My arse is as hygienic as an intensive care ward. Why? Because, just like millions of other Muslims, I wash my backside after every visit to the toilet using a magical chalice – a small pot filled with water called a lota. To me, using tissue paper alone to wipe-clean my crack is like vacuuming an entire house with a Dustbuster – you're inevitably going to miss bits. And missing bits, as a Muslim, is not cool.
A lot of people are often – vocally – bewildered by the presence or very idea of a lota or any other anal ablution device. I've heard it all when new people come to my home for the first time, the incessant, "What, so you actually touch your poo?" line of questioning. They're frightened, perhaps, by the idea of making contact with your own bumhole after doing your business. Or, maybe, just wary of such "otherness". So I'm taking this opportunity to clear a few things up, so to speak.
ANAL CLEANLINESS ISN'T A CHOICE – IT'S OUR FAITH
Islam teaches that the condition of the body affects the condition of the spirit, so it's essential to be clean at all times – especially before offering prayers – which is why lots of Muslims use lotas. Unlike you may have been lead to believe, Muslims don't just throw their hands between their cheeks and have a good root around after we've been to the toilet. Any, "Ooh, watch out, mate, you shouldn't shake the left hand of a Muslim" myths – implying, again, that our hands are permanently dusted with shit particles – are ridiculous and offensive. We are – I am – incredibly clean. Using a lota is like a mini douche and, to be honest, comparing a quick swipe of scrunched-up toilet paper to a lovely, water-based ablution (which feels pretty good) is like comparing Richard Madeley to Chris Morris. You just... can't.
YOU DON'T HAVE THE RIGHT TO LAUGH AT SOMETHING YOU DON'T "GET"
Water-free wiping leaves me and other Muslims feeling genuinely unsettled and uncomfortable. It's not just an annoying preference we've learned – it's an inherent belief and part of our faith. I think my cousin Mahum put it best when she said, "If a bird shat on your hand you wouldn't just wipe it off with a tissue would you?"
WE'RE NOT ALL PRECIOUS ABOUT OUR VESSELS...
Anything is acceptable as long as it can hold liquid and provides a controlled stream of water. And you should try to use your left hand to wash with because your right hand is supposed be kept clean for eating with. My aunt used to use an orange watering can for some inexplicable reason. Its spout was as tall as the Shard and it was like trying to clean my bum with a swinging crane in a toilet the size of an airing cupboard. My husband used an old Irn Bru bottle in his student halls that he'd hide away from his housemates. My brother-in-law used a plastic milk jug that had a lip to reduce the risk of spillage.
... BUT SOME OF US TAKE IT A "BIT FAR"
My parents went hi-tech in our family home and installed a "Muslim shower" – a mini shower head and hose that attaches to the wall on the right side of the toilet. It was soon removed, though, because the water pressure was far, far too high. My dad looked like a fatigued tsunami survivor upon exit and like he didn't have a clue where he was. Poor sod.
CRAPPING AT WORK IS PROBLEMATIC
A lot of people ask me what I do when I need to "go" at work – it's something of an anathema for lota lovers. If you can't hold it in until home time or if that office canteen "korma" has left you worried for your gusset, you can fashion a makeshift lota with an empty bottle or disposable cup. Some people go for the "East meets West" option and soak some toilet tissue before entering the cubicle, crafting a primitive version of the moist towelette. This is fine – we've all been there – but it does mean you need to shit super fast before the bog roll has time to disintegrate into a creamy, papier-mâchémulch in your palm.
The main problem with work-based defecation, though, arises when you stealthily trying to smuggle your lota (or soaked wad of tissue) into the cubicle and a colleague sees you. Option one is to stop for some stifled chit-chat and drink the water or fling the wet paper into the bin. Option two is that you defiantly ignore your co-worker, silently creep on into the cubicle with your makeshift bidet, do your business and then refrain from speaking to anyone for the remainder of the day. Option three is to carry your device defiantly into the toilet above your head with both arms, while staring every colleague you meet on the way right in the eye, like "Deadly" Duncan Ferguson about to take a throw-in.
SOME OF US CARRY PORTABLE DOUCHES AROUND
There are plenty of portable lotas on the market that fit in a handbag or pocket and they look like empty Capri-Suns with screw-top lids that you can roll up. For longer reach and an "enhanced water stream", there are plastic bottles with nozzles on the end that you can dismantle into two pieces. But some of these do have a tiny hole in the bottom to make them easier to squeeze, which means that, if you're not careful, you'll leave a water trail from sink to commode on refill, like a shitty Hansel and Gretel.
WE'RE THRIFTY AS SHIT WHEN IT COMES TO SHIT
If you're not willing to shell out the pennies for a portable anus-cleanser, I've heard of people using glass tumblers and even Travelodge kettles as lotas when they're away and have no alternative, and praise be to them. So bear it in mind next time you're on a budget weekend away and making the worst cup of tea of your life – that kettle may have had some "off label" usage.
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