Points from Hadeeth no.1 of Bulugh Al Maram, Kitaab At-Tahaara, Baab Al Miyya

Class on 6th Jumaada al Awal 1435H (7th March 2014)

Narrated Abu Huraira (رضي الله عنه): Allah’s Messenger (صلى الله عليه وسلم) said regarding the sea, “Its water is Tahoor (purifying) and its dead (animals) are lawful (to eat)”

[Al-Arba’a (Abu Dawud, At-Tirmidhi, An-Nasa’i and Ibn Majah) and Ibn Abi Shaiba reported it. The wording is from the latter. Ibn Khuzaima and At-Tirmidhi graded it Sahih. Malik, Ash-Shafi’i and Ahmad (also) reported it].


This is a very important hadeeth. It contains  a foundation among the foundations concerning water. It is narrated that As-Shafi’i said that this hadeeth contains “half of the knowledge of purity (of water)”.

This earth is either land or sea, this is your fatwa when it comes to the sea, what is remaining is in regards to the land.

The full hadeeth narrates:

“A man came to the Messenger of Allah صلى الله عليه وسلم, and said, “Messenger of Allah! We travel by sea and we do not carry much fresh water with us so if we perform wudu (ablution) with it, we go thirsty. Can we do wudu with seawater?” The Messenger of Allah صلى الله عليه وسلم, replied, ‘Its water is a Purifier, and its dead creatures are lawful (to eat).'”

This is the context behind the statement of the Messenger (صلى الله عليه وسلم). From this hadeeth, we can derive many points of benefit, a few of which are as follows:

1. Whoever finds himself confused, or ignorant in regards to a ruling should go and ask the ’ulama (scholars). This man and his companions didn’t know the ruling pertaining to sea water being used for ablution so they asked the Messenger of Allah (صلى الله عليه وسلم).

2. We can ride the sea for other than Hajj, Umrah and Jihad, since there are narrations of this hadeeth which show that the men who asked the Messenger of Allah (صلى الله عليه وسلم) were going to fish. As for the hadeeth in Sunan Abi Dawood: “Do not ride the sea expect for Hajj, Umrah and Jihad”, it is graded Dai’f (weak) as it has two anonymous narrators as is stated by Ibn Abdil Barr.

3. It is a proof that it is not obligatory to prepare wudu water beforehand (when traveling).

4. Every purifier (which uplifts the Hadath) is pure, i.e. the sea is pure. But not every pure thing can be a purifier, for example milk. Abdullah ’ibn Umar (رضي الله عنهما) and Abdullah ibn ’Amr (رضي الله عنهما) however, said it is not allowed to use sea water to purify, but the opinion of the majority and that which is correct according to this hadeeth, is that using seawater to purify is permissible. This opinion is also held by the notably great companion Abu Bakr (رضي الله عنه) and others from the companions (رضي الله عنهم).

5. The Messenger (صلى الله عليه وسلم) did not merely say “yes” though that is sufficient as an answer for the question. Rather he stated a reason why one can use the seawater, which is that its water is a purifier. Were the Messenger (صلى الله عليه وسلم) to have answered a simple “yes”, one could interpret it to mean an approval for this specific situation only. Meaning for a case of need, like that of the questioner, where they didn’t carry enough fresh water and they feared thirst on themselves. one might then claim that the use of seawater to purify is only for fishermen at sea, or those who are in need, and not for others. The statement of the Messenger (صلى الله عليه وسلم) however, is concise and contains an answer, not only for the questioner, but for the rest of the Ummah in regards to this matter. Therefore the water of the sea is a purifier anytime and anywhere.

6. The hadeeth is an evidence that the animals that belong to the sea are halal [to consume]. Some held the opinion that if a sea animal died by it self and was then found floating on the surface of the water, then it is not permissible to eat. However, what is correct according to this hadeeth, is that whether it was fished for, or was already dead on the surface of  the water, then it is permissible to consume.

7. This hadeeth acts as an evidence that the Mufti can mention another beneficial ruling in addition to the specific answer he gave. He may give additional information; the Messenger (صلى الله عليه وسلم) told the questioner about the permissibility of eating the dead sea animals in addition to using the sea water for ablution. The questioner may benefit from the additional information, as in this case, the companions wondered of the ruling of the water of the sea, and the ruling of its animals were included for their benefit. Because just as they needed to know the ruling of the sea water they might later need to know the ruling of it’s dead animals.