how toilets have changed the course of history part 1

October 18, 2006

An interesting article, found by the Times religious blogger  and referred to in an excellent post on the MadPriest’s enjoyable blog, about the origin of the hijab and the burqa.

Living in poverty, “Muhammad had to house his wives in places with very primitive or non-existent toilet/sanitary facilities. He had no choice but to ask his wives to go to an open field nearby and answer the call of nature…….The new converts of Islam were so haplessly poor that they even had no shelter and privacy to engage in sexual intercourse. The only place where they could satisfy this biological need was in the open sky. Thus, having sexual intercourse in open field was also common.”
Muhammad asked Allah what he should do to avoid the women being pestered by the local menfolk and received the answer “O Prophet! Tell thy wives and daughters, and the believing women, that they should cast their outer garments over their persons (when abroad)”. I am delighted to know that Allah expressly gave permission for ladies to answer the varied calls of nature out in the fields, though I think I will delay my conversion. For one thing, I don’t think I could afford all the wives (though that might solve another little problem I have).
Here. Northern Thai beliefs require me to ask permission of the spirits before relieving myself in the countryside. I assume permission is granted, not having had any indication to the contrary. Unfortunately many people seem to adopt the same stance when tipping rubbish in the negihbouring woods, although I have several times asked the spirits to refuse any requests firmly. This need to ask the spirits is just one of the irrational beliefs that litter the landscape out here, like not cutting hair or nails on a Wednesday, not whistling when there’s a storm or pointing at rainbows. Although  intellectually such beliefs, like the restrictions of martial law, are pretty dubious, I can live my life reasonably well around them. And until someone requires me to wear a burqa I will continue to satisfy my biological needs according to Allah’s wishes.


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