The Conservation of Water in the Maliki School of Thought
Author : Dr. Mufti Sa`eid Farhan
Date Added : 04-03-2024

The Conservation of Water in the Maliki School of Thought



All perfect praise be to Allah the Lord of the Worlds. May His peace and blessings be upon our Prophet Mohammad and upon all his family and companions.


Verily, water is the backbone of livelihood. This is attested to in the following verse where Allah the Almighty says {What means}: "And We made from water every living thing" (Al-`Anbiyaa`, 30). Given the importance of water in human life, it has been a matter of interest for jurists of all Islamic schools of thought. Just as water is the key to life, it is also the key to worship. Purity is the means for a Muslim to perform his/her worship, and worship is the ultimate purpose of human existence.


The Islamic schools of thought have paid great attention to water in terms of its Sharia rulings because of its importance in the worship of the Muslim. This is in addition to paying attention to its conservation considering its importance and sensing the prophetic guidance in that regard. This guidance is clearly reflected in the situation in which the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) saw a man performing ablution and said to him: "Do not be extravagant, do not be extravagant." (Narrated by Ibn Majah).


Among those who have excelled in this field is the Maliki school of thought, especially in many rulings related to water. One of these is the clarification of when water becomes impure, as we will explain, God willing. There is no better evidence for this than the words of the Proof of Islam, Imam Al-Ghazali (may Allah have mercy on him), where he said in his book "Revival of the Religious Sciences" [Vol.1/P.129]: 'I wished his [i.e., Imam Shafi'i's] school of thought to be like that of Imam Malik (may Allah be pleased with him) in that water, even if it is little, does not become impure except through a noticeable change, as there is a dire necessity for it. The insistence on a specific quantity (Two Qollas) is a cause of obsessive doubts, and for this reason, it caused hardship for people. I swear, in my opinion, it is the source of hardship, recognized by those who have experienced it and pondered over it.' He concluded his words."


 I will mention two jurisprudential/Fiqh rulings in the Maliki school of thought regarding purification, clarifying the aspect of water conservation compared to other jurisprudential schools. Through these two rulings, the Maliki school has distinguished itself from other schools, and they have become one of its unique features.


First: When does water become impure?


The Hanafi, Shafi'i, and Hanbali schools concur that if impurity falls into a large quantity of water, the water becomes impure if any of its characteristics change. However, if its characteristics do not change, it remains pure. As for a small quantity of water, it becomes impure as soon as impurity falls into it, even if its characteristics do not change. The threshold for a large quantity of water that does not become impure according to the Shafi'i and Hanbali schools is approximately 190 liters. However, according to the Hanafi school, it is significantly more than that, roughly multiples thereof.


The scholars of the Maliki school have a different criterion regarding the impurity of water. They do not differentiate between large and small quantities of water. Instead, they have another criterion for determining the impurity of water, which is the alteration of any of its three characteristics. As long as none of its characteristics changes, the water remains pure even if impurity falls into it, even if it's a small quantity. If the quantity of water is less than the amount typically used for ablution (approximately one liter), there is no dislike (karaha) in using it as long as its characteristics remain unchanged, even if it becomes impure. However, if the quantity is less than that, it becomes disliked (makruh) to use it, although purification with it is still permissible.


This opinion clearly emphasizes the conservation of water. If we consider that the threshold for a large quantity of water in other schools of thought is around 190 liters at the minimum, as stated by Imam Al-Hattab in "Mawahib al-Jalil," then this opinion provides a more lenient approach.


Imam Al-Hattab stated: "If the water is impure, its abundance and scarcity are considered. If the water is abundant, more than the vessel used for ablution and bathing, then it remains pure without dislike. Otherwise, it becomes disliked because it is a small amount of water whose condition has been affected by impurity without changing it."


Second: Using used water for purification


The water used in matters of purification is the water that has been used for obligatory acts of worship, such as ablution (wudu) for someone who is in a state of minor ritual impurity (hadath) and ritual bathing (ghusl) for someone who is in a state of major ritual impurity (janabah).


The Hanafi, Shafi'i, and Hanbali schools of thought consider used water to be ritually pure (tahir) but not purifying (mutahir), meaning it is not suitable for performing ablution or ritual bathing. This is in contrast to the Maliki school, which permits the use of used water for purification with dislike (karaha) if other water is available. However, if no other water is available, there is no dislike in using it. Expanding the scope of permissible water—water that is inherently pure and purifying for others—undoubtedly ensures water conservation.


The perspective of the Maliki scholars on water is only a drop in the ocean compared to the vast treasures found in the four schools of Islamic jurisprudence. Therefore, it is incumbent upon us to give them due consideration, as they constitute our religion through which we worship and uphold the teachings of Allah the Almighty.










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