B i s m i l l a a h i r R a h m a a n i r R a h e e m
Islam and the Environment
Preserve Water, Preserve Life
How Much is Too Much?
By Shehnaz Toorawa
"Get out of the shower!" your little shouts as he bangs on the washroom door. "You've been in there for twenty minutes!"
The 20 minutes you spend in the shower, use up 400 litres of water. The Prophet sall Allaahu`alayhi wa sallam performed the ghusl, a complete bath, with one Sa' of waterthat's just 1.6 litres. Aboo Jaa'far radhiallaahu`
"While I and my father were with Jabeer bin 'Abdullah, some people asked him about taking a bath. He replied, 'A Sa' of water is sufficient for you.' A man said, 'A Sa' is not sufficient for me.' Jabeer said, 'A Sa was sufficient for one who had more hair than you and was better than you [meaning the Prophet sall Allaahu`alayhi wa sallam]."" (Bukhaari).
The Current Picture
You may ask, "How is that possible? Taking a shower in six cups of water? The times sure have changed." You're right. The times have changedthe problem of water scarcity is worse today than during time of the Prophet sall Allaahu`alayhi wa sallam. The question of possibilities uncovers our passive acceptance of the luxurious North American lifestyle. While the average Canadian uses 335 litres of water per day, the average sub-Saharan African uses 10-20 litres per day. It may seem impossible for us in North American, but in today's world, the level of conservation practiced by the Prophet sall Allaahu`alayhi wa sallam is necessary. These statistics may explain why:
Less than one half of one percent of all water on Earth is fresh water for human use. The rest is sea water or frozen in polar ice caps.
The problem is not the amount of water. The amount of water on Earth remains constantit doesn't increase or decreaseand there is enough to meet everyone's needs. The problem is unequal access and use.
Different regions of the world naturally hold different amounts of fresh water.
What we call man's power over nature turns out to be a power exercised by some men over other men with nature as its instrument. (C.S. Lewis)
Water is increasingly privatized by large transnational corporations who own it and sell it like a commodity. Hungry for profit, these corporations drive the price of water out of reach of poor people and deliver it to those wealthy individuals and industries that can pay for it. Only the wealthy who can install plumbing systems receive subsidized municipal water, leaving the poorest in developing countries to pay the highest price for water. In
Industries, also hungry for profit, require vast amounts of water. It takes 400,000 litres of water to manufacture one car. Industries purchase access to a region's water at subsidized rates from the government. Most of the world's freshwater is naturally stored under the ground. Industries pump this groundwater faster than it can replenish itself, causing the land to collapse and permanently destroying its ability to store water. In the Arabian Peninsula, groundwater use is three times greater than recharge and at current rates of extraction,
The politics of power and money also determine which countries can secure water. Since most rivers and groundwater aquifers cross national boundaries, future conflicts in the world will likely involve water. In the early 1970s,
Where Do We Fit In?
The problem of water scarcity is not confined to the developing world. Its roots are connected to us and the way we live in North American. North Americans are the worst hoarders of water. While millions go without water, North Americans use 1,280 cubic meters of water per person every year; Europeans use 694; Asians use 535; South Americans use 311 and Africans use 186.
While North Americans can boast large water supplies
The extravagances of our North American lifestylelawn sprinklers, frequent car washes, sprawling golf courses, abundant swimming pools, dripping taps, and toilets that consume 18 litres of water per flushfool us into believing we're safe. They help us ignore the world's water crisis or accept it with a shrug. The principle of "We have so it let's use it now and think about the future later" prevails in most North American minds.
How Do We Respond?
We live in the world's most technically sophisticated society, yet we are now right back where we were three thousand years ago, praying for rain. (Garrett Ward)
Every person on the planet has a right to adequate water. The Prophet sall Allaahu`alayhi wa sallam said:
"People are co-owners in three things: water, fire and pasture" (Aboo Dawood)
Iyas Ibn Abd narrated that the Prophet sall Allaahu`alayhi wa sallam forbade the sale of excess water (Aboo Dawood)
Ideally, basic water needed for survival should be free, equally available to everyone and legally protected from waste and contamination. Current global practices and policies are obviously unjust.
For Muslims, natural resources are a trust from Allaah and we are accountable for their care and use. The Prophet sall Allaahu`alayhi wa sallam said:
"The world is green and beautiful and God has appointed you as His stewards over it. He sees how you acquit yourselves..
We are also responsible for halting injustices we see around us, as the Qur`aan outlines:
"Let there arise out of you a band of people inviting to all that is good, enjoining what is right, and forbidding what is wrong: They are the ones to attain felicity." (3:104)
Yet, as individuals we have little control over international water politics and policies. How then should we respond to the global water crisis? Here are ways to begin:
Don't lose hopeAlthough the situation looks bleak, don't let it depress you. The Qur`aan tells us that:
"Allaah is the Creator of all things and He is guardian over all things." (39:62)
You and I are only responsible for making an effort. Allaah takes care of the results. He knows what's best for us and He is the Most Just, whether that justice comes in this life or in the next.
Be gratefulAllaah granted North Americans an abundant supply of fresh, clean water without any effort from us. Allaah Subhaanahu wa Ta`aala asks us in the Qur`aan:
"Have you considered the water which you drink? Is it you that send it down from the clouds, or are We the senders? If We pleased, We would have made it salty; why do you not then give thanks?" (56:68-70)
"Say: Have ye thought: If (all) your water were to disappear into the earth, who then could bring you gushing water?" (67:30)
Water is not simply "there" and it doesn't "fall by itself". As we read in numerous verses of the Qur`aan, Allaah "sends down water from the sky". Allaah Subhaanahu wa Ta`aala is the only One that can continue our supply of water and if He wishes, He can remove it any time.
Get involved Raise awareness among your friends and family. Participate in efforts, such as letter-writing campaigns, to lobby the government over its international decisions. Join conservation groups in your area that protect local water sources. Many organizations look for volunteers to clean-up river-banks, monitor water quality, or educate school groups.
Change your habitsAlthough we can't always control the actions of governments, we can control our own use of water. Allaah Subhaanahu wa Ta`aala rewards us for every step we take towards change. Resist the habit to overuse and waste water. The Qur`aan tells us:
. Do not squander (your wealth) wastefully. Surely the squanderers are the fellows of the Devils." (17:26)
"Eat and drink, but waste not by excess, for Allaah loves not the wasters." (7:31)
Just because we have abundant water, doesn't mean we should use it. The Prophet sall Allaahu`alayhi wa sallam made this clear when he said,
"Excess in the use of water is forbidden, even if you have the resources of a whole river" (Tirmidhi)
Begin to fulfill your trust and responsibility towards Allaah by conserving the water you use at home.
It is He [Allaah] who has placed you as viceroys of the Earth and has exalted some of you in rank above others, that He may try you by that which He has given you. Surely your Lord is quick in prosecution, and He is most surely the Forgiving, the Merciful. (6:165)
Abdel Haleem, M.A.S. (1998). Water in the Qur`aan. In H. Abdel Haleem (Ed.), Islam and the Environment (pp. 103-117).
 Barlow, Maude. (2002). Blue Gold.
 Environment Canada Freshwater Website: http://www.ec.
Postel, Sandra. Facing Water Scarcity. In L.R. Brown et al. (Ed.), State of the World 1993
(pp. 22-41). World Watch Institute.
 Ward, Diane R. (2002). Water Wars.