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Is water conservation a religious duty?

Sensemaking / Is water conservation a religious duty?

Across the Islamic world, rural households are being advised of their religious duty to use water efficiently.

31 Oct 2012

For more than a decade, the Inter-Islamic Network of Water Resources and Management, has been working with thousands of rural households in Jordan, and across 18 other Organisation of Islamic Cooperation member states, to promote greywater recycling for irrigation, linking water conservation to Qu’ranic beliefs.

The programme draws on the co-operation of religious leaders to demonstrate water recapture from ablutions in mosques, rallying participants to the idea that water is a divine gift, and that, in the context of scarcity, no one is entitled to excessive amounts at another’s expense. Murad Bino, Executive Director of the Network, sees Islam as a “strong instrument for social change”.

As Naser Faruqui, Director of Science and Innovation at the International Development Research Centre in Ottawa and lead author of the 2001 book, Islam and Water Management, explains, Islam developed in typically arid regions, and so conservation values are deeply engrained in its teachings. “The Qu’ran is explicit about water conservation and management”, says Faruqui. “It says that there is a fixed amount in the world and discourages wasteful use.” Utilities in Syria have similarly relied on posters expressing, “Water is a gift from God, save it.”

In the Palestinian Territories, against a backdrop of ongoing conflict over access to water and deteriorating resources, conservation efforts have straddled appeals to human rights and Islamic faith. The initiatives of the non-profit Palestinian Hydrology Group have included the creation of community rainwater catchments and conservation education, with a special focus on women who typically provide for and manage domestic use. Their programmes stress the importance of conservation for the security of Palestine’s future, and past sticker campaigns have emphasized that efficient water use is “wajib dini”, or a “religious duty”.

Katherine Rowland is a journalist specialising in health and environment. She is based in New York.

Photos: istockphoto/thinkstock

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