WAKE UP IN MOLOCH! Escaping the Plastic Tomb of Consumerism Through Islam
By James O’Neil
Invented by our Inventions
Modern man, heir to post-enlightenment philosophy and its Promethean understanding of progress, considers himself a fashioner of revolutionary technologies—be they automobile, aerosol can, or atom bomb—but the greater truth is that we, in mind and heart, are fashioned by them. Our historical records provide plentiful evidence to this effect: consider how our progenitors lived their lives according to the rhythm of the rising and setting of the sun, the changing of seasons, and the appearance of constellations in the infinite firmament above them; then consider our lives now, and how the clock has changed all that—we wake according to its alarm, then race to our workplaces against its ticking, and, with the aid of billions of light bulbs that obstruct the great majesty of the heavens, labour into the nights in defiance of our circadian rhythms. There are countless examples of the way technology changes us to be found in every sphere of life—consider also the way communication has changed us in the past century as we have shifted from a typographic culture to a televised culture, and how different an experience reading the great novels of the 19th century in all their magniloquent brilliance is when compared to the two-dimensional banality of television programmes and films. The examples one can draw upon are myriad, but it is a truth well-established that that which we invent in turn invents us.
Above all these great inventions stands a singular material that restructures the way we think more than any other, changing the way we approach commodities, food, and even clothing, yet it is so small in stature and so quickly thrown into dustbins that we scarcely afford it any significance in our lives. It can be found around every package of meat, every bunch of flowers, every toy bought for Christmas or Eid, and even wrapped around almost every vegetable at the supermarket. It is strong, lightweight, cheap, and affords ample protection for that which it envelops, yet can easily be torn apart and discarded. I am speaking, of course, of disposable plastics. These plastics have afforded us a great deal of convenience in our lives; we need not worry about bringing a bag or a container to the store when we go out to shop or eat; we need not spend a moment thinking about how to best preserve our food; we need not concern ourselves with transporting goods in a delicate manner, so secure are they in their polystyrene shells.
Nevertheless, people are beginning to question the ubiquity of disposable plastics. Most are concerned with the fact that using disposable plastics has the unfortunate side effect of desecrating our planet for centuries to come, slowly leaking microplastics into the soil and water for generations. The effects this has on the natural world can be easily seen in the photography of Chris Jordan, who wandered the beaches of Midway to find the remains of albatross chicks, little remaining of them save ruffled feathers over cages of ribs, the cavities that were once their bellies filled with the bits of plastic that killed them. Regardless of whether there’s any truth in Coleridge’s old rhyme, this should serve as a dire warning to men, who may think of themselves as distinct from nature, but we are very much a part of it, and our dependence on disposable plastics will harm us just as much as it has harmed the environment. Scientific studies confirm that not a gulp of water from the tap that we drink nor a bite of fish that we eat is free from plastic and, according to researchers from Kings College London, Londoners inhale microplastics with every breath. The consequences of this in terms of healthcare remains an unpleasant surprise to be discovered by scientists in the decades to come, but perhaps, if the old adage that we are what we eat is indeed true, we can at the stage begin to speak about the plastification of man and its psycho-spiritual consequences.
The albatrosses that Jordan found were killed because their stomachs were filled with plastic to the point that they could no longer digest food, and they were too young to vomit out the plastic debris—with bellies full, they starved and wasted away into nothingness, wholly ignorant of the reason for their suffering. It may be that plastic has a similar effect on the hearts of men; we see ourselves as living fulfilling lives of luxury and convenience, in which everything is at our fingertips if we are but willing to part with our money at the local superstore, but this lifestyle has no nourishment in it, and through believing in the life of unfettered consumption, we heedlessly starve ourselves just as the poor chicks starved with their gullets stuffed with bottle caps and fishing lines. Our hearts and minds have become wrapped up in plastic, to the extent that that which we once saw as heirlooms to be passed down through generations have become items to be consumed and discarded. While once we thought of household appliances as the workhorses of our family, worthy of being serviced and repaired when they fail, our plastic vacuums, steam-cleaners, toasters, clocks, microwaves, and other gadgets form mountains in the great rubbish heaps polluting the “developing” countries we sell our trash to.
Clothing is perhaps the strongest example of this phenomenon: in the times when every inch of cloth was woven by hand, even the garments of peasants were things to be treasured and passed on as outward representations of the inward soul of a people. If clothing was damaged, it was patched in a manner that added to the beauty and granted individual charm to the item, rather than being discarded straightaway as is the case in our time. In our times, clothing enters and leaves our wardrobes with the seasons, either because it is no longer fashionable, or because it has bubbled or degraded in some other way. Clothing has become an item to consume. with a shelf-life of, at best, two or three years – no doubt a consequence of the fact that most of our clothes today are woven from plastic fibres which slowly disintegrate until they enter our drinking water and consequently our bodies. How far removed are we in post-industrial Britain, where the concept of wearing hand-me-downs or used clothing symbolizes abject poverty or unloving stinginess, from the tradition of the North African Ulema, who would have a cloak made to last beyond their years, inherited by their children as a warming reminder of the deceased? These attitudes are all symptoms of the plastification of the human soul, by which we begin to see that all we surround ourselves with has a temporary use and is quickly disposed of and forgotten, left to rot in landfills for millennia, a toxic legacy for our descendants.
It should also be noted that the impact consumer society has does not restrict itself to material goods alone; rather, the toxic mentality of selfish consumption and the subsequent discarding of waste permeates every aspect of modern life. Think for a moment of the degradation of courtship, once a symbolic and meaningful journey towards a wholesome life of matrimony, to the quasi-cannibalistic casual hook-ups found through swiping apps. Tell me, what are the hearts of men and women, "ghosted" after their partner consumed their bodies, but thrown away wrappers? What is the miserable child of the single mother, abandoned and forgotten by his father, but the empty Styrofoam takeaway container of a night of delicious hedonism? The plastic heart grows accustomed to viewing everything in existence only in relation to its temporary utility and convenience, to the point that human beings themselves are to be used and discarded. Critics of capitalism have noticed this for some time in the past century, but the crisis seems to be reaching new peaks in our days. The suicide prevention nets hanging from the side of Chinese smartphone factories, the bottles of urine filled by overworked Amazon slaves, and the corpses of so many Pakistani construction workers should alert us to the same problem that the great garbage patch of the Pacific alerts us to. But this point is often missed by materialists, who see the great environmental crises of our time as a problem of efficiently and responsibly distributing resources, while nevertheless accepting the premises consumerism offers.
An Eco-spiritual Crisis
While the actions of the Green movement and the more recent activism of Greta Thunberg et al are commendable, they are doomed to fail. The secular environmentalist does not challenge the view of life as a quest to increase the material well-being of as many people as possible and as an endless cycle of production and consumption sailing to some promised yet unreachable ideal of "progress;" he merely seeks to curb the excesses of the wealthy so that their short-sighted cupidity does not endanger this trajectory for generations to come. He will campaign endlessly for recycling, willfully ignorant of the inefficiency of recycling (only 9% of plastic waste is ever finally discarded; most of what we put in recycling bins is shipped to foreign landfills), but never will he dream of accepting the possibility that production and consumption must drastically cut down, or that the standard life of commuting an hour to a 9-5 job five days of the week to spend a salary on the enjoyments of this life is an absurd, unsustainable ideal. How could he, when to do so would mean disbelief in the materialistic view of progress, in which the attachment of infinite economic and technological growth towards the Jannatu al-firdaus of a Star Trek society is the prime directive of our species today? Besides, morality is a lucrative thing to sell, many a dollar has been made selling the label of sustainability, and it would be comparatively uneconomical to adopt a model focused on reducing sales. Recycling and inventing “sustainable,” “environmentally conscious,” and “green products” is a good way to make oneself a millionaire and a celebrated defender of planet earth at all once.
The secular hegemony has failed and will continue to fail to address the environmental crises of our day as a result of that fatal misdiagnosis, for a culture of consumption is a direct consequence of the nihilism--implicit or explicit--that necessarily results from materialism. Nietzche, Sartre, and others have attempted to create meaning out of meaninglessness with notions of becoming the self-defining man, or Ubermensch, but this effort cannot possibly succeed, as, in a world where there is nothing but matter, and the immortality of the soul has been extinguished, the unavoidable truth is that all actions are necessarily futile. Whether man defines himself or lets others define him matters for nothing; all creation will pass into oblivion, and no matter how we act, we and our deeds will be forgotten. As John Schumaker writes in an article examining the link between epidemic depression and consumerism:
“Research shows that, in contrast to earlier times, most people today are unable to identify any sort of philosophy of life or set of guiding principles. Without an existential compass, the commercialized mind gravitates toward a ‘philosophy of futility’, as Noam Chomsky calls it, in which people feel naked of power and significance beyond their conditioned role as pliant consumers. Lacking substance and depth, and adrift from others and themselves, the thin and fragile consumer self is easily fragmented and dispirited.”
Without reason or purpose, men consume endlessly to forget the emptiness of their lives. Schumaker’s outlook is grim, seeing no alternative from the secular:
“It might seem that credibility, meaning and purposeful action would derive from the multiple threats to our safety and survival posed by the fatal mismatch between consumer culture and the needs of the planet. The fact that it has not highlights the degree of demoralization that infects the consumer age. With its infrastructure firmly entrenched, and minimal signs of collective resistance, all signs suggest that our obsolete system – what some call ‘disaster capitalism’ – will prevail until global catastrophe dictates for us new cultural directions.”
Perhaps the great collapse can be averted, if only a second option is considered: that of authentic Islam. Only the believer is capable of saving the planet precisely because he sees this problem as what it truly is, not a problem of justly distributing and utilizing resources, but a spiritual crisis as old as Abraham, one of idolatry. Idolatry survives today stronger than it did for the Jahili Arabs, though we see no need for stone representations of what we worship nor the need to name them. The chief idol of the pantheon of modernity is the Moloch envisioned first by Fritz Lang in Metropolis and later by the American poet Allen Ginsberg in Howl, the Moloch "whose mind is pure machinery / whose blood is flowing money / whose love is endless oil and stone." Like the Canaanite idol of his namesake—a massive bronze bull under which a fire was kindled whose followers sacrificed their infants to him by throwing them into the raging inferno in his dreadful belly in hopes of being rewarded with wealth—the modern Moloch asks us to sacrifice our future, our progeny, and our planet that we might live lives of convenience and plenty. Yet like the promises of all false gods, Moloch is sure to disappoint; no Earthly existence can be a paradise, and for most, no true wealth ever reaches them, as the high priests of Moloch among the millionaires and billionaires of the world ensure most of it is kept securely in their hands. The reward of those who bow to today's idols is but the destruction of their bodies and souls as they forever labour to keep the diabolical machinery of Metropolis running. Tragic indeed are the lives of the idolaters, but more tragic yet is the case of the intellectually and spiritually colonized Muslim who follows the disciples of Moloch to their end, though in his hands lies the cure for the cardioplasticitis afflicting so many.
Looking at the unsightly concrete squalor of Cairo, the rivers of Java teeming forth with plastic filth running alongside gargantuan palm oil plantations, or the alleyways of Muslim neighborhoods in Englad littered with endless takeaway containers and abandoned sofas, one could be excused for thinking that Islam offers no answer to the environmental crises of our age, and as hitherto mentioned, we are certainly outdone by the secularists. The blame for this, however, lies with us Muslims, and not with Islam, for many of us have allowed Islam to become a mere aspect of our identity; we call ourselves Muslims in the same way that we call ourselves Bengali or Moroccan, or in the same way the Aws and Khazraj prided themselves on their respective tribes. Many of us Muslims have fallen into a deep, slothful slumber, through which Islam has ceased to be the most profound expression of Abrahamic devotion which impacts every realm of our lives, instead becoming confined to matters of identity and the private life. The somnambulant believers among us profess our faith only as something that distinguishes us from others, and points of theology, such as belief in the Last Day, become little more than abstractions having no bearing on the way we go about our lives. Modern thought has a tendency to cut, separate, and divide between the various spheres of life, and accordingly the machine men of our Ummah view religion as but one of many subroutines of his preprogrammed life, divorced from other considerations such as family, trade, technology, consumption, and waste. It should not surprise us then, that our communal iftars each Ramadan fill the dumpsters with Styrofoam, our colorful Da’wah pamphlets and promotional posters for Sheikh Fulaan’s Ilm Extravaganza 2020 come to litter the streets, and our weddings are extravagant to an extent that nearly bankrupts us. We could be so much more than this, however, if only we could shed off the mentality imparted onto us by centuries of colonization, by which we take the hegemonic powers as the ideal model to be copied in every substantial way, and instead embrace our theology as a matter to be directly applied onto every aspect of life, taking seriously our God-given role as Earth’s custodians.
Custodians of Creation
The Qur'anic creation narrative in Surah Baqarah begins not with the creation of stars, planets, and the lower forms of life on Earth as in Genesis, but rather with the announcement in the heavenly spheres that Allah intends to place on Earth a Khalifa, a word that loosely translates as vicegerent, though it carries with it the meanings of successor or trustee as well. We are told that we are here to maintain the harmony of creation according to the will of our Lord, and though the angels rightly doubted us as bloodletters and sowers of corruption and Iblis sneered at us as lowly, mudborn usurpers, the responsibility of Khalifa nevertheless remains the inheritance of the sons and daughters of Adam. Elsewhere the Qur'an asks us: "Do you not see that Allah is exalted by whatever is within the heavens and the Earth and by the birds with wings spread? Each knows its own way of prayer and glorification; God has full knowledge of what they do." [24:41] and "Do you not see that to Allah prostrates whoever is in the heavens and whoever is on the Earth, and the sun, and the moon, the stars, the mountains, the trees, the moving creatures, and many of the people?" [22:18] We are not alone in our worship of the Creator; rather all that surrounds us joins in singing praise of the glory of God, and not an atom stirs in matter but it reflects the ineffable perfection of He who brought it into being. The true heir of the Adamic trust of Khalifa does not merely affirm this truth through empty words, but lets his deed speak for him as they will speak for all men on the Day of Judgement.
Another Qur'anic ayah sheds light on the relationship man ought to have with the multitudinous creatures with whom we share God's creation: "And there is no creature on Earth or bird that flies except they are communities like you. We have not neglected in the Register a thing. Then into their Lord they shall be gathered." (6:38) The Muslim should tread carefully when his unbridled avarice puts these nations in jeopardy, for the book that will be opened on the Day of Calamity omits no detail, neither for man nor against him. We may consume as we wish, bulldozing the homes of Orangutans to fuel our thirst for palm oil, burning down the canopies of the Amazon to sate our hunger for Brazilian beef, but sooner or later the day will come when we can no longer wash our hands of the things we've done, when the consequences of our deeds can no longer be thrown in the black bin and forgotten as the garbage truck takes them away. The Muslim knows that “over you are keepers, noble and recording (your deeds)” [82:10-12] and that, even if he were to escape the observation of his angelic keepers, naught escapes the knowledge of his Lord, for as the Qur’an states emphatically: “With Him are the keys to the unseen--none knows them but Him--and He knows what is in the land and the sea; not a leaf falls but he knows it, nor is there a single grain in the darkness of the Earth, nor anything fresh or withered, but it is written in a clear record .” [6:59]
On a broader perspective, the Qur’an repeatedly refers to the wonders of the natural world using the same word it uses to refer to its verses: “Ayaat,” or signs. Numerous aspects of natural beauty are recorded as being among these signs, such as “the creation of the heavens and the earth and the alteration of night and day [3:190],” and “the lightning causing fear and aspiration, and rain from the sky by which He brings life to the Earth after its lifelessness [30:24].” The Muslim does not worship a Creator divorced from His creation, but rather recognizes that “It is God who raised up the heavens with no visible supports and established Himself on the throne, having subjugated the sun and the moon each to pursue its course for an appointed term… it is He who spread out the earth, placed firm mountains and rivers on it, and made two of every kind of fruit, drawing the veil of night over the day. Indeed, in that are signs for people who give thought. [13:2-3] The reverence the Muslim displays towards the textual Ayaat enscribed in his Mushaf, which he refuses to touch except in a state of ritual purity, taking the utmost care that they are free from blemish or injury, should consequently be applied to the signs of God in nature, and the same protective jealousy and disgust a Muslim would feel when the pages of the Qur’an are desecrated, should likewise come forth when witnessing the Ayaat of the natural world being trodden upon. Both the preserved words of the Qur’an and the glory of creation attested to by so many authors and poets soften the hearts of men and lead them to God, and are therefore a thing to be preserved, treasured, and celebrated.
Looming over all the aforementioned theological considerations that may prompt Muslims to reconsider their current relationship with the natural world stands the Day of Judgement, which perhaps above all other doctrines is repeated time and time again in the Qur’an. One such ayah reads: “We shall set scales of justice for the day of judgement, so no soul will be wronged at all; and even if there is the weight of a mustard seed, We will bring it forth. And sufficient are We as an accountant.” [21:47] On that day, all injustices, including those done to the nations of bird and beast, will be addressed. So finely balanced are those great cosmic scales that God Himself saw fit to chastise one of the earlier Prophets for setting a tree—home and habitat of an ant colony—ablaze after he was bitten by one, and so acutely aware was the Messenger of God of the weight of water on those scales that he cautioned his followers to limit their use of water during ablution even when drawing from a flowing river, such that even today, so far removed from the Prophet's life are we, a simple unlettered mother from the most obscure regions of Bangladesh warns her child of wasting a single grain of rice, lest it complain to Allah on the day of judgement that it was grown and harvested for naught. These central teachings of Islam – that all creation is sacred for everything is from Allah, and that while man may perish his deeds will impact eternity – may prove to be the key to it all, opening the doors of salvation from both the environmental catastrophe of the 21st century and the spiritual malaise of modernity.
Wake up in Moloch!
Most of us do not live up to the ideals of our religion (and I am certainly numbered among them), but yearn to escape from the aforementioned horrors of a plastic world that are dragging the world towards a mass extinction. However, when observing the world, and the normalisation of excessive production, consumption, and waste, they see no rays of sunlight shining through the all-permeating darkness of the modern condition. "You will be required to do wrong no matter where you go." says Mercer of Phillip K. Dick's Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,
"It is the basic condition of life, to be required to violate your own identity. At some time, every creature which lives must do so. It is the ultimate shadow, the defeat of creation; this is the curse at work."
None can escape the reality that every acre of farmland is a habitat destroyed, every morsel eaten represents the death of a living being, and every fruit left to rot represents the squandering of God's blessings. Aspiring to perfection seems hopeless, but we can at the very least seek solace in the mercy of God, who has favoured the progeny of Adam by "subjecting unto you whatever is in the heavens and whatever is on Earth, bestowing upon you favors apparent and unapparent." [31:20] We may not be able to live without doing any harm to our Lord's creation, but at the very least we can live in a way that respects the status of the rest of creation as fellow worshippers, and does not threaten to obliterate it through the excesses of convenience.
Of all the dreadful aspects of these excesses I have mentioned, from the skeletons of the albatross to the tears of the exhausted and abused Bangladeshi sweatshop worker, and from the landfills towering over the islands of the Philippines to the untold millions of single mothers and their neglected children, disposable plastics are the symbol. They represent above all else a shunning of the Adamic duty of Khilafa, a deliberate decision that our convenience is worth more than our collective conscience, and that we simply can't be bothered to live in harmony with the rest of God's creation, because taking care of our own containers, utensils, toys, and clothing is simply too burdensome. It is for this reason that the first step towards retaking the lofty mantle of Khalifa must therefore lie in destroying the plastic idol of Moloch, as Abraham destroyed the idols of Azar and Muhammad the idols of the Quraysh. One might rightly say that smashing Hubal is an easier task than smashing the plastic shackling us to Moloch, but Muhammad destroyed not only Hubal but all the superstitious ugliness of Jahiliyya that he represented. It is upon us to do the same to the idol of our time, and even if we cannot do so in one mighty, prophetic stroke, we can chip away Moloch and begin to change the world for the better.
Accomplishing this task means changing the way we live, and although it is indeed an easy matter to speak about this as an abstraction, it is very difficult to formulate a ten-step program for the exorcism of the pantheon of consumer society. It is best for each and every individual to dissect his or her own heart and search for the plastic therein, and thereupon examine how his or her actions lead to excess, waste, and frivolity as a result of a plastic heart. For some, they may find that their excesses are caused by bringing the market (described as the most hated place to Allah by the Prophet) into their home by ordering shipment after shipment of clothes, gadgets, toys, appliances, furniture, or other assorted knick-knacks, while for others, they may find that their bellies are their own worst enemies as they help to build a mountain of takeaway containers and microwavable meals. Those who travel often may find the chief culprit to be the conveniences of a life on the move, be they pre-made meals served on airplanes, plastic-wrapped blankets and pillows, or single-serving shampoo bottles found in hotels. Business owners may be the most challenged to purify themselves, facing the temptation of irresponsibly ridding themselves to save money in this life at the expense of the next. It is outside of the scope of this article, in any case, to explain how exactly each reader can begin to live the life of a custodian of God’s creation, but I hope the above simple suggestions can lead to a diligent rooting out of all wastefulness and decay in our external lives.
The aforementioned suggestions, however, are all confined to the realm of external deeds, and while human beings are little more than a twisted tangle of self-reinforcing habits and therefore internal change is brought about by external changes in deeds, the transformation must necessarily take place on a spiritual and intellectual plane of being to be truly complete. Above all else, we as a people must make a collective Tawbah, true and genuine repentance carried out in the same manner we repent from other sins, starting with remorseful submission, followed by prayers for pardon, and completed by turning our backs on our evil deeds. Just as the drunkard wakes up cursing himself for the sins of the night before, and as the pornographer feels his stomach churn after finishing his vile deeds, so too should our hearts be filled with grief when we see our bins overflow with plastic packaging. Filled with this painful knowledge, we should say “Astagfirullah” to ourselves each and every time we toss styrofoam into the rubbish bin, knowing that our actions have vandalized the beauty and magnificence of Allah’s creation, in the hopes that one day, we may gather up the willpower to choose the path of difficulty over the path of ease, that we might turn away from a life of convenience and excess and resume our duty as custodians over Earth. No matter if others call us “hippies” or look at us with bewilderment in their eyes when stumbling across our often bizarre and unfashionable ways of reducing waste, we must do everything we can to turn away from Moloch and towards Allah, lest our repentance be rejected on the day when we are met with all that we had thrown away in our previous lives.
We would do well not to delay our repentance in regards to our habits of consumption, for all scientific predictions point to the unavoidable truth that the day of reckoning is nigh. Nature does not, as Emerson assumed “receive the dominion of man as meekly as the ass on which the Saviour rode” but rather that donkey kicks, bucks, and brays, its patience broken by the wickedness of men. The oceans, once teeming with life, grow acidic and overfished; our rivers run with microplastic pollution and industrial waste; Appalachian well water stinks of sulphur and nearly ignites when touched by flame, so corrupted is it by fracking; thousands of animals choke to death with our plastic bags and bottle caps stuck in their throats; once plentiful farmland is reduced to desert; unstoppable wildfires incinerate broader swaths of woodlands each year; raging floods forever sweep away the homes of a people who have thrived on the river’s sustenance for centuries. It is as the Qur’an—its relevance never restricted by age or epoch—states: “Corruption has appeared throughout the land and the sea by what the hands of men have earned, that He may make them taste a portion of what they have done, in hopes that they might return [to goodness.]” [30:41] We now face the fateful choice to either acknowledge our wrongdoings and repent with sincerity to our Lord, or persist in heedlessness and drown in the consequences of our apathy to God's creation.
Let us then, O We who believe, begin by setting straight our intentions for the sake of Allah alone and to honor the trust that our Lord has given us, sons and daughters of Adam, as the Khulafa upon His Earth. In these confusing days where man is rarely what he says he is, or even what he thinks he is, let us make du’a for the blessing of sincerity and the willpower to translate inward sincerity to outward action, lest we fall into the trap of virtue signaling to those around us while our hearts remain apathetic to the destruction that our way of life has caused to so many and the effect it has had on the way we approach the gift of life. Let us endeavor to transform the Ummah into a beacon of sanity for a world gone mad with the excesses of materialism and modern technology, becoming what the Qur’an has always told us we could be: “the best nation produced for mankind, enjoining what is right and forbidding what is wrong” [3:110].
 Continued: “Moloch whose eyes are a thousand blind windows! Moloch whose skyscrapers stand in the long streets like endless Jehovahs! Moloch whose factories dream and croak in the fog! Moloch whose smoke-stacks and antennae crown the cities!” https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/49303/howl
 “One of the Prophets was bitten by an ant, so he ordered that the ant colony be burned. Then Allah revealed to him: ‘Because one ant bit you, you destroy one of the nations that glorify Allah?’” [Ibn Majah 3225]
 Abdullah ibn Amr reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, passed by Sa’d while he was performing ablution. The Prophet said, “What is this excess?” Sa’d said, “Is there excess with water in ablution?” The Prophet said, “Yes, even if you were on the banks of a flowing river.” [Ibn Majah 425]
 Sahih Muslim 671