May 19, 2014

Environmental Issues Series: Water Conservation - Importance and Islamic Perspective - Part 1

by Tara Alomari

Why should Muslims care Part 1 | Why should Muslims care Part 2 | Water Conservation Part 2 | Animal Rights Part 1 | Animal Rights Part 2


Frequently in the Qur’an, water is used as a symbol of purity and goodness (for example, the analogy of hearts like rocks from which water bursts forth (2:74)), and in fact, it is the most pure substance on earth. It is also clear from multiple verses that it is Allah who is in complete control of the water cycle, as He is the one who makes the clouds condense and the right conditions come together in just the right way for rain to form in them and water to come down in one place and not in another . This fact is frequently mentioned so that we may see life on earth as a great blessing from Allah.

Allah says that He made every living thing from water (21:30). Scientists have found life in the most extreme conditions, from inside rocks and frozen ice to highly acidic and radiation saturated environments. However, never have they found something that can live completely water-free. Even biological soil crusts and the bacteria on the dry (ice free) plains of Antarctica still need water occasionally, and have water as part of their molecular structure; they have just learned to survive very long periods without it.

Keeping in mind that all life on earth depends on water, we must be both thankful for what we have and mindful of our actions. After all, as khalifas of the creation, we have been given a measure of control over our environment which is unlike any other creature on earth.

Reality of water scarcity

Unfortunately, we have not used this power very carefully. According to the WHO, “Water scarcity occurs even in areas where there is plenty of rainfall or freshwater. How water is conserved, used and distributed in communities, and the quality of the water available can determine if there is enough to meet the demands of households, farms, industry and the environment.”[i] While nearly 70% of the Earth is covered in water, only 2.5% of it is fresh (not salty), and 54% of that fresh water is used for human consumption. It is estimated that 783 million people in the world do not have access to clean water. As a result, 6-8 million people, mostly children, die every year as a result of being forced to drink unclean water. Furthermore, it is the Middle East and central Asia, which comprise most of the Muslim world, that have the highest cases of water scarcity in the world.

While you might think that this scarcity is due to the fact that the Middle East is a natural desert, this is actually not necessarily the case. Though indeed, many areas, such as large swaths of the Arabian peninsula are naturally occurring desert, much of the rest of water scarcity throughout the Muslim world is a result of poor water management. Did you know that Nairobi, Kenya receives more annual rainfall than London, as do many parts of Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Palestine? Land desertification, whereby semi-dry but life-sustaining lands become barren and lifeless wastes, is a process that is accelerating in many parts of the world- about 25% of the earth’s land is currently desertified. This process is part of a cycle of rural poverty that is caused by over-exhaustion of the animal, plant, and water resources in an area, and creates more rural poverty and displacement, leading to more over-exhaustion of resources in nearby areas. 

Stay tuned for the final part of this topic where we'll look at water conservation and activism as sunnah inshaAllah.

I'd love to hear your views on this topic. Please post in the comments section below!




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