When reading the title of this post, you may be wondering, “what is he talking about?” The real question should be, “Who do wudū?” What is wudū, you ask? I’m a little new to this word myself, but I became familiar with the practice at work recently. Wudū is “the Islamic procedure for wiping parts of the body, a type of ritual purification, or ablution.” Muslims practice ritual cleansing before praying or handling the Quran. That is the answer to the question of “Who do wudū?” So there you go. We know what people do it. The question now becomes, why?
I became a bit intrigued with the concept of ritual cleansing not that long ago when making a trip into the men’s room at work. I pushed open the door and there in front of me was a grown man, barefoot, with his pants rolled up to his knees as he washed his feet in the sink. I was confused at first, thinking maybe he had foot issues and needed to clean them for some medical reason. I mentioned it to someone I worked with and they said, “Yeah, a lot of people do that here.” They then went on to explain that a lot of Muslims we work with clean their bodies before they go to pray. I didn’t think too much more about it until I walked in many more times since then to see people interlocking their fingers and toes in the sink where I wash my hands.
Besides the fact that I find such rituals to ultimately be quite meaningless, I was struck by the absurdity of what I was witnessing. Don’t get me wrong, cleaning yourself is always a good thing. But doing it at set times “just because” is strange. Washing of the feet is part of the required cleansing. No big deal, right? Well, I’ve seen the same people wash and then place their soaking wet feet in the same dirty shoes day after day. Why clean your feet if you’re just going to put them into your moldy shoes, crawling with bacteria? Then it hit me. A book, not so unlike the book I used to follow, told them to do things such as clean themselves, and they obeyed. A religion based on the book then added rules and regulations to follow in addition to the “word of God.” Then it was more about the routines and rituals, than actually being 100% convinced of a particular god of choice. Being 100% convinced would result in everything being done just right at every moment of every day for fear of God’s (Allah’s) wrath. But instead, a rushed routine it is. They were simply doing what they were told to do…albeit in a less than sanitary way.
I have learned that wudū can be invalidated by things such as defecating, urinating, deep sleep, bleeding, sexual intercourse, and flatulence. Yes, even a fart can ruin the whole thing and you need to start over. According to Shia Muslims, for wudū to be invalid through flatulence, “one must actually hear or smell the passing, otherwise it is not considered void.” So if you are a practicing Muslim and your farts are silent and odor-free, you are in luck and you can let ’em rip.
The Bible has a whole section about ritual cleansing as well. It’s called Leviticus. Most people who have read the Bible, have read about the ritual cleansing in Leviticus and dismissed it as impractical, obsolete, not to be taken literally or just plain stupid. I have never met a Christian who actually practices the ritual cleansing as laid out by the writers of the Bible. But Muslims, at least the ones I have come across, take things a bit more seriously…even if they clean their feet only to dirty them instantly in their shoes. The question is, why does anyone (of any faith) do things just because a book tells them to?
Washing your feet is okay. We all should. Washing your feet, and then taking your hands (still dripping wet from the toe massage) to push open the door that other people use, is not so okay. But people do strange things for even stranger reasons. “Allah told me to bow down and utter the same prayers to Mecca 5 times a day.” “God told me condemn gay people because he hates sin.” “God told me to sacrifice my son to prove my loyalty to him.” People say God is explicit in his messages to us and what he wants from us. No religion agrees with another, yet all religions have the same glaring fault; their gods do not exist, beyond the paper the words about him are printed on, or the words upon our lips.
I work in a warehouse. I have for over 20 years. It’s loud. It’s dirty. It’s fast-paced. If you want to stop what you are doing to wash your feet and lay a piece of cardboard down on the floor to pray, go for it I guess. I don’t have time to do that even if I wanted to. But I would ask a Muslim the same question I now ask Christians. How do you know your religion (or any) is correct? How do you know God exists? Without using your book, can you show me your god?
What we are doing with all of our rituals such as fasting, praying, ritual cleansing, hand-raising and singing with our voices aimed upwards is just making ourselves feel better about…well…ourselves. All we are doing is using different teachings to do the same thing. We take our book of choice, blindly follow it and then pray for a world beyond the real world. We pray for an escape and a better life beyond this one. Some scrub their toes and squeeze in their farts so as not to upset Allah. Others drive to church on Sunday to stand, sing and empty their wallets. And countless others do countless other things in accordance with their religion.
There are thousands of religions teaching a million different ways of ignoring the facts. They are all equal in assuming the supernatural when the natural is right there for all to see. Religions offer hope, prosperity and life-everlasting. What they don’t offer is evidence. What is lacking is proof. What they can’t tell you is why their religion is any more believable than someone else’s.
I left Christianity because of a lack of evidence proving it to be true and an overabundance of evidence pointing to it being fabricated from the start. I have learned by observing people of other religions, that other faith-based systems are different, but the same. They offer hope in exchange for rituals. They offer immortality in exchange for prayers. But they, just like my former religion, don’t have anything to show for it. The evidence for Allah is just as good as Jehovah, Zeus, Thor or Apollo. There isn’t any.
To people of no faith or different faith, a religion and its rituals can seem scary, silly or just weird. I look at people washing their feet in the sink and laying on a filthy piece of cardboard to bow down, stand up and pray for long periods of time and think, wow, that’s just stupid. But when I was a Christian, I had no problem believing that a man died, was raised back to life and went up to Heaven. I had no problem believing he walked on water, spit in people’s eyes to cure blindness or turned water into wine. I didn’t feel silly when I ate bread and drank grape juice while pretending I was eating his flesh and drinking his blood. I didn’t feel weird talking to myself, all the while saying it was a conversation with my savior. My religion was normal and logical. It was all the other ones that were strange and wrong. Now, they all look the same to me.
I will gladly turn my skepticism into faith if someone can show me why I should. If someone can offer me evidence beyond the ink-printed words in a book, I will gladly listen. I will devote my life back to God and do everything in my power to do his will. But you’ve got to do better than religion. You’ve got to do better than books. You’ve got to do better than wishful thinking, looking at nature, personal visions or strange occurrences in your life that cannot be shared with anyone else. If you can do better than those things, great. You have convinced me. You win and I’m now on your team. I’ll be honest though. I’m not optimistic about your chances. In fact, I’m not holding my breath…or my farts in. Not just yet. 🙂