Islam and Nail Polish

Today my coworker painted my nails for me in alternating colors and with polka-dots.  We had to hide in a classroom to do it so the director wouldn’t see us decorating our nails on the job; we’re pretty rebellious.  It came out really well, I think:

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My coworker told me that she is so dedicated to nail polish that she will remove it to pray and then put it right back on afterward, since prayer in Islam requires having clean hands and feet.  But when she is menstruating, she says, she enjoys nail polish so much; women do not pray during menstruation because it is impossible to be clean enough, so the state of her fingernails is unimportant for one week each month.

Later today, the director of the school was asking me what kinds of things are forbidden by Christianity.  I don’t know that much about types of Christianity beyond Protestantism, which in my experience doesn’t really forbid most actions, except really serious sins like murder or theft.  But when it comes to the body, there are few requirements of what you consume or how you dress, at least as far as I know.  Back in Chicago, I sometimes went to Friday prayer services with a Muslim friend, and found it very confusing that I had to plan my outfit beforehand in order to have all of my skin and hair covered even while moving through the bowing and kneeling motions of Muslim prayer.  It’s harder than I would have thought!

Tomorrow is the first day of Ramadan (or, it might be, depending on the moon!) which means that eating, drinking, smoking, and sexual activity are forbidden during the day.  In Tunisia, Morocco, across the Muslim world, and across the globe, Muslims will be in the same physical state of fasting from dawn to dusk.  This will be my second year living in a Muslim country during Ramadan, and I intend to fast for the majority of it, as I did last year.  Hopefully I can improve my understanding of Islam and how it incorporates the body; even if I do keep my nail polish on!

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