Conservation of Water in Islam

November 1, 2004

Do not the Unbelievers see that the heavens and the earth were joined together (as one unit of creation), before we clove them asunder? We made from water every living thing. Will they not then believe? (Qu'rán, Al-Anbia' 21:30).

Thus begins "Water Conservation as a Religious Duty".

The Yemen Observer is carrying an intriguing article on the need to conserve water in that desert country. As with so many things in Arabic culture, there are abundant appeals to Islamic religion in this call, pointing out that in the traditions Muhammad (peace be upon Him) bade His followers to not be overly indulgent even in their ablutions.

There are several interesting things going on here. On the one hand, I find this to be the most striking Islamic support for an environmental position that I have seen, and I applaud it. I wish more religious individuals would use the clear mandate in their sacred texts to encourage more sustainable behavior.

Another thing I find interesting is the authorship: the Ministry of Environment. Could the Secretary of the Interior get a (non-religious) equivalent printed in the paper in the United States? Perhaps as an op-ed; however, this is actually listed as the lead article in the Environment section of the paper. (I'm rather impressed that they have such a section). There's just no way an American paper would do such a thing. I'm not judging the Yemeni paper, just pointing out the difference.

Finally, the religious tone of this missive again goes to show the difference between an average Arabic government and western governments.

Oh, one more thing: it is probably significant that this article is coming out during Ramadan, a time of the highest emphasis on religious duty, a time that I imagine is filled with even more prayer than usual, and perhaps even more ablutions.

Please pardon my haste. I need to finish determining for whom I am voting in the local elections in the morning, but I want to get this post out immediately anyway.