For Muslims Water Is More Than a Life Necessity
We live in an increasingly thirsty world. Droughts are prevalent, water is contaminated, and populations are increasing. But Islam — a religion originating in a desert country where water sources have always been scarce — manages not only to promotes water rights, but to quench the thirst of Muslims in dry regions like Saudi Arabia.
What Does the Quran Say About Water?
The Quran teaches that water is the basis of all life, and humans are granted stewardship over the earth to manage and protect it in accordance with God’s principles and intentions.
“Have those who disbelieved not considered that the heavens and the earth were a joined entity, and We separated them and made from water every living thing? Then will they not believe?” (Quran 21:30)
“And it is He (God) who has made you viceregents (khala’ifa) upon the earth and has raised some of you above others in degrees (of rank) that He may try you through what He has given you. Indeed, your Lord is swift in penalty; but indeed, He is Forgiving and Merciful.” (Quran 6:165)
Vicegerent (khalifa) means ‘deputy.’ God has entrusted Earth to mankind for its preservation, to use for our benefit and the benefit of other created beings. We are entrusted with its care, to use as a trustee, within God’s limits. We are only managers of resources and beneficiaries. Heaven and earth, and everything within, belong only to God. We must adopt stringent water resource management practices, to conserve water supplies, prevent water pollution, and avoid wasteful water consumption.
Saudi Arabia’s Water Management
The desert Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has no natural year-round rivers or lakes, and very little rainfall. Water is precious, and the country continually strives to manage increasing water demands.
Beginning in the 1970’s, with water needs increasing, the government located and mapped underground reservoirs of water in their country. As a result, it was able to drill tens of thousands of deep wells into these vast aquifers, providing a major source of fresh water for both urban and agricultural use.
The reward accruing from seven things continue to reach someone even after his death: knowledge he taught, water he provided for public benefit, any well he dug, any tree he planted, a mosque he built, recitations of the Quran bequeathed to him, and children who pray for him after his death. (From Hadith)
Another major source of water for Saudi Arabia is the sea. This is done through desalination, producing potable water from brackish seawater. Saudi Arabia is the world’s largest producer of desalinated water.
“It is He Who has made the sea of service…” (Quran 16:14)
The Saline Water Conversion Corporation (SWCC) operates 27 desalination stations, producing more than three million cubic meters a day of potable water. These plants provide more than 70% of water currently used in cities, as well as much of the needs of industry, and are a major source of electric power generation.
Additionally, dams are used to capture surface water after flash floods. More than 200 dams in Saudi Arabia collect an estimated 16 billion cubic feet of runoff annually in reservoirs.
“It is Allah who sends the winds, and they stir the clouds and spread them in the sky however He wills, and He makes them fragments so you see the rain emerge from within them. And when He causes it to fall upon whom He wills of His servants, immediately they rejoice.” (Quran 30:48)
“And We send down pure water from the sky, thereby to bring to life a dead land and slake the thirst of that which We have created – cattle and men in multitudes.” (Quran 25:48-49)
The larger dams are located in Wadis Jizan, Fatima, Bisha, and Najran. Primarily for agricultural use, water is distributed through thousands of miles of irrigation canals and ditches to fertile lands that were previously desert.
“Life On Earth Is Only as Sustainable as Our Natural Resources”
Islam strives to improve all aspects of life for man’s natural and spiritual benefit, as well as for all future generations, for the universal good of all created beings. This is clear in the Prophet Muhammad’s recorded statement (God’s Peace be upon him), regarding reclaiming desert land:
“Whoever reclaims and cultivates dry, barren land will be rewarded by God for the act. So long as men and animals benefit from it, He will record it for him as charity.”
Life on earth is only as sustainable as our natural resources. Our appreciation and enjoyment of them lead us to contemplate and appreciate the mercy and generosity of our Creator. To this end, recycled water is used in Saudi Arabia for irrigating beautiful urban natural parks for wildlife preservation and human recreation. The Kingdom aims to recycle as much as 40% of water used for domestic purposes in urban areas, and Recycling Water Plants operate in Riyadh, Jeddah, and other major urban industrial centers.
Islam teaches that natural resource use is a right and privilege for all living creatures. We have no right to harm, exploit, or waste our natural resources, but must hold in trust the usage rights of future generations. All nations would do well to follow the practical resource management strategies of Saudi Arabia. We must ensure our descendants’ future right to enjoy and appreciate all of Earth’s natural resources, to behold their beauty and contemplate thereby the mercy and generosity of our Creator.
But waste not by excess; for God loves not the wasters. (Quran, 6:141)
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