Water Supply, Sanitation, Hygienic Considerations and Practices in Muslim Civilizations

by Marwan Haddad Published on: 9th April 2021

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Water supply and sanitation along with hygienic considerations and practices in the Muslim civilisations over centuries is important to document and report because of its relation to Muslims’ economic, cultural and social aspects of life. Due to the close relationship between water supply and faith in Islam, the Islamic approaches to water supply, sanitation, and related hygienic practices abstracted from the Quran and the teachings of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH)are briefly presented. It was found that (i) water supply for domestic purposes, irrigation, livestock, or other uses was given prime importance by Muslim leaders, (ii) the three civilizations, Umayyad, Abbasids, and the Ottoman were found distinct in water supply development as well as sanitation and hygienic practices and considerations and practices, (iii) since civilization is centered around major cities, the development history of water supply for major Muslim cities was offered, (iv) Muslims over history and civilizations were good developers of new, creative, and innovative hydraulic machines and water supply technologies such as water raising and transporting equipment and infrastructures, (v) The impact of inventions and practices made by Muslims over history in water supply was great in the Medieval period (specially in Europe) and is still felt in modern times, (vi)from quality assurance and control side the department of Hisba and the staff of Al-Muhtasibs was a remarkable Islamic organizational approach to maintain the sector, (vii). Although guidelines for dealing with sanitation exist in Islamic rules and teachings, Islam left the door wide open for Muslim experts/researchers/scholars to respond and find useful and practical answers and solutions for related problems faced, and (viii) A three-step approach was suggested to revive Muslims’ civilization to attain sustainable development including in water supply and sanitation sector.

1. Introduction

Water for Muslims is necessary for drinking, food production and preparation. In addition, it is needed for ablution and ghusul (ablution), bathing, personal and home cleanliness, and for other domestic and municipal purposes including recreation and sport. Water is also needed for the economic development of the Muslim society and State including agriculture (animals, poultry, fish, and crops/plants), industry, tourism, transport, and others.

Worldwide, about one billion people practice open defecation with 597 million individuals in India only [1, 2]. An estimated 2.5 billion people globally do not have improved sanitation facilities, such as flush toilets [3].In addition780 million people in developing countries still use unsafe drinking water sources.

“Providing the water needed to feed a growing population and balancing this with all the other demands on water, is one of the great challenges of this century” [4,5].

Water supply is the present and future main challenge: securing enough quantity, safe in quality and affordable water at all times [6]

The fact that global available freshwater resources are limited and the population and their life needs are continuously increasing make the state of the earth’s environment worsens and consequently water supply, sanitation, hygienic considerations, management practices and pollution control become vital issues in the quest for sustainable development.

Ethically, it is important to note that water use is a vital matter and a right to every human and non-human and should not be guided mainly by market forces and economic considerations; people should care for each other in all aspects of the natural environment including ecology, water, land, air, and society as a whole regardless of the fluctuations of the economy [7].

This historic success of Islamic teaching is important to emphasize, prove, and document: when Islam was implemented into everyday activities and with devoted strong Islamic leadership, the prosperity of Islamic societies was prevailing and minimum if any deficiencies were reported and Muslims and non-Muslims were benefiting.

Between the middle of the 8th and the beginning of the 13th Centuries, the Arabic speaking population were the main bearers of the torch of culture and civilization throughout the world. Moreover, they were the medium through which ancient science and philosophy were recovered, supplemented and transmitted in such a way as to make possible the renaissance of Western Europe [8]. During the same period, Islamic cultures on the periphery of Europe had religiously mandated high levels of personal hygiene, along with highly developed water supplies and adequate sanitation systems [9, 10].

The Diversity of Muslim Societies from Russia and China to Spain and from southern Europe through the Middle East and North Africa to Somali presents a positive element of Islamic heritage and rich input to the world heritage including those in water supply, sanitation, and hygienic considerations and practices. This societal and geographic diversity has lead to a diversity of experiences, considerations, and practices in the field.

Over the course of history, water supplies were the cause of numerous civilizations to rise and disintegrate, fettered or even disappear [11]. It was found that the history of water and sanitation services is strongly linked to current water management and policy issues, as well as to future implications [12].

Islam placed high importance on the water as a matter of life and as the foundation/reference for all living things: ALLAH (SWT) made from water every living thing (Quran 21:30). Islamic law has made the right to use water guaranteed to everyone without monopoly, corruption or obstruction, Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said:

“People are partners in three: water, pasture (meaning food) and fire (meaning energy)” (Narrated by Ibn Majah).

In addition, supplying others with water in Islam: whether human, animal, or plantation, is considered as a continuous charity (Quran 6:99) and/or zakat (permanent charity) Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) was asked, which charity is best? He replied, providing water (Narrated by Abu Dawud).

The Muslim civilization and has been understated, neglected, and treated with injustice [ 13, 14, 15, 16, and 17] and did not take its proper respect and gratitude from either the East or the West. Muslims were dazzled by contemporary Western civilization, have neglected and disregarded their past and their heritage. Muslims’ experiences, practices, applications, and knowledge accumulated over centuries including those in water supply, sanitation, and hygienic considerations and practices are poorly presented and/or documented.

This paper examines water supply, sanitation, and hygienic considerations, and practices in the Muslim civilization including produced or developed technical and technological systems and equipment, infrastructures, management organization, social rules and cultural aspects, knowledge and beliefs, and how Muslims dealt with the numerous geographical and climatic conditions of the Muslim’s State to the various eras from the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) to the present time.

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2. Islamic Approaches to Water Supply, Sanitation, and Hygiene

2.1 Water Supply

A distinct Islamic approach to environmental education and management including water supply, sanitation, and hygienic considerations and practices was pinpointed as a result of (1) extracting by identification, listing, sorting, and grouping the verses in Qur’an (the holy book of Islam and Muslims) having commonalities related to environmental education and management, then (2) finding the connection and relationships between groups according to mutual meanings and understandings [18, 19, and20]. This conceptualization was analogous to a balance tripod structure that relates the creation and development of water resources (control and source of water, creation excellence, and directions for water use, and water as an affliction matter for Muslims), to its use for various living activities and needs (cleaning and wastes, the fulfilment of life needs, and worshipping) and to related impacts resulting from this use or misuse (degradation and perdition, protection and comfort). This approach and its guidelines will help in setting Muslims on a path of sustainable water use; the alternative route is one of depletion and degradation of water resources due to dumping in watercourses or the use of untreated wastewater with all the pathogens that are contained with it [21].

Water resources allocation and development in Islam is based on that domestic purposes (denoted by drinking) are a prime concern and priority for all creatures. Selling water is forbidden in Islam, meaning that no profit to be made out of drinking water supply services (certainly not to provide them for free but for due cost). Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) said:

“The bounty of water is not forbidden or to be withheld.” (Sahih al-Bukhari)

After drinking, water can be allocated to agriculture for food production, then other uses or users follow such as processing, navigation, and others (Quran 54:28, 51:4, 16:10, and 26:155).

It is evident in Islam that improper conduct of Muslims against set rules and guidelines related to various water dealings will result in either degrading and/or destroying their water resources

Quran 18:45, 6:6, 10:24, 67:30, 7:31, and 2:60)

In studying Islamic law regarding water, it was found that:

  • The basic principles of the Islamic water code are broadly based and applicable to a variety of hydrological situations. Water is treated in Islam as a scarce natural resource belonging to the community and, therefore, the code opposes speculation, protects the rights of both nomadic and sedentary peoples, and attempts to establish an order for agricultural exploitation. The application of the code follows the spirit of fair dealings and allows for a wide variety of interpretations adapted to different techniques of water exploitation and systems of water distribution [22, 23].
  • Islamic water laws prevent water wells from being dug too close to one another [24].

In Islam, the water issue occupies, cover, and affect all living things on earth as they all created from and contain water (Quran: 21:30, 24:45, 25:53 & 54). Water use in Islam is part of the overall water management which addresses water issues at the personal, human level as well and the national (public) level and regulates State-personal relations [25].

Allah (SWT)and after driving rain in specific quantities demand that the competition between water users be in the course of best beneficial use and deeds. This application and behaviour of Muslims need to be continuous and represent an ongoing test of faith and compliance of Muslims with Allah’s rules (Quran 43:11, 23:18, 39:21, 54:13, 24:43, 32:32, and 13:17).

The ethics of water use in Islam is directly related to Muslim’s faith, behaviour, and responsibility. Meaning all Muslim activities including those in water supply, sanitation, and hygienic considerations and practices should be within and conforming to Islamic guidance’s and rules. The related Qur’an verses (Quran 7:31, 17:26 and 27, 30:303, 24:54, 25:18, 23:19, 68, 69, and 70, and 56:56)and the Prophetic traditions/teachings in this regard [26].

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2.2 Sanitation

Once water is used for various purposes it becomes a mixture of water with waste materials and consequently need to be collected, treated, and disposed and/or reused properly or in other word sanitized in order to keep the environment clean, preserved and protected.

In Islam, Individuals can expect an abundance of resources which would include treated wastewater, if they are faithful, fulfil their duties to ALLAH (God), and do righteous deeds (Quran 72:16, 77:41, 2:22, 6:99, 13:14, 13:17, 18:29) such as minimizing extravagance in water use and preventing (or minimizing) pollution levels affecting freshwater resources.

In a fatwa, Muslim scholar Abdel-Fattah Idrees wrote that it is sinful to pollute water bodies [27]. Furthermore, Prophet Mohammad provided a pivotal legal rule through this expression:

“No harm shall be inflicted or reciprocated in Islam.” (narrated by Ahmad)

Furthermore, the Quran itself makes it clear that people should avoid “mischief on earth” and those who abide by God’s words and do good deeds will receive “the Mercy of Allah” (Quran, Al-`Araf: 56).

After a group of Islamic scholars investigated and discussed with scientists the issue of wastewater treatment and reuse, the Council of Leading Islamic Scholars (CLIS) [28]in Saudi Arabia issued a fatwa which states:

Impure wastewater can be considered as pure water and similar to the original pure water, if its treatment using advanced technical procedures is capable of removing its impurities with regard to taste, colour and smell, as witnessed by honest, specialized and knowledgeable experts. Then it can be used to remove body impurities and for purifying, even for drinking. If there are negative impacts from its direct use on human health, then it is better to avoid its use, not because it is impure but to avoid harming human beings. The CLIS prefers to avoid using it for drinking (as possible) to protect health and not to contradict human habits [29, 30, 31, and 32].

Similarly, the World Fatwa Management and Research Institute (WFMR) ruled that:

“If water treatment restores the taste, colour, and smell of unclean water to its original state, then it becomes pure and hence there is nothing wrong to use it for irrigation and other useful purposes.” [33]

Other scholars add to these perspectives that the removal of impurities needs to be witnessed by credible specialists [34]. These fatwas make it clear that in Islam there is no religious objection to Muslims using reclaimed wastewater for irrigation [35, 36] and for other purposes [37] if it is properly cleaned/treated. It should be stated that in this fatwa there is no reference to specific harmful, pollutants, toxic products and harmful bacteria and viruses which need to be addressed in future fatwas when talking about properly cleaned or treated wastewater.

Studying the philosophy of wastewater reuse in Muslim countries, Farooq and Ansari [38, 39] found that Islamic guidelines for recycling wastewater could serve as a useful source for meeting the shortage of fresh water in all parts of the world.

There are some Islamic guidelines to Muslims to deal with the sanitation issue, as mentioned above, however, there is an indication of no universal Islamic method of dealings with the various issues and aspects of wastewater management (collection, treatment, and recycle or re-use). This means that Islamic States or their organs (department/municipality) and according to each specific case and location (nature and size of wastewater flow) to be dealt with by local scholars, specialists, and experts in a specific appropriate manner. Support for this note was found in Quran 5:48.

2.3 Hygienic Considerations and Practices

Islam in essence describes and provides a holistic approach and an integrated code of behaviour which deals with personal hygiene, cleanliness and purification at one end of the spectrum, and to our relationships with the natural order at the other [40]. In accordance, Muslims throughout the world stress and have extremely high importance and standards of personal hygiene, both physical and spiritual as well as public hygiene[41]. Islamic hygienically related jurisprudence (religious rules) include among others:

  • Taharah (ritual purity) involves performing wudu (ablution) for the five daily salah (prayers), and performing ghusl (bathing after janabah (preclusion)) and bathing regularly for body cleanliness and for removing preclusion (janābah). Tahara in Arabic means to be free from filth, both spiritual and physical [42]. Janabah arises from sexual intercourse, seminal emission, menstruation, and childbirth. This Islamic practice led to public bathhouses being built across the Islamic world.[43]. In the Abbasid Caliphate (8th-13th centuries), and as an example of high sanitary and hygienic level, its capital city of Baghdad (Iraq) had 65,000 public baths, along with a sewer system.[44]
  • Islamic toilet hygiene requires washing with water or cleaning after using the toilet, for purity and to minimize germs.[45]
  • Relating faith and cleanliness: Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) informed his companions and thus all of us, about the importance of cleanliness when he said:

“Cleanliness is half of faith.” (Saheeh Muslim).

  • Relating ALLAH’s love and purity:

“Truly, God loves those who turn unto Him in repentance and loves those who purify themselves.” (Quran 2:222)

  • Internal Self-control of Muslims: The internal self-control of Muslims on their conduct and behaviour to be within allowed limits is based on the fact that Allah knows and continuously observes all creatures and their deeds and intentions and they will be accounted for these deeds after death. In this regard, the prophet Mohammad (PBUH) said:

“Every one of you is a guardian (khalifa) and is responsible for the people under his authority.” (Sahih Bukhari 3.46.730)[46,47, and 48].

  • Prohibiting Pollution:

“And do not commit abuse on the earth, spreading pollution/corruption.” (Qur’an, 2:60), and elsewhere: “And do not desire corruption in the land. Indeed, God does not like polluters/corruptors.” (Qur’an 28:77).

  • Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “Allah forbade urinating in stagnant water” (Sahih Muslim, No. 81). Flowing water in Islam is considered pure and stagnant water dirty, regardless of the pollutants the water contains. Some beliefs about the causes of disease seem fantastic to anyone acquainted with the germ theory of disease [49].

At the beginning of the Muslim civilization, Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) took the preventive method in his life to protect water sources from pollution; so he warned from the defecating or urinating in water resources[50], and he established borders for water fountains and wells so that he prevented construction or agriculture within these borders to protect groundwater from human and plant waste contamination.[51, 52]. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) gave prime importance to street clean-ups, cleaning mosques and praying places, acting in harm, he said:

  • Purify your vessels (clean them)…. (Narrated by Al-Tabari)
  • ALLAH is good (Tayyeb) and do not accept from you but good or – morally right (Narrated by Abu Hurairah).
  • Spitting in the mosque is a sin and its expiation is to bury it. (Narrated by Bukhari and Muslim).
  • Whoever harms Muslims in their paths must be cursed. (Narrated by al-Tabari).
  • Faith consist of seventy-plus few levels, the best of which is the saying there is no ALLAH (god) but ALLAH, and the least of which is to remove harm from the road (narrated by Muslim).
  • While taking harm from the road is charity. (Narrated by Bukhari).
  • Purification is part of faith. (Narrated by Muslim).
  • Five of the instincts: prostration, circumcision, trimming the moustache, plucking the armpits and clipping the nails. (Narrated by the group-Al-Jama’a).
  • Purify this pollution, may God purify you. (Narrated by al-Tabari).
  • He who has hair will need to respect it— meaning cut it and clean it. (Narrated by Abu Dawood).
  • Stop passing/leaving human excrement in public places (Narrated by Muslim).

In addition, Islamic shari’a did set rules towards contributing to better public health and to reducing health hazards such as prohibiting smoking (Quran 7:157), intoxicants/alcohol consumption (Quran 5:90), eating habits (Quran 6:141 and 7:31) and physical activity and strength (Quran 8:60) and in this regard, Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) said:

“A strong believer is better and dearer to ALLAH (God) than a weak believer, and in everything good.” (Sahih Muslim).

All these rules were implemented and promoted by Muslim Caliphs and practiced by Muslims over Muslim civilization leading to better health and personal practices.

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3. Water Supply, Sanitation, and Hygienic Considerations and Practices in Muslim Civilizations

The following sections include a review of water supply, sanitation, and hygienic practices applications and experiences in Muslim civilization covering the various eras from the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) to the present time.

3.1 Water Supply

It should be noted that the following sections include common or shared information between them due to diverse classification of water supplies in States, in cities, by technology, or by science and knowledge development.

3.1.1 Distinct Muslim Civilizations:

Muslim leaders over history gave prime importance to securing water supply for domestic purposes as well as for agriculture, however, there were three distinct Muslim civilizations found in which water supply expanded and developed extensively and worth describing separately: the Umayyad, the Abbasid’s, and the Ottoman’s.

3.1.1.1 Umayyad Caliphate (661–750 CE[1]):

Umayyad built dams on rivers and valleys, and constructed water diversion canals and networks. Also, they cleaned canals seasonally and built archways over rivers to ease the movement of passengers and goods, and to enhance the flow of water [53, and 54]. They built water wheels or mills to raise water to the top of the water channel for water supply to agriculture and domestic purposes water [5].

Landowners excavated wells and ʿuyūn (running springs), and using an underground channel to bring water from a distant aquifer (qanāt). [56, 57] Irrigation channels as well as dams being constructed. [58]. Caliph Muʿāwiya’s Ibn Sufian land manager, Ibn Mīnā, constructed a water channel to bring water to his master’s lands near al-Sunḥ.[59]

Water supply has always been a problem for cultivation throughout the Ḥijāz, and the lack of rain has ensured that any cultivated land has been in areas with sufficient groundwater [60]. To get or reach the water was not easy, deep wells were needed. Dams were ordered to be built in Hijaz by the caliph Muʿāwiya Ibn Sufian: one of these is more than two hundred miles south of Medina, near al-Ṭāʾif, and is dated to 58/677–678; the other [61], was found on one of two extant dams in the Wādī Al-Khanaq, approximately six-to-ten miles southeast of Medina.[62]. A third dam was constructed across the course of a wādī in one of the volcanic tracts to the northeast of Medina [63]

Three dams in the region around Khaybar – about ninety miles north of Medina – two were early Islamic [64]. In Fayd, two hundred and fifty miles northeast of Medina in Najd (late second century), a number of water retention and utilization structures have been built, including wells, dams, reservoirs and qanāts [65].

The primary aim of building the dams was presumably to prevent flash-flooding in the wādīs, but storing water for use in agriculture or pasturing would have been an obvious secondary benefit. Dates were mostly produced on the cultivated lands, although other fruits and wheat were probably grown where possible [66].

It was concluded [67] that the systems of the hydraulic water supplies created by Arab Muslims to the Andalusia cities, castles, and their agricultural areas consisted mainly of aljubes (large water cisterns) which was supplied with the rainwater collected from the yards of these cities and castles. Ceramic pipes and manholes (barrier chamber) or water channels or irrigation ditches were used to connect between the cistern and the use points. The view that emerges as a result of the study of the Andalusia water infrastructures (systems of water uptake, water conduction/transport, water-raising, and storage of water) seems to be much more complex and advanced, even when a great deal of the channelling systems has been lost.

During the tenth century AD, the golden age of Umayyad power in the peninsula, many small dams were built on the 150-mile-long River Turia, which flows into the Mediterranean at Valencia. Eight of these dams are spread over six miles of river in Valencia and serve the local irrigation system. Some of the canals carry water much further, particularly to the Valencian rice fields. These, of course, were established by the Muslims, and continue to be one of the most important rice-producing centres in Europe. Because of their safe design and method of construction, and because they were provided with deep and very firm foundations, the Turia dams have been able to survive the dangerous flood conditions for 1000 years[68].

The people of the city of Al-Anbar in Iraq made a request to the Governor of the city of Kufa by name of Sa’ad Ibn-Abi-Waqas. Sa’ad ordered his official Sa’ad Ibn-Omar to construct the water channel for the people. A long river was dug up and stopped only at the foot of the mountain. This river was called the river of Sa’ad. The Umayyad governor Al-Hajjaj Ibn-Yousef later built a mountain pass for the Sa’ad river to flow through [69].

Caliph Al-Walid bin Abdul-Malik (705-715) focused on the continuous availability of water and sufficient for the establishment of advanced agriculture. This attention to irrigation methods led to the building of many water channels between Tigris and Euphrates. These channels are known in Iraq (the regulators) because they organized the distribution of water in the vast plains of Iraq. Al-Hajjaj bin Yusuf Al-Thaqafi has completed the digging of some small rivers or channels between the cities of Basra and Kufa, among these rivers were the Nile River and the Zabi River, And the China River. Also, draining operations were conducted in swampy areas in the aforementioned area[70, 71].

Caliph Al-Walid instructed his Governor in Medina Omar Ibn-Abdel Aziz (later to become Caliph himself) to increase the water wells and supplies in Medina and to employ officials to help in the delivery of water to the pilgrims [72].

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3.1.1.2 Abbasid Caliphate (750–1258 CE):

The caliphs of the first Abbasid era considered agriculture as a priority. They were active in digging and developing water canals and drains and building bridges and arches for waterworks. The water systems and waterworks and networks built during Abbasid’s Islamic Caliph rule still impress modern water engineers [73].

The irrigation of the Sawad lands in Baghdad which was done through the Nahrawn Canal System diverted from the Tigris river which irrigated the whole alluvial lands east of the Tigris extending as far east as the foothills of Persia and from Al- Dur above Samarra towards the south for almost 300 kilometres. The Nahrawan Canal System consisted of the main canal and two feeder canals that had supplied it with water from the Tigris south of Sammara. The large revenue drawn from this canal system made governing State keep and maintain it in good operational conditions over centuries. The system was extended during the days of Caliph Al- Mansur and the following Caliphs of the Abbasid period and a dense canal network was constructed to serve the expansion of Baghdad with water supply making the system one of the greatest engineering achievements of the old people of Iraq [74].

Abbasids worked on agricultural expansion to cultivate all the available space in Iraq and to supply water to major cities. For this purpose they [75]:

  • constructed dams on the Euphrates River to control its water, and then distributing it using streams and channels to achieve maximum benefit and cover a wider area. As a result, they were able to cultivate and irrigate all the lands extending from the north of Western Sahara to the mountainous region in northern Mesopotamia and all the way to the shores of the Arabian Gulf in the south.
  • built two dams in north-western Baghdad to create two distribution rivers, (1) the Dujail River, which they made canals for it in the streets and paths to deliver water to it in summer and winter [76] and (2) the Karkhaya River to irrigate the orchards on the outskirts of Baghdad
  • set up two dams to control the water of the Qulaain and Bazazzin rivers, which were implemented. In order to irrigate the orchards of this capital [77],
  • also built a dam on the Issa River and worked on it another dam to branch off from the Al-Sarat River, passing through the Akkarquf depression, then they built another dam to wrap The river of Khair, known today as Nahr al-Khair.
  • dug and connected a dense canal network with the Nahrawan canal system from Tigris river and they built a dam for it at the eastern side of the Tigris River south of the town of Mosul, so that the river would extend 150 miles north of Baghdad, then extend from Baghdad to the south for a distance of 100 miles up to the north of Wasit [78],
  • Built a water canal in Damascus starting from the Minin River at the foot of Mount Qassioun to Deir Maran [79]

One of the distinctive examples in Islamic history in Spain with regard to regulating water use is the establishment of a specialized water court by order of Abd al-Rahman Nasir in the year 318 AH, which created the function of the Sakia agency, which is a representative who represents the lands that are irrigated from a particular water wheel as a judge in the Water Court. The most important features of the Andalusia Water Court were the following [80, 81, and 82]:

  • Simplicity: The supervisor, the injured party, or the accused can raise his case to the official, and bring evidence and witnesses without formalities, formalities and legal formulas.
  • Verbal: All stages of the trial were oral, and it included submitting a complaint, interrogation (to clarify, explain or justify the facts, with the intervention of the president and officials who are questioning the parties) and issuing judgments.
  • Speed: The court hears every week, and deals with the infringements that have occurred since the previous Thursday. Cases cannot be postponed for more than 21 days, in the event that they do not come to the court, exclusively.
  • Economy: No procedural fees are imposed at the trial. Also, officials do not receive salaries or expenses. The accused has to pay the transportation expenses of the supervisor or the court report, noting that compensation for damages is not considered among the procedural fees.

With the expansion of the water reservoirs and dams, Abbasids created a bureau for water management, which they called the Diwan of al-Aqrah (meaning the department of water) [83].

In the Abbasid era, Iraq and some other regions witnessed a wonderful engineering renaissance in the field of irrigation. The Aramaic civilization, which was characterized by manufacturing and constructing pottery pipes for transporting water to huge long distances over difficult terrain for irrigation and water supply. [84]

In the year 318 AH[2] in Valencia, Andalusia, Muslims established the Water Court, which is the first court known to the world specialized in resolving disputes related to water allocation and to its justice distribution among beneficiaries [85].

The water system established by the Arab Muslims in Andalusia to supply the Spanish capital, Madrid (called Megrit when established by Arab Muslims), with water, is still in operation since its establishment centuries ago [86]. The Madrid water system, created by Muslims in Spain still working until the present time.

It was reported that the city of Madrid gives a clear idea of the Andalusians care to supply their cities with water, because despite the fact that this city is located on the Marines River, the water does not reach this river except for a period of three months annually, and dried for the rest of the year. Then the Arab Muslims sought a solution to this problem by withdrawing large quantities of underground water that lies in the heights surrounding Madrid (an area called the Valley of Sand, or Guadarrama, about 200 km north of Madrid). Also, Muslims connected the springs to each other in waterways that eventually flow in canals and reach Madrid flowing into its streets and paths and reach inside homes, providing residents’ needs for drinking water, ablution, cleanliness, and even for irrigating gardens and orchards. [87, 88, and 89].

Ain Zubaydah, which is located at the base of the Hijaz Mountains east of Makkah, was built during the Abbasid Caliphate Harun Al-Rashid era (about 1200 years ago) as an example of the ingenuity of Islamic architecture. Ain Zubaydah, which is attributed to Zubaydah bint Abi Jaafar al-Mansur, wife of Harun al-Rashid, the most prominent Abbasid caliph, was a unique model of Islamic engineering at that time. Al-Ain descends from Wadi Numan, below the Hejaz Mountains, through water channels up to a depth of 40 meters underground and built of perforated stone, and the channels have been constructed in a precise way so that they reach the holy sites in of Makkah on the surface of the earth and from which the pilgrims can quench directly. It took 10 years to build the system and it includes 51 underground water tanks. [90]

Similar water projects, i.e., transporting ground or surface water through overland or underground canals over a long distance, were executed for Rabat, Sabtah, Seville, Madrid, Taez, and other cities in Morocco, Yemen, and Al-Andalusia (Spain) [91].

Muslims in the third century (about 950 CE) were the first to introduce water networks/systems using water pipes made of lead or zinc into homes, bathrooms and mosques. The book “Industries of the Arabs” included drawings and maps of water networks in some Islamic capitals [92, 93].

In the Abbasids era (750–1258 CE), caliphs and based on their understanding of the value of knowledge in Islam, ordered the collection and translation of previous knowledge and experiences from the Romans, Greek, Indians, and others to learned and apply what was achieved and to build on and develop new experiences and knowledge. Then later passed on what they learned and developed to the western world, i., e., the Europeans. Muslims in a concise manner either in publications of books and manuals, by direct application and demonstration, by missions, and other means had passed what they know to the world. The lesson here is the importance of knowledge and experience sharing and spreading to other nations: to learn from previous and other nations and further develop it and build on for solving present as well as future challenges in the sector.

3.1.1.3 Ottoman Caliphate (1517–1923 CE):

Water supply was so important to Muslims that during the Ottoman period (ca. 1669–1898) in addition to water supply for homes, there was a water tap in every mosque. Public baths or Hamams, which are also referred to as Turkish baths, played an important role in the Ottoman culture and served as places of social gathering, ritual cleansing, and as architectural structures, institutes, etc. [94]. Water supply was accomplished via major hydraulic works developed during the Ottoman period.

During the Ottoman rule of Turkey, water supply was given good care, dams, reservoirs, wells, cisterns, and pools were built to collect water; waterways, channels, aqueducts, and water scales were built to transport the water; pipelines and water reservoirs on the waterways were built to distribute the water; and fountains, waterfalls, floodplains, and baths were made as facilities where the water could be used [95].

Baba et al 2018 [96] reported that during the Ottoman period (13th-20th century) some dams were built. In the period of 1620 to 1839, the Kırkçeşme system is supported by four dams (along with 33 aqueducts, and 7 water intakes and sedimentation tanks), the Taksim system by three dams, with heights up to 17m and crest lengths up to 104m [97, 98]. All these dams, Kırkçeşme and Taksim systems as well as the Taşlımüsellim-Edirne system are for the large part still in operation. The Elmalı I dam, constructed in 1893 on the Asian side of Istanbul, is also still in operation; Şamlar in Istanbul, Maden near Adapazarı, and Semalı near Amasya are other interesting dams of the Ottoman period. [99]. Ottoman dams were formed by two masonry walls with an impervious fill between them. Spillways did not exist on dams. The crest and the downstream of dams were lined with marble. [100]

The city of Istanbul, formerly the capital of the Ottoman Empire for 470 years, undoubtedly has the most valuable water systems. Although Istanbul had a regular water system during the period of the Roman Empire, water supply lines outside of the city were destroyed by wars and earthquakes over time. Then, in the late period of the Byzantine Empire, the inner city network became unusable [101]. In the Ottoman period, the water problem in Istanbul continued, and with the increase in population, the need for water also increased because of which old water systems were repaired and used, and new water systems were built. With the establishment of new lines, hundreds of kilometres of waterways were built along with new water facilities were built in Istanbul, and thereby new water systems were created [102]. After the conquest of Istanbul in 1453, Sultan Mehmet the Conqueror was not in favour of the old cisterns. He ordered the repair of the old water supply lines and the introduction of new items so that clean water could be brought in, and, in a short period of time, the city had abundant water [103,104].

Caliph Omar Ibn Al-Khatab permitted Juzr Ibn-Muawiyah, the Governor of Khuzestan in Iran with its capital Ahwaz (cities in south-west Iran), to build several waterways and rivers in the region to fulfil the needs of people (105).

The benefit of water in Tigris and Euphrates and excavated diversion channels were not limited to the essential drinking of humans and their animals, or only in irrigation of fields rather, rivers and canals were the main transport links of foods and goods across Mesopotamia [106]

The Arabs who lived in the Arabian Peninsula pre-Islam have fulfilled their water supply needs mainly from rainwater (rainwater cisterns and springs) [107].

3.1.2 Hydraulic Machines

Muslims were developers of new, creative, and innovative water-lifting mechanical technology using water power. This heritage has its triumph and expansion to Europe between the seventh or early Abbasids Caliphate (750-850 CE) and the fourteenth century (up to the Mongol invasion). For example, engineers like Al-Jazari designed for the first time in history water-raising machinery powered by water and gravity, and simulating the principle of the balance (windmills and waterwheels, steel mill, bridge mill, double-twin acting principle water pumps, camshaft, crankshaft, and crank-slider) aimed to bring water supply directly to local people in cities and enhance irrigation to improve the framing capacity.

Al-Jazari’s (1136-1206) water-raising machinery included instructions for the design, manufacture, and assembly of machines. The impact of al-Jazari’s inventions is still felt in modern contemporary mechanical engineering. Several of Al-Jazaris water wheels were constructed and operated at Yazid’s river (a tributary of Barada river) in Damascus[108].

Al-Jazari, Banu Musa, Ibn Wahshiya, and others invented and/or upgraded/advanced several new hydraulic water mechanical and technological equipment for water pumping or water rising, or water transporting, and for grain grinding, and others. These inventions date back to the seventh century and widespread in the ninth century and through the medieval period. Interesting to report that this equipment was mostly owned by peasants when used to advance irrigation and farming and owned by the State when used for water supply[109]. A variety of industrial watermills that uses hydropower as a driving force were used in the Islamic world, including gristmills, hullers, sawmills, ship-mills, stamp mills, steel mills, sugar mills, and tide mills [110]. A brief description of some of these equipment’s and machines follow below:

  • A brilliant pump to transport water independent of water wheels, and he depicted it with its gears, copper tubes and columns with precision, and he made more than one type/model of that pump, which was aimed to exploit the flow of the river; The pump pushes the water up through the pipes, then outward, to city streets or farmers’ fields.[111]
  • Steel mill: is a vertical or horizontal mill that uses hydropower. It is a structure that uses a water wheelor water turbine to drive a mechanical process such as milling (grinding), rolling, or hammering. By the 11th century, much of the Islamic world had industrial steel watermills in operation, from Al-Andalusia and North Africa to the Middle East and Central Asia. It was used for water-raising and transporting and for grain grinding. [112]
  • Bridge mill: The bridge mill was a unique type of watermill that was built as part of the superstructure of a bridge. The earliest record of a bridge mill is from Córdoba, Spain in the 12th century.[113]
  • Double-acting principle water pumps: The twin-cylinder pump principle was used by al-Jazari in his water pumps.[114]
  • Camshaft: The camshaft was described by Al-Jazari in 1206. He employed it as part of his automata, water-raising machines, and water clocks such as the castle clock. [115]
  • Crankshaft: Al-Jazari(1136–1206) is credited with the invention of the crankshaft. He described a crank and connecting rod system in a rotating machine in two of his water-raising machines. His twin-cylinder pump incorporated a crankshaft, including both the crank and shaft[116,117, 118, and 119]]
  • Automatic crank: The non-manual crank appears in several of the hydraulic devices described by the Banū Mūsā brothers in their Book of Ingenious Devices. These automatically operated cranks appear in several devices, two of which contain an action that approximates to that of a crankshaft, anticipating Al-Jazari‘s invention by several centuries and its first appearance in Europe by over five centuries. However, the automatic crank described by the Banu Musa would not have allowed a full rotation, but only a small modification was required to convert it to a crankshaft.[120, 121]
  • Hydraulic Organ: The Banu Musa brothers also produced fascinating machines such as the hydraulic organ, wudu’ (ablution) water machine, the self-changing fountain, and a drinking device for animals[122].
  • Sugar mill: Sugar mills first appeared in the medieval Islamic world. They were first driven by watermills, and then windmills from the 9th and 10th centuries in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran.[123]
  • Windpump: Windpumps were used to pump water since at least the 9th century in what is now Afghanistan, Iran and Pakistan. Windpump was made of six to twelve sails covered in reed matting or cloth material [124].
  • Crank-slider: Ismail al-Jazari‘s water pump employed the first known crank-slider[125]. The crank also appears in the mid-9th century in several of the hydraulic devices described by the Banū Mūsābrothers in their Book of Ingenious Devices [126].
  • Gristmill: A gristmill known as a grist mill, corn mill, flour mill, feed mill or feed mill were built in the medieval Near East and North Africa mainly for the purpose of grinding cereal grain into flour and middlings [127]. The use of dual-purpose water wheels or mills: norias used to raise water and to drive the grinding stones of grist-mills. Water-powered grist-mills are known to have existed in Basra and other places in the 9th century, and Al-Biruni describes how such water-powered mills worked, and how water power was used in driving trip hammers for paper mills in Samarkand and in crushing gold ores.[128]
  • The Six-Cylinder “Monobloc” Piston Pump: the six-cylinder “monobloc” piston pump designed by Taqi al-Din Ibn Ma’ruf in the late 16th century holds a special place. Working as a suction pump, this complex machine included components that are often associated with modern technology, such as a camshaft, a cylinder block, pistons, and non-return valves [129].
  • Mechanical Flywheel: The mechanical flywheel, used to smooth out the delivery of power from a driving device to a driven machine and, essentially, to allow lifting water from far greater depths (up to 200 metres), was first employed by Ibn Bassal (1038–1075), of Al-Andalusia.[130,131,132, and 133]
  • Vertical Windmills, 6th century onward: A Persian had come to the second Caliph Omar Ibn Al-Khatab, who reigned for ten years from 634, and claimed he could build a vertical mill operated by wind, so the caliph ordered him to have one built. He did and after this, wind power became widely used to run millstones for grinding corn, and also to draw up water for irrigation [134]. These windmills had long vertical driveshafts with rectangle shaped blades. Made of six to twelve sails covered in reed matting or cloth material, these windmills were used to grind grains and draw up water, and used in the grist milling and sugarcane industries [135,136]
  • Large Waterwheels (Norias) Early 7th century onward: Large waterwheels, or norias, have raised water from fast-flowing waterways to higher land since 100 b.c. Vitruvius, the Roman writer, architect, and engineer, mentioned this simple yet powerful device. Like any waterwheel, it was turned by the force of flowing water against paddle compartments on its rim. These paddles filled with water and took it to the top, where they emptied into a head tank connected to an aqueduct. Already used by the Romans and Persians, they were adapted and redeveloped by the Muslims in Basra, Hama, and Andalusia. The wheels were big and the largest was about 20 meters (65.6 feet) in diameter, with its rim being divided into 120 compartments. The noria at Murcia in Spain, LaNora, and in Hama is still in operation [137]
  • Third Water-Raising Device of Al-Jazari, 12th century: a 13th-century manuscript depicts a water-raising machine designed by Al-Jazari. Water-raising machines are driven by a water turbine through geared shafts, which turn a sindi wheel carrying a long belt of buckets. Al-Jazari made a wooden animal and placed it on the rotating disc on the machine so maybe people would not think the automatic machine was driven by “magic”; they thought it was driven by an animal, operating multiple gears with partial teeth to produce a sequence of motion in four scoops that took water from the river one scoop at a time. This design included a camshaft, which controlled the mechanism [138]
  • A nilometer is a structure for measuring the Nile River’s clarity and water level during the annual flood season. There were three main types of Nilometers, calibrated in Egyptian cubits: (1) a vertical column, (2) a corridor stairway of steps leading down to the Nile, or (3) a deep well with a culvert.[139, 140]. “The rise in the Nilometer is not proclaimed until after it has reached twelve cubits, it is announced to the ruler only, for at twelve cubits the water does not extend to the cultivated villages of the countryside. However, when the height of the water reached fourteen cubits, the lower portion of the region is watered; but if it reaches sixteen cubits, there is general rejoicing, for there will be a good year.”[141]
  • Ship-mill: the ship-mill, used widely in the Islamic world to harness the power of the faster currents at midstream, which also avoided the problem of low water levels facing fixed mills during dry seasons. They were very large, constructed of teak and iron and positioned in very fast currents, moored to the river bank by iron chains. Ship-mills were used in Murcia and Zaragoza in Spain, Tiblis in Georgia and in Upper Mesopotamia [142,143].
  • Tide mills: This mill might be, undershot, overshot or horizontal but it does not employ a flowing river for its power source. Instead, a mole or causeway is built across the mouth of a small bay. At low tide, gates in the mole are opened allowing the bay to fill with the incoming tide. At high tide the gates are closed, trapping the water inside. At a certain point, a sluice gate in the mole can be opened allowing the draining water to drive a mill wheel or wheels [144].

Al-Hassani analyzed the geometric and physical principles lying behind the seven mechanical devices (including sophisticated fountains) described by the Banu Musa Brothers in their book of mechanics Kitab al-hiyal. He concluded that Muslims appear to be the first to use water features in their designs for gardens and the manual of Banu Musa Brothersdemonstrates their skills with machinery, as designers and craftsmen. With the fountains and designs with the worm gear, it shows their competence as designers to incorporate such technology, and as craftsmen for their understanding of fabrication techniques to manufacture navel valves and worm gears [145].

An artist’s whimsical ideas about a 12th-century method of increasing hydro-power train by 1.0 ox-power, for water bucket elevator for water supply [146].

Al Biruni explained how water came out from flowing wells and natural springs, through a theory called the hydrostatic flow connection. [147].


Figure 6. Article banner of The European Muslim Heritage and its Role in the Development of Europe

3.1.3 Water Technology

3.1.3.1 Sabeels (Public Water Fountains)

Public water fountains, called Sabeel water, were set up to provide drinking water for the public in the streets[148, 149].

The construction of the Sabeel (public water fountain) at al-Aqsa mosque dates back to the Ayyubid and Mamluk eras, and many of them were renewed or restored in the Ottoman era by order of Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent (926-974 AH / 1520-1566 CE), whose reign was distinguished by the construction of the Sabeels.[150]

The Mamluks gave Jerusalem great care, and for example, their works were at the beginning of the Mamluk era in the thirteenth century AD[3], in which the Sulaymaniyah canal was uncovered and cleaned after its blockage and the watering well (fountain) was restored. Another example, at the end of the Mamluks era in the late fifteenth century AD (year 888 AH / 1483 AD) in which it a rehabilitation and an expansion of the Al-Arroub water Canal was done, which was disrupted, and was one of the important channels that supplied the city with water from a spring located in Al-Arroub area near Hebron. There are many sabeels in Jerusalem (AlQuds) including: Sabeel al-Kas, Sabeel al-Naranj, Cistern of King Issa, Sabeel al-Busiri, Sabeel Qaitbay, Sabeel rostrum of Burhan al-Din, Sabeel Suleiman, Sabeel Sheikh al-Badiri or Mustafa Agha, Sabeel al-Rahma, Sabeel al-Zaytuna, Sabeel al-Madrasa al-Ghadriya, Sabeel Bab Hatta, Sabeel Bab al-Asbat minaret, Sabeel al-Mughrabi Gate, and Sabeel Qasim Pash. Among the most important and most beautiful of the Sabeel (water fountain) that was built in the city of Jerusalem is what was built in the time of Sultan al-Ashraf Inal in the year 860 AH / 1455 CE and its place is located between al-Mutahhar and the Mosque of the Sakhra, and it is known today as Sabeel Qaitbay.[151,152]

3.1.3.2 Aflaj

The exact date of the Aflaj system in Oman including the subsurface water channels is not known. However, it seems that the current network has resulted from several construction campaigns, the earliest of which may be around 500 AD or even earlier. [153]

The aflaj system consists of withdrawing valuable water resources such as groundwater, springs or surface water and driving them in channels using gravity flow only for long distances to cities and villages where they are distributed and used for domestic and agricultural purposes. There are 3 types of aflaj in Oman [154],

  • the first of which is “Ghaili” (represent 48% of the total aflaj), which depends on the permanent flow of water streams,
  • the second is “Ayni” (represent 28% of the total aflaj) whose water comes from permanent mountain springs, and
  • the third is “Dawoudi” (represent 24% of the total aflaj).

The afalaj water system is a network of canals designed to meet the need for water in specific places and with specific timetables was established in Oman pre-Islam. However, after Islam entered Oman, the regulatory and administrative aspects of aflaj were developed including that the beneficiaries of the afalaj share ownership of it, and the water shares are determined, similar to a village board of directors. In addition, a special administrative body monitors the water distribution process that usually takes place at the entrance to the afalaj through a special barrier called Sharia or Al Qasirah. The person who monitors the distribution process is called Kayal (because it is waving water) and do the monitoring according to distribution agreements agreed upon and rotation of distribution including distribution cycle and time program.[155,156, and 157]

All too often, wastewater flows untreated into seas, oceans, lakes, rivers, and terrestrial destinations. Their environmental and health effects are local and sometimes transnational. Some 10% of the world’s population consume food that has been irrigated by raw or partially treated wastewater exposing them to serious health risks. Such irrigation practices affect 20 million hectares in around 50 countries [158]. In recent years, there has been growing interest in exploiting this resource by treating it and re-using it. And in addition to having a supplementary water resource, studies showed that there is about 65% saving in actual fertilizer expenditure when irrigating crops with reclaimed wastewater compared to irrigating with fresh groundwater [159, 160].

Regarding the medieval sanitation system, it should be remarked that rivers were used as cloacae for centuries.

Medieval Islamic cities such as Baghdad, Córdoba (Islamic Spain), Fez (Morocco) and Fustat (Egypt) also had sophisticated waste disposal and sewage systems with interconnected networks of sewers. The city of Fustat also had multi-storey tenement buildings (with up to six floors) with flush toilets, which were connected to a water supply system, and flowed from each floor carrying waste to underground channels [161].

In Muslim Al-Andalusia, in spite of the fact that river water was consumed for human needs, river courses were used as sewers and drains and also as garbage disposal places. Nevertheless, the employment of watercourses as open sewers and drains had been common in the entire Islamic world, even in such cities as Damascus or al-Basra [162].

In spite of sanitation problems, which were common in medieval Islamic cities, such as water contamination, accumulation of garbage within the city walls or the accumulation of cesspools near the living space, the existence of sewer-drains networks in the urban environment along with the presence of a toilet within domestic spaces demonstrates that medieval Islamic sanitation was much more advanced in comparison with contemporary Christian cities [163].

The effect of religion on the feasibility of reuse in Islamic countries is frequently cited as an example of socio-cultural factors that can limit the application of wastewater reuse in these countries. The evidence, however, shows that in most Islamic countries of the Middle East, water is scarce and wastewater is reused, principally for irrigation [164, 165, and 166].

The Abbasid caliphs had water cisterns/reservoirs built in various parts of the empire where people withdrew water for their various purposes. One of such reservoirs, built-in 172/789 by the orders of the Caliph Harun al “-Rashid at Ramla (in Palestine) [167] locally known as Bir Alaniziya”. It was constructed in stone layers with the entire interior wall plastered in a thick cement finish. Rectangular in a plan, the cistern is organized into six aisles that extend east to west divided by arcades each containing four porticoes. The chamber of the cistern rises to a height of eight meters and a staircase stretches to its floor on the north side [168].

3.1.3.3 Dams and Water Support Structures:

Muslims built huge dams in the days of the Abbasids and the Fatimid’s and in the Levant and Andalusians over rivers like the Nahrawan Dam and many dams in Syria. They also built the retuning wall of the El-Ayoun stream in Cairo and the barrages on the waterways in Hama that are supreme in the world [169].

The construction of dams built on rivers by the Arab Muslims in Andalusia, left a great impact and created an agricultural boom in Spain. Hill noted that some water dams built by Arab Muslims in Spain may seem small, now, but – they have proven to be very practical in light of the desired goal, as they have continued, to provide irrigation and drinking water needs. An example of such systems exists in the region of Valencia, up to the present day. In Spain, there are a number of dams that illustrate the skill of Muslims in construction methods, including the Cordoba Dam, the Segura River Dam, the Turia River Dam, and others. In which they introduced the techniques of building dams including water level control gates, and channels that drain silt or mud from the bottom of the dam, and these can only be described at their time as “Islamic innovations.” [170]

3.1.3.4 Water Wheels (Noria)

In some Islamic countries, waterways were run with animals to irrigate farms, fields, or pulleys, and waterwheels with separately attached containers/bucket type or with compartmented rim (norias or naurah) that rotated with the force of water, raising the water from the river for ten meters (or the size of wheel radius) to flow in a smaller canal over the top side and proceeding by gravity to end-users. Initially, wooden compartments were used along the rim of the wheel but replaced with ceramic ones in 870CE. An example of such Noria is the huge waterwheels on the Orontes River in Hama in central Syria [171].

Water-wheels operated by oxen (bullock) were in use at Cairo up to the twelfth century, where they raised water vertically a distance of 80 feet from the Nile to an aqueduct that supplied the citadel of Cairo. [172].

The Albolafia noria, or a waterwheel, is the last vestige of an array of mills and dams built on the Guadalquivir River in Cordoba between the 8th and 10th centuries as it appears in its present condition. The water wheel served to elevate the water of the river until the Palace of the Caliphs [173].

3.1.3.5 Water Devising:

Muslims and since ancient times were active in devising groundwater (they called it hidden waters). Devising or discovering the location of groundwater was kind of shrewdness based on field experiences, sense, imagination, and wisdom. Place and/or depth of groundwater and its proximity to the surface of the earth was located by Muslim scientists and experts using (1) soil smell, (2) the smell of plants in the surrounding area, (3) the movement of a specific animal found in the area [174,175]. Scholars called their devising knowledge the science of the countryside [176].

Perhaps one of the earliest books in this science is the book “The Ills of water and how to extract it and its placement in the two unknown lands,” which was written by Abu Bakr Ahmad bin Ali, known as Ibn Wahshiyya, from the Hundred Thirty Hijri [177]. There is also the book “Inbat Hidden Water” by Muhammad Ibn al-Hassab al-Karaji, who died in the fifth century AH. It is a valuable book that is an encyclopaedia of art in the study of “hidden” groundwater [178].

Al-Karaji (c. 953–1029) advanced knowledge of groundwater during the 10th century, he wrote among others two books:

The Extraction of Hidden Waters, which presented ground-breaking ideas and descriptions of hydrological and hydrogeological perceptions such as components of the hydrological cycle, groundwater quality, and driving factors of groundwater flow. He also gave an early description of a water filtration process [179].

  • Inbat al-miyah al-khafiya is an excellent manual on the supplies of hydraulic water. Besides its main interest in hydrology, it contains a discussion of many topics related to the geography of the globe, various remarks on soil types and nature, as well as paying great attention to surveying techniques.

Al-Karaji illustrated how to search for fresh water, and the different types and hydraulic characteristics of aquifers. He explained how to use a certain number of surveying instruments and described the details of how to construct and service a canal providing water in harsh places and in slopes. One of the discussions is digging wells through non-unified rocks and how to use timber to protect the workers and the work area. He explained how to clean contaminated water. The book goes on to discuss springs, wells, drilling, the measurement of water and dealing with dams.

Al-Karaji revealed a technical understanding of groundwater theory; as such, he discussed and explained the drilling of wells to search for water from various ground levels and practical information on the construction of irrigation systems in the form of canals.

Al-Karaji was quite familiar with the basic hydrological, geological, and engineering principles associated with groundwater. Al-Karaji classifies the types of groundwater as an inaccurate and surprising classification that applies perfectly to what the hydrologists know today. He says: The groundwater inside of the earth is of three types [180]:

(1) Static water inside the earth,

(2) The condensed air into water inside the earth, and

(3) The water whose originated from snow and rain and percolated through the soil into the earth.

Other water devising related books written by Muslim scientists and experts

  • Al-Karaji(c. 953–1029) wrote a book, The Extraction of Hidden Waters, which presented ground-breaking ideas and descriptions of hydrological and hydrogeological perceptions such as components of the hydrological cycle, groundwater quality, and driving factors of groundwater flow. He also gave an early description of water filtration[181]
  • The Well”, written by Abu Abdullah Muhammad bin Ziyad al-Arabi. This book describes the parts and types of the groundwater well, the names of each type, the types of water coming out of it, and the machines needed for extracting water from the wells.
  • The book “Ayn al-Hayat in the Science of Devising Water” by Abu al-Abbas Ahmad Ibn Abd al-Mun’im al-Damanhouri, who died in 1182 AH,
  • The book “The Science of Running Water in the City of Damascus or a Treatise on the Science of Water” by Sheikh Muhammad Husayn al-Attar.
  • Finally, we choose from what was mentioned in the book “Al-Filaha” by Ibn al-Awam (from the people of the 6th century AH) on the methods of inferring the presence of water in the ground when digging wells, where the book indicated that they are divided:
  • When seeing the dew in the eye and touching it with the hand, especially during the first hour of the day and the last hour of it.
    • If the stones of the mountain are dusty with fine dirt, then they bend, indicate the presence of water, and with the abundance of water and its low amount of dew.
    • By eavesdropping on the surface of the mountain, if the mountain hears a constant sound in one state that does not differ, the sound of water is.
    • If the soil is black or very dusty, sticky if the slightest water hits it, this indicates the presence of water.
    • If the soil tastes without bitterness and salinity, then it is watery.
    • If chamomile, basil, mullet, and borage are found, then water is in the ground.
    • If the soil smells like the mud extracted from rivers and streams, then the water is close to the surface of the earth.

3.1.3.6 Qanat (Water Channel)

Historically, the aqueduct-like qanat technology, the system of supplying water in canals over long distances, was developed by Persians in the middle of the 1st millennium BC, and later spread towards Arabian Peninsula and Egypt. During the Islamic era, canals became one of the most effective methods for providing water in regions that did not have direct access to any source of water. The expansion of Islam led to the diffusion of qanats in the Mediterranean and central European countries [182]. These technologies were neither developed nor improved but survived through Byzantine and early medieval times. Later, the Ottomans adopted older techniques of water qanat, reintroducing large-scale aqueducts to supply their emerging towns with adequate water for religious and social purposes as well as drinking. Experience and knowledge of Muslim ancestors could still play an important role in sustainable water supply both in developed and developing countries, either presently or in the future. Aqueducts or qanats technologies are characterized by their durability and sustainability and are still in use in several parts of the world. It should be noted that the qanat system is called aqueduct in Europe, qanat in Iran, faggora in Algeria, khattara in Morocco, kariga in Tunisia, sahreej in Yemen, falaj in the Arab Emirates and Oman, and Kariz in central Asia. [183, 184, and 185].

Historically, the aqueduct-like qanat technology was developed by Persians in the ca. middle of the 1st millennium BC and later spread towards Arabian Peninsula and Egypt. The expansion of Islam led to the diffusion of qanats in the Mediterranean and central European countries [186].

The qanat, a gravity-fed water supply system consisting of an underground tunnel connected to the surface by a series of shafts, was widely adopted across the arid parts of the Muslim world and as far as Xianging province in China [187, 188]

Karez noted that the water canal called faqara or faggara, got widespread later in Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, and Algeria. It is a system used in the desert area to transport groundwater to the surface of the earth for use in drinking, irrigation and livestock watering [189].

Thabet 2019 [190] documented that Al-Faggara, are considered the main organ for life in the desert, in southern Algeria. Al-Faggara in Algeria would have been introduced in the 11th and 12th centuries by El Malik El Mansur, who has dug the first foggara 15 km from Adrar at a place called Tamantit [193]. Then, Al-Faggara was developed in Touat and Gourara and Tidikelt by Arab-Berber tribes[194, 195]. Al- faggara consists of digging underground galleries (canals) in a very low slope which will join and penetrate the upstream groundwater aquifer of the plateau. Water from the water table of the aquifer seeps along the walls of the underground galleries (canals) and forms a permanent water stream. These underground galleries are marked on the surface by manholes that allow maintenance and periodic cleaning of sand cluttering the galleries. Today, this ancestral hydraulic system still operates despite strong competition from other capture techniques such as motor pumps and drilling.

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Figure 7. Article banner of Water innovations in the Muslim world: past glories and future outlook

3.1.4 Cities of the Islamic world

This part was written because around major city’s pivot major activities and economic and cultural developments and establishing cities require the supply of sufficient and safe water as well as providing related services to maintain proper hygiene and sanitation of the society.

Ibn Khaldun [196] and several oriental studies [197, 198, and 199] denies that Muslims took into the consideration water supply, sanitation, and proper urban planning when they began initiating and emerging new Islamic cities such as Kufa and Basra, Fustat and Kairouan. This was explained by that those cities were the first established by Muslims and were intended to serve as military grouping centres (garrison) and not urban centres. However, as time proceeded, this situation has changed and water supply, as well as other urban needs, was developed in those cities and accordingly they represented good health, geographical, cultural and economic centres in Islamic civilization (200,201].

It was stated that [202] (1) Islamic cities followed an “organic (sectored oriented) pattern of growth and (2) the most significant social implication of Islam is the strength of ritualised living patterns which give out the need of formal institutions”, Alwali (the governor in Muslim city or region) was the prime decision-maker and manager of the city and therefore in general, municipal authorities for town planning and civic affairs did not form in Muslim cities. Some attributed the structure of ‘Islamic City’ to two factors: to social and religious factors and to city urban structure and its physical features [203].

Cities of the medieval Islamic world had water supply systems powered by hydraulic technology that supplied drinking water along with water for ritual washing, mainly in mosques and hammams (public baths). [204]

3.1.4.1 Mekkah and Madinah:

Natural and renewable water resources are limited in Mekkah and Madinah. There are running water springs as those in Al-Ihasa, Al-Kharj and Al-Qassim. There are also water many wells, springs and water systems drilled and made available after Islam, such as Ain Zubaydah in Mekkah and Ain Al-Zarqa in Medinah.

Fountains (sabeels), round shape reservoirs for water harvesting, groundwater wells and other water supply means are a prominent manifestation of Muslims’ interest and concern for providing water in Makkah and Madinah and the holy sites. The interest in providing water for drinking of the pilgrim in Makkah dates back to pre-Islamic times. And it continued through different historical eras, from the beginning of the Islamic call to the end of the Ottoman Empire and the establishment of the Saudi Kingdom. As for Medina, the emergence of fountains and water supply there was associated with the beginning of Islamic history [205]

The pilgrims’ route between Mekkah and Medina was certainly a very busy one. The distance between the two cities is about 210 miles. The Caliph ordered the building of shades and wells in all the rest places along the 210 miles route. In addition, all existing wells had to be cleaned up and purified. Rest houses that already had wells but the wells did not have enough water in them had new wells dug up [206].

3.1.4.2 Cairo

Al-Ḥijāzī has been recognised for the meticulous records he assembled of the Nile’s water levels between the years 1/622 and 874/1470 and for his detailed descriptions of the Nile and the Nilometer, which had pre-Islamic origins.[207, 208]

The Caliph Omar Ibn Alkhatab heard that there used to be a gulf of water between the River Nile and the Red sea which then connected mainland Egypt with the Arabian Peninsula. He was told that the Romans had neglected that gulf and it no longer existed. He ordered his governor Amr ibn Al-As to reconstruct the gulf. This was done and once again a waterway between the then Egyptian Capital of Fustat (in modern-day Cairo) and the Arabian Peninsula was made. Trade flourished with the construction of this canal. Amr called it “the Gulf of the Commander of the Faithful” or in Arabic “Khaleej Ameer al Mo’mineen” [209, 210]. This canal was to serve later as a channel of food transport between both countries and caused the price of wheat in the Peninsula to be the same as that in Egypt [211]. This river was about 69 miles long and it took about 6 months to complete [212]. Unfortunately, centuries later, this canal was again neglected and finally dried up completely in the time of the Ottomans. The Caliph Omar ordered the building of special dams in Egypt to store and supply water to the cities. Historians have placed the number of employees involved in the construction of water dams and canals in Egypt at 120,000. Work was on a daily basis all year round to get water supply to the cities. The expenses and worker’s salaries were all paid by the State [213].

3.1.4.3 Baghdad and Samarra

The people of Baghdad, Samarra and other cities in Iraq brought their drinking water mainly from the river Tigris using diversion canals. In places where the canals were far from houses, shops, ateliers, baths, mosques and public fountains, water was brought to houses directly from the river by water-carriers using containers made of skins of goats put on camels, mules, and donkeys.

Besides withdrawing water from diversion canals and rivers, wells were also dug, preferably within the house premises for household consumption of water [214]. In Samarra digging wells was not practicable as the water level was very low, and the water in them was salty and disagreeable to taste; moreover, it was not abundant [215].

There were several water-supplying canals in Baghdad which ’passed through the streets, side streets, and suburbs, flowing without any interruption in summer and winter [216]. Among them were four major canals leading to the general vicinity of Baghdad, They were — – Nahr Isa, Nahr al-Malik, Nahr Sarsar and Nahr Sarat [217]. These canals were mainly used for boat traffic in unloading food-stuffs from Egypt, Syria, Mosul and other distant lands [218]. There were various conduits constructed of burnt brick and quick-lime in Baghdad which supplied drinking water to the city [219]. According to Khatib, the conduits were all above ground except for the conduit of Harbiyya which was constructed underground connecting with the canal of Dujayl [220]. The Caliph Mansur had conduits built of teak wood which extended from the Khurasan Gate to his palace.

The Nahrawan Canal in the town of Jisr al-Nahrawan near Baghdad was a major irrigation system of the Sassanid and early Islamic periods in central Iraq, along the eastern banks of the Tigris and the lower course of the Diyala River. Created in the 6th century, it reached its peak under the Abbasid Caliphate, when it served the main water supply for the Abbasid capital of Baghdad, while the regions irrigated by it served as the city’s main breadbasket. Its destruction and progressive abandonment from the mid-10th century onwards mirror the Abbasid Caliphate’s decline[221].

In medieval times, the main Nahrawan canal was divided into three sections, described in detail by the 13th-century geographer Yaqut al-Hamawi, in his Mu’jam al-Buldan. The initial feeder canal drawing water from the Tigris at Dur al-Arabaya near Samarra and carrying it to the Diyala at Ba’quba was called al-katul al-Kisrawi (“the Cut of Khosrau”). During its course, it was joined by three smaller canals taken from the Tigris, the Yahudi (“of the Jews”), the al-Ma’muni, named after Caliph al-Ma’mun (r. 813–833), and the largest of the three, the Abu ‘l-Jund (“arch warrior”), built under Harun al-Rashid (r. 786–809).[222]

By 950 water power using waterwheel was used in Baghdad not only in the water supply but also in industrial processing. This practice expanded west to Syria, Egypt, North Africa, and eventually to Muslim Spain [223].

In the ninth century, the water level of the Tigris in Samarra was, and still is, much lower than the adjacent area, even at the time when the water level reaches the flood level in Baghdad. The first step, the founder of Samarra took to solve this problem was to build an extensive irrigation system to bring water from the river. This was accomplished by digging huge underground canals some 40 km upstream. At the same time, they used the noria (waterwheel) technology to raise (pump) the water to smaller sub-canals, which in their turn were flowed to almost every garden and pond in the city, and the rest of the water, if any were left, would end its journey in the river again [224].

While the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers did provide water to Baghdad and the region, their floods were unpredictable and could even be catastrophic when they washed away entire settlements. In response, Baghdad’s residents created irrigation canals and drainage ditches to control the flow of water. They also stored water in reservoirs to use during the dry months of the year. Additionally, in parts of Lower Mesopotamia, the courses of the rivers and their tributaries changed frequently, so people either had to move to follow the water’s new path or divert a river to continue supplying water for their settlement. [225]

3.1.4.4 Marrakesh and Fez:

Morocco represents an impressive hydraulic heritage in the Arab World. There is a high need for the protection and conservation of the hydraulic heritage of Morocco consisting of providing proper hydraulic heritage conservation and protection[226].

During the Caliph Hisham bin Abd al-Malik time, Long-distance irrigation canal extension projects began including large storage reservoirs. Larger Morocco (extending from Tunisia to Morocco) had not witnessed such projects before the Umayyad era. [227, 228]

The engineer Abdullah bin Yunus between 484 and 546 Hijri created a new water system for drawing water from groundwater wells drilled in remote high in elevation places to the city of Marrakesh using underground channels. The water flowed in the channels by gravity. This channel system was called Al-Khatara. The subterranean canal system numbering about three hundred and fifty canals in number and each was about five kilometres in length still remains until recently in the city of Marrakesh. [229, 230]

Al-faiz [231] summarized several water supply features surrounding Marrackish including:

  • The hydro-agricultural complex of Sidi Bouathmane (12th century-40 km north of Marrakesh) that Almohad erected a hydraulic and agricultural complex to capture runoff water and channel it to large reservoirs. The complex was made up of dams, settling ponds and nine tanks with a total capacity of 3,254 m3.
  • The Tamesloht water-lifting towers (Marrakesh region, late 19th century). A square towers built in bricks and reaching a height of ten meters. The towers were hollow and each having two ceramic pipes with diameters varying from 0.40 meters for the largest to 0.21 meters for the smallest. The water reaches the base of towers by a buried pipeline. The system is about two kilometres and scattered columns that function as vases communicators intended to supply the Palace and the gardens.
  • The Agdal and the Menara in Marrakesh are the most important “green monuments” in Morocco. They were built in the 12th century and today constitute the oldest still living gardens in the Arab world. The whole network old hydraulic system, formed by séguias and khettaras, aqueducts, lifting towers water, monumental sahrij (reservoirs), settling ponds, deserve to be restored. These two gardens may, today, constitute the largest living water museum and hydraulic techniques in Morocco and the Arab World.
  • The Oued Ouaar aqueduct (12th century-Taroudant/ Moulay Idriss region, 200 km south-west of Marrakesh, in southern Morocco) system included the realization of the Gaba basin and the Oued aqueduct. It includes a system of pipes, ditches, a canal over two levels of bridge, other canals, tunnels, and other structures. The Gaba basin, circular in shape, had an average diameter of 250m, an approximate area of 50,000m², i.e. for a depth of one meter, a total capacity of 100,000m3. The aqueduct built on the Oued Ouaar was 100 meters long. Carried by arches to a height of 15 meters.
  • The Irara dam in Tafilalet (near Rissani about 200 km northeast of Marrakesh) The Irara Dam was built in the 17th century on the Wadi Ziz. 1701 m long and 10 m high, it was built in steps with buttresses and lime masonry. Work monumental, it is a masterpiece of flood hydraulics for which the Tafilalet region was the cradle.
  • The oasis of Fezna in Tafilalet was a tributary of 15 khettaras (underground drainage galleries called elsewhere foggaras, aflaj, kahriz or qanat). What is important in this system is the impressive alignment of the wells of the underground galleries that testifies both from the ingenuity of the builders of the khettaras and from the lessons that humanity can learn from their tragic drying up.
  • The oasis of Jorf: a heritage of water, palms and human ingenuity built in the 17th Several water collection and drainage galleries have been and still operating for centuries. What is remarkable is that in addition to the technical achievements, we still find the rules of the social organization of water management based on the principles of Islamic legislation and local customs, know-how, customs and social representations still alive.

Fez is a true city of water were largely a primary network of pipes formed by the major diversions of Oued Fez, a network made up of pottery pipes (kawâdis) diverting the water of Wadi Fez. A secondary water network built with ceramic channels (hoppers) that secure the connection between the main water channels and the buildings (houses) and other supplied facilities. A third water network consisting of pipes of varying diameters that secure both the supplying function of drinking water to the sanitation function in the primary cells. which provide a link between the main water canals and the buildings and sanitation facilities in the primary cells of the water network (residences/houses, mills, religious buildings, public baths, etc.). Hydraulic technologies were employed as part of an urban system such as the main water line in Fez.

There are currently 114 public water fountains (sabeel) in the city of Fez, Morocco in addition to those located within mosques. The history of the construction of public water fountains in Fez goes back to the 13th century during the Marinid era when the construction of water supply was active so that historical sources mentioned that Sultan Aba Al-Hassan Al-Marini broke the record for building and equipping Morocco with watering. The fountains are used for getting drinking water by the public in the streets and by surrounding houses. Among the most famous of those are the fountains of the saffron, the carpenters (Al-Najjarin), the villagers (Al-Qaraweein), Andalusia, the henna market (Souq Al-Henna), and the fountain of jasmine (Al-Yasameen). The public water fountains undergo a regular restoration process with the aim of restoring them to their first image and reviving their roles in quenching the thirst of thirst [232].

3.1.4.5 Tunis

The rain intensity in Tunisia is good for most of the years and covers the population’s need for drinking and irrigation water. The terrain in Tunisia is flat and there are two main rivers in Tunisia, the Medjerda to the north and the Milian to the south. Tunisians built mountain pools to harvest rainwater. Rain intensity in the north of Tunisia including the city of Tunis varies between 1000 and 1500 mm and groundwater in Tunis is easily accessible through the drilling of deep wells, providing water for different purposes[233].

The El-As aqueduct is the first and oldest Roman aqueducts in Tunis. The Zaghouan aqueduct is the second of the longest Roman aqueducts ordered by Emperor Adrian, with a length of 57.5 miles (92.5 kilometres). It was built in the second century to supply Carthage (in modern Tunisia) with water.

In Tunisia, water systems built in medieval times under Muslims rule consisted of water catchment basins, groundwater wells, aqueducts, cisterns and basins (reservoirs), and fountains, cascade, and waterfalls. Roman aqueducts to supply the towns with water were rebuilt under Abu Ibrahim Ahmad (841–856), the sixth amir [234]. Abuzakaria al-Hafsi repaired Roman aqueducts and brought water to the Zaytuna Mosque

In the steppe regions, the Middle Age Arabs showed technical expertise in runoff water harvesting and storage. Many small diversion dams built at Oued Meguellil tributaries, the famous Aghlabides Basins was realised in 862, covering an area of 11000 m2 and having a full capacity of 63000 m3 [235, 236].

3.1.4.6 Kufa and Basra

Kūfa was a centre of Arab culture and learning from the 8th to the 10th century. It was founded in 638 CE as a garrison town by Caliph Omar Ibn Al-Khattab. The city lay on the Hindiyyah branch of the Euphrates River, about 7 miles (11 km) northeast of Al-Najaf. Kufa served as the seat of the governor of Iraq, sometimes sharing this position with its sister city, Basra. [237]

During the rule of the Umayyad dynasty, they built dams and water reservoirs in Kufa and used the Sea of Najaf for this purpose to alleviate the burden of floods, and Caliph Abd al-Malik Ibn Marwan sought to count the amounts of rain with the limited resources available to them at that time [238,239].

The availability of freshwater has been a constant source of concern for Basra residents throughout the ages. In the early days of its founding, the people of Basra depended on the water of Al-Bateha stream, which was fresher than the Tigris [240] – Shatt al-Arab – and the water of Al-Batiha reached the outskirts of Basra. The water of Al-Bateha stream was not stable and sustainable and accordingly, the people of Basra complained to Caliph Omar ibn al-Khattab. Caliph Omar took action to address water shortages in Basra to that he ordered Abu Musa al-Ash’ari, the governor of Basra at that time, to “dig a river/canal from Tigris river to Basra. So he dug the Abla River or canal” [241]. The Abla River or canal was about 10 miles long [242,243]. Later, the Abla River was not enough and in (45 – 53 AH / 665 – 673 AD) Maqal River/canal from Tigris to Basra was also dug and another additional river/canal was dug: the Asawara River, which was dug in the year 31 AH. Other canals to bring water to southern parts of the city from Shat Al-Arab were dug [244, 245]

3.1.4.7 Damascus

River Barada about 70 km long originated from the eastern Lebanese mountains and has six tributaries and thirty-four diversion canals. With annual precipitation of less than 200mm/year, the River Barada has always been a precious source of water for the city. Al-Attar (1984 [246]) explained in his book the foundations of the science of distributing the Barada River water in Damascus in the sixth century AH to every street, alley and house in Damascus and its surroundings (Ghouta). The water flow was continuous throughout the year for homes, animal drinking, and irrigating plants and gardens. The distribution was based on the science of assumptions/statistics and arithmetic and other auxiliary sciences. The water allocation took in consideration land ownership as well as other factors in allocating water for each point. Al-Muhtasib, an Islamic governmental cleric, was responsible for checking the water volumes allocated and the proper water uses. Water along the way was allocated also to public baths, public fountains (sabeels), schools, hospitals and mosques. Al-Attar showed the manner in which the Damascene people calculated the inclinations and slopes for the distribution of channels, and the knowledge of timing in order to calculate the time and volumes allocated for distributing water [247].

Al-Jazari developed the earliest water supply system to be driven by gears and hydropower, which was built in 13th century Damascus to supply water to its mosques and Bimaristan hospitals. The system had water from a lake turn a scoop-wheel and a system of gears that transported jars of water up to a water channel that led to mosques and hospitals in the city. [248]

In the Umayyad era, the Umayyad caliphs and governors paid great attention to the agricultural issue. They created many irrigation and water supply construction projects, for example, that caliph Yazid bin Muawiya bin Abi Sufyan, ordered digging a canal branching from the Barada River in Damascus in the Rabwah region, west of Damascus, called river Yazid or Qanat Yazid.[249]

One of the most important dams built by the Umayyad is the Kharbaka Dam with a huge reservoir for storing, collecting and distributing water. This dam and reservoir were located on the road leading from Damascus to the city of Palmyra. The matter is that the Umayyad used ceramic channels and a stone irrigation network to distribute water [250, 251].

The first comprehensive ‘town-planning of Damascus to take place under Islamic rule occurred after the victory over the Crusaders, and the rise to power of Nural Din, Sunni leader of the Ayyubids, in the mid-twelfth century. Aside from state built mosques, bathhouses and water systems which was a priority to city governors, as mentioned above, it is interesting to note that Damascus did not undergo much town planning in the first hundred years of Islamic rule. [252].

3.1.4.8 Aleppo

The Hamdanid State in Aleppo was interested in agriculture, so they built water channels in and around Mayafariq, and in the city of Aleppo. Many of these canals got to flow from the Quweik River. The waters of these channels reached the agricultural lands around the city as well as inside it for water supply. During Ayyubid’s governor Nuridin Zinki (576-606 CE) the water system of Aleppo was repaired/rebuilt and consequently, the water supply to the city was substantially improved. The Ayyubid’s governor Al Zahir Ghazi (616-646 CE) constructed the famous water canal Haylan. The qanat was rebuilt and repaired in 605 CE by his son Malik and some parts of it located inside the city was stone covered to ensure better water quality. Also, Malik built a network of underground duct to transport water from Haylan qanat to institutions (mosques and hospitals) and houses. Residents used to get water needs out of the ducts from either cistern or fountains. During the Mamluk period (713 CE) another canal was built to supplement the city with water.[253, 254]

3.1.4.9 Taiz

The city of Taiz is a new city compared to the age of other Yemeni cities. Its nucleus, represented by the Fort of Taiz, appeared in the early era of the Sulayhid state in the fifth AH / eleventh century AD, and when the Ayyubids came to Yemen in the sixth and early seventh centuries, it was already three neighbourhoods were formed around the fort, which represented the nucleus of the city (Dhi Hazeem, Mughriba, and Adina). These neighbourhoods flourished and expanded in the era of the state of Bani Rasul [255,256].

The researcher also shed light on the availability of drinking and irrigation water for all neighbourhoods of the city, which he provided with the huge (Saber Mountain), which the city grew up in its northern foot, through water installations and springs that were extracted and dragged to various parts of the city, as well as some edifices and public facilities such as mosques, schools and palaces have their own springs, and this leads us to the fact that the main reason for the emergence of the city of Taiz in that part of the earth was the abundance of water in it [257, 258].

3.1.4.9 Bal ‘harm (Palermo)

Palermo Plain in Spain, areas under a scarcity of surface water, the inhabitants were forced to use groundwater for both irrigation and domestic usage. This was done through the complex but sustainable hydraulic system. Vertical and horizontal wells convey water towards gardens and public fountains making the Arabic Bal ‘harm (Palermo) a flourishing town. Today, visitors could imagine that there is a wide and varied Muslim cultural heritage of underground cavities hidden in the basements where water flows in intricate networks fed from numerous underground springs. Only in recent years was a part of this system brought to light. Moreover, the city still has a wide and fascinating water management system based on a distribution system consisting of an irrigation basin, ingenious hydraulic machines named Senie, and a distribution chessboard of irrigation and drinking water canals [259, 260].

There are current plans to revive and reconstruct the Arabic Muslim qanat in Palermo and utilize it to solve the acute needs of the modern city of Palermo for potable water [261].

3.1.4.10 Kairouan

The city of Kairouan in Tunisia was founded in the year 50 AH / 670 and was famous for its water tanks called Mujil (water reservoirs/cisterns), and some of them still remain until today [262]. Its shape is usually round with a large area to which a smaller reservoir for overflow controls [263]. A canal was dug between the mountain and the city to supplying these reservoirs with water. [264]

It was reported [265] that the Algiers city’s water supply was introduced by the Ottomans in the 16th century. To do so, the Ottomans built four aqueducts to replace the ancient wells and cisterns (old water system created by the Romans)

  • 1 The Telemly aqueduct, one of the first hydraulic works in the enclosure of Algiers (16thcentury), the work of Hasan Khair ad-Din, 2 km long and with an estimated flow of over 500 m3/day.
  • 2 The 5 km long Hamma aqueduct enters the city through the Bab Azzoun district (constructed in 1662 by the Andalusia Mûsa al Andalousi). He brought back water from the source of Hamma; its flow rate was over 700 m3/day.
  • 3 The Aïn-Zeboudja aqueduct, now called the Val aqueduct of Hydra, due to its location in this newly urbanized district of Algiers (built between 1619 and 1639). It is also the work of Mussa el Andaloussi. The aqueduct captured the waters of the spring’s natural areas of the Ben Aknoun and Dely-Ibrahim plateau located about 10 kilometres from the city. The aqueduct supplied the Kasbah, passing through the Tagarins (top of the Casbah). It is estimated that its flow was over 700 m3 per day.
  • 4 The Birtraria aqueduct which brought its water to the Bab el Oued gate (built-in 1830), collecting several sources, is the shortest of Algiers aqueducts and has a capacity of over 100 m3/day.

3.1.4.11 Al-Zahara

Madinaht al-Zahrain Al-Andalusia or Al-Zahara is undoubtedly an outstanding testimony of a complete urban complex of a city and one of the mythical cities in Islam. The extensive area designated to the Alcázar palace, of which 11 ha have been excavated from a total hypothetical land surface of 19 ha, also provides evidence of precise urban planning, particularly apparent in the continuous water supply and sanitation infrastructures that guaranteed cleanliness and hygiene for the user. A complex infrastructure of water supply and sewers was built to serve the buildings. Pipes were installed to supply water to toilets. Together with the water supply, the sanitation infrastructure is among the best in the palace in terms of planning. It is integrated by a network of underground channels, out of which 1,800 m have been recognized, with diverse typologies and sizes that run into different areas of depth beneath the palace buildings [266].

In Muslim cities, there were water systems for domestic purposes, sewage networks, public bathrooms, fountains, and drinking water pipes. Public and private toilets and bathing facilities were widespread. By the tenth century AD, Córdoba had 700 mosques, 60,000 palaces, and 70 libraries and all were served by water supply systems [267].

During the reign of Caliph Hisham Ibn-Abdel Malik, a water supply problem occurred. He instructed his governor, in the city of Mosul to build a huge water channel to alleviate the problem. This channel cost 3 million dirham’s to construct and took a total of 13 years [268]. In addition, dams were built on the river Tigris and several more channels created. Furthermore, the Caliph’s brother Masalamah Ibn-Abdel Malik, constructed a huge dam on the Euphrates Island on the River Blikh which helped increase the agricultural production in the area.

3.1.5 Hisba and Al-Muhtasib

From its earliest years, the Islamic State or caliphate established an agency known as the hisba whose specific task was to protect the people through promoting the establishment of good and forbidding wrong-doing. This agency was headed by a learned jurist (Al-muhtasib) who functioned like a chief inspector of weights and measures and chief public health officer rolled into one [269].

The jurisdiction of the Al-Muhtasib covers the general public and individuals. Examples of the former are failure of water supply, decaying city walls, or the arrival of needy wayfarers whom the people of the place fail to provide for; in such cases, if there be money in the treasury, no constraint is needed, and the Al-Muhtasib may order the water supply to be put right and the wall repaired and may relieve the wayfarers whom the people of the place fail to provide for; all this is chargeable on the treasury and not on the inhabitants, as are also dilapidations in mosques. But if the treasury is without funds, then these liabilities fall on all inhabitants of substance, [270].

Perhaps it was one of the duties of the Al-Muhtasib in the early Abbasid period (as it was in the Ayyubid’s and Mamluk’s periods) to see that drinking water be available in those inhabitants of the city lacking any public water supply and that all fountains supplying water be working and the water therein potable and safe for use, [271].

The Al-Muhtasib could fine merchants for not keeping the streets clean, fronting their shops well-watered and free of dust, or could hold responsible for repairing and heightening the streets hygiene when ordered to do so [272]

One of the duties of the Al-Muhtasib, was to look after the hammam or public bathhouse;

  • to issue orders for sweeping and washing the hammam properly with clean water before closing it;
  • to issue orders preventing washing of utensils, or clothes in the pool or the ‘fountain put in the resting hall after bathing for drinking and for aesthetic purposes;
  • To keep an eye on the wastewater so that its flow-into the canal or the river might not pollute their water.

The development and application of Hisba and Al-Muhtasib have seen a decline over the past two centuries. We are experiencing the negative consequences of this now. However, there are clear indications as to how this Islamic heritage has been and could again be put to good use in the modern context [273].


Figure 8. Article banner of The European Muslim Heritage and its Role in the Development of Europe

3.2 Sanitation

The reuse of wastewater, an ancient practice that has been in place since the dawn of human history, is associated with the provision of sanitation services. Untreated municipal wastewater has been reused for centuries with the aim of diverting human waste out of urban settlements. Likewise, the use of domestic wastewater to irrigate land is an ancient and common practice that has gone through various stages of development.[274]

Domestic wastewater was used for irrigation by prehistoric civilizations since the Bronze Age (circa 3200-1100 BC). The people of Mesopotamia introduced clay sewage pipes to the world around 4000 B.C. They had easily removable and replaceable pieces of clay pipes that allowed them to be cleaned. Sewage water was then used for irrigation and fertilization by the Hellenic civilizations and later by the Romans in the peri-urban areas (such as Athens and Rome). Moreover, human excrement has been used in China to fertilize agricultural crops since ancient times.[275, 276, 277, and 278].

The application of wastewater to the land as a technology has gone through different stages of development with time but it was not until the 1840s when the basic principles of this technology started to establish. The use of land treatment for wastewater treatment declined after the development of conventional treatment plants but a renewed interest occurred after the passage of the Clean Water Act in the USA and especially, during the last seven decades. Currently, its application has been expanded in the management of various types of wastewaters including dairy, meat, industrial effluents as well as polluted water sources. [279]

It was found that the emphasis of Muslims in the medieval period is placed on the functional part of medical care of the sick, sanitation and infectious diseases [280].

Arab Muslims in Andalusia proved that they are the masters of water and deserve to be described as:

“protectors of the water civilization. They built public baths all along Spanish cities and villages to be used by men, women, and children for cleanliness and purity.” [281]

Cordoba, Al-Andalusia also had the first waste containers and waste disposal facilities for litter collection. [282, 283, 284]

A fatwa (a formal religious legal opinion) issued in Saudi Arabia indicates that the reuse of wastewater is not forbidden. After a thorough study developed in consultation with scientists and engineers, the Council of Senior Muslim Scholars in Saudi Arabia concluded, in a special fatwa issued in 1978, that treated wastewater could theoretically be used even for ablution and drinking, provided it does not pose a health risk.

After the fatwa was issued, wastewater reuse expanded in Saudi Arabia. In 1995, 15% of the water was reused to irrigate palm trees and forage plants, such as alfalfa. (In addition, the water used for ablution in the Two Holy Mosques in Makkah and Madinahh is reused for flushing toilets, thus saving the use of desalination water, which is very costly). In Kuwait, the area of land irrigated with treated water used to grow alfalfa, garlic, onions, eggplant and pepper is more than 1,700 hectares. In Jordan, the amount of treated domestic wastewater that was reused in restricted irrigation in 1998 was about 70 million cubic meters, and it constituted 12% of the total water used in irrigation, according to the Jordanian Ministry of Water and Irrigation sources. [285]

Throughout history, the focus of wastewater treatment has been on transporting raw wastewater to natural water bodies, such as a river, sea, or ocean, where it is diluted and dissipated. Humans’ early dwellings and settlements were often built next to water supplies. Such as rivers, lakes, or seas are a primary form of natural wastewater disposal [286].

An important juristic rule in Islamic Law states:

“The averting of harm takes precedence over the acquisition of benefits.” [287].

Therefore minimizing waste production or generation was given a good deal of consideration in Islam and Islamic teachings. The following is an example of Islamic directions advising Muslims to initially minimize waste and optimize the use of available natural resources including water:

  • Use material, crops, food either in eating or in development in specific quantities or as needed only and do not go in excess (Qur’an, 25:5, 20:81, 7:31, 6:141, 5:87, 4:6).
  • Do not collect (wealth, resources, bounties, and others) and hide it from using or leaving/storing it without use (Qur’an, 70:18, 104:2).
  • An example of the Islamic guiding principles for materialistic waste management (Qur’an, 8:37, 5:31, and 3:179).
  • Classification and Separation: Classify then separate the impure from the pure or the usable (recyclable-good) from un-usable (Qur’an, 24:43). What could be recycled should be recycled and the unusable (non-recyclables-non-recoverable, bad in quality) would go into step (2) and (3).
  • Compilation/Heaping: Put the impure (being solid liquid or gaseous), one on another, heap them together (Qur’an, 24:43). Putting impure matter together here also means collecting it in one compilation.
  • Waste Disposal: It is better not to generate waste in the first place, however, in case that already wastes occurred and collected and needs to be disposed of, disposal could take place by:
  • Incineration or Freezing: Cast impure matter or waste compiled from step 1 and 2 into Hell (Qur’an, 24:43). Hell in Qur’an, contain two processes or extreme conditions: incineration by fire (Qur’an, 85:10, 72:23, and 52:13) or exposure to excessive cold (Quran 78:25 and 38:57). Incineration will destroy waste and reduce it to ruins/ash – in reduced volume (Qur’an, 51:42). The residual ash from incineration is useful and stays or could be buried inland (Qur’an, 13:17). This is a unique solution to unusable-impure waste disposal. Dumping waste in the frozen environment (soil, ice, artificial freezers, and others) in today’s waste science and technology was not proposed or considered as a viable waste management option [290].
  • Burying inland of dead bodies or tissues which will decompose by time (Qur’an, 80:21, 81:8, and 60:13). The degraded matter inland will be later (as nutrients) for giving life to bare land through irrigating land and supporting crops growth (Qur’an, 77:25 and 26, 27:67, 30:19, 10:31, 7:57).

The Governor, Ziad ibn Abu Sufyan who governed both Basra and Kufa from 670CE – 672CE, enforced sanitation regulations and appointed officials to look after the sanitation of the cities. Citizens who violated sanitation regulations were punished according to the law [288, 289].

3.3 Hygienic Consideration and Practices

Almost every house had a toilet (mustarah; kanif in Kufan dialect, hushsh in Basran, and madhhab in Syrian, bayt al-khala in Medinian and mirhad in the Yemeni dialect) [290]. Although no specific information as to the forms of toilets is available, it is known from the information scattered in different sources that there were two forms of toilets, 1 well-toilets2 and “service toilets”. In well toilets, which would seem more common, pits were dug and slabs of stone were placed to sit on [291]. In this system when the privies were cramped and disagreeable, the well was filled in and put out of use* According to Tanukhi, well-to-do people had their privies reserved for their exclusive use and would not let anyone else enter them [292]

The existence of a group of people known as kannas, hashshash, kannaf (privy/toilet cleaners) indicates that “public toilets” were also cleaned and in use, [293] in this system, presumably the toilet. The cleaner would come, at regular intervals, to collect the human waste and transport it to someplace outside the city. The existence of public toilets is also attested by the fact that in Basra there was a group of people who had undertaken the contract of cleaning privies of the people they collected the human waste and dried it in the sun to sell later in the markets for burning as fuel [294].

Though the poor people and those especially living in the countryside used bushes and barren lands as their toilets, the wealthy people built their lavatories from lavish expenses[295]. A merchant of Baghdad had his toilet plastered in the top with gypsum and the bottom with mortar; the roof was made flat and the floor paved with marble* It had a door whose made of teak and ivory[296].

Toilets were built either at a corner of the house or at the extreme end of the house-garden. The ‘cleaners’ thus – could approach the toilet from outside the building without causing any disturbance to the inmates of the building [297].

The work of Muslim scientists such as al-Kindi, Qusta ibn Luqa, al-Razi, Ibn Al-Jazzar, al-Tamimi, and Ibn al-Nafis covered a number of subjects related to pollution such as air pollution, water pollution, soil contamination, municipal solid waste mishandling, and environmental impact assessments of certain localities. [298]

The medieval Islamic community displayed its creativity, and applied the ethical principles of Islam, through another major avenue as well, namely what we would today label as ‘public healthcare’. The extraordinary provision of public bath-houses, complex sanitary systems of drainage (more extensive even than the famous Roman infrastructures), fresh-water supplies, and the large and sophisticated urban hospitals, all contributed to the general health of the population [299].

The owner of the public bath (named qayyim) on the other hand, cautiously maintained the rules of hygiene in-as-much as he cleaned the tank of water at least once in a month; fumigated the hammam twice a day; soaked the curry-comb into saline water; and washed the drying cloth (supplied to the bathers) everyday. [300].

Ibn Ridwan discusses preventive measures, sanitation, the rules of hygiene and the causes of the plague. Ibn Ridwan subscribes to a code of strict ethics [301].

Ibn Sina laid the foundations of modern medicine and public health through his book “The Law in Medicine,” which was responsible for introducing the first description of bacterial and viral organisms, and the spread of diseases through water and soil. [302]

Ibn Sina (also known as Avicenna) in his book The Canon of Medicine (1025), mentioned that people can transmit disease to others by breath, noted contagion with tuberculosis, and discussed the transmission of disease through water and dirt. [303]

The fiqh scholar Ibn al-Haj al-Abdari (c. 1250–1336), while discussing Islamic diet and hygiene, gave advice and warnings about how contagion can contaminate water, food, and garments, and could spread through the water supply.[304]

The Prophet is reported to have said:

“Do not let those infected transmit their disease to those who are healthy and if you know that plague is raging in a specific land do not enter it and if it happens in a land where you are, do not seek it.” (9-10)[305].

The impact of Muslim scholars on medicine and public health is well documented in the scholarly contributions of Ibn Sina, Al-Razi, Ibn al-Nafis, Ibn Zuhr, and al-Zahrawi (Albucasis), as well as in European medieval texts that utilized their works [306].

In India, there is a lower infant mortality rate found among Muslims compared to Hindus, which has raised the suggestion that Islam and associated hygienic practices may be important factors for infant mortality [307].In support of this notion[308] attributed the lower infant mortality rate for Muslims, relative to Hindus (despite Muslim parents being poorer and less educated), to a higher rate of toilet use among Muslims that they conclude is due to differences in religious beliefs.

The teachings of Islam, which encourage personal purity and cleanliness, were credited with developing the idea of the bathroom, so that it became one of the duties of public service in the Islamic State, like those set in the mosque, school, hospital and library. The Spanish historian Americo Castro says that the map of the villages in Spain with public baths is the strongest indication of the area that has been subjected to apparent Islamic influence. According to him, public baths in the thirteenth century were managed by municipal regulations and among the provisions of those regulations included that the owner of the public bath must provide those who enter it with hot water, soap and towels. [309, 310].

The Muslim civilization produced many highly erudite Muslim physicians; five individuals are outstanding for their developments to Islamic medicine and public heath. These were al-Rāzī (865-925), al-Zahrāwī (936-1013), ibn Sīna (980-1037), ibn Rushd (1126-1198) and ibn Nafīs (1213-1288).

Among the footprints of Ibn Sina in medicine and public health was that he attributed diseases transmitted through water to tiny animals that cannot be seen with the naked eye entering the human body by drinking water without feeling it [311].

Several Muslim scientists pioneered in water purification among those:

  • Boiling and Filtering: Al-Tamimi tried to explain why water is considered drinkable free of germs when boiled and one-quarter of it evaporates, and they put the requirement of the continuation of water boiling for a period of time, a thing that was not mentioned by anyone before them[312,313]. Al-Tamīmī, emphasized that: (after boiling water for a sufficient time until a quarter of it evaporates, boiled sterilized water is filtered in a newly made ceramic pot with large pores, so water is filtered through the vessel pores)[314].
  • Boiling and Cooling: Al-Razī, mentioned a new method, which is

“boil water for a long time then cool it very quickly, so the precipitates will get filtered”.[315]

  • Distillation: Jabir Ibn Haīīan, was the first who described a method of pure distillation to purify chemical materials and water.[316]He has invented a glass distillation device, which has a long flask; it is still known today as “Al-embiq”.. Jabir explained two ways of pure distillation by using Al-embiq: dry distillation water and wet distillation of water [317].
  • Earth Filtration: Al- Razī mentioned several ways to purify turbid water, one of them was: “water is filtered by drops through earthenware or a pitcher[318], which means that water is to be put in porous pottery jars to allow infiltration of water from the inside to the outside, so clean water is filtered towards the outside. The visible or invisible suspended impurities get deposited inside the pots and on their walls.
  • Sun Radiation: Al- Balki assured the effect of the sunrays and air on water purification. He said that:

“if water is too much exposed to the sun, then the sunlight and heat reflected on water makes it get thinner, and causes a kind of lightness and softness.”[319]

  • Water Flow Under Sun and Wind: Ibn Sīna said:

“The best water is running water, especially if it is being exposed to the sun and wind. This is a gain. Stagnant water, however, might get worse if exposed than if hidden”.[320]

  • Boiling with Alcohol: Qusta Ibn Lwqa uniquely stated:

if a person had to drink some bad water, it should be cooked on fire, and then mixed, after cooking, with wine”.[321]

  • Use of Silver: The Bedouins used bags made of sheepskin to carry water during their travels. Three-quarters of the bag was filled with water and metal pieces of silver coins were dipped into the water. During long trips, water vibrates and gets mixed with silver. The coins get rubbed together so that a small part of silver melts in water in the form of very soft powder, which leads to bacteria-killing and water- disinfecting.[322]

3.4 Lessons Learned and the Way Forward

The Islamic civilization and heritage in water supply, sanitation, and hygiene services are the product of deep thinking, brainstorming, and understanding of Muslim experts/researchers/scholars that extended over eight centuries and in multiple technical field circumstances covering a wide geographical area and climatic conditions is not only a history to be read, acknowledged, and respected, but a great, rich, sophisticated, intellectual, and valuable wealth of achievements, experiences and practices that can be used to find solutions to current and future problems facing this sector.

In reviewing and examining Islamic civilizations over history it was found that Muslim civilizations advanced and developed when Muslims (as individual and as a State) were closely attached to and applied the Islamic rules and teachings in every aspect of their life. A good proof and example of this flourishing application were the Golden Age of Islamic civilization during the Omayyad and Abbasid caliphate (661-1258 CE) and the Ottoman Caliphate (1517–1923 CE) when Islamic teachings were maintained, tremendous developments in water supply means, infrastructures, machinery, science and engineering, and services leading to great know-how and knowledge in the field and prosperous and stable life of Muslims. The lesson learned here is that there is a close relationship between a good Muslim country’s development and stability and good Islamic faith (understanding, commitment and application). Accordingly, a three-step approach to good national development of Muslim’s including the sector of water supply, sanitation, and hygiene services is suggested:

  • first is the high need to educate Muslims about Islamic teachings, rules, and regulations to enhance their faith and understanding of the Islamic set of laws and their best application in everyday life activities and processes,
  • second Quran does not include every specific technical and technological aspect of development, and accordingly, Muslims need to learn and upgrade to their benefit and needs the state of art of how to do and make better each of the professions needed for development, and third,
  • Muslims, individually and collectively, to give utmost sincere and hard work toward continuous improving and accomplishing good development.

3.4 Concluding Remarks

In reviewing and examining Islamic civilizations in water supply, sanitation, and hygienic practices several concluding remarks were found including:

  • As water is a matter of life for all living things, the current global existence of about 1.5 billion Muslim is proof of the prime importance and effort given by Muslim leaders(Caliphs and Walis) over centuries to ensure the availability of fresh water for all purposes.
  • Islamic cities over history have enjoyed abundant water supplies, and no evidence of their interruption has been documented except in times of war.
  • In Islam, water supply planners, policy and decision-makers as well as individual Muslims need to continuously and at all times and locations/places to take into account the specific, balanced and beneficial use of water resources (surface and groundwater) to maintain its qualitative and quantitative sustainability.
  • Water supply, sanitation, and hygienic considerations and practices in Islam and Islamic civilizations are considered as part of the public interest and safety is a mutual responsibility of the State/collective and the individual Muslims.
  • There is an indication of no universal Islamic method of dealings with the various issues and aspects of wastewater management. This means that Islamic State and/or its organs need to deal with this issue by local scholars and experts in a specific and approachable way.
  • Islamic civilizations are a great, rich and valuable wealth of experiences and practices that can be used to find solutions to the current and future problems facing this sector
  • There is a close relation between Muslim country’s development and stability and Islamic faith understanding, commitment and application.
  • Municipal authorities for town planning and civic affairs did not form in Muslim cities. The governor was the driving force for all activities.
  • Plans and guidelines affecting public health in a positive way did exist in a sophisticated manner in Islamic Civilizations
  • Muslim civilizations advanced and developed when Muslims (as individual and as a State) were closely attached to and applied the Islamic rules and teachings in every aspect of their life,
  • A three-step approach to good national development of Muslim’s was suggested including the high need to educate Muslims about Islam to enhance their faith, then Muslims need to learn the state of the art of how to do and make better each of the professions needed for development, and Muslims to give utmost sincere and hard work toward continuous accomplishing good development.

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End Notes

[1] CE stands for Common Era and is one of the year notations used for the Gregorian calendar

[2] AH stands for The first day of Year One of the Islamic calendars was set as the first day of the Hijrah, the Prophet’s migration from Makkah to Madinah on July 26, 622 CE.

[3] The terms anno Domini (AD) and before Christ (BC)[note 1] are used to label or number years in the Julian and Gregorian calendars

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