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Intergrated Water Resources Management – An Islamic Perspective

Water resources have always played an important role in determining the location of great civilizations. This can be seen from the strategic placement of the City of Cairo, Egypt, along the Nile River. The location of Detroit city along the major lakes in North America is another case. A South African example is the city of Bloemfontein (translated it means fountain of flowers) that was chosen due to its proximity to the spring the city was named after. It can truly be said that water is the source of life, and without it we would not be able to survive. In line with the strategic placement of settlements is the economic principle of supply and demand. Water is important in the functioning of industries, irrigation for crops as well as for daily human consumption.


Water in Islam has always played a critical role, as its relationship to physical cleansing is of the utmost importance to muslims. A prime example of this is the ablution (wudhu), which is a necessary requirement for the compulsory prayers (Salah) undertaken by muslims on a daily basis. This minor cleansing differs to the prescribed major cleaning (ghusl) which is to be completed on a regular basis or after certain rituals have been completed. It should however be noted that in cases of emergency the traveller or those who are experiencing extreme drought with no access to water are able to complete the wudhu with clean dust. This is known as tayammum. Water is also a necessity after using the toilet in Islam.

Shariah (which is defined as Islamic Law) originally related to the path to access for pure drinking water. Thus it is interesting to note that in a modern sense Shariah has a double meaning related to legislation as well as legislation related to water, in the context of this work.


Water in The Quran


Water is mentioned in multiple locations in the Quran. Cumalatively this occurs at approximately 63 times throughout the translated text of the Quran, whilst river is mentioned 54 times and drinking water 39 times. Furthermore many of the situations where water is mentioned, approximately 50%, the focus is around rainfall. The verse and the variation thereof, which is present amongst the verses related to precipitation, is:


“Have you not seen how God sends water from the sky….(39:21)”.


One other major verse commonly used by authors to highlight the importance of water in Islam is :


“Have not those who disbelieve known that the heavens and the earth were of one piece, and then We parted them, and We made every living thing of water?Will they not then Believe? (21:30).


Another verse which relates to precipitation can be seen in Surah At-tariq (86:11). The translation of the verse is :


“By the heaven which giveth the returning rain”


The ending of the verse is with the Arabic word “Raj”, Insights into the verse, and more particularly the last word, from a linguistic perspective has been outlined in. These various perspectives related to rain are:

·   Arabs used to believe that the cloud took water from the seas and sent upon the land

·   The Arabs wished to be optimistic so they named the rain “Raj” so that it may return

·    Rain returns every year

·    The repetition of sounds in the verse could be linked to the repetitive nature of rain


The word “Ar-Raj” is derived from the “Ar-Ruj”, which means return and reflecting . In line with this, modern science has shown that the weather patterns are cyclical and occur during specefic seasons in certain locations with very distinct characteristics.


Water in the Prophetic example :


The rulings related to the use of water are not that many and advocate judicious use and fair distribution. Examples of these can be seen in the following:


“Do not waste water even if performing ablution on the bank of a fast-flowing (large) river“ (Ibn Majah, 2007 : 324)


“The Prophet used to perform ablution with one mudd of water [equal to 1 litre] andused to take a bath with one sa' up to five mudds [equal to 2-3 litres]” (Bukhari, 2009: 62)


 In these Prophetic examples it is clear that no water should go to waste. This relates well to the verse in Surat Al Araf (7:31), which mentions wastage:


“O Children of Adam! Look to your adornment at every place of worship, and eat and drink, but be not prodigal. Lo!He loveth not the prodigals.”


In this context it is seen that wastage, referred to as prodigal, is frowned upon in Islam. This principle should extend beyond water resource management into the daily life of a muslim. Thus it is clear that sustainable development and IWRM, though not implicitly stated, are an integral part of Islam.


Conclusions :


Water scarcity is a major global issue. IWRM, if effectively implemented could aid in alleviating this problem. In line with this Islam, as a way of life, highlights some of the strategies to alleviate issues around effective water resource management. These examples from the Quran and Prophetic examples, as well as those deduced from Islamic Law, are practical and effective.

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