Being a practicing Muslim in America requires critical thinking and creativity, as well as perseverance. One can remain practice comfortably at home, but working and interacting with people outside of Muslim establishments can be a challenge, especially for women. This is especially the case when it comes time to make salat (the ritual prayer that Muslims make 5 times a day). Normally when I plan my errands, I take into consideration prayer times. I will often wait till after dhuhr (afternoon prayer) before leaving the house and limit my trips so that I will be home in time to make Asr(late noon). If I can’t do that, then I will map out local masajid (with actual women’s section) where I can stop. Sometimes, however, a masjid is not near by. Even the best planning doesn’t work out so well. That is why you have to plan ahead and be prepared.
Every Muslim should have a Muslim survival. The survival kit can consist of a number of items. But the basics that ensure Muslim ritual purity and a clean place for prayer are, a water bottle, a prayer mat, and proper attire.
Over the years I have had to come up with make-shift solutions for wudu (ritual ablution) when there is not a bathroom or faucet in sight, clean prayer areas when my prayer mat is in another state, or a private space to make my salat (ritual prayer). I’ve made wudhu with bottled water because the bathrooms were so scary. I’ve made sajdah on notebook paper. And I’ve prayed in dressing rooms or between cars in parking lots. I’ve even seen women pray in sheets when they couldn’t find their prayer outfit in the dark.
Although there are times when we have to resort to desperate measures, there are inventive Muslims who are trying to make our lives easier. I’ve seen beautifully designed prayer outfits that fold up in convenient pouches. I own a few light weight rugs that I take with me on long errand runs. I even have my own batter powered handheld bidet. Still, I’m anticipating even greater quality of items, such as compasses, travel rugs, micro-light prayer outfits, and bidets that can help make life easier.There are several examples on the internet including the following:
- Wudu Mate A pocket size container that you can fill up.
- Pocket Prayer Rug
- Muslim Travel Buddy is a kit that includes compass, collapsable istinjah, prayer rug that folds up to pocket size, kufi, and tasbih counter.
My husband’s friend has a more involved Muslim survival kit than the one mentioned above. I addition to the water bottle his kit includes a bottle of Lysol, bleach cleaner, paper towels, a squeeze bottle for istinjah, Tinactin to avoid athlete’s foot contracted from damp rugs, and flip flops to avoid contracting athlete’s feet from the hamam ship ships. He uses this kit to survive the hazards of the men’s restrooms in masajid. My husband recounts the horrors of men’s bathrooms which are notorious across all cultures. And even I’ve been to scary bathrooms frequented by women. The worst places were the women’s bathrooms in many Cairo masajid. The stench spilled over into the women’s sections of the prayer hall. Sadly, I admit there were times when I decided to make up my prayer at home for fear that I’d trail some urine or fecal matter on my clothes. I think this is why many uninformed Muslims think that if your feet touch the floor of a bathroom, it breaks your wudhu. While it may not break your wudhu, in many Muslim bathrooms, one slip up may soil your clothes with an impurity that needs to be ritually cleaned three times before you can pray in it. I’m not a scholar, so I’ll defer that issue to a faqih. But back to my point, whether you are camping in the wilderness of North America, in a Muslim country, or doing errands near your local American Muslim community, you may need to have your survival kit ready. Are you ready?