Water is considered to be the basis of all life, and it’s labeled as the universal solvent. For this reason, it is used for a variety of purposes, including; cleaning oneself, drinking, cooking food, etc.
In Islam, water is the key element used to perform Taharat with. The Qur’an refers to this purifying property of water in the following verse:
“And sent down water from the sky upon you, that thereby He might purify you.” (8:11)
This is in connection with the battle of ‘Badr, when rain descended from the sky to reassure Muslims of Allah’s protection. Al-sadlaan uses this verse to verify the importance of pure water in purification.
Accordingly, scholars agree that water which is pure in its characteristics like color, taste, smell are not been changed by the voluntary or involuntary mixing of any impurity, and can be used to clean the impure parts of the body and clothing.
If the characteristics of water are changed by a substance that cannot be classified as Najis (impure), then the water cannot be used for wud’hu or ghusl. However, the same water can be used for other purposes. If this water splashes onto the clothes, there is no need to purify them. For instance, a drop of ink falls in a container of water, one of its characteristics (color) changed, so the water cannot be used for purification, but it can be used for washing hands or anything else.
If small or large amounts of any impurity, such as blood, mucus, dirt, enter water then the water is considered to be impure. This type of water cannot be used for wud’hu or ghusl. If it splashes onto the clothes, they must be purified.
Impure water can be made pure by a variety of purposes. If a sufficient amount of pure water is added to it so that the impurity is removed, it can be used for purification. Recently, the Council of Senior Scholars issued a fatwa to the effect that sewage water, treated by modern treatment plants so that it returns to its natural unaltered state, can be used for wud’hu and ghusl, as well as for drinking purposes, as long as it does not harm the drinker, in case one should refrain from drinking it for the preservation of one’s health only.
If a Muslim is in doubt about whether water is pure or impure, he should go with the idea that seems more certain. The purity of water remains until it is clearly established that it is impure. In case it is difficult to differentiate between pure and impure water, the person should leave it in doubt and perform Tayammum with clean dust.
It must also be noted that water contaminated but not impure, i.e. water unfit for consumption but not for wud’hu, can be used to perform ablution or ghusl. However, in accordance with the Prophetic saying “there should be neither harm nor reciprocating harm”, Muslims shouldn’t use it in order to be in the safe side from any harm.
It is also permitted to purify oneself with hail or snow. Hazrat Abu Huraira (Radi Allahu Anho) quotes a Hadith to this effect which contains the following words of supplication: “O Allah! Wash off my sins with water, snow and hail.” (Sahih Bukhari)
Sea water can also be used for performing wud’hu. Using Zamzam water for ablution is debatable, with some scholars supporting it and others considering it not acceptable. It is generally accepted that one must not take a bath with Zamzam water. However, a Hadith quotes that the Prophet used the Zamzam water to perform wud’hu. The usage can be limited to the condition when the body is pure, but only the need of wud’hu remains.
In short, Islamic laws concerning water are diverse and multifarious. The major thing to be looking for is the essence of purity in it, which can cleanse us and remove away our sins and impurity, leading us a step closer to prayer and hence to our Supreme Creator. May Allah Almighty help us to practice and follow Islam in every walk of our lives and enlist us among those whom He Almighty loves the most. Amen!
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