I started reading Karen Armstrong's latest book, "Fields of Blood: Religion and the History of Violence." The introduction makes a really good point: the Western concept of religion is a personalized concept disconnected from daily life whereas Islam, although thought of as a religion, is really a whole lifestyle.
Yes, Islam has ways of living which are interwoven throughout your days. The ways of dressing, eating and even using the bathroom are prescribed for you. Yes! It isn't just the prayer hall where Islam reaches you as it follows you into every room----even the bathroom.
After eliminating waste, washing your privates is mandatory.
Before Islam, I was very American in my actions. I did whatever the culture had deemed normal although I did use a spray bottle after having my first child and my c-section. The hospital had given it to me and I used it, even after I had healed because it seemed useful. I liked that idea of being really clean.
Take a look at this video. It's not Islamic or even from a Muslim country---it's from Taiwan. We Muslims are not the only ones who believe in a cleansing rinse of water after using the toilet.
Now, I can't imagine not cleaning with water after using the toilet. The toilets in Egypt all have some sort of washing device---though not like the robo-washer in the video. There is a jet spray built into our toilet bowl; others are fit with a copper tube; while others have a hose hooked to the wall. In American homes, many Muslims have a plumber install that tubing or the hose; barring that they leave a pitcher of water next to the toilet.
If you are interested in installing a sprayer in your home, here is a DIY video on it. This handyman first learned about using a sprayer in Thailand and spends about 13 minutes demonstrating how to hook it up yourself.
While out of Egypt, I have to improvise. If I'm staying in a place, then I have a plastic water bottle in the bathroom. If you screw on the cap and poke holes in it, the water sprays out very effectively. If I am outside of the home, I bring along a small plastic bottle. It doesn't have to contain water, because I can fill it up at the sink before heading into the stall. If I've forgotten that bottle, I can take a wad of toilet paper, wet it and re-enter the bathroom.
If you think about what sounds clean and good, you will realize that (Muslim or not) washing up down there is sensible. A mother does what is best for her child, and if there were two mothers changing diapers, you'd say that the mom washing away the filth off her baby was better than the mom who only wiped it with a dry paper tissue. Wouldn't you?
Women have to contend with not only urine and feces but also blood. Can you honestly tell me that you'd rather walk around with these substances on your skin rather than washing them off of you? Blood?! It feels so much better to rinse off throughout the day.
There's also the matter of fluids from sexual intimacy. Being able to wash those fluids away is very important to Muslims. There's a whole ritual shower we must take to get clean after intercourse. The cleaning starts with making sure we are free from those substances which is easier done on the toilet than in the shower.
Being free from dirtiness is a learned behavior. Small children, as they are being potty trained, would rather keep their poop with them; they created it so they hate to part with it. You often have to smell them and confront them before you can clean them ---often chasing them around in the process! We can laugh about their inability to part with poop yet if you are not washing off yourself then you really aren't much different.
There was a viral photo in 2009 which showed a woman's rear end being attacked by flies. Obviously, they were attracted to that spot on her pants due to a smell. It was disgusting to see and I'm sure embarrassing to be that woman. Although her face isn't shown, she is a real person who knows that her secret behavior in the bathroom became extremely public. I won't show the picture here because I don't want to perpetuate the hardship she's faced. No one would ever want to be that humiliated woman.
That story makes my final point:
Dirtiness is attractive