What Did Imam Nawawi Say about Sun-Heated Water (Al-Mushammas)?

Shafi'i Fiqh
Answered by Shaykh Irshaad Sedick

Question

This is an excerpt from an article on your site:

“(one can see Imam al-Nawawi in action when he performed tarjih on the controversy over Ma’ Mushammas [water exposed to the sun] with Imam al-Rafi’i; [al-Nawawi, Majmu’, 1:136]).”

Could you elucidate what Imam Nawawi said here about the ma’ mushammas?

Answer

In the Name of Allah, the Most Merciful and Compassionate. May Allah alleviate our difficulties and guide us to that which is pleasing to Him. May He reward you for this beautiful desire to live your life according to His guidance. Amin.

In brief, Imam Nawawi’s (may Allah have mercy on him) preferred view (as opposed to the official Shafi’i School) is that using sun-heated water is not disliked (makruh), regardless of the use-case. Imam Nawawi (may Allah have mercy on him) preferred this view based on his reading of the evidence around this issue, and Allah knows best.

Sun-Heated Water in the Shafi’i School

The Shafi‘i position on using sun-heated water for tahara (ritual purification) is as follows:

It is disliked (makruh) to purify oneself with sun-heated water if the following conditions are met:

a)      In very hot regions [regions between the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn]
b)      If the water container is of a [corrosive metal] (except gold and silver)
c)      The use-case intended is the physical body.

Furthermore, if the water is cooled, the ‘dislikedness’ (karaha) is removed. [Misri, ‘Umda Al-Salik]

The disliked nature of utilizing sun-heated water as described above appears to be based on the prevailing thought (of the time) that a chemical reaction between the water and the metal could result in some bodily harm or disease (such as leprosy).

Imam Nawawi’s Preference

Imam Nawawi based his preference (on the above issue) on the lack of textual evidence to support the disliked nature of using sun-heated water in the described manner. It is worth noting that contemporary Shafi’i scholars, such as Shaykh Nuh Ha Mim Keller (may Allah preserve him), appear to agree with Imam Nawawi’s preference. Shaykh Nuh left the Arabic text that mentions this ruling in ‘Umda Al-Salik, untranslated, and Allah knows best.

A Valuable Lesson

A valuable lesson lies in the described preference of Imam Nawawi and the contemporary Shafi’i Scholars referred to above. Though avid followers of the Shafi’i School, these scholars demonstrate that their primary allegiance is to the Sacred Law of Allah despite their allegiance to their specific School. Since they are knowledgeable enough to observe that a particular issue in their School is not entirely in line with the textual evidence, they demonstrate a respectful manner to have a reservation about that specific issue but remain loyal to and within the boundaries of their School.

In modern times it is not uncommon to witness even novice students criticizing hundreds of years of scholarship of a particular School, believing themselves to be more knowledgeable because they “discovered” an issue in Fiqh, in which they believe the School erred. May Allah guide us all.

I pray this is of benefit and that Allah guides us all.
[Shaykh] Irshaad Sedick
Checked and Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

Shaykh Irshaad Sedick was raised in South Africa in a traditional Muslim family. He graduated from Dar al-Ulum al-Arabiyyah al-Islamiyyah in Strand, Western Cape, under the guidance of the late world-renowned scholar, Shaykh Taha Karaan. 

Shaykh Irshaad received Ijaza from many luminaries of the Islamic world, including Shaykh Taha Karaan, Mawlana Yusuf Karaan, and Mawlana Abdul Hafeez Makki, among others.

He is the author of the text “The Musnad of Ahmad ibn Hanbal: A Hujjah or not?” He has served as the Director of the Discover Islam Centre and Al Jeem Foundation. For the last five years till present, he has served as the Khatib of Masjid Ar-Rashideen, Mowbray, Cape Town.

Shaykh Irshaad has thirteen years of teaching experience at some of the leading Islamic institutes in Cape Town). He is currently building an Islamic online learning and media platform called ‘Isnad Academy’ and pursuing his Master’s degree in the study of Islam at the University of Johannesburg. He has a keen interest in healthy living and fitness.