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A prayer rug or prayer mat (Arabic: سجادة sajjāda pl. سجاجيد sajājīd, or musallah; Turkish: seccade or namazlık; Persian: جانماز,Urdu: جانماز jānamāz) is a piece of fabric used by Muslims, placed between the ground and the worshipper for cleanliness during the various positions of Islamic prayer, which involved prostration and sitting on the ground. A Muslim must perform wudu (ablution) before prayer and pray in a clean place. Many new prayer mats are manufactured or made by weavers in a factory. The design of a prayer mat is based on the village it came from and its weaver. When praying, a niche at the top of the mat must be pointed to the Islamic center for prayer, Mecca. All Muslims are required to know what direction Mecca is from their home or where they are.
The prayer rug has a very strong symbolic meaning and traditionally taken care of in a holy manner. It is disrespectful for one to place a prayer mat in a dirty location or throw it around in a disrespectful manner. The prayer mat is traditionally woven with a rectangular design, made asymmetrical by the niche at the head end. Within the rectangle one usually finds images of Islamic symbols and architecture. Decorations not only are important but also have a deep sense of value in the design of the prayer rug.
A prayer rug is characterized by a niche at one end, representing the mihrab in every mosque, a directional point to direct the worshipper towards Mecca. Many rugs also show one or more mosque lamps, a reference to the Verse of Light in the Qu'ran. Specific mosques are sometimes shown; some of the most popular examples include the mosques in Mecca, Medina, and especially Jerusalem. Decorations not only play a role in imagery but serve the worshipper as aids to memory. Some of the examples include a comb and pitcher, which is a reminder for Muslims to wash their hands and for men to comb their hair before performing prayer. Another important use for decorations is to aid newly converted Muslims by stitching decorative hands on the prayer mat where the hands should be placed when performing prayer.
Prayer rugs are usually made in the towns or villages of the communities who use them and are often named after the origins of those who deal and collect them. The exact pattern will vary greatly by original weavers and the different materials used. Some may have patterns, dyes and materials that are traditional/native to the region in which they were made. Prayer rugs' patterns generally have a niche at the top, which is turned to face Mecca. During prayer the supplicant kneels at the base of the rug and places his or her hands at either side of the niche at the top of the rug, his or her forehead touching the niche. Typical prayer rug sizes are approximately 2.5 ft × 4 ft (0.76 m × 1.2 m) - 4 ft × 6 ft (1.2 m × 1.8 m), enough to kneel above the fringe on one end and bend down and place the head on the other.
Some countries produce textiles with prayer rug patterns for export. Many modern prayer rugs are strictly commercial pieces made in large numbers to sell on an international market or tourist trade. These pieces generally have little value and some are made using the same pattern by many weavers on a shift in a warehouse setting. Some may even be machine made.
There are many prayer rugs in existence today that have been taken care of for more than 100 years. In most cases, they have been immediately and carefully rolled after each prayer.
Rich Protestant Transylvanian Saxon merchants traded with the Ottoman Empire and often donated Anatolian rugs (some of them prayer rugs) to their churches as a wall decoration. Many churches still hold collections of the rugs. This is more according to their iconoclastic beliefs than the images of the saints used by the Catholics and the Orthodox Churches, like the Black Church of Brasov.
Typical manufactured prayer mat showing the Kaaba
- Persian embroidery
- Podruchnik, a cushion for worshipper's hands among Russian Old Believer Christians
- Oriental carpets in Renaissance painting
- Islamic art
- Aniconism in Islam
- "prayer rug." Encyclopædia Britannica. 2008. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. 23 Oct. 2008 <http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/474169/prayer-rug.
- Faid, Abbo Muhammed Samir. "Islam" All Experts. 16 Mar 2005. <http://www.liu.edu/cwis/cwp/library/workshop/citmla.htm>
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