Many times we are heedless of wasting water during wuhdu (ablution) or ghusl (shower). There are a few hadiths left behind for us by the infallibles as a guide to see how much water we should use for each.

Abu Ja`far [Imam al-Baqir] (as) said: “The Messenger of Allah (sawa) would do wudhu with [the amount of a single] mudd,1 and would do ghusl with [a single] saa`,2 and [the quantity of] a mudd equates to a ratl3 and a half, and [the quantity of] a saa` equates to six artaal.4

Sanad: Muhammad bin al-Hassan, with his chain from al-Hussain bin Sa`eed, from Hamaad, from Hurair, from Zurarah who narrated the above from Imam al-Baqir (as)

Reference: Tahdheeb al-Ahkaam, Volume 1, Page 136, Hadith #379; al-Istibsaar, Volume 1, Page 121, Hadith #409; Wasaa’il al-Shia, Volume 1, Page 481, Hadith #1275 (See Image below)

(1) (2) Al-mudd and al-saa` is an old measuring units used during the time of the Prophet (sawa). Mudd literally means to stretch, and the measurement was called a mudd because food sellers would fill both their hands with food and the person selling would stretch their hands out to the buyer with that measurement.
(3) A ratl equates to one pound, approx 0.45 grams, or 0.45 lites.
(4) Artaal is plural for ratl

So, in other words, the hadith is saying:

The Messenger of Allah (sawa) would do wudhu with 0.68 litres of water, and would do ghusl with 2.72 litres of water.

To put this in perspective, the amount of water used for wudhu would be around, or slightly more, than one standard small bottle of water (see below). This would include all the recommended and obligatory acts of wudhu (which will be clarified later).

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For al-Ghusl, it would amount to LESS than bottle similar to the big fruit juice bottles (See below).

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That is a real eye opener, and does not sound easy! Especially for those who take 40 minute showers…

In another hadith, we see similar:

Abu Ja`far [Imam al-Baqir] (as) said: “The Messenger of Allah (sawa) would do ghusl with [the amount of] al-saa` from the water, and do wudhu with [the amount of] al-mudd from the water.”

Sanad: Muhammad bin al-Hussain, from al-Nidhr, from `Aasim bin Hameed, from Abi Baseer and Muhammad bin Muslim who narrated the above from Imam al-Baqir (as)

Reference: Tahdheeb al-Ahkaam, Volume 1, Page 136, Hadith #377; Wasaa’il al-Shia, Volume 1, Page 481, Hadith #1276 (See Image below)

As for the reliability of both hadiths, al-Sayed al-Kho’i (rh) has graded them both Authentic/Sahih. He says the following:

تحديد ماء الوضوء بالمدّ :

   كما في صحيحة زرارة عن أبي جعفر (عليه السلام) قال : «كان رسول الله (صلّى الله عليه وآله) يتوضأ بمد ويغتسل بصاع ، والمد رطل ونصف والصاع ستة أرطال» وصحيحة أبي بصير ومحمد بن مسلم عن أبي جعفر (عليه السلام) أنهما سمعاه يقول : «كان رسول الله (صلّى الله عليه وآله وسلّم) يغتسل بصاع من ماء ويتوضأ بمد من ماء»

The limits of usage of water in wudhu is al-mudd, as it is described in the authentic/sahih narration via Zurarah from abu-Ja`far (as) who said: “The Messenger of Allah (sawa) would do wudhu with [the amount of a single] mudd, and would do ghusl with [a single] saa`, and [the quantity of] a mudd equates to a ratl and a half, and [the quantity of] a saa` eqautes to six artaal.” and the authentic/sahih narration of abi Baseer and Muhammad bin Muslim from Abu Ja`far (as) in which they heard him say: “The Messenger of Allah (sawa) would do ghusl with [the amount of] al-saa` from the water, and do wudhu with [the amount of] al-mudd from the water.”

Link: http://www.al-khoei.us/books/?id=882

There is another hadith which shows the merit of only using water set by the limits of the Messenger of Allah (sawa):

Muhammad bin Ali bin al-Hussain [al-Baqir] (as) said: “The Messenger of Allah (sawa) said: al-Wudhu is with [the amount of] al-mudd, and al-ghusl is with [the amount of] al-saa`, and there will come a time after me that will belittle this [by going beyond these boundaries], so they are upon opposition of my sunnah. However, the one who remains steadfast upon my sunnah will be with me in the abodes of holiness.”

Reference: Man Laa Yadhuruhu al-Faqih, Volume 1, Page 23, Hadith #70; Wasaa’il al-Shia, Volume 1, Page 483, Hadith #1280 (See Image below)

These limits, interestingly, are also found in the hadiths of the non-shia, and are reliable by their standards. See here for some.

Finally, there is one last hadith on wasting water that needs to be shared:

Aba Abdillah [al-Sadiq] (as) said: “Verily, Allah has an angel that writes [of the deed] of wasting water, just as he writes those that wrong it [i.e. water, by wasting it or by other means].

Sanad: Ali bin Muhammad, from Sahal bin Ziyaad, from Muhammad bin al-Hassan bin Shamoon, from Hamaad bin Eassa, from Huraiz who narrated the above hadith.

Reference: al-Kafi, Volume 3, Page 22, Hadith #9; Wasaa’il al-Shia, Volume 1, Page 485, Hadith #1283 (See Image below)

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Thus, we should be considerate on how we use our water, especially during wudhu and ghusl. One of the easiest ways to waste water is leaving the tap on while we are wiping. For example, there are some people who leave the tap on while they are wiping their head and feet, while they will not be needing to use any more water. Of course, they may fear that by touching the tap they will mix external water with the water on their hands (which could render the wudhu baatil/void). To avoid this, one can take water in his right hand, turn off the tap with their left hand, and with the water in their hand they wash their left arm – then can proceed to wipe their head and feet while the tap is off, without having to touch the tap again.

al-Sayed al-Sistani (hf) also agrees with the opinion shared by al-Yazdi in al-`urwat al-Wuthqa (although most likely some parts such as wasting water being disliked will fall under the category of al-Rijaa’ fee Tasaamuh fi adilat al-Sunan, similar to how al-Kho’i explained here):

مسألة 45 : الإسراف في ماء الوضوء مكروه ، لكن الإسباغ مستحب ، وقد مر أنه يستحب أن يكون ماء الوضوء بمقدار مدّ ، والظاهر أن ذلك لتمام ما يصرف فيه من أفعاله ومقدماته من المضمضة والاستنثاق وغسل اليدين.

Wasting water in wudhu is disliked, however performing it thoroughly is recommended. It is said that it is recommended that the water used for wudhu is the amount of [a single] mudd. The apparent is that this is enough to complete all the actions [of wudhu] from the pre-obligatory actions of washing the mouth and nose up until washing the arms.

Link: http://www.sistani.org/arabic/book/22/1691/

كُلُوا وَاشْرَبُوا وَلَا تُسْرِفُوا ۚ إِنَّهُ لَا يُحِبُّ الْمُسْرِفِينَ

“…and eat and drink and be not extravagant; surely He does not love the extravagant.” (Surah al-Ar’āf 7:31)