Ice bucket challenges seem to be the latest craze at the moment. In trying to raise awareness about Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, or ALS, a viral craze has begun where individuals pour a bucket of ice-cold water over themselves, giving them the privilege of nominating their friends and family to do the same.
Now I really don’t want to come across as a party pooper; after all, it’s a bit of harmless fun for a good cause. But there is something that just doesn’t sit right with me about the ice bucket challenge. Of course, we must raise awareness about ALS; it’s one of those conditions that has extremely severe repercussions for both patients and their respective families, yet very few people know about it. My uncle suffered with ALS for a number of years, and I remember seeing him during my childhood becoming gradually weaker by the day and not understanding why. The eventual cause of his death was respiratory depression – the most common end point for sufferers of this awful condition.
Of course, there have been many criticisms on the pretentious nature of this campaign, citing that there are millions of people in the world without uncontaminated drinking water, and yet here we are in the West pouring clean water over our heads. This is why Matt Damon poured toilet water over his head, to highlight this point in addition to raising awareness about ALS. There have been others who have talked about the sad nature in which some people seem to be so influenced by social media fads, that they feel compelled to be part of such viral initiatives in order to ‘keep up’.
But my unease has nothing to do with either of these points. Water holds great sanctity within Islam, as it is the true essence of life. Allah tells us in the Quran that he made every living thing out of water, including human beings. Given that water is one of the fundamental elements of Allah’s creation, we must be at the forefront of ensuring that it is not wasted.
I suppose the question then comes down to whether pouring over a bucket of water over your head would be deemed a waste at all. I’ve heard some Muslims argue that it isn’t a waste, as it’s helping to raise awareness about a good cause. I’m not so sure about this line of argument. When we are reminded of the hadith which warns about wasting water whilst performing wudu, highlighting the importance of using only as much water as is necessary, surely this emphasises the principle that we should maintain all efforts to conserve water, even when washing ourselves before conversing with our Lord? I remember feeling humbled when I saw a video of a scholar performing wudu, and the efforts he took to ensure he didn’t waste even a drop of water whilst purifying himself prior to offering his prayers to Allah. This should serve as a reminder that perhaps we are all too ready to waste water, and disrespect it through impulsive acts of frivolity.