Judicious use of water

The adherence to our ethical teachings concerning the usage of water can be helpful
A man collects water from a community tap amid scarcity of water in Srinagar. [Image for representational purpose only]
A man collects water from a community tap amid scarcity of water in Srinagar. [Image for representational purpose only]File: Aman Farooq/ GK

Last year a 5 years old village girl from Rajasthan left this world with thirsty lips, when she was on her way from the grandma’s paternal home. She couldn’t get water to quench her thirst.

That tragic incident is an eye-opener for those who are not using this precious gift sensibly. Let us take example of our Kashmir which is bestowed with abundant water resources.

But unfortunately, our reckless attitude and bad habits lead to shortage of drinkable water even in the valley. It becomes a common affaire now that the people from both urban as well as rural areas are complaining about the shortage of drinking water.

People are using drinkable water for other purposes like for kitchen-gardens, for front lawns, leaving others to suffer. Encroachment of water bodies, throwing filth into them also deepened this problem.

If we take the global view of the shortage of drinking water, it is disappointing. It is estimated that over 1.1 billion people today lack access to clean drinking water – roughly one-sixth of the world’s population.

Half the children born in the developing world live in households without access to improved water and sanitation, which puts their survival and development at grave risk.

As a result of poor hygiene and lack of access to water and sanitation, 1.5 million children under five die every year because of diarrhea diseases alone. Countries across the world, regardless of wealth, are facing growing concerns over the amount of safe drinking water available.

Therefore, there is a need to use this gift judiciously. In this connection, the adherence to our ethical teachings concerning the usage of water can be helpful to save and sustain this precious gifted.

In Islam, water is regarded as a blessing from Allah that sustains all life in this world. The word “water” appears sixty‐three times in the holy book of the Quran which is reflecting the importance of water in our daily life. It has also set down the foundations of water conservation and demand management by making it known to humankind.

Almighty Allah instructed mankind not to be wasteful, in the following verse “O, Children of Adam! Eat and drink but waste not by excess”. In another verse He warned mankind “And, We sent down from the sky water (rain) in due measure, and we gave it lodging in the earth, and verily, we can take it away.

Prophet Mohammed (peace be upon him) exemplifies the “logical approach to sustainable water use” through how he performed the ritual ablution.

The principle of water conservation is beautifully illustrated by the rule which says that while making ablutions (Wudu) we should be abstemious in the use of water even if we have a river at our disposal. “Do not waste even if performing ablution on the bank of a fast-flowing large river”.

The Prophet himself would perform ablution with just one jug of water and take bath with one saa’ of water (equivalent to just few liters in modern volume measurements). The Holy Qur’an has set down the foundations of water conservation and demand management by making it known to humankind.

As per Islamic law (Shariah), there is a responsibility placed on upstream farms to be considerate of downstream users. A farm beside a stream is forbidden to monopolise its water.

After withholding a reasonable amount of water for his crops, the farmer must release the rest to those downstream. Furthermore, if the water is insufficient for all of the farms along the stream, the needs of the older farms are to be satisfied before the newer farm is permitted to irrigate. This reflects the emphasis placed by Islam on the sustainable utilisation of water.

Conclusion: In Islam, water is considered as a gift belonging to all equally, which has to be managed and distributed with equity among all living beings, humans, animals, and plant life. This is envisaged in the law as the right on water, named safa. We are of water, and we live on it. Hence, this precious and scarce natural resource must be managed with respect and the highest degree of responsibility, both individually and collectively.

Haroon Rashid Bhat is a teacher and columnist

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author.

The facts, analysis, assumptions and perspective appearing in the article do not reflect the views of GK.

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