Known as “Sajjadat Salat” in Arabic, a prayer rug serves as a clean surface that Muslims pray on for their daily five prayers.

Islamic prayer rugs have been used for centuries in different regions from Morocco to India (Aslan, 2019). In 1935, the renowned scholar and explorer, Ibn Battuta, journeyed around the world for 30 years with the prayer rug as his companion (Ghazal, 2015). It is the most symbolic portable object of Islamic culture (Moallem, 2016). Now, they are massively produced and found in every Muslim household (Ghazal, 2015). They serve as a protective layer for Muslims to pray on wherever they go (Aslan, 2019). Prayer rugs come in different designs that are usually symbolic to the religion (Aslan, 2019). For example, the design of a lamp symbolizes God, and flowers or trees usually resemble “the abundance of nature in God’s paradise” (Aslan, 2019). The designs of the prayer rugs are seen as a form of art that have been appreciated all over the world in history (Ghazal, 2015).

A prayer mat in essence is not mandatory in Muslim practice; it is a cultural element that has become part of the ritual of praying (Ismail et al., 2015). With culture comes societal events and lifestyles that change throughout history. Regardless of the prayer carpets’ old existence in this world, the 21st century has brought them back into attention politically and socially, particularly through the attack on 9/11 and more broadly with the advancement of technology. 

More than 24 percent of the world population is Muslim (Lipka, 2017). That means 1.8 billion humans have experienced the effects of the global series of events that have revolved around their religion (Lipka, 2017). It comes without saying that while everyone is familiar with the violent actions and reactions, people in the West barely know about the religion itself and what it is about (Lipka, 2017). With countries such as Britain, the shift of discrimination on minorities of race to minorities of religion (Abbas, 2017) shows that history is repeating itself but in a different face, and it is crucial to keep that in mind when reviewing the events of the 21st century so that humanity does not continue the same mistakes. To have it in the time capsule means to give the chance to reflect on how the world has viewed Islam and take it into consideration for the future. By looking through the meaning of the prayer rug, a glance at all that goes into Islam is represented to shed light on the fact that it is more than what politics implies.  

Islamophobia and inclusivity

One of the most unforgettable events of the 21st century is the 9/11 attack; the repercussion of that has been the reality of Islamophobia (Al Atom, 2014). Muslims are primarily represented through the lens of political and ideological manifestations with the intention of perceiving them as the “others” (Moallem, 2016). The EU reported that Muslim communities have in return become the target of aggression (Atom, 2014). Islamic institutions, including mosques, continuously face hate crimes due to the misconception of linking the Islamic faith to terrorism (Al Atom, 2014). 

This has made Muslims reflect on their faith in the face of discrimination and hate. In addition, it has brought attention to the importance of analyzing the inequalities in a society and addressing that to decrease hostility (Al Atom, 2014). 

Research shows that people project Islamophobia for racist and biased reasons more than for actual religious reasons (Husain, 2015) which gives a hint that by empowering the notion of inclusivity, people would re-evaluate their current understandings and see things in a different light. This could be done by encouraging conversation with people from different backgrounds such as when Americans visited mosques to listen to Muslims explaining how their religion denounces violence (Al Atom, 2014). Another important aspect of implementing inclusivity is by proposing new changes in institutions to ensure the safety of Muslims such as having university counselors evaluate the situation of the Muslim students and listen to their experiences in order to take steps to combat these issues (Riley, 2017). 

The current surge of Islamophobic hate in India

prayer rugs and technology

Software applications have substituted religious leaders by guiding them on certain things related to their religion (Rinker et al., 2016). For example, Islamic apps usually help people learn the time of prayers of the day (Kasman & Moshnyaga, 2017). When it comes to the prayer rug, inventors have incorporated technology in order to enhance its affordances. The motivation behind the inventions is multiple. 

Muslims are required to pray 5 times a day, and in each prayer, there are six postures that are performed several times (Moshnyaga, 2017). The set of six postures is called a “raka’ah” (Ismail et al., 2015). The number of sequences, or “raka’ahs,” changes according to the time of the prayer. For instance, four sets of the postures should be performed during the noon, afternoon, and evening prayers yet only two for the dawn prayer (Moshnyaga, 2017). That is why it can be sometimes challenging for people to remember which sequence they are at during praying, especially for elderly people (Moshnyaga, 2017). 

Sequence of Islamic prayer (Twitter)

People of age may need assistance to complete their spiritual and daily needs (Ismail et al., 2015). Their attention span starts to decline and some may even have memory obstacles (Ismail et al., 2015). To help them remember the number of sequences or cycles that they have completed or have forgotten to perform, an idea for a smart prayer mat was created that provides audible cues to the prayer through sensor technology (Ismail et al., 2015). The pressure sensor alerts the person after they have completed a cycle (Ismail et al., 2015). The ritual cycle ends after a second prostration where the person puts his forehead on the prayer rug; the sensor is located under the area of the forehead and only notes the touch of the forehead (Ismail et al., 2015). 

Sajdah, a smart prayer mat that is connected to an application for prayer guidance

Another challenge that muslims can encounter is finding the Qibla which is the direction of the Kaaba in Mecca that they should pray towards (Moshnyaga, 2017). A prayer mat has been created with antennas and a goniometer receiver that illuminates when it is directed towards Mecca (Moshnyaga, 2017). This all shows the advancement in religious technologies that help people in their daily rituals and the benefits that they can provide. 

praying and mindfulness

The 21st century has established yoga, with its philosophical essence, as a science for its ‘mind-body’ medicine (Raghuwanshi, 2011). Looking at how that correlates with Islamic praying, a few similarities could be noted. The sequence of praying has the same goal as the seven chakras, to connect to the spiritual and mental wellbeing (Farboudmanesh, 2014). The parallelism in the poses also shows that like yoga, praying helps Muslims be self aware of their consciousness, focus, and find their inner peace and balance (Farboudmanesh, 2014). Moreover, Muslims pray according to the sun’s rotations (Aldahadha, 2013). Through the praying ritual, Muslims turn Islam inwards and push the outer noise of human ego away to connect with God (Aldahadha, 2013), kind of like the sun salutations that are practiced in yoga (Staff, 2021). 

Prostration in Islamic praying (Unsplash) – Balasana, or child’s pose, in yoga (Unsplash)

Additionally, the science of psychology has embraced the concept of meditation as a type of mindfulness (Aldahadha, 2013). Being aware of the senses is enlightened by the rituals of the praying process where Muslims have to be aware of the time to estimate when they should pray, usually seek to listen to the prayer call, complete the body ablution, and be conscious of the space around them to stand towards the Mecca direction (Moallem, 2016). Moreover, because of the mindfulness that goes into praying, Muslims find it to be a source of mental relief from anxious and depressing thoughts as they pray for God’s guidance (Saniotis, 2015). 

All in all, with just one object, a lot can be said about Islam instead of the image that has stained it this century. As globalisation keeps integrating people’s cultures and struggles together, it is key to keep in check all the different perspectives that make up an identity, or in this case a religion, as opposed to conforming to the general stereotypes that can affect people’s livelihoods. It is enlightening to see that there is always much more to a story than what is casually said.


Name: Islamic Prayer Rug

3D Model

Creator: Ameena Ali

Date: 25-01-2022

Place: Maastricht, The Netherlands

Themes: Inclusivity and Wellness

Captured with Samsung S9 Camera

Processed with Agisoft Metashape Professional Software run on Macbook Pro 2017, MacOS High Sierra


Physical Object

Size: 70 x 120 x 1 cm

Weight: 300 g

Material: Woven Fabric


Abbas, T. (2004). After 9/11: British south Asian Muslims, islamophobia, multiculturalism, and the state. American Journal of Islam and Society, 21(3), 26-38.

Aldahadha, B. (2013). The effects of Muslim praying meditation and transcendental meditation programs on mindfulness among the University of Nizwa students. College Student Journal, 47(4), 668-676.

Al Atom, B. (2014). Examining the trends of Islamophobia: Western public attitudes since 9/11. Studies in Sociology of Science, 5(3), 83.

Aslan, R. (2019, January 29). What are Muslim prayer rugs? The Conversation. 

Farboudmanesh, S. (2014, October 30). The art of living through yoga and Islam. Medium.

Ghazal, R. (2015, June 18). The significance of prayer mats. The National.

Husain, A. (2015). Islamophobia. In Encyclopedia of Social Work. 

Ismail, J., Md Noor, N. L., & Wan Mohd Isa, W. A. R. (2015). Smart prayer mat: a textile-based pressure sensor to assist elderly with cognitive impairment in praying Activity. Universiti Utara Malaysia, 170, 241-246.

Lipka, M. (2017, August 9). Muslims and Islam: Key findings in the U.S. and around the world. Pew Research Center.

Moallem, M. (2014). Praying through the senses: The Prayer Rug/Carpet and the Converging Territories of the Material and the Spiritual. Conversations: An Online Journal of the Centre for the Study of Material and Visual Cultures of Religion.

Moshnyaga, V. G. (2017, January). A smart mat for assisting Muslims in praying. In 2017 IEEE International Conference on Consumer Electronics (ICCE) (pp. 462-465). IEEE.

Raghuwanshi, A. (2011). A review: history of revival of yoga in 20th century and establishment of yoga as a science in the 21st century. Sense Inter Sci Yoga, 1, 208-216.

Riley, C. L., & Surmitis, K. A. (2017). Inclusivity on campus: Strategies for counselors creating community for all students with an emphasis on Muslim college students. Counseling & Wellness: A Professional Counseling Journal, 6.

Rinker, C. H., Roof, J., Harvey, E., Bailey, E., & Embler, H. (2016). Religious apps for smartphones and tablets: Transforming religious authority and the nature of religion. Interdisciplinary Journal of Research on Religion, 12.

Saniotis, A. (2018). Understanding mind/body medicine from Muslim religious practices of Salat and Dhikr. Journal of religion and health, 57(3), 849-857.

Staff, YJ. (2021, August 13). Your step-by-step guide to flowing through Surya Namaskar A. Yoga Journal.