Clean water is a critical concern world wide, but especially serious for Muslims who reside in cities with recycled water.

For decades, the process of recycled water in residential areas has plagued, especially city dwellers, with poisonings and diseases. Much of 2016 found Americans engrossed in the tragedy and scandal surrounding the city of Flint, Michigan. Untreated water pumped into the homes of thousands of unsuspecting residents from the Flint River was causing city water pipes to corrode, which in turn led to increasing and unsafe levels of lead in the residential water. Images of cloudy orange water became prevalent and the stories of the victims, primarily children filled news media across the nation.

The topic of water is again in the forefront as hundreds of Native American tribes and other groups have joined to support the North Dakota Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in its protest against the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL), which when completed will pass under the Missouri River less than a mile from their reservation. Critics of the DAPL fear it will eventually corrode and cause pollution to leak into their water.

Flint and the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, both in the center of social and political turmoil, are directly connected to the importance of clean water to human existence. In both cases, American Muslims have exhibited unhesitating support and solidarity with the affected residents. Muslims understand that clean water is a human right; it is essential to human survival. Even further, for Muslims, water plays a huge part in one’s ability to perform the requirements of faith.

The need for clean water, in order to perfect one’s faith, poses a serious dilemma for thousands of Muslims in this country who reside in cities where recycled water is pumped into residential homes. Recycled water is never truly pure, yet it is used in people’s homes for drinking, washing and cooking food and bathing. But for Muslims, the water must be clean.

At an early age, Muslim children and new converts are taught that purity and cleanliness are half our faith. Purity (Tahaarah) is defined in Islamic Jurisprudence as ‘the elimination of impurity and the removal of wickedness’. One cannot establish his/her relationship with Allah without doing that which pleases our Creator and abstaining from that which displeases Him. Allah The Almighty says in Holy Quran, “Indeed Allah loves those who repent and He loves those who purify themselves.” (Surah al-Baqarah, Ayah 222) The Holy Last Messenger (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said: “…indeed Allah does not like filth and obscene actions.” (Sunan Abu Dawud)

Salah, the prayer performed 5 times a day, is one of the major forms of worship for Muslims. It is a divinely mandated religious obligation and also a means by which one draws near to the Almighty Creator. If performed correctly and with proper prerequisites, it protects the worshipers from obscene actions. Allah The Almighty says, “Verily, Salah prevents from lewdness and wrongdoing. And indeed, the remembrance of Allah (by you) is greatest. And Allah knows what you do.” (Surah Ankaboot, Ayah 45)

However, Salah is not accepted by Allah without purification (wudhu/ablution). Allah The Almighty says in Holy Quran, “O you who believe! When ye rise up for prayer, wash your faces, and your hands up to the elbows, and wipe your heads and (wash) your feet up to the ankles…” (Surah al-Maida, Ayah 6) “The Messenger of Allah said: ‘Allah does not accept any Salah without purification.” (Sunan Ibn Majah) Additionally, Wudhu must also be in place to perform other acts of worship, including the recitation of Holy Quran.

The foremost requirement of Wudhu is that pure water must be used such as river, well, rain, sea and spring water. (Mukhtasar al-Qudoori) These types of water are naturally pure in and of themselves without the interference of filtration systems or purification processes and can, therefore, be used to remove impurities. They are flowing bodies of water and their properties are natural. The same cannot be said for recycled water. By definition, recycled water is used water. It is treated or processed for the purpose of making it suitable for reuse. Used water is unclean and thus cannot be purified because the nature of the water and its qualities are impure, thus, the reason for the treatment it must undergo prior to use.

In Islam, purity cannot be obtained from such water. “The use of previously used water is not permitted for purification from ritual impurities. Previously used water is all water with which a ritual impurity has been removed, or that has been used on the body for the purpose of [seeking] nearness [to Allah].”(Mukhtasar al-Qudoori)

Since recycled water can consist of bath water, and can, as well, contain human waste, one can clearly deduce that it is impure and therefore not permissible to use for any type of Islamic purification – no matter the processes it has undergone. Filth and impurity only further soil that which it touches. It cannot purify anything.

According to the University of Michigan’s Center for Sustainable System’s U.S. Wastewater Factsheet, “An estimated 14,748 Public Owned Treatment Works (POTWs) provide wastewater collection, treatment, and disposal service to 238.2 million people. Use of reclaimed (recycled) water for consumption is becoming more common, particularly in the fast-growing southwest region of the U.S.” In parts of California, what has been dubbed the “toilet to tap” program is already in use. The “toilet to tap” program takes raw sewage, which is processed into water claimed to be ‘pure enough to drink’, and subsequently pumps it into residential homes. CNN reports that Orange County California has been contributing recycled water to the drinking supply since 2008 and that Texas aims to generate 10% of all new supplies through reclaimed water by 2060. Although human microbial pathogens such as bacteria, viruses, protozoa and tapeworms can be found in wastewater prior to treatment, proponents of recycled water claim stringent treatment processes render it cleaner than regular drinking water.

Muslims immigrating to the U.S. and those residing in such areas face serious dilemmas. Islamic jurisprudence is clear: if the water coming from their taps is recycled and unfit for Wudhu, then any worship performed with such an ablution is not accepted. Also, the use of recycled wastewater can cause health hazards and incurable diseases. It is the responsibility of every Muslim to make certain that their water is pure. The best solution for American Muslims: move to parcels of land in rural areas where pure well water can be accessed for all needs. U.S. Muslims must take heed and beware of the water!