A Short Answer to a Question on Extravagance from the Islamic Perspective

A question was once posed by a student through email regarding the issue of wastage, more specifically in regards to wasting water. It was published by our dear friend Hafiz Faraz Abdul Moid on the attalib blog some years ago. I repost it here for your benefit, iA.

Question: I had a question, and if you’re not too busy, I would really appreciate an answer. It concerns water and what we were going over in class about wasting it. When you decide to take a shower for comfort, not necessarily to wash off any impurities, is it really considered wasting it? I mean, when you are doing wudu, and you let the water run and you step out of the bathroom and let the water flow from the tap, that is a waste of water because you are not using it and it is just draining through without coming into contact with you. You are not deriving any benefit from having the water flow, so thus, the water is being wasted.

But in the case of the shower… you are using the water. You are deriving comfort from the warm or cold water coming onto your body… It may not be the best use for the water, but you are still using it in a way that is beneficial for you, so it can’t be considered wasting, can it? I mean, after all, why else have we been given these gifts of life? To use it for our good and to refrain from using it negatively; it’s all a test. And by using it negatively, we would be wasting the water. But as I explained my position, or rather, my doubts on what constitutes wasting, I see the flowing of shower water onto you (when you are in active use of the water) as utilizing, not wasting.

Reply: Another student was interested in knowing what other things, aside from excessive use of water, is considered wastage in the shariʿah and requested a list of things that one can do to avoid such wasting. I highly appreciate all of your questions, as they clearly indicate that you are taking interest in the issues discussed in class. I would like to make this answer as brief and as succinct as possible, so excuse me for my brevity.

First of all, understand that everything that exists in this world is a gift from Allah. Allah the Exalted gives to whomever He wills, but gives even more to those who are thankful for what they are given.

Water, electricity, and even air are all blessings from Allah. The Companions, understanding this, would always moisten their tongues with the dhikr of Allah in thanks to Him for what He has given all of us. At the same time, know that this world is a testing ground and that true rewards will only be distributed and handed out in the Hereafter. Therefore, everything that is given to us in this world has a purpose and a place. And everything also has its limits.

Allah does not want us necessarily to suffer, especially when he has facilitated for us resources to avoid discomfort. However, Allah has also commanded us not to waste, and says in the Qur’an: “Indeed the wasteful are the brothers of the Shayatin”.

The Companions, even when comforts and luxuries presented themselves to them, avoided using more that what was needed. It is for this reason that they prohibited washing each limb more than three times when not necessary in wudu even though water may be available. The same principle applied to using water from a stream or river. They only used what they needed and then moved on. Not because they couldn’t, but because that was all that they needed. Using more than that was considered wasteful.

Now to the student’s question. He asked, when one takes a shower for comfort…

First, the purpose of taking a shower is not really comfort. It may be for one of two reasons:

1. Purification
2. Cooling oneself off from excessive heat.

Both of these reasons are necessities, though one is more important than the other. The jurists state that once these purposes are accomplished, whatever excess is used is considered wasteful.

Now look at the Prophet’s ghusl (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) and then look at ours. The Prophet (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) never used more than a bucket full of water even for the fard bath. We use more than twenty to thirty times as much. In all honesty, our requirements for cleaning, cooling, and even deriving comfort from the bath can all be accomplished in less than five minutes under the shower. Twenty-five to thirty minutes under the water is ridiculously long. So, the purpose of taking a shower is not to derive comfort from it, but to clean oneself. The comfort factor is solely a bonus.

Regardless, wasting in what is necessary and wasting by spending on what is not necessary are different and the punishments for both differ. Buying firecrackers for example, is called tabdhir and is worse because there is absolutely no need to buy or use them. Extravagant spending on a necessity, a wedding for example, however, is also wasting, but is called israf. Marriage is necessary, but spending more than what is necessary on it by renting out very expensive halls and ordering food for twice the amoun of guests, is considered israf.

Now, israf is not as bad as tabdhir in relation to punishment, so wasting water in the shower is not a major sin, but it does deprive one of barakah and blessings in his life. And trust me, you definitely want to have barakah in your spending. Here in the U.S., no matter how wealthy you are, if you do not have barakah in your wealth, you may have a million dollars but you will feel like a pauper.

This email is getting long, so I will continue this topic insha Allah at some later time. I didn’t organize my thougts as much as I would have liked, but I hope you get the point.

Bilal Ali Ansari


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