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Water Scarcity:Muslims Must Act

Seventy percent of South African companies surveyed believe they are at direct risk from water scarcity, according to the 2011 Water Disclosure Report released on Monday. “Water scarcity is a significant risk for South African companies,” the National Business Initiative (NBI) said in a statement on the report it helped compile.

“Eighty-five percent of South African companies report some exposure to water-related risk in their direct operations, with 70 percent of respondents believing that risks to their direct operations could occur within the next five years.” Forty-six percent said the majority of their operations were located in areas where water scarcity was a risk. Twenty-six South African companies took part in the survey.

The survey found water issues were not receiving the same attention as climate change at board level. One-third of companies did not exercise board level oversight of water issues, compared to 90 percent of companies that dealt with climate change at board level. According to the survey few companies were setting concrete, quantitative targets relating to water.

“Climate change risks are typically viewed to be more long term. Due to the near-term nature of water risks, the number of stakeholders involved, the technological and capital requirements for solutions and this immediacy, companies must start to act now in support of a consistent and stable supply of water,” the report found.

South Africa could suffer from a water supply shortage by 2030. “[I]f no action is taken, South Africa is expected to experience a 17 percent gap between water demand and supply by 2030, equating to a water shortfall of 2.7 billion cubic metres.” The report found that some of the country’s most economically important catchment areas would be worst affected.

“South Africa will have to resolve tough trade-offs in water use between agriculture, key industrial activities such as mining and power generation, and the supply to rapidly growing urban centres. These trade-offs will be further complicated by an increasingly uneven and unpredictable supply of rainfall as a result of climate change, declining water quality, and reliance on significant water transfers from neighbouring countries coupled with an ailing and overburdened water infrastructure system.”

The NBI is a voluntary group of national and multi-national companies, which work together to find solutions to sustainable growth and development in South Africa. The Water Disclosure Report is part of the international Carbon Disclosure Project which conducts annual surveys to discover the extent to which companies are dealing with climate change problems.

The Carbon Disclosure Project, managed by the NBI, was introduced in South African five years ago. The project’s Water Disclosure Report was introduced internationally in 2010 with the backing of 354 investors representing US43 trillion (about R325.8 trillion) in assets. Fifty-six of the JSE’s top 100 companies in South Africa and leading companies in Australia were invited to participate. The two countries were selected because they are particularly water-stressed. SAPA

Water: Muslims must act

As South Africans last week marked National Water Week, the Muslim Judicial Council circulated the following unifed khutbah, written by Sheik Dr  Muhammad Ridwaan Gallant of the MJC’s Environmental Desk and member of the SAFCEI, discussing an Islamic approach to water conservation.

Allah speaks about the importance of water in the Quran. Allah (TA) says: “And we send down water from the sky (rain) in (due) measure, and We gave it lodging in the earth, and verily, We are able to take it away.” (Surah al-Mu’minun 23:18)

Allah mentions His innumerable blessings to His servants, whereby He sends down rain in due measure, meaning, according to what is needed, not so much that it damages the lands and buildings, and not so little to be insufficient for crops and fruits, but whatever is needed for irrigation, drinking and other purposes. All living species are dependant on water. Water is a life-sustaining and purifying resource. According to the Quran the origin of every living thing is in water.

“And We have made from water every living thing.” (Surah al-Anbiya 21:30) Allah sends the water as sustenance to his creation. Subsequently man and beast will benefit from the vegetation as stated in the Holy Quran: “It is He Who sends down water from the sky; and with it We produce vegetation of all kinds… ” (Qur’an, 6:99)

The precipitation is a blessing and provision for the servants of Allah, it is a relief and means of survival for His creatures and it is a mercy for His creation. Water fulfils many functions in our society. Water is the mainstay of human society – early civilisations were concentrated in river basins, such as the Nile, Ganges, Tigris and Euphrates river basins. Water is used by households, industry, agriculture and also forms the habitat for marine and freshwater plants and animals, an important food source for many societies. Water is thus the basis of life and plays an indispensable role in the sustenance of all life on this earth.

It is a matter of fact that life on earth will not be possible without the presence of water. Man only realizes the value of water when there is a shortage. The Quran describes how water resuscitates the earth. “And Allah sends down water from the skies, and gives therewith life to the earth after its death…” (Qur’an, 16:65)

Without the rain the earth is lifeless. When the rain comes the earth becomes alive. Plants start to grow, flowers begin to bloom, man and animals can quench their thirst and benefit from the plants. A whole life cycle starts to bloom. Man does not appreciate the preciousness and the benefits of water. If the water would have been salty, sour, bitter it would have been unfit for drinking purposes as well as for the growing of plants. The Dead Sea in the Middle East is a good example where no plant or animal life is possible due its high salt content.

Allah says in the Quran: “See you the water which you drink? Do you bring it down (in rain) from the cloud or do We? Were it Our Will, We could make it saltish. Then why do you not give thanks?” (Qur’an, 56:68,69,70).

In the life of a Muslim, water also has a socio-religious function in that it is used for ritual purification. Cleanliness of one’s person and one’s surroundings is stressed in Islam. Allah says in the Quran: “And it is He Who sends the winds as heralds of glad tidings, Going before His Mercy (rain); And We send down pure water from the sky.” (Surah al-Furqaan 25: 48)

Every living species on the earth must have a right to water. The supply and preservation of fresh water was always regarded as of fundamental importance since the time of the Prophet (SAW). This can be deduced from the following hadith: “All Muslims are partners in three things: water, herbage and fire and to sell it is prohibited.” (Ibn Maja :1990). The rulers must make provisions for people to have access to water.

In Islam it is not permissible to withhold excess water where there are others who have need of it. The Prophet (SAW) declared: “Excess water should not be withheld so that the growth of herbage may be hindered” (Muslim:1993 :Vol3A: 38 no. 1566). If water is withheld then it will hinder the growth of herbage which is important for the fodder of animals. Excess water should also not be withheld from usage by animals (An-Nawawi:1995:193-194). Unfortunately, despite the value of this great blessing, we seldom express our gratitude but rather take it for granted and overuse, pollute and waste this precious resource.

Extravagance in using water is forbidden; this applies to private use as well as public, and whether the water is scarce or abundant. The Prophet (SAW) emphasized the proper use of water without wasting it. When the Prophet (SAW) saw Sa’d performing wudu he said: “What is this? You are wasting water.” Sa’d replied: Can there be wastefulness while performing ablution? The Prophet (SAW) replied: “Yes even if you perform it in a flowing river.” (Ibn Maja : 1990 : Vol. 1: 147:no.425).

In addition to encouraging water conservation, the Prophet SAW) himself set the example; for instance it is narrated by Anas: The Prophet (SAW) used to take a bath with one Sa’a (one Sa’a equals five mudds equals 2.4 litre) of water and used to take ablution with one Mudd (2/3 litre) of water. (Bukhari:1986: Vol.1:135 no.201).

Imam Al-Ghazzali said that if one were to have a bath one should not keep pouring water continuously, but should restrict oneself to the amount needed. The Muslim scholars understood from this the importance of water conservation and they have discussed it in their writings. (Abu Bakr al-Jaza’iri, Minhaj Al-Muslim Dar Al-Shuruq: 1991, p. 267)


Wise use of our natural resources, keeping in mind the preservation of the common good, is thus a key principle of natural resource management in Islam. The basic principles that relate to natural resource management in Islam have been outlined in a book entitled, Environmental Protection in Islam. This book was produced for the World Conservation Union and set out the principles as follows:

•    The Creator is the real owner of everything in the universe – humans are only trustees who are answerable for our actions. Thus we are accountable for our use of all resources, including water;
•    There should be no damage or infliction of damage to any other being. We should not abuse the rights of any other being while securing our access to water, or any other resource;
•    Humans have a right to benefit from environmental resources, however if they inflict damage to that resource, then they are held liable to repair the damage as the rights of the whole society has been violated ;
•    The benefit of a thing is in return for the liability attached to it. A good example to provide here is the construction of dams which holds benefit in the supply of water, yet it also has liabilities attached to it. Thus, careful consideration of alternatives is required to reach a decision on a  particular action;
•    The ruling authority must secure the common good and eliminate injuries to society. There is an onus on the authority to manage water resources and to protect the interests of the society as whole;
•    All acts are evaluated in terms of their consequences as social goods or benefits and social detriments and evils. Thus, planners, administrators and designers must strive for achieving the common good of all created beings.

Another principle applied to the use of water resources is: “whatever fulfills and helps to achieve the basic necessities of our live is itself a necessity.” By misusing water, a vital resource, through pollution or misuse, we are in fact tampering with its function as the source of life, leading to disease, sickness or even death of life itself. These principles formed the basis of water law in most Muslim societies, which were largely located in dry areas.

The use of these principles, based on guidance from the Qur’an and the Sunnah, defined water rights in Islam. Water was generally regarded as common property, to be shared, allocated and managed for the collective benefit of all. This was put into practice by such great leaders as Sayyedinaa Uthmaan (RA) the third Khaliph, who established a precedent by purchasing a well and making it freely available for public use.

Water is most often regarded as public (rivers, springs and wells). However, where a private landowner invests labour into digging a well on his/her property, the rights to that water rests with the landowner. However, a number of conditions still govern this private use, for example in times of stress, water should be shared. There is thus strong disapproval of practices where water is controlled for individual benefit, thereby causing hardship and shortages for others. Water is thus regarded as a public concern and practices that result in pollution, wastage and misuse of water is not permitted.

The principles of the shari’ah no longer forms the basis for water laws in Muslim countries. Up to 1926, many countries under Ottoman rule applied the Turkish law (known as the Mejelle or Ottoman Civil Code) which incorporated shari’ah principles. In Turkey, these laws were replaced by new water laws based on the Swiss Civil Code, thus repealing all shari’ah-based laws. Many other countries followed suit.

In a semi-arid region such as the Middle East, where the majority of watercourses are shared with other countries, co-operation in water resources management is critical. It has been said that the next war in the Middle East will be fought over water, not politics. Water therefore plays a crucial role in Middle Eastern politics, particularly in the Tigris-Euphrates river basin which supplies water to Turkey, Syria and Iraq and the Jordan River, supplying water to Israel and a number of Arab countries.

The value and importance of shari’ah principles, which formed the basis of water rights in many Muslim societies, has much to contribute to creating a co-operative water management system. Similarly, it lays the foundation for the wise use of natural resources by the individual. In our lives, water fulfils a vital function. We need to transform our understanding of the lessons and teachings of the Qur’an and Sunnah into action.


Practical tips to incorporate wise use of water in our everyday lives:

– Use water sparingly;
– Check for leaks and dripping taps;
– Water gardens in the cool of the evening or early morning to reduce evaporation;
– Recycle washing water onto your garden;
– Turn off the tap while brushing your teeth;
– Have shallow baths or a quick shower;
– Install water-saving devices or simply place a brick in your cistern to reduce the amount of water (toilets flush away about 11 litres of water);
– If possible, plant indigenous plants which are adapted to the local environment as these require less water;
– Use water sparingly when performing wudhu (ablution) or ghusl (purification bath);
– Encourage mosques in your area to install water-saving taps or to investigate ways of recycling wudhu water e.g. for use in gardens;
– Report any signs of leakages or pollution to your local authority;
– And never dump waste in rivers, seas or wells.

We need to teach our children to use water sparingly. To think of the water that was wasted that could have been used by others. The rivers, streams and dams in our country cannot continue to supply us with water if we continue to have blasé attitudes about water and to think only of ourselves and not of the people dying of thirst across the world. VOC

Conserve Water


The sending down of water is a mercy unto mankind as attested by the following verses of the Quran: “We sent down pure water.” (25:48)

“We send forth the winds which fill the clouds with water and We make the rain descend from the sky. Then we grant it to you for drinking and you do not have control of its treasures.” (15:22)

Commenting on this verse, Allamah Shabbir Ahmad Uthmani Rahmatullahi alaih states: “The rainy winds bring heavy clouds filled with water. Then the rain descends from these clouds and fills the rivers, springs and wells for your benefit. If Allah willed, He would not have made it drinkable. However out of his compassion, He made very sweet and palatable water collect in the crevices of the earth for your drinking purposes throughout the 12 months. Furthermore you do not have any authority over the treasures of rain nor are the springs and wells in your control. When Allah wills, He sends down the rain. Neither can you prevent it nor can you bring it when you desire. If He dries up the water of the wells and springs or He makes it go deeper into the ground beyond the reach of man, then how can you have control over it?

Mufti Muhammad Shafee Rahmatullahi alaih writes: “This divine system of providing water has thousands of bounties within it. Firstly, it is a great favour (of Allah) to create this water. The second bounty is to make it reach all parts of the earth by means of the clouds. The third gratuity is to make it palatable. To provide man with the opportunity to drink it is the fourth favour. The fifth benignancy is to provide a complete and perfect system of storing this water (by means of rivers, springs, wells, etc.). Then to afford man the opportunity of satisfying himself with this water is the sixth act of divine benevolence because the water can be present but there can be some impediment or obstacle which prevents him from drinking it. The verse, “Then we grant it to you for drinking and you do not have control of its treasures,” is an indication to this divine benefaction. Glory be to Allah, the best of Creators. (Ma’ariful Quran Vol 5 Page 281)

“Do you see the water which you drink. Do you make it descend from the clouds or are We the Descenders? If We so desire, We can make it bitter. Then why are you not thankful?” (56:69,70)

Nabi,'(Sallallaahu ?layhi Wasallam), after drinking water used to say: “All praise be to Allah who provided us with sweet palatable water to drink and He did not make it bitter and salty due to our sins.” (Ibn Katheer)

If we are grateful for these favours of Allah, He will grant us more. We as Muslims should be setting an example to other communities on how to conserve water and not to be wasteful. “Indeed those who squander are the brothers of Shaytaan.”

Buraydah Radiallahu anhu narrates that Nabi Saliallahu alaihi wasallam said: “Whenever a nation refrained from paying their zakaat, Allah inflicted them with drought and poverty.” (Tabrani)

Hadhrat Muaaz Radiallahu anhu narrates that Rasulullah said: “Guard yourselves against sin because the wrath of Allah descends in the wake of sin.” (sunan Ahmad)

Rasulullah Sallallahu alaihi wasallam said: “Verily, man is deprived of sustenance because of the sins which he perpetrates.” (Sunan Ahmad)

Hadhrat Abdullah Ibn Umar Radiallahu Anhuma narrates that once ten of them were in the company of Rasuluilah Saliallahu alaihi wasallam when he said: “I seek the protection of Allah from five things which may overtake you. When immorality becomes rampant in a people, they will be overtaken by epidemics and such diseases which never existed before. When a nation is involved in giving less weight and measure, it will be overtaken by famine, hardship and oppression of the authorities. When a community stops paying Zakaat, rain is withheld from them. If it were not for the animals in their midst, never would rain have fallen for them. When people violate pledges and promises, Allah will overwhelm them with their enemies from other nations. Thus the enemy will take their wealth by force. (ibn majah).

“Whatever calamity afflicts you is due to your actions and Allah overlooks many sins.” When a catastrophe afflicts a nation, it does not only affect the individual sinners, but it engulfs the entire community, the pious as well as the impious. It is therefore imperative to reform ourselves, refrain from sins and execute the orders of Allah Ta’ala.

In this regard, hereunder follow some guidelines for the preservation of water.
  • A Muslim should be thrifty and cautious in the usage of water at all time; not only during a drought. Even if one’s at the bank of a river, it is not permissible to squander the water and use it as one likes. Only that amount must be used which suffices for one’s needs.
  • Whilst making wudu, one should not let the tap run continuously. The tap should not be opened full. Whilst making masah etc. one should close the tap.
  • Do not engage in conversation in’the ablution block whilst making wudu. Besides wasting water, talking of worldly things during wudu is incorrect and abominable.
  • When taking a ghusl, less water is used by utilising a bucket. If one has to use a shower, one should do so with moderation and not let excessive amounts of water be wasted.
  • Avoid extravagant use of water when washing the car or watering the garden. Sprinklers should not be left open for such a long period that the water begins to flow off the lawn or the flower patch.
  • Mend all leaking taps and pipes as this can lead to a substantial saving in water.

In short, conserve this precious bounty in whatever way you can.
May Allah Ta’ala forgive our shortcomings and shower us with abundant beneficial rain.

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