Sunday Special: Water in Quran
By Maulana AR Shaheen Qasmi*
Water is mentioned numerous times in the Quran, and Allah categorizes water into its different properties. He differentiates the rain that falls from the sky as purified water, water from the spring as sweet, and seawater as salty and bitter and mentions water that flows from rocks. He speaks of the barrier between freshwater and salt water. In other verses, there is a recurrent theme in the verses.
The different themes are illustrated for a better understanding of the verses and to portray the importance the Creator gave towards the water. The attributes of Allah Subhanahu wa ta’ala are also portrayed in these themes as well.
Water as a Building Block of Living Things: Al-Khaliq (الخالق): The Creator
Allah describes how water ( ماء mā’ ) is the building block of all living things. It is not surprising that the adult man is made up 60% of water and man can survive without water for only three to four days. It is an essential liquid for our very existence. Further describing creation, He implores man to remember his humble beginning from a liquid disdained (semen A reminder for mankind who tends to forget and becomes conceited.
Rain as a Provision: Ar-Razzaq (الرزاق): The Sustainer
This is the main theme that Allah Subhanahu wa ta’ala often repeats, that rain is a mercy and a provision to mankind. Allah emphasizes that it is He who makes the rainfall and makes the barren land fertile that brings forth food. It is His mercy that the rain falls to provide water to drink and beautiful green pastures for the cattle. He further describes rain as purified water and the winds that bring the rain-filled clouds as bearing good tidings He sent sweet water from the mountains for man to enjoy. He made it clear that man has no control over rain and warns that He is able to remove it. He challenges if anyone besides Him can deliver water and chastises man for his ungratefulness, for He could have made the rain bitter.
Reading these verses on the mercy Allah has for mankind, makes one wonder how many of the His blessings we take for granted. The detailed descriptions of the winds, rain, mountain springs, gardens, green pastures, fruits and grains for food are to help us understand that He has provided them for us to celebrate and enjoy life and to thank Him for them.
Water as a Sign: Al-Muhyi (المحيى): The Giver of Life
Allah Subhanahu wa ta’ala always implores man to reflect and to see in the creation, the majesty of the Creator. He describes how the rain from the sky, gives life to a dead earth and that is a sign for man to contemplate. The parched earth in the African Savannah during the dry spell smells of death but brims of life when the rain falls, vegetation appears, and the wild animals gather around the watering hole to quench their thirst. Do we think about the Creator when we witness this phenomenon? He further questions whether a man does not wonder why crops, grapevines, and palm trees watered by the same rain in the same vicinity produce fruits of different quality. He asks us to ponder, if all the water seeps into the earth, who would provide us with flowing water? If we reflect on these questions, we would realize the utter helplessness of man, and the mercy that the Creator has always shown us despite the ungratefulness of man.
Water as an Analogy: Ar-Rashid (الرشيد) The Righteous Teacher
Allah Subhanahu wa ta’ala makes analogies using water. He likens life in this world to a life cycle of a plant. Rain falls on a dead barren earth, bringing to life vegetation, which later dries, and there is no trace of its existence. Likewise, we were created from dust and we would return to dust. All the splendours and wealth of this world are of a fleeting existence that would disappear without a trace. He likens those who worship others besides Him to a man who stretches his hand towards the water, calling it to fall into his mouth, an act in vain. He describes the deeds of the disbelievers are like a mirage, one who is thirsty would run to it only to be disappointed of the falsehood and now has to face His wrath. He compares the truth from falsehood with the analogy of foam on water, the foam vanishes like falsehood, and only water, which benefits man, remains, as the truth would stand the test of time.
Water as a Punishment: Al-Hasib (الحسيب): The Accounter
Just as water as a provision is a blessing and mercy, it also has a destructive side. Allah uses water as a form of punishment in Hell. The harrowing scenes of Hell are described in great detail, to make man fear the end that awaits him for his disbelieve. Scalding water poured over the heads, boiling purulent water like murky oil is given as a drink, both flames and boiling water consumes the inhabitants of hell. Those in hell whom He calls the companions of fire would call upon the companions of paradise for water for they would be deprived of it. If on earth, water is not given a second glance, but when in hell, it becomes the most prized item.
In the story of the Prophet Noah, the great flood was the calamity that was sent to his tribe. No one is able to escape except those whom He wills. In the story of the owners of the two gardens, the conceited owner loses everything. These stories illustrate the utter helplessness of man but despite that, he remains arrogant.
Water as a Reward: Ash-Shakur (الشكور): The Rewarder of Thankfulness
Water is also given as a reward, as Allah promises heaven filled with gardens and springs. Just as Hell was described in detail, likewise Allah gives an illustration of the beauty of paradise and the rivers of water, milk, wine and honey that flow within. Water is an important feature in Heaven just as in Hell. The grand Roman villas, the Versailles and other palaces have vast beautiful manicured gardens with exquisite water features like fountains, pools and water cascades. Man has been trying to create heaven on Earth for centuries.
Water for Purification: Al-Quddus (القدوس): The Pure One
Purification is an important aspect of Islam, and Allah talks about external as well as internal purification. He instructed man to purify himself before prayers through ablution. The emphasis on purification is deeply embedded in Islam as we are thought to cleanse after easing ourselves and after sexual intimacy. Even if there is a lack of water, purification still has to be performed using pure sand (tayammum). The Prophet sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, taught by example how to perform these cleansing rituals. The act of prayer is when the servant comes forward to meet the Creator, and Creator would like to see His servant in a purified state. In verse 8:11, Allah sends down rain as calmness, as an internal purification to remove the negative effect of Shaitan on their hearts.
The two bodies of water are not alike: one is fresh, palatable, and pleasant to drink and the other is salty and bitter. Yet from them both, you eat tender seafood and extract ornaments to wear. And you see the ships ploughing their way through both, so you may seek His bounty and give thanks to Him ( 35: 12).
Even then your heart became hardened like a rock or even harder, for some rocks gush rivers; others split, spilling water; while others are humbled in awe of Allah. And Allah is never unaware of what you do.(Holy Quran- 2:74)
He merges the two bodies of ˹fresh and salt˺ water, (Holy Quran-55:19)
yet between them is a barrier they never cross. (Holy Quran-55:20)
Then which of your Lord’s favours will you both deny? (Holy Quran-55: 21)
Out of both ˹waters˺ come forth pearls and coral.22
Then which of your Lord’s favours will you both deny? (Holy Quran- 55:23)
To Him belong the ships with raised sails, sailing through the seas like mountains. (Holy Quran-55:24)
Or ask them, “Who created the heavens and the earth, and sends down rain for you from the sky, by which We cause delightful gardens to grow? You could never cause their trees to grow. Was it another god besides Allah?” Absolutely not! But they are a people who set up equals to Allah! (Holy Quran-27:61)
Or ˹ask them,˺ “Who made the earth a place of settlement, caused rivers to flow through it, placed firm mountains upon it, and set a barrier between ˹fresh and salt˺ bodies of water? Was it another god besides Allah?” Absolutely not! But most of them do not know. (Holy Quran-27:62)
Or ask them, “Who guides you in the darkness of the land and sea, and sends the winds ushering in His mercy? Is it another god besides Allah? Exalted is Allah above what they associate with Him! (Holy Quran-27:63)
And He is the One Who merges the two bodies of water: one fresh and palatable and the other salty and bitter, placing between them a barrier they cannot cross. (Holy Quran-25:53)
And He is the One Who creates human beings from a humble liquid, then establishes for them bonds of kinship and marriage. For your Lord is Most Capable. (Holy Quran-25:54)
And Allah has created from water every living creature. Some of them crawl on their bellies, some walk on two legs, and some walk on four. Allah creates whatever He wills. Surely Allah is Most Capable of everything. (Holy Quran-24:45)
Do the disbelievers not realize that the heavens and earth were ˹once˺ one mass then We split them apart? And We created from water every living thing. Will they not then believe? (Holy Quran-21:30)
O humanity! If you are in doubt about the Resurrection, then ‘know that’ We did create you from dust, then from a sperm-drop, then ˹developed you into˺ a clinging clot ˹of blood˺ then a lump of flesh—fully formed or unformed5—in order to demonstrate ˹Our power˺ to you. ˹Then˺ We settle whatever ˹embryo˺ We will in the womb for an appointed term, then bring you forth as infants, so that you may reach your prime. Some of you ˹may˺ die ˹young˺, while others are left to reach the most feeble stage of life so that they may know nothing after having known much. And you see the earth lifeless, but as soon as We send down rain upon it, it begins to stir ‘to life’ and swell, producing every type of pleasant plant. (Holy Quran-22:5)
Then He made his descendants from an extract of a humble fluid.(Holy Quran-32:8)
Did We not create you from a humble fluid. (Holy Quran-77:20)
‘They were’ created from a spurting fluid. (Holy Quran-86:6)
˹He is the One˺ Who has made the earth a place of settlement for you and the sky a canopy; and sends down rain from the sky, causing fruits to grow as a provision for you. So do not knowingly set up equals to Allah in worship. ( Holy Quran-2:22)
And He is the One Who sends down rain from the sky—causing all kinds of plants to grow—producing green stalks from which We bring forth clustered grain. And from palm trees come clusters of dates hanging within reach. There are also gardens of grapevines, olives, and pomegranates, similar in shape but dissimilar in taste˺. Look at their fruit as it yields and ripens! Indeed, in these are signs for people who believe. (Holy Quran-6:99)
He is the One˺ Who has laid out the earth for all of˺ you, set in it pathways for you, and sends down rain from the sky, causing various types of plants to grow.(Holy Quran-20:53)
Do you not see that Allah sends down rain from the sky, and then the earth becomes green? Surely Allah is Most Subtle, All-Aware.( Holy Quran-22:63)
Or ˹ask them,˺ “Who created the heavens and the earth, and sends down rain for you from the sky, by which We cause delightful gardens to grow? You could never cause their trees to grow. Was it another god besides Allah?” Absolutely not! But they are a people who set up equals to Allah! (Holy Quran-27:60)
When he arrived at the well of Midian, he found a group of people watering their herds. Apart from them, he noticed two women holding back their herd. He asked them, “What is the problem?” They replied, “We cannot water our animals until the ˹other˺ shepherds are done, for our father is a very old man.” (Holy Quran-28:23)
He is the One Who sends down rain from the sky, from which you drink and by which plants grow for your cattle to graze; (Holy Quran-16:10)
And He is the One Who sends the winds ushering in His mercy, and We send down pure rain from the sky;(Holy Quran-25:48)
And placed upon it towering, firm mountains, and given you fresh water to drink. (Holy Quran-77:27)
We send down rain from the sky in perfect measure, causing it to soak into the earth. And We are surely able to take it away;( Holy Quran-23:18)
We send fertilizing winds and bring down rain from the sky for you to drink. It is not you who hold its reserves. (Holy Quran-15:22)
Indeed, in the creation of the heavens and the earth; the alternation of the day and the night; the ships that sail the sea for the benefit of humanity; the rain sent down by Allah from the skies, reviving the earth after its death; the scattering of all kinds of creatures throughout; the shifting of the winds; and the clouds drifting between the heavens and the earth—˹in all of this˺ are surely signs for people of understanding. (Holy Quran-2:164)
And Allah sends down rain from the sky, giving life to the earth after its death. Surely in this is a sign for those who listen. (Holy Quran-16:65)
And one of His signs is that He shows you the lightning, inspiring ‘you with’ hope and fear.1 And He sends down rain from the sky, reviving the earth after its death. Surely these are signs for people who understand. (Holy Quran-30:24)
He created the heavens without pillars—as you can see—and placed firm mountains upon the earth so it does not shake with you, and scattered throughout it all types of creatures. And We send down rain from the sky, causing every type of fine plant to grow on Earth. (Holy Quran-31:10)
Do you not see that Allah sends down rain from the sky with which We bring forth fruits of different colours? And in the mountains are streaks of varying shades of white, red, and raven black. (Holy Quran-35:27)
Do you not see that Allah sends down rain from the sky—channelling it through streams in the earth—then produces with it crops of various colours, then they dry up and you see them wither, and then He reduces them to chaff? Surely this is a reminder for people of reason. (Holy Quran-39:21)
And among His signs is that you see the earth devoid of life, but as soon as We send down rain upon it, it begins to stir to life and swell. Indeed, the One Who revives it can easily revive the dead. He is certainly Most Capable of everything. ( Holy Quran 41:39)
And ˹He is the One˺ Who sends down rain from the sky in perfect measure, with which We give life to a lifeless land. And so will you be brought forth ˹from the grave˺.(Holy Quran-43:11)
And on the earth, there are ˹different˺ neighbouring tracts, gardens of grapevines, ˹various˺ crops, palm trees—some stemming from the same root, others standing alone. They are all irrigated with the same water, yet We make some taste better than others. Surely these are signs for those who understand. (Holy Quran-13:4)
Do you not see that Allah gently drives the clouds, then joins them together, piling them up into masses, from which you see raindrops come forth? And He sends down from the sky mountains ˹of clouds˺ loaded with hail, pouring it on whoever He wills and averting it from whoever He wills. The flash of the clouds’ lightning nearly takes away the eyesight. (Holy Quran-24:43)
Say, “Consider this: if your water were to sink ˹into the earth˺, then who ˹else˺ could bring you flowing water?” (Holy Quran-67:30)
The life of this world is just like rain We send down from the sky, producing a mixture of plants which humans and animals consume. Then just as the earth looks its best, perfectly beautified, and its people think they have full control over it, there comes to it Our command by night or by day, so We mow it down as if it never flourished yesterday! This is how We make the signs clear for people who reflect. (Holy Quran-10:24)
And give them a parable of this worldly life. It is like the plants of the earth, thriving when sustained by the rain We send down from the sky. Then they soon turn into chaff scattered by the wind. And Allah is fully capable of doing all things. (Holy Quran-18:45)
And on the earth, there are different neighbouring tracts, gardens of grapevines, various crops, and palm trees—some stemming from the same root, others standing alone. They are all irrigated with the same water, yet We make some taste better than others. Surely these are signs for those who understand. (Holy Quran-13:4)
As for the disbelievers, their deeds are like a mirage in a desert, which the thirsty perceive as water, but when they approach it, they find it to be nothing. Instead, they find Allah there ˹in the Hereafter, ready˺ to settle their account. And Allah is swift in reckoning. ( Holy Quran-24:39)
He sends down rain from the sky, causing the valleys to flow, each according to its capacity. The currents then carry along rising foam, similar to the slag produced from metal that people melt in the fire for ornaments or tools. This is how Allah compares truth to falsehood. The ˹worthless˺ residue is then cast away, but what benefits people remains on the earth. This is how Allah sets forth parables. (Holy Quran-13:17)
And leave those who take this faith of Islam as mere play and amusement and are deluded by their worldly life. Yet remind them by this ˹Quran˺, so no one should be ruined for their misdeeds. They will have no protector or intercessor other than Allah. Even if they were to offer every ˹possible˺ ransom, none will be accepted by them. Those are the ones who will be ruined for their misdeeds. They will have a boiling drink and painful punishment for their disbelief. (Holy Quran-6:70)
And say, ˹O Prophet, “This is the truth from your Lord. Whoever wills let them believe, and whoever wills let them disbelieve.” Surely We have prepared for the wrongdoers a Fire whose walls will ˹completely˺ surround them. When they cry for aid, they will be aided with water like molten metal, which will burn ˹their˺ faces. What a horrible drink! And what a terrible place to rest! (Holy Quran-18:29)
These are two opposing groups that disagree about their Lord: as for the disbelievers, garments of Fire will be cut out for them and boiling water will be poured over their heads, (Holy Quran-22:19)
Then on top of that, they will be given a blend of boiling drinks. (Holy Quran-37:67)
Through boiling water, then burned in the Fire ˹as fuel˺. ( Holy Quran-40:72)
Like the boiling of hot water. (44:46)
Then pour over their heads the torment of boiling water. (Holy Quran-44:48)
They will alternate between its flames and scalding water. (Holy Quran-55:44)
˹They will be˺ in scorching heat and boiling water.( Holy Quran-56:42)
Then their accommodation will be boiling water ˹to drink˺.(Holy Quran-56:93)
Except for boiling water and ˹oozing˺ pus— (Holy Quran-78:25)
He replied, “I will take refuge on a mountain, which will protect me from the water.” Noah cried, “Today no one is protected from Allah’s decree except those to whom He shows mercy!” And the waves came between them, and his son was among the drowned. ( Holy Quran-11:43)
And it was said, “O earth! Swallow up your water. And O sky! Withhold ˹your rain˺.” The floodwater receded and the decree was carried out. The Ark rested on Mount Judi, and it was said, “Away with the wrongdoing people!” (Holy Quran-11:44)
And caused the earth to burst with springs, so the waters met for a fate already set. (Holy Quran-54:12)
Or its water may sink ˹into the earth˺, and then you will never be able to seek it out.”( Holy Quran-18:41)
And caused the earth to burst with springs, so the waters met for a fate already set. ( Holy Quran-54:12)
In each ˹Garden˺ will be two flowing springs. (Holy Quran-55:50)
In each will be two gushing springs. (Holy Quran-55:66)
With cups, pitchers, and a drink ˹of pure wine˺ from a flowing stream, (Holy Quran-56:18)
O believers! Do not approach prayer while intoxicated until you are aware of what you say, nor in a state of ˹full˺ impurity—unless you merely pass through ˹the mosque˺—until you have bathed. But if you are ill, on a journey, or have relieved yourselves, or been intimate with your wives and cannot find water, then purify yourselves with clean earth, wiping your faces and hands. And Allah is Ever-Pardoning, All-Forgiving. ( Holy Quran-4:43)
O believers! When you rise up for prayer, wash your faces and your hands up to the elbows, wipe your heads, and wash your feet to the ankles. And if you are in a state of ˹full˺ impurity, then take a full bath. But if you are ill, on a journey, or have relieved yourselves, or have been intimate with your wives and cannot find water, then purify yourselves with clean earth by wiping your faces and hands. It is not Allah’s Will to burden you, but to purify you and complete His favour upon you, so perhaps you will be grateful. (Holy Quran-5:6)
*Islamic scholar and environmental activist