Section : Purification.
The shari’ah has divided water into four kinds:
1. mutlaq water,
2. used water (for purification),
3. water mixed with pure elements and
4. water mixed with impure elements. We shall discuss each of them separately.
Section : Mutlaq water.
This kind of water is considered pure because of its inherent purity and as such, it can be used by an individual to purify him or herself. It consists of the following categories:
Section : Rain water, snow, and hail.
These substances are pure because Allah says so: “And sent down water from the sky upon you, that thereby He might purify you…” (al-Anfal 1), and “We send down purifying water from the sky” (al-Furqan 48). This is also supported by the following hadith: Abu Hurairah reported that the Messenger of Allah, upon whom be peace, used to be silent between the (opening) takbir of the prayer and the verbal Qur’anic recitation. Abu Hurairah asked him, “O Messenger of Allah, may my father and mother be sacrificed for you, why do you remain silent between the takbir and the recital? What do you say (silently during that time)?” He said, “I say, ‘O Allah, make a distance between me and my sins similar to the distance you have made between the East and the West. O Allah, cleanse me of my sins in the manner that a white garment (is cleansed) from dirt. O Allah, wash my sins from me with snow, water, and hail.”‘ This hadith is related by the “group”, except for at-Tirmizhi.
Section : Sea water.
Sea water’s purity is based on the following hadith: Abu Hurairah related that a man asked the Messenger of Allah, upon whom be peace, “O Messenger of Allah, we sail on the ocean and we carry only a little water. If we use it for ablution, we will have to go thirsty. May we use sea water for ablution?” Said the Messenger of Allah, upon whom be peace, “Its (the sea) water is pure and its dead (animals) are lawful (i.e., they can be eaten without any prescribed slaughtering).” This hadith is related by “the five.” At-Tirmizhi calls it hassan sahih, and al-Bukhari says it is sahih.
Section : Water from the well of Zamzam.
‘Ali narrated that the Messenger of Allah, upon whom be peace, called for a bucket that contained water from the well of Zamzam. He drank from the bucket, then made ablution (with its water). This hadith is related by Ahmad.
Section : Altered water.
This involves water whose form has been altered because of its being in a place for a long period of time, or because of the place in which it is located, or because of its being mixed with a substance that cannot be completely removed from it (i.e., water mixed with algae, tree leaves, and so on). The scholars agree that this type of water falls under the heading of mutlaq water.
The rationale is simple: everything that falls under the general term of water, without any further qualifications, is considered pure, for the Qur’an says, “…and if you find not water, then go to clean, high ground…” (al-Ma’idah 6).
Section : Used water.
This category refers to water which drips from the person after he performs ablution or ghusl. It is considered pure because it was pure before its use for ablution, and there is no basis to think that it has lost its purity. This statement is supported by the hadith of Rab’i bint Mu’wazh which describes the ablution of the Messenger of Allah. She states, “He wiped his head with (the water) remaining on his hands from his ablution.” This hadith is related by Ahmad and Abu Dawud. Abu Dawud’s version is, “The Messenger of Allah, upon whom be peace, wiped his head with the extra water that was in his hand.” Abu Hurairah also reported that the Messenger of Allah met him alone in the streets of Madinah while he was in post-sex impurity. He therefore slipped away, made ghusl and returned. The Messenger of Allah, upon whom be peace, asked him “Where have you been, Abu Hurairah?” He answered, “I was in post-sex impurity and did not want to sit with you while I was in that condition.” The Prophet replied, “Glory be to Allah. The believer does not become impure.” This is related by “the group.”
This is based on the rationale that since a believer never becomes impure, the water he uses for purification also does not become impure. Thus, a pure object touching a pure object cannot result in one’s becoming impure. Ibn al-Munzhir said that it is related that ‘Ali, Ibn ‘Umar, Abu Umamah, ‘Ata, al-Hassan, Makhul and anNakha’i said that if a person forgot to wipe his head while making ablution, it is sufficient for him to wipe his head with any water remaining in his beard. Ibn al-Munzhir stated that this proves that they took “used water” as pure. This opinion comes from one of the narrations attributed to Malik and ash-Shaf’i. Ibn Hazm ascribes it to Sufyan al-Thauri, Abu Thaur, and all scholars of the Zhahiri school of thought.