In recent times we have seen this question about the Prayer mats popping up in social media, and we see some people calling it a Bidah, and others won’t pray without one. This video will hopefully clear up any confusion you may have, and help you hold fast to the Sunnah of our Prophet Muhammad PBUH.
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The Video Transcript is below:
The use of prayer mats is commonplace in our modern society, but there is a lot of confusion as to whether using prayer mats is a Sunnah or a bidah, and the conditions surrounding their use.
At the extreme end of the scale, there are some sects who claim that the use of prayer mats is not allowed at all, however there are more than 5 strong hadiths which prove otherwise, including a hadith in bukhari where the Prophet’s wife Maimuna mentioned that he would sometimes pray next to her on a Khumra, which is commonly known to be a small mat made of palm leaves, sufficient in size for the face and hands during prostration, but it can be a larger mat as well.
Al-Bukhari, Hadith 379, Narrated by Abdullah bin Shaddad
Maimuna said, “Allah’s Messenger was praying while I was in my menses, sitting beside him and sometimes his clothes would touch me during his prostration.” Maimuna added, “He prayed on a Khumra.”
Another hadith in Bukhari tells us of the time when Anas bin Malik was at his grandmother Mulaika’s house, and they shared a meal with the Prophet and an orphan. After the meal, they all prayed together, and Anas gave the Prophet his Hasir to pray on, which is a larger mat, normally longer than the length of a man, and made from date palm leaves or straw.
Al-Bukhari, Hadith 380, Narrated by Is-haq
Anas bin Malik said, “My grandmother Mulaika invited Allah’s Messenger for a meal which she herself had prepared. He ate from it and said, ‘Get up! I will lead you in the prayer.'” Anas added, “I took my Hasir, washed it with water as it had become dark because of long use and Allah’s Messenger stood on it. The orphan (Damira or Ruh) and I aligned behind him and the old lady (Mulaika) stood behind us. Allah’s Messenger led us in the prayer and offered two rak`at and then left.”
Aisha also narrated a hadith where the Prophet Muhammad prayed on a Khamisa, a square garment, which had marks that were diverting his attention from his prayer. So he asked her to take it to Abu Jahm and exchange it with his Inbijaniya, which was another garment without any patterns.
Al-Bukhari, Hadith 373, Narrated by Aisha
The Prophet prayed in a Khamisa having marks. During the prayer, he looked at its marks. So when he finished the prayer he said, “Take this Khamisa of mine to Abu Jahm and get me his Inbijaniya as it (the Khamisa) has diverted my attention from the prayer.”
Aisha said “The Prophet said, ‘I was looking at its (Khamisa’s) marks during the prayers and I was afraid that it may put me in trial (by taking away my attention)’.”
So we know from these hadiths and others that it is not only permissible to use prayer mats, but it is a Sunnah. Furthermore, the mat does not have to be professionally made, and a wide variety of materials can be used, including animal pelts, rags, clothing, or even palm leaves.
However, as we have seen in the last hadith, there are conditions applicable to the use of prayer mats. The prophet was distracted by the marks on the Khamisa, and if he got distracted, then you can imagine what happens to regular folk like you and I.
The scholars have highly discouraged us from using any prayer mat with markings that may distract us, and the modern highly decorative mats definitely fall within these rulings. It also includes any bright and colourful prayer mats, or those with drawn objects, such as mosques or the Kaaba. It must be clarified that using one of these distracting prayer mats does not nullify your prayer, but it is considered makrooh, or disliked.
But the scholars have ruled that using a prayer mat which contains animate images of living beings, such as people or animals is haraam. This is a trick of Shaitan. He knows how hard it is to get righteous Muslims to stop praying. So he instead tricks them into purchasing these types prayer mats, and hopes to make their prayer invalid, without the person’s knowledge.
We see this today with a lot of hidden animals, faces, objects, and occult symbols hidden within the highly decorative layout of prayer mats. Astute Muslims have found pigs, demons, monsters, phallic objects, the eye of horus, Christian crosses, and all sorts of evil images woven in to the prayer mats design.
Considering the extreme danger of having your prayer invalidated, by prostrating to images of false gods or otherwise, it is highly advisable to completely avoid all prayer mats with patterns.
It is important to remember that none of the items used by the Prophet to put something between him and the ground during his prostration in prayer were designed specifically for praying on. There was no such thing as a prayer mat in the time of the Sahabah, and if you possess the belief that it is compulsory to use a prayer mat, then you hold a belief outside of Islam, one that there is no evidence for, and one that none of the Sahabah possessed.
And considering these factors, it is beneficial to stop using prayer mats altogether, to avoid falling into bidah where the prayer mat becomes an essential item held onto ritualistically in your prayers, or where you have developed strange beliefs such as it not being allowed to pray directly on the ground.
To give you a personal example that I have experienced, once I was at someones house, and this person is very obsessive about using their prayer mats. In fact, they have a large collection of them ready for use for both themselves and guests. Sometime in the afternoon I went for my prayers and was praying on the ground, and they saw me and panicked, making some remarks before they rushed in and placed the prayer mat underneath me while I was in the middle of my prayer. And these are some of these extremes that people can go to.
The rulings on the use of prayer mats in mosques are even more strict, where we have direct hadiths informing us that it is considered a bidah. It was narrated when Abd al-Rahmaan ibn Mahdi spread out a rug in a mosque in Madinah, and Maalik ordered for it to be taken away, and stated that spreading a rug in their mosque is bidah.
Ibn Taymiyyah, Majmoo’ al-Fataawa, 22/163
Praying on rugs, in the sense that the worshipper insists on that – this was not the way of the salaf, the Muhaajireen and Ansaar and those who followed them in truth at the time of the Messenger of Allaah. Rather they used to pray on the ground in his mosque, and none of them had a rug that was used just for prayer. It was narrated that when ‘Abd al-Rahmaan ibn Mahdi came to Madeenah he spread out a rug, and Maalik ordered that it be taken away. It was said to him, “He is ‘Abd al-Rahmaan ibn Mahdi.” Maalik said, “Do you not know that spreading a rug in our mosque is bid’ah (an innovation)?”
We also have multiple narrations showing us that the prophet did not use any prayer mats in the mosque, which was open to the rain, and the floor was made of dirt. He did this even though he had full access to a range of mats, cloths, and beddings.
Al-Bukhari, Hadith 2036, Narrated by Abu Salama bin `Abdur-Rahman
I asked Abu Sa`id Al-Khudri, “Did you hear Allah’s Messenger talking about the Night of Qadr?” He replied in the affirmative and said, “Once we were in I`tikaf with Allah’s Messenger in the middle ten days of (Ramadan) and we came out of it in the morning of the twentieth, and Allah’s Messenger delivered a sermon on the 20th (of Ramadan) and said, ‘I was informed (of the date) of the Night of Qadr (in my dream) but had forgotten it. So, look for it in the odd nights of the last ten nights of the month of Ramadan. I saw myself prostrating in mud and water on that night (as a sign of the Night of Qadr). So, whoever had been in I`tikaf with Allah’s Messenger should return for it.’ The people returned to the mosque (for I`tikaf). There was no trace of clouds in the sky. But all of a sudden a cloud came and it rained. Then the prayer was established (they stood for the prayer) and Allah’s Messenger prostrated in mud and water and I saw mud over the forehead and the nose of the Prophet.
For example, Abu Sa’eed al-Khudri told us of the time during Ramadhan when the Messenger of Allah led the prayers at the mosque just after it had rained, and he prostrated in the mud and water, which remained on his face after he arose.
Muslim, Hadith 1167a, Narrated by Abu Sa’id al-Khudri
Abu Sa’id al-Khudri (Allah be pleased with him) reported that Allah’s Messenger spent in devotion (in i’tikaf) the middle ten nights of the month of Ramadan, and when twenty nights were over and it was the twenty-first night, he went back to his residence and those who were along with him also returned (to their respective residences). He spent one month in devotion. Then he addressed the people on the night he came back (to his residence) and commanded them as Allah desired (him to command) and then said:
I used to devote myself (observe i’tikaf) during these ten (nights). Then I started devoting myself in the last ten (nights). And he who desires to observe i’tikaf along with me should spend the night) at his place of i’tikaf. And I saw this night (Lailat-ul-Qadr) but I forgot it (the exact night); so seek it;In the last ten nights on odd numbers. I saw (the glimpses of that dream) that I was prostrating in water and mud. Abu Sa’id al-Khudri said: It rained on the twenty-first night and the water dripped (from the roof) of the mosque at the place where the Messenger of Allah observed prayer. I looked at him and as he completed the dawn prayer, (I found) his face was wet with mud and water.
So when is it allowed to use a prayer mat? Well, when there is a need for it. Ill give you an example: when I am visiting the house of my 2 young nieces, sometimes I will be walking around and step in a pile of urine, since they are at that age. It’s hard to see when wet, but what if its just about dry, and I pray in it? So when we have a concern that there are impurities on the ground, using a mat is advised in those instances.
Considering that many of the Sahabah used to live in the desert, there would be times when the floors of their homes were very dirty and dusty, and they may have wanted to cover an area so they don’t breathe in it in and choke during their prayers. And there may be a myriad of other reasons, but the same principle applies. If there is a GENUINE need for it, then use a mat of some sort.
Now when praying outside, or in an open mosque exposed to the weather, we know that praying in the rain or mud is a Sunnah. But in the opposite conditions, such as extreme heat where the ground is too hot to touch or prostrate on, you may also use a mat to facilitate your prayer.
We have confirmation on this from a hadith narrated by Anas bin Malik, where he mentioned that they used to pray with the Prophet Muhammad in the scorching heat, and when the ground was too hot to bare, they used to spread their clothes before them, such as a turban.
Al-Bukhari, Hadith 1208, Narrated by Anas Bin Malik
We used to pray with the Prophet in scorching heat, and if someone of us could not put his face on the earth (because of the heat) then he would spread his clothes and prostrate over them.
So in summary, it is better to avoid purchasing and using professional prayer mats, and in the times when you do need something to separate yourself and the ground in prayer, stick to the Sunnah and use garments such as cloaks and turbans, or small cloths and household mats.
But while your prayer is still valid if you do use a prayer mat without animate or evil drawings, be very careful of developing a case of prayer mat bidah, and please remember the warning of the Prophet in the previously mentioned hadiths, where he was afraid of the mats markings putting him in to a trial. For the sake of Allah, if you avoid using the professionally made prayer mats, you will successfully avoid these issues.