A prayer rug or prayer mat, (in Arabic, سجادة sajjāda or musallah, in Turkish: seccade or namazlık, in Persian: جانماز Jānamāz), is a piece of fabric to keep the worshipper clean and comfortable during the sujud (prostration to God) of salah (prayer). A Muslim must perform wudu (clean himself or herself) 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 mat 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 quilted in a rectangle design, 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.
Mosques are examples of the most common architecture used to decorate a prayer mat. Some of the most popular examples include the mosques in Mecca, Medina, and especially Jerusalem. A prayer mat is characterized by a Mosque’s niche, or Mihrab, an arch-shaped design at the front end of the carpet. The Mihrab is used as a directional point to direct the worshipper towards the direction of Mecca. 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 3 × 5 ft (0.91 × 1.5 m) – 4 × 6 ft (1.2 × 1.8 m), enough to kneel above the fringe on one end and bend down and place the head on the other.