Why do Muslims use a Prayer mat or rug?
Many times when a Muslim is at work, traveling or even at home, he needs to make sure that his musallah (prayer space) is clean. The best way to do that is with a dedicated prayer rug, something that is only used for salaat and nothing else; that way his or her place of prostration is not complicated with dirt or other things which might cause distraction or discomfort. The patterns of a prayer rug should be calming and should not distract the worshipper from his salaat. The texture of the sajada (Arabic word for a prayer mat) should be soothing so that the worshipper is able to better focus on salaat. If the sujood (prostration) is comfortable then it allows for a longer time in this position, which is considered to be the superior position of prayer.
The Muslim prayer rug is not a holy object or a sacred thing, it is a way that Muslims bring extra comfort and ease to the daily rituals of salaat.
Is the Prayer Rug Sunnah?
While the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) did not specifically tell people to pray on a mat, there are many hadith that show he did.
Narrated by Abdullah bin Shaddad: Maimuna said, “Allah’s Messenger was praying while I was in my menses, sitting beside him and sometimes his clothes would touch me during his prostration.” Maimuna added, “He prayed on a Khumra.” (Al-Bukhari, Hadith 379)
Khumra is a small prayer mat, about the size of a washcloth, that would just be large enough to put one’s face on.
Narrated by Is-haq: Anas bin Malik said, “My grandmother Mulaika invited Allah’s Messenger for a meal which she herself had prepared. He ate from it and said, ‘Get up! I will lead you in the prayer.'” Anas added, “I took my Hasir, washed it with water as it had become dark because of long use and Allah’s Messenger stood on it. The orphan (Damira or Ruh) and I aligned behind him and the old lady (Mulaika) stood behind us. Allah’s Messenger led us in the prayer and offered two rak`at and then left.” (Al-Bukhari, Hadith 380)
A Hasir is a larger mat, about the size of a modern prayer rug, that would be recognizable as a prayer mat in size and shape but it was woven with straw or palm leaves.
We can see from these examples and many others in Hadith that the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) would frequently use something to prostrate on for prayer. There are other accounts wherein he would not use anything and would end up prostrating in mud. Perhaps those incidents occurred before he started using a mat for prayer or perhaps he did not notice that the ground was muddy before he began praying and he focused his attention on the prayer rather than stopping to get something to prostrate on. Maintaining cleanliness and comfort in prayer seems to be the universal reason for using a form of prayer mat.
We can even see that the Sahaba would maintain the use of such a device as we would use a prayer rug today:
Narrated by Anas Bin Malik, “We used to pray with the Prophet in scorching heat and if one of us could not put his face on the earth (because of the heat) then he would spread his clothes and prostrate over them.” (Al-Bukhari, Hadith 1208)
Therefore, it is safe to say that the use of a prayer rug is sunnah, however we must bear in mind that it is not an act of worship, merely a tool that makes our worship easier. Prayer rug patterns should be those which keep us focused on worship such as the Ka’aba or other Mosques and simple, beautiful patterns that give a sense of tranquility rather than distraction. If a pattern is distracting, then get a new prayer rug, as our Prophet did:
Narrated by Aisha: “The Prophet prayed in a Khamisa (A garment like a long shirt) having marks (patterns & designs). During the prayer, he looked at its marks. So when he finished the prayer he said, ‘Take this Khamisa of mine to Abu Jahm and get me his Inbijaniya as it (the Khamisa) has diverted my attention from the prayer.’” Aisha said “The Prophet said, ‘I was looking at its (Khamisa’s) marks during the prayers and I was afraid that it may put me in trial (by taking away my attention)’.” (Al-Bukhari, Hadith 373)
As we see from the example of Muhammad (Peace be upon him) and the sahaba, the prayer mats they used were also used for other things. Do not make the mistake of believing they are sacred objects and feel free to use a prayer rug as a spare mat to sit on when company is over or to drape on a bench or other furniture as décor when it is not being used to pray on.
What is the Proper Name for a Muslim Prayer Rug?
Prayer mats come from the cultures of individual Muslims, so the names for the prayer rug are as diverse as Muslim cultures are! Many prefer to call it a sajjada which comes from the Arabic root word for prostration, some call it a mussalla which means “place of prayer”, and of course there is the straight English terms of prayer rug or prayer mat.
What is the proper use of a Prayer Rug?
To use a Muslim prayer rug properly, simply open it up, point the top of the rug toward the qibla (direction of prayer, pointing toward the ka’aba) and pray like normal. Then when you are finished, fold up the prayer rug so that the facing parts touch each other; that will ensure a clean surface is maintained for a long time without washing. When washing is needed, most people prefer to hand wash them, though many manufactured prayer rugs can be laundered in a conventional washing machine.
Muslim American hopes that this information gives you better knowledge about prayer rugs and that you will find the prayer rug you are looking for here in our online store. Buy Muslim prayer rugs anytime day or night online here at Muslim American! Are you in the Charlotte, NC area? If so, stop in and look over all the inventory, including some items that don’t make it to the website! Our offices are located at 400 East Arrowhead Dr, Charlotte, NC 29213.