit the available resources as referred to a hadith mentioned in Sunan Ibn-i-Maja, Sahih Bukhari, 239.
Islam reckons it is the right of all living beings, people and biotic entities, to utilise these resources. Hence, man should take every measure to ensure the interests and rights of all others because they share the world as a common abode. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said “Muslims are to share in these three things water, pasture, and fire.” It is related that the Prophet once passed by his companion Saad who was washing for prayer, and said “What is this wastage, Saad?” The companion asked, “Is there wastage even in washing for prayer?” and the Prophet responded, “Yes, even if you are by a flowing river!”
The Quran is replete with references and emphases on the importance of conserving water, without which the survival of living beings is not possible in this world. Allah has declared water as the basis and origin of life “We made from water every living thing....” (Surah 21, verse 30). In 509-11, water as celestial bliss is mentioned as benefiting gardens, grains, palm trees and reviving the land when it is dead, which requires the just use of this resource. To desecrate it with over-use can amount to defying Allah's revelations.
Water is a precious gift from Allah, as the Quran says, “Verily ... the rain that Allah sends down from heavens gives life to the earth after its death....” (2164). Similar references have been made in the 699, 225, 2548-49.
Given the indispensable role and status of water in the world it becomes mandatory for human beings to appreciate and express gratitude to Allah for this continued blessing. Surah 56, verses 68 and 70, say, “Have you seen the water which you drink? Was it you who sent it down from the rain cloud, or did We send it? Were it Our will, We could have made it bitter; why then do you not give thanks?” And then, “And He caused rain to descend on you from heavens to cleanse you....” (811). Thus, in Islam water is used for abolition and cleaning the body as the Quran also mentions Surah 5, verse 6. Diversified use of water has been mentioned in 1610-11.
Allah has also shown us other functions of water in the form of natural lakes, seas and oceans. They provide habitat to millions of species of flora and fauna which play vital roles in sustaining the complex ecological system. “It is He Who has made the sea of service, that you may eat thereof flesh that is fresh and tender, and that you may bring forth from it ornaments to wear, and you see the ships therein that plough the waves, which you may seek of His bounty.” (1614) Thus it is an obligation to conserve this vital resource to ensure the perpetuation of fundamental functions of life on earth. Water's misuse amounts to its desecration because it would upset a balanced ecological system which sustains life. This 'blessing' needs to be used with gratitude to Allah and with discretion.
The writer is a conservator with the provincial wildlife department, Peshawar.