In the Name of Allah, the Most Compassionate, the Dispenser of Grace
3rd Safar 1438
Imam A. Rashied Omar
Water in Crisis
وَجَعَلْنَا مِنَ الْمَاءِ كُلَّ شَيْءٍ
We made from water every living thing (Q21:30)
From the above Qur’anic verse from surah al-Anbiya (The Prophets), chapter 21, verse 30; we learn that Allah, the Most High, created water as the source and origin of all life. Plants, animals and humans depend on water for life and existence. Without water life on this planet would cease to exist or continue. We know from scientific research that 72% of the surface of the globe is covered with water, and that 80% of the human body consists of water.
South Africa is currently facing its worst drought in close to three decades. Water levels in one of our country’s biggest dams, the Vaal Dam, have dropped and it currently sits at 27% of its capacity. The Gauteng government has warned that if residents fail to adhere to water saving measures and the dam levels go below 25%, the entire water supply system might collapse, which might lead to water being unavailable in our taps.
To underscore the nationwide nature of our water crisis it is worrying to note that thousands of residents in the Northern Cape have been without water for three weeks, and during the past week, the City of Cape Town introduced level three water restrictions. Moreover, in order to coerce high-level consumers to reduce their water usage, the national government has substantially increased the price of water for excessive users during the past month.
The purpose of my khutbah today is to focus our attention on the critical water crisis that our country is currently experiencing and to conscientise us with regard to the dire need to conserve water as an essential part of our religious obligations.
It might be useful to begin by reminding ourselves that the conservation of water and more broadly environmental consciousness should be an integral part of what it means to be a conscientious Muslim. An environmentally conscious Muslim is someone one who lives in reverence and harmony with nature and uses water and all other natural resources sparingly. In this regard the companion Abu Sa’id al-Khudri, narrated in the hadith collection of Jam’i al-Tirmidhi, that the Prophet Muhammad (may Allah’s everlasting peace and blessings be upon him) advises us as follows:
ان الدنيا خَضِرَةٌ حِلوة ٌ
و ان الله مُستخلِفُكم فيها
فناظرٌ كيف تعملون
The world is green and delightful
and God has made you a custodian over it (the world)
and is observing carefully how you deal with it
The Critical Need for Water Conservation
As I have already alluded to in my introduction South Africa is facing one of its worst water crises in close to three decades. This crisis is not surprising since our country is by nature regarded as a water stressed country. We receive an average of 450mm of rainfall annually in comparison with the international average of 860mm per annum. As a result, every year our dam levels drop by 2m and over 40% of our clean, drinkable water is lost through inefficient means such as dripping taps and leaking pipes.
Even more disconcerting and alarming is that according to the Institute of Security Studies, South Africans use 235 litres of water per day compared to the international average of 173 litres. Furthermore, the UN states that people should be able to get by on 50L of water per day. In fact, in other parts of Africa people use less than 20L per day, which is the amount of water we use when we have a one and a half minute shower. It clearly demonstrates how wasteful South Africans are.
The situation for Muslims is even more challenging. Water is an integral part of a Muslims life. We make wudu 5 times or more a day, and when we make wudu, most of the time it’s under a full flowing tap using an average of 3 litres of water. At the end of the day this adds up to an astounding amount of water. Instead of being wasteful, every time we utilise water for wudu we need to keep in mind how precious and scarce this natural resource is and that we should use it sparingly.
Many contemporary Muslim scholars have argued on the basis of sound Islamic evidences that, rituals of worship such as salah, zakat, fasting and hajj needs to be rendered eco-friendly. Such an endeavor would capture not only the spirit behind these acts of worship but also their correct execution. In this regard I would like to cite an instructive quote from the life of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). It is related by the companion, `Abdullah ibn `Umar, in the hadith collection of Ibn Majah, that the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) passed by his companion Sa’ad, who was performing his wudu (ablutions), and said the following:
عن عبد الله بن عمر
أن رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم مر بسعد وهو يتوضأ
فقال ما هذا السرف فقال أفي الوضوء إسراف قال نعم وإن كنت على نهر جار
“What is this wastage, O Sa’ ad?”
“Is there wastage even in (such a sacred act as) washing for prayer?” asked Sa’ad; and he (the Prophet) said, “Yes, even if you are by a flowing river!
The message is crystal clear: Do not waste water, even if you perform your prayer ablutions.
Water Conservation is part of being a Conscientious Muslim
In conclusion, we should all work harder on saving water and not be wasteful in our consumption of this precious resource. I would like to urge all of us to reduce our consumption of water when taking prayer ablutions (wudu’). It would be useful to remind ourselves every time we make wudu that the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) used a third of a litre to make his wudu – that is less than a can of coke. Let us all resolve to restore the balance (mizan) in our lifestyles and re-commit ourselves to live in reverence and harmony with our environment. And most of all let us take active steps to conserve water.