Essential Muslim Tips for the Cape Town Water Crisis

Essential Muslim Tips for the Cape Town Water Crisis
Abdullah ibn ‘Amr ibn al-‘Aas (RA) narrated that the Prophet (SAW) passed by Sa‘d when he was performing wudhu, and he said, “What is this extravagance, O Sa‘d?” He said: Can there be any extravagance in wudhu’? He said, “Yes, even if you are on the bank of a flowing river.”

**Read note 1.

Cape Town has been experiencing one of the worst droughts in years, and thus Capetonians have been employing various methods of water conservation to delay the impending Day ZERO. However, as Day ZERO fast approaches; talks have now shifted to “how will we get by?“. To assist households and businesses WWF South Africa has been issuing weekly updates termed “Weekly Wednesday Files” which also include a ‘‘Bucket List”

Our bucket is empty and so the Bucket List will help us fill it by raising awareness of the severity of the drought and encouraging people to urgently do something about it through a series of useful hints and tips. Some are obvious, others are not. Some are doable, others are much more challenging. All are essential.
We can only save water when there is water to save.”

The significance of water in Islam

“… And we send water down from the sky, in measure, and allocate it on Earth, and lo! We are also able to withdraw it.” Qur’an [23:18]

Water is mentioned 63 times in the Qur’an with the addition of many references to rain, snow and ice. It is one of the most important resources to every single creation on earth. In Islam, water plays a central role in our daily lives as it is the primary source for all types of purification.

O You who believe! When You intend to offer As-Salat (the prayer), wash Your faces and Your hands (forearms) up to the elbows, rub (by passing wet hands over) Your heads, and (wash) Your feet up to ankles. If You are in a state of Janabah (i.e. had a sexual discharge), purify yourself (bathe Your whole body). But if You are ill or on a journey or any of You comes from answering the call of nature, or You have been In contact with women (i.e. sexual intercourse) and You find no water, then perform Tayammum with clean earth and rub therewith Your faces and hands. Allah does not want to place You In difficulty, but He wants to purify you, and to complete his Favour on You that You may be thankful. Qur’an [5: 6]

Due to the ongoing water crisis; Muslims in Cape Town have started asking about how this affects Taharah (purification practices).

In the following table / infographic(click on the link to view and download) I have highlighted the scenarios for each instance in relation to the availability of water as deduced from the proofs (i.e. Qur’an or ahadith mostly cited from Bulugh Al Maram):

Purification Best Practice Limited water Scarce water References
Wudhu The Prophet (SAW) used 2/3 of a Mudd of water which equates 750 ml. It is sunnah to wash limbs thrice. You may wash each of the limbs once, or perform a fard wudhu (click on the link to view steps) in correct sequence ( face, then the arms, then Mas’h of the head, then feet) Tayammum (dry ablution)

(read criteria for Tayammum)

– Bulugh al-Maram 41: Book 1, Hadith 48

– Recent recommendations by Cape Town Ulama

– Qur’an 5:6

-Bulugh al-Maram 131 : Book 1, Hadith 160

-Bulugh al-Maram 133: Book 1, Hadith 162

Istinjaa (water)

Istijmaar (stones/tissue)

The Prophet (SAW) used to cleanse himself with water
You may perform istinjaa or istijmaar Istijmaar will suffice -Bulugh al-Maram 97: Book 1, Hadith 115

Sunan an-Nasa’i The Book of Purification: Vol. 1, Book 1, Hadith 45

-Bulugh al-Maram 97: Book 1, Hadith 115

Ghusl The Prophet (SAW) used 1 sa’e of water which equates to 3 litres Fard Ghusl (mouth, nostrils and entire body.) Tayammum

(read criteria for Tayammum)

Qur’an 5:6

-Bulugh al-Maram 131 : Book 1, Hadith 160

-Bulugh al-Maram 133: Book 1, Hadith 162

**For your perusal, I have included all proofs pertaining to wudhu, instinjaa, ghusl and tayammum in the section below.

Tayammum (purification with soil)

… And if You are ill, or on a journey, or one of You comes after answering the call of nature, or You have been In contact with women (by sexual relations) and You find no water, perform Tayammum with clean earth and rub therewith Your faces and hands (Tayammum). Truly, Allah is ever Oft­Pardoning, Oft­Forgiving. Qur’an [4:43].

Tayammum is a concession. Hence, it may ONLY be performed under the following circumstances

  1. When water is not available within a radius of approximately 1.7km *One would need to ascertain what would be applicable in modern society (put it forward to a mufti/ulama)
  2. If there is a fear of thirst if the Muslim uses the water for wudhu/ghusl .
  3. A Muslim who might have water in front of him, but he cannot make use of this water due to sickness (e.g. detrimental to health) or there is fear of an enemy or a dangerous animal or a snake
  4. A Muslim who has stolen water in front of him.
  5. When one cannot reach water that is nearby (due to some reason) and no other person is available to fetch the water.
  6. When one does not have sufficient amount of money to pay for water which is being sold.

It is also important to note that if you have performed tayammum and water becomes available whilst performing salaah, then it would be required to break off salaah and take wudhu.

It is permissible to make Tayammum from anything that is of clean earth such as clay, brick, rock, dust, sand, stone, limestone, baked earthen pots (unglazed), walls of mud, stone or brick, any item which have thick dust on them.

The manner of Tayammum

  • The Prophet (SAW) struck his hands one time on the ground, then he wiped his left hand over his right and right hand over his left, then he wiped his face [as recorded by Imam Bukhari and Imam Muslim]
  • In another narration, he (SAW) blew the sand off his hands since there was extra sand on his hands, thus the scholars state that if there is excess sand on your hands, then it would be permissible to blow it off.

STEPS for Tayammum

  • Find a clean place where you will be in contact with earth or something natural like rock, sand or grass
  • Recite basmallah
  • Make Niyyah (intention) to perform Tayammum for ghusl or wudhu.
  • Strike both hands on clean earth or dust. Then dust the hands and blow off the excess dust or earth on the hands.
    Rub both the hands over the complete face ( from the side of the right ear to the left, and the top of the forehead to the bottom of the chin)
  • Strike both hands again on the ground, dust the hands and blow off the excess
  • Rub your arms: rub the left hand over the complete right hand including the elbow, then rub the right hand over the complete left-hand including the elbow.

Resource for kids: How to perform Tayammum

Ahadith pertaining to Tayammum

Narrated Jabir bin ‘Abdullah (RA): The Prophet (SAW) said, “I have been given five things which were not given to anyone else before me. Allah made me victorious by awe (of frightening my enemies) for a distance of one month’s journey. The earth has been made for me (and my followers) a place for praying and (means of) purification (i.e. by performing Tayammum). Therefore, anyone (of my followers) must pray wherever the time of Salat (prayer) becomes due.” Bulugh Al-Maram 126: Book 1: Hadith 154
In the Hadith of Hudhaifah, Muslim has: “The soil of the earth has been made for us as a means of purification if/when we do not find water.” Ahmad had, on the authority of Ali (RA): “The soil has been made for me (and my followers) a means of purification.”
  • Allah has given the Prophet (SAW) the gift that the earth may be used as a means of purification
Narrated Abu Sa’id Al-Khudri (RA): Two men set out on a journey and when the time of Salat (prayer) came they had no water. They performed Tayammum with clean earth and prayed. Later on they found water within the time of the prayer. One of them repeated the prayer and ablution but the other did not repeat. Then they came to Allah’s Messenger (SAW) and related the matter to him. Addressing himself to the one who did not repeat, he said, “You followed the Sunnah and your prayer was sufficient (accredited) for you.” He said to the other (who performed ablution and repeated): “For you there is a double reward.” [Reported by Abu Dawud and An-Nasa’i]. Bulugh al-Maram 133: Book 1, Hadith 162
  • If a Muslim finds water after making salaah then there is no need to repeat salaah (if he did not fall short in searching for this water) however if water becomes available whilst performing salaah, then it would be required to break off salaah and take wudhu.

Ahadith pertaining to water and purification


Narrated Abu Hurairah (RA): Allah’s Messenger (SAW) said regarding the sea, “Its water is Tahoor (purifying) and its dead (animals) are lawful (to eat).” [Al-Arba’a and Ibn Abu Shaiba reported it. The wording is from the latter. Ibn Khuzaimah and At-Tirmidhi graded it Sahih (authentic). Malik, Ash-Shafi’i and Ahmad (also) reported it]. Bulugh al-Maram 1:Book 1, Hadith 1
  • Ocean water is permissable for purification
Narrated Abu Sa’id Al-Khudri (RA): Allah’s Messenger (SAW) said, “Water is Tahoor (purifying) and nothing can make it impure.” [Reported by Ath-Thalatha and Ahmad graded it Sahih (authentic)]. Bulugh al-Maram 1:Book 1, Hadith 2
  • Water is pure until proven otherwise –

Narrated Abu Umama Al-Bahili (RA): Allah’s Messenger (SAW) said, “Water cannot be rendered impure by anything except something which changes its smell, taste and colour.” [Ibn Majah reported it and Abu Hatim graded it Da’if (weak)]. Bulugh al-Maram 1:Book 1, Hadith 3 Al-Baihaqi reported: “Water is purifying, unless any impure thing is added to it which changes its smell, taste and colour.” Bulugh al-Maram 1:Book 1, Hadith 4
  • Water is pure until it changes in its smell, taste, or colour by something Najis, then you can’t use this water for purification. Purified water by means of sanitation plants -if water is brought back to its original state, then its permissible to use this water

ISTINJAA (water)/ ISTIJMAAR (stones/tissue)

Narrated Abu Hurayrah (RA), which says that The Prophet (SAW) said: “Whoever does wudoo’, let him rinse his nose, and whoever does istijmaar let him use an odd number.” Sunan an-Nasa’i -The Book of Purification,Vol. 1, Book 1, Hadith 88. Muslim (262) narrated that Salmaan al-Faarisi (RA) said: “The Prophet (SAW) forbade us to clean ourselves using less than three stones.” Bulugh al-Maram 97: Book 1, Hadith 115
Narrated Anas ibn Maalik (RA) who said: When I was a boy, when the Messenger of Allah (SAW) entered the toilet I would carry a small vessel of leather filled with water, and he would clean himself with water. Sunan an-Nasa’i -The Book of Purification, Vol. 1, Book 1, Hadith 45
Narrated Salman (RA): Allah’s Messenger (SAW) forbade us to face the Qiblah when defecating or urinating, or to clean ourselves (Istinjhaa) using the right hand, or to clean ourselves with less than three stones, or to clean ourselves with dung or a bone. [Reported by Muslim]. Bulugh al-Maram 97: Book 1, Hadith 115
  • The best practice as per the ahadith is to use water. However there is consensus that even if there is water; one may perform istijmaar using stones or tissue to cleanse oneself. However, it is stipulated that one should wipe three times or more in order to clean the place properly. Hence, you cannot cleanse yourself less than three times in istijmaar.


Anas (RA) Narrated that Allah’s Messenger (SAW) used to perform ablution with one Mudd (of water and perform Ghusl (bath) with one Sa’ to five Mudd (of water). [Agreed upon]. Bulugh al-Maram 56: Book 1, Hadith 65
Narrated ‘Abdullah bin Zaid (RA): Two-thirds of a Mudd (of water) was brought to the Prophet (SAW) (for ablution) so he was rubbing his forearms (between the wrist and the elbow). [Reported by Ahmad, and Ibn Khuzaimah graded it Sahih (authentic)]. Bulugh al-Maram 41: Book 1, Hadith 48
  • The Prophet (SAW) performed used 2/3rds to 1 Mudd to perform wudhu which equates to about 750 ml and one Sa’ is about 3 litres of water


Narrated Abu Hurairah (RA): Allah’s Messenger (SAW) said, “None of you should take a bath in stagnant water while he is sexually impure.” [Muslim reported it] Bulugh al-Maram 6: Book 1, Hadith 6.
Al-Bukhari has: “None of you should urinate in stagnant water that is not flowing, and then take bath in it.” Muslim has the words: “from it (i.e. from the water).” Abu Dawud has: “One should not take bath in it from sexual impurity.”
  • Abu Hurairah (RA) was asked, “How can we use this water, we require it for our Ghusl?” He answered, “You take scoops of this water and use it.” This was related to him from Prophet Muhammad (SAW)
Narrated Ibn ‘Abbas (RA): The Prophet (SAW) used to bath with the water left over by Maymuna (RA) [Muslim reported it]. Bulugh al-Maram 8: Book 1, Hadith 9
And Ashab As-Sunan (here meaning Abu Dawud, Tirmidhi and Ibn Majah) reported that one of the wives of the Prophet (SAW) took a bath from a vessel, then the Prophet (SAW) came and when he wanted to take a bath from that (vessel), she said to him, “I was sexually impure.” He said, “Water does not become sexually impure.” [At-Tirmidhi and Ibn Khuzaimah graded it Sahih (authentic)]. Bulugh al-Maram 9: Book 1, Hadith 10
Narrated Ayesha (RA): I and Allah’s Messenger (SAW) used to take a Ghusl (bath) due to sexual impurity from the same vessel and our hands alternated in (scooping water from) it. [Agreed upon]. Ibn Hibban added “and (our hands) used to meet.” Bulugh al-Maram 123: Book 1, Hadith 150
  • The Prophet (SAW) would make Ghusl with leftover water of Maymuna (RA). The water that remains behind is pure and is permissible to use leftover water as long as it hasn’t changed in taste, colour, or smell . As relayed in the hadith narrated by Ayesha (RA), it is permissible for the husband and wife to take a bath together.

** This post has been reviewed by Sheikh Bilal Ismail, Sheikh Safwaan Sasman, Sheikh Munier Abdurouf and Sheikh Khalied Abdurouf

** I have not focused on a specific school of thought in terms of the manner of performing wudhu/ghusl etc.

NOTE 1 :There is some discussion related to the authenticity of the hadith however the verdict is that wasting by extravagance when performing wudhu and otherwise is a blameworthy action as stated in the Qur’an: “and waste not by extravagance. Verily, He likes not Al-Musrifoon (those who waste by extravagance)” [al-An ‘am 6:141]. To read the discussion regards the authenticity please click on the following link:(Source: \


WWF South Africa

Islam Q&A


SUNNAH.COM – Bulugh al Maram: Purification


Course Notes from AlKauthar Institute

Resource for kids: How to perform tayammum

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