May 12, 613 AD: A small excerpt of the First Prayer of the Day

It seems as though this morning will be sunny like the past three days. Looking at the sun rising over the horizon there is not a cloud in sight. It’s been 20 minutes since Fajr prayer has ended. I had woken up earlier today than I expected and chosen to offer Tahajjud and walk to the mosque for Fajr. I was more excited seen as I had finally gotten my new Khumrah made from the biggest leaves from the palm tree on the hill near the market. The intertwined green strands create a strong mat, the sleekness of the leaf creates a smooth surface. I had done Wudu before leaving my hut, so I knew I was clean for my prayer. The new Khumrah was not dirty so that was not a problem either. This time I’ll make an extra effort to keep Khumrah clean.

The above excerpt is my imagination of the past the first uses of the Islamic prayer rug. Fajr is the dawn prayer and is offered around 20 to 30 minutes before the sun is starting to rise. Wudu is ablution, which is done before prayers as a way to get clean.  Now on to more serious issues, the modern “janamaz” is a cloth rug or sorts that at first glance resembles a Persian rug. At the time of the excerpt, prayer rugs were made out of palm tree leaves that were intertwined to create a mat. These mats at the start were called “Khumrah” like in the excerpt above. Prayer mats were made out of plants at the very start of Islam and lasted a couple of years until cloth rugs were started to be made. Islam was founded in 610 AD after The Holy Prophet Muhammad (Peace and Blessings of God be Upon Him) received a revelation from God. After that, it was prescribed by God to pray to the One True God, which is where the need for a clean surface started. When praying a human need to be perfectly clean and the place where they are praying has to be as well. The idea of a portable, clean mat stemmed from there. It wasn’t until the 14th century that they turned to “carpets” since it was then when travellers were first reported carrying carpets for prayers. There are no specific dates in the case of these prayer rugs, seen as it was the evolution of many years. Now fast forward to the 21st century, prayer carpets have transitioned from wool to cotton and silk as the raw material. This has meant that not only are they cheaper to produce but much more accessible as well. Another change has been in usage. Over the years, the use of rug as a medium for prayer has increased, and that as an item for decor has decreased. One thing that, however, hasn’t changed is the regard the rugs are held in. Undoubtedly these rugs are one of the most revered Muslim household items. They have also changed over the years to become more suitable for larger age groups, meaning there has been a variety of janamaz created to cater to the comfort of knees, legs and head when one goes down in prostration. Also, the rugs are being modified to cater to the health needs of worshipers. These are multi-layered carpets aimed at absorbing weight and hence reducing the pressure on the worshipers’ body. These have also become a cultural expression, seen as every Muslim household has them. They can be customized and come in a variety of colours and patterns. They are wide and long enough for your body to fit on it when you go into prostration on the ground because doing that on the rough surface of a floor can be very uncomfortable.

Many times young children are given prayer mats in order to help them get accustomed to praying. Usually, children are encouraged from a very young age to ask Allah (Name in Islam for God) for even the smallest of things such as eating candy after dinner that night,

A janamaz in our household, not only ours but all Muslim households is very precious. It is the one thing where we pray. The one thing that acts as a constant in our life seen as it will never change. When in time of crisis, knowing that at home I have a place where I can return and find solitude allows a person to stay grounded. Many people consider it a safe haven, where they can find peace, a place where they can talk to Allah alone. Canada has not really impacted this specific culture in any way. The act of praying, and praying on a clean surface in Islam has been part of my culture for centuries. Canada may have impacted the places where these janamaz are made and exported. Also, many people around the world still pray of palm tree leaves around the world seen as it was done by The Holy Prophet Muhammad (Peace and Blessings of God be Upon Him), but since palm tree leaves are not as accessible in Canada, the cloth ones are used.  When it comes time to pray the mat is placed facing the Ka’aba, which is a building in the center of Islam’s most important mosque (located in Saudi Arabia). The amazing fact about this is that five times a day, Muslims pray to face this direction all around the world no matter where they are. The arch that is on most janamaz is called “mihrab”, which signifies the direction of the Ka’aba and it seems like it’s pointing in that direction.

My janamaz was given to me as a present for my 13 birthday by my mom. It is a red janamaz made of wool and cotton with bubble sort of circles. I feel like my design is very unique since I have never seen one like it. If a person were to look at prayers rugs they would know that they are used for praying since many times you could find a picture of a mosque on it. Also because since the religion of Islam is becoming so well known that a lot of people know about the five daily prayers and how they are prayed. Lastly, you would never find a janamaz laying around the house, they are usually folded after every prayer and placed in a safe and clean location. My mom and I have our own personal janamaz and an extra one for guests like most families do. My janamaz acts like a door for me. When I pray on it, my mind is filled with a different kind of peace which you won’t find anywhere else, with the exception of the Mosque but that’s another story. I hope that I have shared in this short journal that you, my reader, have a better understanding of the Islamic world and the significance a mere rug has in our lives.

This is a picture of my janamaz, which I just love.

Gina Ahmad

Toronto Canada

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