Turn Around at Once!

So we’ve been wrestling with some very technical issues – specifically, with how the injunction that it is ‘unacceptable for Muslim inmates to face Mecca while using the toilet’ works out in practice. We’ve been wondering whether it’s unacceptable to face Mecca while using the toilet but acceptable to turn one’s back on Mecca while using the toilet, and if so, why, since it would seem to be at least as rude to defecate at Mecca as it is to look towards Mecca while defecating away from it. So an inquiring commenter (or a commenting inquirer) found out, and now we know.

The Qur’an states that one should enter the restroom with left foot first while saying a prayer of protection. It is not permissible to enter a restroom while carrying anything that bears the name of Allah, such as the Qur’an, or any book with the name of Allah in it, or jewelry such as bracelets and necklaces engraved with the name of Allah.

Gee – it dawns on me that I’ve never in my life given any thought to which foot is the first over the threshold of the room with the toilet in it – it’s always just whichever one gets there first. Sometimes it’s one, sometimes it’s the other. It’s never both though – I never jump in. But, frighteningly, I also never say a prayer of protection while whichever foot it is is making the transition between the bedroom or hall and the room with toilet. Never. It’s never occurred to me. Isn’t that funny now. I suppose it’s because I’m not aware of the dangers? Which are? That the sharks or Komodo dragons or Loch Ness monsters or crayfish that live in the toilet might come leaping out as I pass between the outer space and the toilet-containing inner one, and fling themselves onto my carotid artery and neatly sever it? That the spider that’s sitting peacefully in the bathtub wondering why it keeps doing this will suddenly race up the side and catapult itself into my face and deliver a poisonous bite? That the floor will give way and drop me into a tank full of serial killers swimming in acid? Oddly, I’ve never considered any of those possibilities. I’m curiously unimaginative, even phlegmatic, apparently. From now on I think I’ll have a minor nervous breakdown every time I enter that room, and wish I knew a prayer of protection.

“When the Prophet felt the need of relieving himself, he went far off where no one could see him”. It is implied that one should be out of sight, thus doors of toilets should be securely closed.

Because of the prophet. Otherwise it would never have occurred to anyone. Christians and atheists of course relieve themselves wherever they happen to be when they feel the need: at parties, in the middle of other people’s living rooms, at the dinner table, on the bus, wherever. We’re a gregarious, uninhibited, sharing bunch. Plus it saves all that trouble with keeping track of the feet and dodging the sharks.

Now we get to the bit we were looking for.

Islam prohibits facing the Qiblah while defecating. The Prophet said “if you go to defecate, do not face the Qiblah nor turn your back toward it. Instead, you should turn to your left side or your right side”…[I]t is something forbidden in both open and enclosed areas and it is best to refrain from doing so as much as possible out of respect for the Qiblah.

This thing about turning to a side makes me uneasy. I’ll tell you why. It’s because the front and the back are wide, but the side is narrow. Have you ever noticed that? We are so, like, not symmetrical that way – not cubic. We’re not the same on all four sides; we’re like a handkerchief box instead of like an orange box. We’re flat. Not really flat, of course, but not cube-like. So if we turn our sides to this Qiblah, we’re not really facing away from it, and we don’t really have our backs turned away from it either. It seems a little unfortunate to me – an unsatisfactory compromise. We can look toward Mecca out of the corner of one eye while we’re on the can, and one side of our bum is facing that way too – so we’re sort of offending both ways. I tell you what, I don’t like it. I think it should be changed so that it’s respectful to face the Qiblah, because that way the bum is as far away from the Qiblah as it can get, and there is no ambiguity with these skinny sides. But that’s not what the prophet said, of course, he said sides, so sides it is. I’m glad I’m an atheist and get to go just any old where.

11 Responses to “Turn Around at Once!”