Hadiths concerning the attitude to water

(Hadith means in Arabic language: manner or tradition; sometimes is used as «sunnah»)


In the process of expansion and strengthening of the Caliphate, the amount of questions related to various aspects of life of citizens and the state system was growing like an avalanche. If earlier, fellow-fighters and assistants had addressed to Muhammad with such questions then after his death, caliphs, who had ruled the state, could not so confidently solve the arisen problems any more. Then the necessity has arisen to address to experience of life and activity of the Prophet – what he did, what he spoke or approvingly kept silent, or did not kept silent etc. in similar cases, situations etc. Inasmuch as, during his life, many people communicated with him and worked under his leadership, the great number of hadiths has appeared. It is known that our ancestor the Imam Al-Bukhari the Great (810 – 870) has collected during his life in such Moslem centers as Mecca, Medina, Baghdad, Damascus etc. about 600,000 hadiths (the oral traditions of the Prophet Muhammad), he knew by heart about 300,000 hadiths, and he compiled 7,275 of them in Al-Sahih (The Genuine) and has presented them in 4 volumes*.
Hadiths traditionally consist of 2 parts: the first part is demonstrative one, where it is underlined who is a storyteller or transmitter a hadith, from whom he has learned this story – directly from the Prophet or from his following, relatives or companions, who heard, saw, and knew what Muhammad did or spoke once upon a time. In some hadiths, there are two and more transmitting links between the Prophet and a storyteller of hadiths.

The second part is the basic text of hadith where words, actions,
explanations are described, for example, according to surahs and ayahs of the Koran compiled by the Prophet himself.

In “Sahih Bukhari” hadiths that are dedicated water resources and water use are not so many. Such hadiths are compiled in Volume II under the name «The Book of Wisdom on Water» (the edition of 1997, pp. 79-85) and Volume III under the name «Drinking Water» (the edition of 1994, pp. 538-552). Other hadiths concerning water are scattered over all volumes of this collection.

The name of the second chapter of «The Book of Wisdom on Water» is characteristic: «The second chapter (again) on water. Who considered rationally handing over the water as gift or inheritance regardless of the fact that it was allocated or not? » The text of this hadith is translated as follows:
“(While Allah’s Apostle, Peace Be Upon Him, came in Medina, here there was not another source of water except the Ruma Well), and He said, “For anyone who will purchase the Ruma Well and use its water jointly with other Muslims a wonderful place in the Garden of Eden will be prepared. Then Uthman, may Allah forgives him, bought it (the well)”. It is obvious that Uthman has bought the well and given it to Muslims of Medina for use. However, the significance of this hadith consists in the fact that afterwards it became the legal base for developing a diversity of Shariah’s laws.

Chapter 7 was titled as “Damming of River Waters.” A hadith narrated by Urwa bin Az-Zubair: “Az-Zubair told me that he quarreled with an Ansari man who had participated in (the battle of) Badr in front of Allah’s Apostle about a water stream which both of them used for irrigation. Allah’s Apostle said to Az-Zubair, “O Zubair! Irrigate (your garden) first, and then let the water flow to your neighbor.” The Ansari became angry and said, “O Allah’s Apostle! Is it because he is your cousin?” On that the complexion of Allah’s Apostle changed (because of anger) and said (to Az-Zubair), “I irrigate (your garden) and then withhold the water till it reaches the walls (surrounding the palms).” So, Allah’s Apostle gave Az-Zubair his full right. Before that Allah’s Apostle had given a generous judgment beneficial for Az-Zubair and the Ansari, but when the Ansan irritated Allah’s Apostle he gave Az-Zubair his full right according to the evident law. Az-Zubair said, “By Allah! I think the following Verse was revealed concerning that case: “But no by your Lord They can have No faith Until they make you judge In all disputes between them.” (4.65). Apparently, Ansari himself asked the Prophet to be the judge for this dispute, and when he uttered his opinion regarding the dispute Ansari has shown his displeasure to Allah’s Apostle. Afterwards this hadith also became the legal base for some Shariah’s laws. For example, a queue of water applications in the fields located along an irrigation canal from its head to its end – first, the fields closer to water along the head section of the canal are irrigated and then sequentially other fields. At the same time, when dozens of water users take water from a single water source, water availability in the source may be insufficient to meet water demands of all water users at once, and in this case, it is necessary to put the water rotation method into practice. This hadith was the fundamental one under introducing the water rotation method known to our ancestors from time immemorial.

Most of hadiths contain the matters concerning a way of life, the family, marriage, interpersonal relations etc. They provided the ethical and legal base for forming the norms for settling legislative issues as well as moral and behavioral rules defining people’s behavior in society and the family. From this point of view, the collection of hadiths concerning moral and ethics of people is of special interest**. This collection contains 688 hadiths, and they were selected from collections compiled by well-known authors such as the Imam Al-Bukhari, Muslim, Abu-Dawud, at-Tirmidhi, An-Nasa’I, Ibn Majah, Ahmad ibn Hanbal, Tabornya, and others. These hadiths do not concern directly water resources and water relations, though they clearly represent the components of moral and ethic requirements to Muslim imposed by society, and describe the general ethic environment of the faithful. Ultimately, this environment was also used under considering water relations. It is necessary to note that in the process of representing hadiths their demonstrative part was missed; in addition, the texts of hadiths are presented in modern Uzbek language. Here are some citations from the collection that were selected according to the specific principle (the author has translated them into Russian language).

5. At rendering material aid (naphaq and sadaq) start with yourselves. If something remained, give members of your family. If something remained else, give your relatives. Then, the remained part, you may give other people.

5. Beware of “harom” (behavior and deeds not permitted by Allah), and you will be more faithful among people. Be satisfied with things that Allah gives you, and you will be richer. Assist your neighbor for conscience’ sake. Wish others what you like, and you will be healthy. Do not laugh much; laughter beyond all measure weakens your soul.

105. Apply punishments established by Allah equally for both relatives and strangers. Compassion should be with you under all your actions for the sake of Allah (this hadith is addressed to those who by virtue of their duties have the right to punish people for their blasphemous deeds such as judges, the Imams, etc.).

205. If any person earns riches by fair means and spends a part of riches for satisfying needs of other slaves of God in meal and clothes, all these deeds will be registered in his records submitted at the Judgment Day.

305. The best of you are those who for the sake of the present day do not forget about the other world, for the sake of the other world do not refuse from worldly activity, and do not do anything to be burdensome to others.

405. There are two kinds of Shariah judges: some of them deserve the punishment of hell, and others deserve to be awarded by the good of paradise. The judges who bring in a wrong verdict knowing the truth, or, bring in a verdict at their own discretion being illiterate are those infernal ones.

505. Gained knowledge without their use for training other people are equivalent to riches buried under the ground surface.

500. Good upbringing and morals are the best inheritance that a
father can leave to his children.

It is possible to find hadiths as an example for all occasions of our life in this collection (with rare exception). Pearls of folk wisdom, reflecting ideas and expectations of many generations of our ancestors and sanctified by provisions of the Islam, are shining in them. For short, I would like to point the citation from the book of S. Dzhabbarov who used information presented by N.S. Lykoshin***.

«The author, making reference to Hadith and Hidayah, gives the summary of moral rights and duties of Uzbek who observes them in his daily life on the basis of Shariah’s norms. According to his description, the settled population of Turkistan, in particular, Uzbeks aspired to develop the following personal peculiarities: self-restraint, leniency with respect to other people, as well as humility, charity, respect of another person or his position. It is necessary to wish others the same that suits you, to show obligingness especially with respect to the poor, to forgive insults, to be generous, to avoid, and to be ashamed bad deeds, to be truthful and fair, always to keep the promises, to consider other people better than himself. In general, it is necessary to avoid lie and injustice, do not speak bad things in somebody’s absence (i.e. do not be a talebearer), do not offend or grieve another person, do not use violence. Parents aspired to impart these highly humanistic principles stated in norms of the Shariah and in customary laws, to their children at an early age in each Uzbek family» (Page 108).

Speaking about roots of ethic upbringing of Moslem, it is pertinently to recollect that words-concepts could be often met in ayahs of the Koran and Hadith, which, at first sight, have especially religious substance, but practically not only are a part of informal conversation of the local population but also they influence on acts and behavior of people, irrespective of whether they believers or not. These words mostly are of the Arabic origin, but were included in vocabularies of all Turkic-speaking peoples in Central Asia.

“Savob” means deeds, actions and words that deserve rewards or praises of Allah;

“Gunoh” means deeds, actions and the words that are forbidden or not favored by Allah and holy books of Moslems;

“Halol” does mean not only meal or foodstuffs permitted by holy books for the use by Moslems, but also deeds, actions, acts, words, etc. that do not contain moments or elements reprehensible for Moslems.

“Haram” means food products forbidden for meal, first of all, meat of some animals (pork, dog, donkey, and some other animals), and also alcoholic drinks strongly influencing mind of a person, as well as deeds, actions and words forbidden for a Moslem in his ordinary life and in public activity.

There are also other words and concepts, such as “hirrom” (a dishonest act or deed), “insoph” (it means fairness, pliability, etc.), “yahshilik” (good), “emonlik” (evil), “isrof” and other words, which play also an essential role in ethic upbringing of people that profess the Islam. In private life ethical and moral features of a Moslem are formed within these definitions, and a truly believing or simply decent person tries to make only charitable deeds and actions (savob) and to be always fair, hardworking, honest etc. (i.e. “halol”).

Here, it is pertinently to recollect one popular definition “uzbekchilik” which is perceived by some people, often by representatives of other nationalities, as a reprehensible feature, almost as bootlicking, subservience, etc. Actually, “uzbekchilik”, if it is shown without immoderation and appropriately, is behavior of a person who has been brought up in the spirit of high moral principles concerning to other people whom they would not be, with respect and without prejudice.

It is known that our ancestors who had lived in the Central Asian region from time immemorial, especially after repealing use of slave labor in public works, could carry out large-scale and labor-intensive irrigation works (excavating of canals of tens and hundreds of kilometers long, their annual cleaning and repair, construction and repair of various structures using local materials etc.) jointly and by common efforts and means (by arranging hashar works). Undoubtedly, such works can be organized only if their participants well understand the generality of interests, are disciplined, precisely and fast carry out instructions of managers of works (aryk-aksakals, mirabs, and tuganchis), etc. Specific human qualities such as decency, diligence, self-discipline, call of duty, comradeship etc. had to be inherent in ordinary peasants and their servants as they were major participants of “hashar works.”

Therefore, upbringing of people since the early childhood in the spirit of norms of the Shariah and Adat served or promoted not only to settling common and interpersonal relations but also organization of people for performance of socially significant works (irrigation works, emergency works, defensive works and military actions, collection of taxes etc.).

A story about a role and a place of hadiths in upbringing of Moslems, in particular of the youth, will be incomplete if we shall not recollect that just ethical and moral people brought up in the Islamic spirit could think up such sayings and proverbs and to follow them in their daily life: «To pollute water is a great sin, and Allah will punish», «Those who spits into a water well will ache with vitiligo (the incurable skin illness)», «If water will turn round seven times along its way, it becomes pure», «Allah does not like prodigal people (in meal, drink etc.)”, “Be afraid of the spontaneity of fire and water”, “Those who brought water in a jug live in poverty, and those who broken a jug live in honor”, “Deep water slowly flows”, “Even if your father is a high-ranking water manager, it is better to have the land plot at the beginning of irrigation canal”, “A drop (if it drips for a long time) makes a hole through a stone”, “Do not give your daughter to the one who lives in the tail of irrigation canal”, “Those who has polluted water, would experience the big need for it» etc.

Undoubtedly, a cult of water, which arisen in times of the sacred “Avesta” and exists in certain forms until now, has played a specific role in occurrence of such sayings and proverbs.

* Abu Abdullah Muhammad ibn-Ismail al-Bukhari. Hadih, Tashkent, Volume I, II, III, and IV, 1993-1994.
** “Ahlokh – odobga oyd hadis namunalari” Tashkent. «Fan», 1990, pp.170 (in Uzbek language).
*** Likoshin N.S. A Half of Life in Turkistan. Feature story of the way of life of the native population.

Chapter of book: Water & Ethics (Thoughts of Professional and Citizen)
Author: Abrar Kadirov

Leave a Reply