The community at Standing Rock has put out a call to all peoples to come and pray with them. I heeded that call and went and prayed with them there. Yes, this almost 7-month pregnant woman went out to North Dakota to sleep in her car and attend circles and ceremony around fire and water because I felt it was my Muslim duty to do so. I would like to offer some meditations of my own on why I believe water is so important according to our tradition.
We’ve done ourselves a grave injustice in our understanding of wudu. We’re taught that it is a means of preparing ourselves for prayer by washing away our filth, physically and spiritually. While this spiritual understanding is valid and true, it is also limited. Wudu is not merely a means of purifying the body and heart. Rather, it is a means to be physically and spiritually connected with the most essential and foundational building block of life.
وَجَعَلْنَا مِنَ الْمَاءِ كُلَّ شَيْءٍ حَيٍّ
.We made from water every living thing
We must develop our relationship with this source of life, this creation of God, this compound which is close to God. So powerful and yet so subtle. A rushing river that sounds like death itself as it crashes against rock — simply bouncing off and carrying along on its way — the fall of female rain from the sky as it gives drink to the thirsty Earth. The disaster of a flood or tsunami or the trickle of water running through a mountain, purifying itself to become crystal clean to support more beautiful life. In water are signs of the 99 attributes of God — this formless thing that makes up our bodies of flesh and Earth. This molecule that can be liquid, gas, solid, seen and unseen — so close to us and yet so far away. Water isn’t to be worshipped — no it is to be honored and respected as a supreme servant and creation of God.
What sort of violence do we commit with the showers we take and the wudu we make? Do we think about entering into our prayer with the sound of water exploding from our faucets just having accosted our ears? I’m often shocked when I attend communal prayers at mosques. Why don’t mosques have taps which regulate the flows of water? How can we enter into a truly peaceful and prayerful state when we’ve just committed such violence by letting this water run wildly and violently at our supposed discretion?
Abdullah ibn Amr reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, passed by Sa’d while he was performing wudu (ablution). The Prophet said, “What is this extravagance?” Sa’d said, “Is there extravagance with water in ablution?” The Prophet said, “Yes, even if you were on the banks of a flowing river.”
When I lived off the grid in New Mexico, I became hyper-conscious of how much water I used, versus how much water I needed. By virtue of drinking water that came straight out of the mountain, I came to honor it more. In having to carry my water from its source to my home, I relished and honored every drop. What was water but life? And the difference was in my ability to perform my religious duties in a way that honored my resources and the difference between my being thirsty or not.
We even have the etiquette of drinking water in our tradition: Anas ibn Malik relates that the Messenger of Allah ﷺ drank water in three sips and used to say, “It is more pleasing and satisfying in this manner.”
Mni Wiconi, Water is life. I’m back on the island of Manhattan, but in Standing Rock this spiritual and physical battle is ongoing.
Native Americans from over 100 tribes along with their supporters and allies are engaging in this very important work of reorganizing our world for greater and much needed harmony and balance. This is completely in line with the instruction we Muslims receive that we are stewards of this Earth and of all creatures dwelling upon it. Beyond this is a beautiful invitation:
وَعِبَادُ الرَّحْمَٰنِ الَّذِينَ يَمْشُونَ عَلَى الْأَرْضِ هَوْنًا وَإِذَا خَاطَبَهُمُ الْجَاهِلُونَ قَالُوا سَلَامًا
And the lovers of Al-Rahman (the "womb One, who loves unconditionally") are those who walk upon the Earth most gently/tenderly and when the ignorant address them they speak peace.
We must be conscious of the way we tread upon the Earth if we want to know the truth of Al-Rahman in our lives. After all, our beloved Messenger ﷺ said: الراحمون يرحمهم الرحمن. Those who show rahma, empathetic, womb-like love and mercy, they will be shown that from the One from whom it originates, Al-Rahman. We must tread tenderly upon the Earth to know the truth of this name of God. What a gracious invitation!
If you didn’t know about the Dakota Access Pipeline already, I would encourage you to read about it and venture there for a visit to learn more about it. And if you already care and find yourself in alignment against practices which make the rich richer and the poor more poor, realize these practices poison us all. The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe members are not simply water protectors for themselves, but for their own peoples and their own lands. They understand the very basic teaching of the Qur'an that tells us that we are completely of this Earth, bani Adam, of Earth and water/blood. And that our Earth mother is no different. If we continue to let her veins be tapped for profit or any other reason, we are not embodying and living according to the sunnah of our Prophet ﷺ. Her blood (oil) is sacred — just like her water.
The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe began this protest and we must join it. I am a woman in her third trimester of pregnancy. I have a two year old. I am a full time graduate student. I have a family, a house to keep up and if I could find the time to go there, sleep in my car at camp, cook in their kitchens for those who stand at the front lines, those who are tear gassed and struck with water cannons, I believe deeply that you can care too. This isn’t a Native American issue. This isn’t a capitalist issue. This isn’t a political issue. This is an issue of honoring life, a cause we can all get behind. One of the foundational principles within Shariah is the protection of life. Anyone who understands elementary Arabic or has studied Shariah or Hebrew for that matter knows that Shariah literally means “a path to life giving water.”
Think about that — Shariah is a path to life-giving water. The next time you have a sip of water, make wudu, water your plants, cook, take a shower or cry — remember that. Shariah is a path to life-giving water.
The next time you make wudu beloveds, please know that this relationship you have with that water means so much. It isn’t a mere tool to prepare you for prayer, or to quench your thirst or to clean your body. Mni Wiconi. Water is life.
If you wish to read more about the author's experiences at Standing Rock, visit her website for the full account here.
By Mona Haydar , 02 Dec 2016