The Mudd of Prophet Mohammad

Last February, I was blessed with doing a Umrah trip to Saudi Arabia with a group from my hometown Sacramento, California. Umrah is the non-mandatory visit that Muslims do to Mecca to perform certain rituals and, unlike Hajj, can be performed any time during the year.

Although visiting Medina, the city where Prophet Mohammad (peace be upon him or pbuh) lived his last ten years and is buried, is not a ritual of Umrah, most Muslims performing Umrah visit Medina before or after Mecca due to the relative proximity. Medina is about 210 miles (bird’s flight) north of Mecca.

Map of Saudi Arabia showing location of Mecca and Medina

One of the most interesting places we visited in Medina was a museum called Dar El Medina Museum which houses miniature scenes of the history of Medina especially during the life of Prophet Mohammad (pbuh). The miniatures scenes were breathtaking! Our group which was planning to spend a couple of hours in the museum ended up spending a little over a half day but it was definitely worth it.

Dar Al Madina Museum

On the way out from the Museum, I glanced a beautiful copper or bronze cup with Arabic writing on it. When I approached and read the writing, it turned that this is a Mudd and the writing are the chain of measurements against other Mudds going back all the way to the Mudd that Prophet Mohammad used to use or have one his companion ( Zayd bin Thabet) use. I was intrigued and the following is the summary of all the readings I did since I came back from the trip.

The Mudd on the way out from Dar El Medina Museum

So what is a Mudd?

A Mudd is both a container and a unit of measurement that was used during the days of Prophet Mohammad (pbuh). It can refer to both a volumetric and a weight measurement although the former is the most common. It is the smallest unit of measurement. For example, one Saa’ (another larger unit of measurement) is 4 mudds. To better visualize it, a Saa’ is similar to the size of a large salad bowl while the Mudd is close to the size of a small salad bowl.

What was the Mudd used for?

Being a unit of measurement, financial rulings of Islam have been originally developed or relayed using the Mudd and the Saa’.  The Mudd and Saa’ were also used during the times of Prophet Mohammad (pbuh) in marketplaces to conduct business transactions. In addition, they were used whenever there a need to relay quantities in narrating the life of Prophet Mohammad (pbuh). One very interesting example is the when one companion describes the water habits of Prophet Mohammad (pbuh) by saying: “The Prophet (pbuh) used to take a bath with one Saa` and up to five Mudds of water and used to perform Wudu with one Mudd of water” [1] . Wudu is the mandatory pre-prayer ablution that Muslims has to do.

How much is one Mudd?

A Mudd was originally defined as what a medium built man can hold in both his palms. Lots of research have been done and numerous papers have been published to try to calculate how much one Mudd in modern units is. This article will not go into the details of all the calculation methods but savvy readers interested in more depth can refer to a nice paper in English that appeared in 2008 in the Encyclopaedia of the history of science, technology, and medicine in non-Western cultures [2] and to a nice Arabic article written by Abdaallah Al Ghoufaili [3].

The most scientific method that was identified is what the Saudi Organization of Standards (SASO) did of measuring how much each of a 40 men group could hold in his palms and taking the average volume. Based on this experiment, one Mudd was found to be 628 milliliters or 21.2 US Fl Oz or 1/6th of a gallons.

The chain of measurement

As previously mentioned, each actual current Mudd container  usually comes with a chain of measurements going all the way to the companion Zayd bin Thabet who was the personal scribe of  Prophet Mohamad (pbuh) and who played a great role later in assembling the Quran. It is worth mentioning that this chain of measurement contains some unknown persons which made a lot of scholar discredit it.

Experiment in a local Sacramento Mosque

As mentioned earlier, Prophet Mohamad (pbuh) used to do Wudu with one Mudd of water (or as we now know 1/6th of a gallon). On one Friday, during the weekly prayer that all Muslims are supposed to attend, an experiment was performed in a local Mosque in Sacramento, CA to estimate how much local contemporary Muslims use to make Wudu.  Getting accurate results was not easy given two facts:

  • Not all Muslims who come to the Mosque perform Wudu. Some perform Wudu in their house.
  • Some Muslims use the WCs in addition to making Wudu.

In order to perform the experiment, the following was done:

  • Read the water meter of the Mosque before and after Friday prayer
  • Have volunteers stationed at the Wudu area to count how many persons performed Wudu
  • Have volunteers stationed at the WC area entrance (separate area) to count how many persons used the toilets.

Calculations were performed afterwards and the results are the following:

  • On that Friday, 175 persons making Wudu used 350 Gallons of Water. This is 2 Gallons per person.
  • If each person used the amount of water the prophet (pbuh) used (1/6th of a gallon), these 350 gallons would have sufficed 2,200 to make Wudu.

Obviously, Muslims and mosques have a long way to go to improve their personal habits in making Wudu in order to save the precious resource of water. Figure 3 shows how much water Prophet Mohamad (pbuh) used to use (in dark red) versus how much a contemporary Muslim uses (blue).

Water use comparison between Prophet Mohamad (pbuh) and contemporary Muslims

Some efforts have already been started to tackle this problem. A company from Malaysia has already invented a water-saving automated Wudu machine that uses 0.3 Gallons per person. This is almost double of what Prophet Mohamad (pbuh) used to use but still a remarkable savings from the 2 gallons measured in a Sacramento Mosque. The company is planning some more high-tech version of the machine in the near future. Figure 4 shows the current and the future machine.

Current water saving Wudu machine

Future water saving Wudu machine

References

[1] Narrated in Bukhari, Book of Wudu, Hadith 200

[2] Encyclopaedia of the history of science, technology, and medicine in nonWestern cultures. Berlin: Springer, 2008, S. 2255-2267 https://freidok.uni-freiburg.de/dnb/download/8386 (Retrieved October 2017)

[3] https://saaid.net/bahoth/80.htm (Retrieved October 2017)

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About the Author

A nature enthusiast and an avid history lover, Abdel K. Darwich is also a licensed professional mechanical engineer in the State of California. He is a leading innovator in the field of designing highly sustainable buildings with focus on energy efficient mechanical systems. His projects including one net zero energy building has won multiple awards over the last few years. Abdel has published one book and more than a dozen technical papers on sustainable buildings. He advocates for sustainability and healthy living in and out of work as he enjoys early-morning bike rides to the local farmers’ markets.