Islamic Toilet Rules
What are the Islamic toilet regulations? The Quran says almost nothing about toilet etiquette. The only mention is in verse 5:6 where it says that it is important to wash before prayer, or after you have used the toilet or had contact with women:
O you who believe, when you rise up for prayer, wash your faces, and your hands up to the elbows, and wipe your heads, and (wash) your feet up to the ankles. And if you are under an obligation, then wash (yourselves). And if you are sick or on a journey, or one of you comes from the privy, or you have had contact with women and you cannot find water, betake yourselves to pure earth and wipe your faces and your hands therewith. Allah desires not to place a burden on you but He wishes to purify you, and that He may complete His favour on you, so that you may give thanks.
That's all that the Quran has to say on the topic. The Islamic regulations on toilet hygiene are codified in hādīth, sayings attributed to Muhammad. Large collections of hādīth were gathered during the 8th and 9th centuries. The Shi'a and Sunni use different hādīth collections, making for the possibility of different sect-specific toilet procedures.
Qadaahul Haajah, or Relieving Oneself, codifies Islamic regulation controlling how to use the toilet so as not to defile oneself before prayer.
Before getting into the details, first ask yourself if the trip is really necessary. The code says that a person must relieve themselves as infrequently as possible, as the natural functions of the body are sinful and unclean.
If you really have to go, before entering the toilet you are supposed to pray:
Bismillaah, Allaahumma inee a'uudhu bika minal
khubthi wal khabaaith.
In the name of Allah, O Allah! I seek refuge with You from all offensive and wicked things (evil deeds and evil spirits).
You are not allowed to enter the toilet carrying anything bearing the name of Allah, such as the Quran or any other book containing the name Allah, or jewelry engraved with the name of Allah. Or, now that I've said that, a printed copy of this page.
Step into the toilet area left foot first.
You must keep silent while in the toilet. No talking, reading aloud, greeting others or answering greetings. This is in contrast to the Buddhist toilet rules described in the Vinaya Pitaka, in which monks are instructed to cough loudly when arriving at the toilet and anyone already there should cough in response.
You are also instructed that you shouldn't eat while using the toilet.
If two men are defecating together, they are told that they must not converse, look at each other's genitals, or fondle each other's genitals. Really. Ibn Mājah realized that he would have to put these specifics in the Sunan Ibn Mājah, one of the Al-Kutub al-Sittah or six major hādīth collections he authored. This admonition against fondling appears at 1.342. The Sunan Ibn Mājah is pretty big, with over 4,000 hādīth in 1,500 chapters spread across 32 books.
Given my observations traveling in Egypt, I think Ibn Mājah had good reason. A number of men asked if I wanted to have sex with them. No, I'm not gay. Great outrage ensues as he certainly isn't gay, that would be illegal. But maybe I was interested in strictly non-gay sex with a man? No, go away. That got us to the stage in the conversation where he would start demanding baksheesh. Back to the toilet rules:
Proper physical orientation is important. You must not face toward the Kaaba in Mecca, nor face directly away from it, either. Try for a 90° orientation.
According to the hādīth, Muhammad specified that the defecator should use an odd number of stones, preferably three, to clean the anus, wiping upward and not downward. Then move to a different location and wash the anus with water. Do all of this with your left hand. Muhammad didn't come up with the idea of three stones, it originated in ancient Greece. These days paper is allowed instead of stones, I suppose an odd number of squares.
Shattaf is the term for a hand-held water sprayer, see the bidet and the "Wipe or Wash?" page for more details.
When you're finished, it is time for another specific prayer:
Alhammdu lillaahilla dhee adhhaba 'annil adhaa wa 'aalaanee.
Praise be to Allah who relieved me of the filth and gave me relief.
Now you are ready to step out of the toilet area. Make sure to step out right foot first, the opposite of how you stepped in.
Is Toilet Paper Allowed?
At least in the relatively liberal Turkey, yes.
In 2015 the Diyanet, Turkey's Directorate of Religious Affairs, issued a fatwa or religious ruling stating that while water should be the primary means of cleansing, toilet paper is permissible within Islam. Translated into English, part of the ruling said:
If water cannot be found for cleansing, other cleansing material can be used. Even though some sources deem paper to be unsuitable as a cleansing material, as it is an apparatus for writing, there is no problem in using toilet paper.Fatwa on toilet paper
The ruling is on page 89 of the document.
Let's See Some Examples!
Do you have all that memorized? Let's look at some toilets from predominantly Muslim territory.
The squat toilet in the first picture below is in the Doy-Doy Restaurant in the Sultanahmet district of İstanbul, Turkey.
Note the classic spigot on the wall and the red plastic mini-pitcher. For some reason the plastic pitcher is almost always red.
The second picture shows a very similar spigot-and-red-pitcher example in the Mavi House guesthouse in the Sultanahmet district of İstanbul.
Both the Doy-Doy and Mavi cater to a mix of local people and foreign visitors, so there are wall-mounted toilet paper dispensers.
Both are empty or nearly so, bring your own tissue paper.
And put the used paper in the bin, not into the toilet. See the Wipe or Wash page for details.
This efficient bathroom is in the Köse Pension in Göreme in Cappadocia in central Turkey. The shower head is mounted on the wall, and the squat toilet drains the entire room. The shower's hose and spray head reach the toilet for easy cleaning.
Of course, every shower runs hot soapy water down the toilet. The floor mounted all-room drain system makes a lot of sense.
The well-labeled squatter in the first picture below is at the Meltem Pension in Pamukkale village, north of Denizli, in Turkey.
Yes, that's a mirror above the sink, and this is a semi-outdoor facility.
This nautical toilet is on board an Egyptian ferry on the Nuweiba-Aqaba route between the Sinai and Jordan.
It has no sprayer, but at least there's a hose.
This is actually pretty nice by Egyptian public toilet standards.
And I must emphasize that it's rust you see there!
Dahab, on the east coast of the Sinai Peninsula in Egypt, is a great place to relax. The so-called Bedouin village up the coast from the luxurious resorts is the best place to stay.
Here is a shower and toilet at the Muhamed Aly camp in the Bedouin village area.
This is excellent by Egyptian standards, but then it's in Sinai and not along the Nile. By the way, Dahab is on the beach, and that's sand you see there!
This pit toilet has been constructed from local loose stones, just below the summit of Mount Sinai in Egypt.
It's not actually from the era of Moses, thought to be approximately 1450 BC, but the mountain has been a major pilgrimage site at least since when the Byzantine Empress Helena (ruled 313-328 AD) established a monastery at the base of the mountain.
You would think that during close to 1,700 years they'd have had time to put doors and a roof on the thing!
And yes, the sani-flush blue background does indicate that I have used this toilet, just as it means on all my other pages.