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Running water is the water that gushes forth from the earth and flows such as waters from rivers, oceans, seas, springs. It is the opposite of stagnant water.

Running water does not become najis (impure) by najasah falling into it even if it was a little amount (i.e. less than qullatayn), unless it changes in its color, taste or odor;

Thus, the real concept is that: the running water is pure until or unless something changes its: smell, color, taste. If any one of these properties are changed considerably by any impure thing in the water of any kind, it is not pure and cannot be used for purifying. If any of these properties are changed by something pure like some soap or some oil, then this water is pure, but then there is difference of opinion some say we can use this water for purifying, and some say this water cannot be used for purifying.

Running water, when polluted with impurities, the ripples, which have been contaminated with these impurities, become impure, except those beneath and below, because the ripples of water are separated one from the other. Similarly, the impurities, if they should flow in the watercourse, render impure the part in which they fall as well as the part to the right and left of the part wherein they fall, if the amount of water does not exceed two pitchers (Al-Qulatain). If the flow of the water, were faster than the flow of the impurities, what lies over the impurities is pure and what lies below them is impure, no matter how far it may move or how much it may be, unless it gathers in a pond or cavity the size of which is larger than two pitchers. If an amount of impure water, equal to two pitchers, should gather in one place, that water would become pure if mixed [with a larger quantity of pure water]. This is the position of al Shafi`I in his old opinion (madh-hab al-qadeem)

The above opinion of Imam Shafi’e is also the school of thought of the majority of the scholars such as the Maalikis and the Hanafis. It is one of the stressed reports mentioned by Imam Ahmad, and the choicest view by Ibn Qudamah and Ibn Taimiyya (may Allah have mercy on them all). Imam Ibn Hazm is even of the view that it is the consensus of the scholars, but was contradicted by Shaikhul-Islam IbnTaimiya citing in support of that the new opinion of Shafi’e; who mentioned in this second view that running water if it is less than two pitchers (Al-Qullatain) is like stagnant water. It gets impure if impurities are visible in it” (Naqd Maraatib Al-Ijmaa pp:288)

The proof of the opinion of the Jamhour (majority of the scholars) is the hadith reported by Abu Huraira (may Allah be pleased with him) that the Messenger of Allah may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said:

 “None amongst you should urinate in stagnant water that does not run, and then bathe in it.(Bukhari and Muslim).

The Prophet peace be upon him- differentiated between running water and stagnant water, and then disallowed washing and doing purification with stagnant water but not the running water. This makes it clear that, if impurities such as urine and others fall into running water, it can be used to make ablution and other forms of purification as propounded by the majority of the scholars.


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