The Importance of Water to Human Beings

The Importance of Water to Human Beings
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 Author: Dr. Raaghib As-Sirjaani

Water is one of the most important environmental elements for all living creatures on earth. The great emphasis that Islam lays on proper utilization of water starts with edifying man on the extreme importance of this vital element, and how Allah, The Exalted, created all living beings from it, and that none but Him is Able to make it accessible and drinkable for the creation. Then, the Fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence), deriving its principles and rules from the Quran and the Sunnah, made a distinction between the various categories of water and prescribed their relevant rulings. It classified water into different categories and states in terms of ritual purity, drawing clear boundaries between the permissible use of water and the prohibited waste and pollution. Based upon this, the Islamic teachings enjoined the proper utilization and development of water resources.

Man tends to forget many of the blessings he has when he gets used to them, taking them for granted. Although these blessings have been subjected to his service since the creation of the universe, he hardly recognizes the grace of Allah, The Exalted, except when he is deprived of these blessings or when they are rebellious (by the Will of Allah). When there is flooding, we recall how the water used to be graceful and harmless, and when we are thirsty, we remember its sweetness and flow.

Allah, The Exalted, reminded those who disbelieved in Him with His blessings, to bring to their minds a verity to which they have been oblivious. He asked them who could provide them with flowing water were water to sink in the underground earth. Allah, The Exalted, Says (what means): {Say, “Have you considered: if your water was to become sunken [into the earth], then who could bring you flowing water?”} [Quran 67:30]

When we contemplate this creation of Allah (water) and reflect on its nature, it arouses a sense of awe and wonder. This transparent liquid that has no color, taste, or smell, is one of the most fundamental necessities of human life, without which life would come to an end. Although it has no color, taste, or smell, souls crave it, long to it and wish for it to quench their thirst, unlike any other beverage that has an attractive color, a delicious taste and a delectable smell. Water is the element that mankind is still discovering new uses for in the fields of medicine, engineering, and chemistry, although they have been using it since their first day on earth, so much so that an independent discipline was developed for the study of water, known as Hydrology.

What the Quran Says about Water

What the Quran says about water is the most informative thing said about it in terms of its importance and necessity. Allah, The Exalted, stated that all creatures have been created from water; He Says (what means): {… and He made from water every living thing} [Quran 21:30]. He also Says (what means): {Allah has created every [living] creature from water...} [Quran 24:45] Some commentators of the Quran said: “His Saying: {every living thing} means animals only, whereas others said that it also refers to plants and trees, because they need water to sprout, grow green and moist and yield their fruits. This opinion is more appropriate to the intended meaning.”

Some scholars said: “It is a reference to the known water, because animals are either created directly or indirectly from it, since sperm is made from the food that a creature consumes, and all foods grow from water. This is clear in grains, fruits and the like, and the same is also true for meat, milk, fish, and the like, because they are ultimately produced because of water. Some scholars said: “The meaning of creating all animals from water is a reference to their vital need for water and inability to survive without it, as if they were created from it.”

Cell science proved that water is the key structural component of the cell, which is the basic building block of all living organisms, whether plants or animals. Moreover, biochemistry proved that water is necessary for all reactions and transformations that take place inside the bodies of living things. So, water is either a reaction medium, a catalyst, a reactant, or a product in biochemical reactions.

Scientifically, water represents about 50% to 95% of the body weight of a living organism. This means that water makes up at least 50% of the weight of a living organism, and it makes up 65% of the body weight of human beings. This is why Allah, The Exalted, spoke about His grace and power manifested in the creation and uses of water and how it is vital to all living things. Allah, The Exalted, Says (what means): {And it is He who sends down rain from the sky, and We produce thereby the growth of all things. We produce from it greenery from which We produce grains arranged in layers. And from the palm trees - of its emerging fruit are clusters hanging low. And [We produce] gardens of grapevines and olives and pomegranates, similar yet varied.} [Quran 6:99] Life of the earth and life of all the creatures living on it originated from water, and without water the earth would die as well as all the creatures living on it, and this is a sign for every sane person to reflect on. Allah, The Exalted, Says (what means): {Indeed, in the creation of the heavens and earth, and the alternation of the night and the day, and the [great] ships which sail through the sea with that which benefits people, and what Allah has sent down from the heavens of rain, giving life thereby to the earth after its lifelessness and dispersing therein every [kind of] moving creature, and [His] directing of the winds and the clouds controlled between the heaven and the earth are signs for a people who use reason.} [Quran 2:164] He also Says (what means): {And Allah has sent down rain from the sky and given life thereby to the earth after its lifelessness. Indeed in that is a sign for a people who listen.} [Quran 16:65]

Using the same water for irrigation, diverse kinds of fruits grow in abundance, and this fact is frequently underlined in the Quran in many ways. Allah, The Exalted, Says (what means):

·        {It is He who sends down rain from the sky; from it is drink and from it is foliage in which you pasture [animals]. * He causes to grow for you thereby the crops, olives, palm trees, grapevines, and from all the fruits. Indeed in that is a sign for a people who give thought.} [Quran 16:10-11]

·        {And within the land are neighboring plots and gardens of grapevines and crops and palm trees, [growing] several from a root or otherwise, watered with one water; but We make some of them exceed others in [quality of] fruit. Indeed in that are signs for a people who reason.} [Quran 13:4]

·        {[It is He] who has made for you the earth as a bed [spread out] and inserted therein for you roadways and sent down from the sky rain and produced thereby categories of various plants. * Eat [therefrom] and pasture your livestock. Indeed, in that are signs for those of intelligence.} [Quran 20:53-54]

This is why Allah, The Exalted, strongly condemns the one who forgets these clear obvious facts, being oblivious to Allah or associating partners with Him in worship. He Says (what means): {Is He [not best] who created the heavens and the earth and sent down for you rain from the sky, causing to grow thereby gardens of joyful beauty which you could not [otherwise] have grown the trees thereof? Is there a deity with Allah? [No], but they are a people who ascribe equals [to Him].} [Quran 27:60]


The Ritual Purity of Water Is a Divinely Bestowed Blessing:

Allah, The Exalted, reminded His slaves of another blessing that He conferred upon them, namely, the ritual purity of water. This makes water a cleanser and remover of dirt, pollutants, ritual impurities and filth, thus making human life wholesome. Allah, The Exalted, Says (what means): {and We send down from the sky pure water.} [Quran 25:48] He also Says about the People of Badr (what means): {…and He sent down upon you from the sky rain by which to purify you.} [Quran 8:11]

Abu Hurayrah, may Allah be pleased with him, narrated: “The Prophet  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allah exalt his mention ) used to pause for a short while between the Takbeer (at the start of prayer) and the recitation of the Quran. I said (to him), ‘May my father and my mother be sacrificed for you, O Messenger of Allah! What do you say in the pause between Takbeer and recitation?’ He said: ‘I say, ‘Allaahumma baa‘id baynee wa bayna khataayaaya kama baa‘adta bayna al-mashriqi wal-maghrib, Allahumma naqqini min khataayaaya kama yunaqqa ath-thawbu al-abyadhu min ad-danasi. Allahumma ighsilnee min khataayaaya bil-maa’i wath-thalji wal-barad (O Allah, distance me from my sins as You have distanced the east from the west. O Allah, cleanse me of my sins as a white garment is cleansed from dirt. O Allah, wash off my sins with water, snow and hail).’

He  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allah exalt his mention ) used to recite a similar supplication for the deceased person saying: “Allaahumma ighfir lahu warhamhu wa-‘aafihi wa‘fu ‘anhu, wa-akrim nuzulahu, wa wassi‘ mudkhalahu, waghsilhu bil-maa’i wath-thalji wal-barad, wa naqqihi min al-khataaya kama yunaqqa ath-thawbu al-abyadhu min ad-danasi. (O Allah! Forgive him and have mercy on him. Grant him safety and pardon. Make his resting place a noble one and facilitate his entry. Wash him with water, snow and hail. Purify him from sins as a white garment is cleansed of dirt.” [Muslim]

Ibn Hajar  may  Allah  have  mercy  upon  him said: “The wisdom behind mentioning snow and hail rather than hot water, although the latter is usually more effective in the removal of dirt, is that snow and hail are ritually pure (forms of water) that were not touched by people’s hands nor used, and therefore their mention was more appropriate in this context.” The fact that the purifying nature of hail is greater than that of rain is because it is frozen, and therefore is less affected by the air pollution during its precipitation.

The word Al-Maa’ (water) appears 63 times in the Quran, and several descriptions of pure water, mirroring its significance in the sustainment of life decreed by Allah, The Exalted, are found therein. It is described as ritually pure, blessed, abundant, sweet, and pouring.

A human being can survive without food for up to one month but cannot survive without water for more than a week at the maximum.

Water is a basic right of every Muslim and therefore the Sharee‘ah prescribed that water resources are common property of all Muslims, and deems prohibited private ownership of water resources in a way that involves harming or denying those in need access to it. The Messenger of Allah  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allah exalt his mention ) said: “Muslims are partners in three things: water, herbage and firewood.”

According to the preponderant opinion of jurists, what is prohibited is to try to monopolize a public water source or a well and prevent people access to it. As for a privately owned well in a privately owned property, there is nothing wrong with that. The same goes for herbage, which refers to the grass in pastures where cattle and livestock graze, and firewood. Given the great importance of this vital element, stern warnings were reported against denying people access to it, especially when people need it. It was narrated on the authority of Abu Hurayrah, may Allah be pleased with him, that the Messenger of Allah  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allah exalt his mention ) said: “Three persons whom Allah will neither talk to nor look at nor purify (from their sins), and they will have a painful punishment: A man who had extra water on a way and he withheld it from the wayfarer; a man who gives a pledge of allegiance to a Muslim ruler and gives it only for worldly gains. If the ruler gives him what he wants, he remains loyal to him, otherwise he does not abide by his pledge; and a man who bargains with another man after the ‘Asr prayer and (falsely) swears by Allah that he has been offered so much for the item and the former (believes him and) buys it.” The version cited in Saheeh Muslim mentions a man who withholds water in the desert. Another version cited in Saheeh Al-Bukhari reads: “So Allah will Say on the Day of Resurrection, ‘Today I withhold My Blessings from you as you withheld the surplus of that which your hands did not create.’”

An-Nawawi  may  Allah  have  mercy  upon  him said: “His saying, ‘Allah will not talk to them,’ means that He will not talk to them in the manner He shall talk to the righteous people, showing His pleasure with them. Rather, His speech with them shall be one of discontent and wrath. It was also said that it means that He will turn away from them. The majority of Quran commentators said: ‘He shall not speak to them with what benefits them or makes them happy. It was also said: He shall not send the angels to greet them. His saying, ‘nor look at (them),’ means that He will turn away from them. The reference to ‘looking’ with respect to Allah, The Exalted, means the bestowal of His mercy and kindness on them. His saying, ‘nor purify them,’ means that He shall not cleanse them from the filth of their sins.”

Al-Munaawi  may  Allah  have  mercy  upon  him said: “His saying, ‘extra water,’ means that this man has surplus water beyond his needs, yet he denies access to it to a traveler who desperately needs water for himself or for his animal.

This is how Islam valued the importance of water for human life, and this is the Islamic perspective on water and its importance, precipitable in prescribing principles, teachings and legislations for its utilization and development.

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