Question # 399: Asalaamu alaykum; Is it permissible to wash one’s vehicle? We are told as Muslims to be conservative with water even if we are in front of an ocean and when making wudu.

bismi-llahi r-raḥmani r-raḥīm,

Assalamu ‘laikum warahmatullahi wabarakatuh,

All praise and thanks are due to Allah (سبحانه و تعالى), and peace and blessings be upon His Messenger (صلى الله عليه و سلم).

Dear questioner,

First of all, we implore Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) to help us serve His cause and render our work for His sake.

Shorter Answer: No doubt, not only the Qur’an but also the Sunnah of Prophet Muhammad (صلى الله عليه و سلم) emphasizes the importance of water conservation and the scholars are unanimously agreed that extravagance in using water is makrooh (disliked). However, in today’s convenient world, we often don’t think twice before wasting water during car washing, dish washing, brushing, taking long showers, while making wudu’ or many a times, just keeping the faucet running unnecessarily. There are many ways in which we can save water in our daily routines. As for washing car, the following measures can be taken to conserve water: Using a bucket with soapy water, rinsing vehicles with a hose equipped with an automatic shutoff nozzle, using commercial car washes that conserve and recycle their wash water, if available.

Lastly, we would like to emphasize that Islam stresses on physical cleanliness and outward appearance alongside spiritual cleanliness. If we claim to represent Islam, we ought to be recognized by neat dress, cleanliness, and graceful appearance in modesty and moderation, and without pride or arrogance. Keeping one’s car clean also forms part of cleanliness and graceful appearance. Hence, a Muslim must keep his car clean with regular wash, bearing in mind the wasteful or extravagant use of water.

Long Answer: The Qur’an makes two clear statements regarding water that support water demand management. First, the supply of water is fixed, and second, it should not be wasted. The statement that water supply is fixed, and that therefore, at some point, demand must be managed because supplies cannot be infinitely increased is: “And we send down water from the sky in fixed measure.'” (Soorah Al-Mu’minun, 23:18) The Qur’an then tells humans that they may use God’s gifts for their sustenance in moderation, provided that they commit no excess therein: “O Children of Adam!… Eat and drink: But waste not by excess, for God loveth not the wasters.” (Soorah Al-A’raf, 7:31)

Further, Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) also says in the Qur’an:

  • “Say: “Tell me! If (all) your water were to be sunk away, who then can supply you with flowing (spring) water?”” (Soorah Al-Mulk, 67:30)
  • “Have they not seen how We drive water (rain clouds) to the dry land without any vegetation, and therewith bring forth crops providing food for their cattle and themselves? Will they not then see?” (Soorah As-Sajdah, 32:27)
  • “And it is He Who sends the winds as heralds of glad tidings, going before His Mercy (rain), and We send down pure water from the sky” (Soorah Al-Furqan, 25:48)
  • “Have not those who disbelieve known that the heavens and the earth were joined together as one united piece, then We parted them? And We have made from water every living thing. Will they not then believe?” (Soorah Al-Anbiya, 21:30)

The ahadith are even more explicit. The Prophet Muhammad (صلى الله عليه و سلم) “used to perform ablution with one mudd of water [equal to 2/3 liter] and used to take a bath with one sa’ up to five mudds [equal to 2-3 ½ liters].” (Al-Bukhari) This hadith demonstrates the logical approach to sustainable water use in arid Arabia where the Prophet lived. However, the Prophet forbade waste even in conditions of seeming plenty. [Abdullah ibn Amr reported: The Messenger of Allah (صلى الله عليه و سلم) passed by Sa’d while he was performing ablution. The Prophet said, “What is this excess?” Sa’d said, “Is there excess with water in ablution?” The Prophet said, “Yes, even if you were on the banks of a flowing river.” (Reported Imam Ahmad and Ibn Maajah, graded sahih according to Ahmad Shakir)] Given the clarity of these examples, it is surprising that they are not used more widely to promote water conservation… (‘Water Management in Islam’ by Naser I. Faruqui)

It says in al-Mawsoo‘ah al-Fiqhiyyah: “They are unanimously agreed that extravagance in using water is makrooh” Shaykh ‘Abd al-Muhsin al-‘Abbaad (may Allah have mercy on him) said: The scholars are unanimously agreed that extravagance in using water is forbidden, even on the sea shore, because of the report narrated by Ahmad and Ibn Maajah… (Sharh Sunan Abi Dawood) (Islamqa.info)

[However,] in today’s convenient world, we often don’t think twice before wasting water on unnecessary things such as washing our cars or just running the tap waiting for the correct temperature. When we run a long bath, flush the toilet, excessively wash dishes, brush our teeth or spend extra time in the shower just because we feel like it – it can be easy to forget about those who are in desperate need for something we all too often waste. As one of the most important elements in nature, water is needed and required for almost all life and everything that we do relies upon this wonderful element… There are many ways in which we can save water in our daily routines, such as using a small bucket of limited water in which to perform ablution with, or turning the tap off whilst brushing our teeth -along with many other ways we can look into recycling water. (www.islamichelp.org.uk/media-centre/news/the-importance-of-water-in-islam/)

As for washing car, the following measures can be taken to conserve water as suggested by the Department of Environment, Maryland:

  • Wash vehicles using a bucket with soapy water: Soap and water usually work well…  Be sure to turn the running water off while you are washing a vehicle.
  • Rinse vehicles with a hose equipped with an automatic shutoff nozzle: A standard garden hose uses about 10 gallons per minute.  This means you use 100 gallons of water with only a 10-minute car wash.  When you use an automatic shutoff nozzle on your hose, water does not flow continuously while you wash your vehicle, saving as much as 70 gallons per wash. Using a power washer can conserve even more water; power washers use, on average, about 2 to 5 gallons per minute, with a potential savings of up to 80 gallons over using a standard house without an automatic shutoff nozzle.
  • Consider going to a commercial car wash: If you cannot wash your vehicle in an area that drains to the lawn or a gravel area, take it to a commercial spray booth or car wash.  A properly designed car wash is connected to a sanitary sewer that carries the dirty water to a wastewater treatment plant. There are three types of commercial car washes: self-serve car washes, in-bay automatic car washes, and conveyor car washes…. Many newer conveyor car washes and some newer in-bay car washes clean and recycle water in their car wash bays. Car washes that recycle their water use much less water than standard car washes. The quantity of water recycled varies from 10 percent to 80 percent of the water used. Check to ensure that the car wash you choose recycles its water.

(//mde.maryland.gov/programs/Water/waterconservation/Pages/carwashing.aspx)

Lastly, we would like to emphasize that we all know about the importance of spiritual cleanliness, but Islam also stresses on physical cleanliness and outward appearance. Looking clean and nice is a way of the Prophet. It makes one look good, feel good, be confident. People will like your company and will respect you. Muslims in general pay very less attention on presentation and behavior. If we claim to represent Islam, we ought to be recognized by neat dress, cleanliness, and graceful appearance in modesty and moderation, and without pride or arrogance.

Below are a few references on this topic from the sayings of the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم):

  • Jabir ibn Abdullah reported: The Messenger of Allah (صلى الله عليه و سلم) came to us and he saw an unkempt man with disheveled hair. The Prophet said, “Could this man find nothing to groom his hair?” The Prophet saw another man with a dirty garment and he said, “Could this man find nothing to wash his garment?” (Sunan Abi Dawood; graded sahih according to Al-Nawawi)
  • Yahya related to me from Malik from Zayd ibn Aslam that Ata ibn Yasar told him that the Messenger of God (صلى الله عليه و سلم) was in the mosque when a man came in with disarranged hair and beard. The Messenger of God motioned with his hand that he should be sent out to groom his hair and beard. The man did so and then returned. The Messenger of God said, “Isn’t this better than that one of you should come with his head disarranged, as if he were a devil?” (Malik Muwatta)
  • ‘Abdullah ibn Mas’ud reported that the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) said, “No one who has an atom’s weight of pride in his heart will enter the Garden.” A man said, “And if the man likes his clothes to be good and his sandals to be good?” He said, “God is Beautiful and loves beauty. Pride means to renounce the truth and to look down on people.” (Muslim)

In summary, keeping one’s car clean is also part of cleanliness and graceful appearance. Hence, a Muslim must keep his car clean with regular wash, bearing in mind the wasteful or extravagant use of water.

Allahu A’lam (Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) knows best) and all Perfections belong to Allah, and all mistakes belong to me alone. May Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) forgive me, Ameen.

Wassalaam