Naegleria fowleri, a rare disease, has claimed its fifth victim in Karachi this year so far and the government as well as civil society has failed to realize the seriousness of this issue directly related to the health of people.
The government, medical community and religious leaders are shying away from telling the people that using contaminated water for Wuzu or ablution is a grave risk that should be avoided at all costs, as this infection can happen when contaminated water enters the body through the nose. Once the amoeba enters the nose, it travels to the brain where it causes PAM (primary amebic meningoencephalitis) which destroys brain tissue and is usually fatal.
Infections usually occur when it is hot for prolonged periods of time, which results in higher water temperatures and lower water levels.
Cases due to the practice of ablution with contaminated water have already been documented, but the government and civil society including the religious leaders are yet to release the serious consequences and respond in proper manner.
It is necessary that water tanks of mosques should be properly chlorinated, and people should also be encouraged to use boiled/ chlorinated water for Wuzu at their homes, particularly washing/ irrigating their nostrils. They can carry small bottles of boiled/ chlorinated water with them for Wuzu at the offices, workplaces, etc.
However, as hundred percent chlorination of water is a uphill taks, the religious leaders need to tell the masses that there are Faraiz (mandatory acts) and Sunnaten in Wuzu practice. There are only four Faraiz (mandatory acts) of Wuzu: To wash the face once; to wash the two arms together with the elbows once; to apply masah on the one-fourth of the head, that is, to rub a wet hand softly on it, and to wash the feet, together with the ankle-bones on the side once.
To wash both nostrils three times, taking fresh water each time, called istinshaq, is amongst the Sunnaten of Wuzu and its is desirable but not mandatory (Faraiz). This is very important point, and its importance further rises when the cases of naegleria fowleri, which infects a person through nasal route are being reported regularly.
The religious scholars need to issue Fatiwa (religious decrees) that in the areas like Karachi where the prevalence of Naegleria fowleri is alarmingly high, people should be given relaxation to perform only Faraiz (mandatory acts of ablution when they feel that the available water may be contaminated. (Anyway using contaminated water for ablution is strictly restricted). This simple decree could help in saving many lives, as Islam gives great importance to protecting life. It is amongst the basic teachings of Islam that if anyone saved a life it would be as if he saved the life of the whole people.