how zeitoun managed to follow his religious edicts while in prision
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Religious faith serves as a primary drive for Zeitoun, but it is also a potentially alienating topic. Eggers has acknowledged that part of the book's purpose was to show that Islam is not sinister as it is often misrepresented in post-9/11 media. In his attempts to appeal to a largely secular or Christian audience, Eggers emphasizes the similarities between Islam and Christianity, and depicts the Zeitouns as very Westernized and liberal. He refrains from introducing Zeitoun's social conservatism until relatively late in the book, allowing readers to identify with him before bringing in a possibly challenging aspect of his character. However, he also depicts Zeitoun's devoutness in depth in Parts IV and V, transcribing passages from the Qur'an and describing the difficulties Zeitoun has keeping halal in prison. Zeitoun's faith anchors him and encourages him to try to do the best for his community and family.
Although Nasser and Zeitoun do not have water to perform the necessary ablutions before praying, they do so anyway, using gravel for symbolic ablutions to cleanse themselves.