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The Heritage of the Prayer Rug The Philosophy of Prostration on a Piece of Fabric

Issue 50
The Heritage of the Prayer Rug The Philosophy of Prostration on a Piece of Fabric

Dr. Iman Mahran 

Assistant Professor of Physical Culture, Academy of Arts, Cairo

Head of Folk Arts Committee of the Arab Federation for the Protection of Intellectual Property Rights

People of the Arabian Peninsula were the first to use prayer rugs among Muslims, which was made at the beginning from palm fronds, then later from different fabrics such as luxurious natural silk.

Since then the prayer rug became a Muslim’s companion, whether in his home or in the mosque (where Muslims pray multiple times throughout the day). Every Muslim house needs at least one prayer rug.

The prayer rug of our day is made of wool, silk, leather or other materials, and its main function is covering the surface on which the worshiper performs his prostration, so that his forehead, palms, knees and feet touch the rug on the ground, rather than the bare ground. Performing prostration must be done on what is clean and pure (Tahir), therefore, the Muslim worshiper spreads the rug on the floor for praying at the times prescribed for his daily prayers. Although, Prayer rugs made like carpets (knotted-pile carpets) or prayers carpets are also so common nowadays.

The Arabic name of a rug, “Sijjadah” is derived from the Arabic noun “Sujud”, or prostration. 

“Musaliyah” is another Arabic name for the prayer rug derived from the word prayer, which in Arabic is “Salah”, or “Salayah” (common in the Sudan and derived from the same root). “Zribah” is what the Moroccans call it and it is distinguished by special patterns. However, In the age of globalized communication and media, “Sijjadat Salah” has been generalized as a standard term.

Prostration is a universal gesture of devotion and preforming worshiping in different religions and so is the use of prayer rugs. The researcher stresses the importance of establishing an industry for prayer rug producers and designers in the Arab region to help them meet the demand and encourage their designs to adopt the rich heritage of ornamentation Islamic arts.

It is also important to protect the production of prayer rugs within the frame of intellectual property rights to prevent the violation of rights by mass production, which denies the rights of producers and designers in Turkey, Iran, Egypt and India.

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