Common Acts of Religious Excessiveness (Ghuluww) Regarding “Prayer Rugs”

In the Name of Allaah, the Most Gracious, the Ever Mercilful…

Allaah says, addressing the Jews and Christians with a stern admonition that Muslims are required to also heed and live by:

يا أهل الكتاب لا تغلوا في دينكم
“O people of the Book!  Do not go overboard in your religion!” [1]

His Messenger (may Allaah raise his rank and grant him peace) said:

إياكم والغلو فإنما أهلك من كان قبلكم الغلو
“Be warned against ghuluww (religious excessiveness), since that which destroyed the people who came before you was ghuluww!” [2]

To help fulfill this Prophetic order, this series of brotherly reminders highlights some everyday manifestations of religious excessiveness that Muslims may commonly fall into, so that we can be on guard against them and warn others of them.

Obsession with Prayer Mats, Rugs, and Carpets

The narrations found in Saheeh al-Bukhaaree and elsewhere, describing the Prophet (may Allaah raise his rank and grant him peace) praying on a khumrah [small mat] and a haseer [large mat] show the permissibility of praying on other than the bare ground. A few of the scholars held the opinion that the prayer may only be offered on the bare ground, so these narrations are a proof against their position. They do not provide a proof for the one who takes this action as part of his Religion, since the Companions did not take this as a religious matter. Rather, they understood it to be permissible, and thus prayed on mats, bedding, clothing, etc. whenever it made sense, for example: In the extreme heat to protect oneself from the heat of the ground.

Furthermore, the scholars have stated that it is better for a person to pray directly on the ground if he is able.  Shaykh al-Islaam Ibn Taymiyyah said:

The ahaadeeth and the aathaar (narrations from the Prophet, may Allaah raise his rank and grant him peace, and the Companions) show that they used to prefer placing their foreheads directly on the bare ground if they were able, and when necessary, like in extremely hot weather and the likes, they would pray with something between them and the ground, using something they had with them: a part of their clothing, turban, or cap… [3]

However, if someone still holds that these narrations prove the legislated nature of praying on what people today call “prayer rugs”, then we can look again to Shaykh al-Islaam (may Allaah have Mercy on him) who responded to this argument from a number of angles:

1. The Prophet (may Allaah raise his rank and grant him peace) did not pray on them consistently, rather he prayed on them only occasionally, and for a reason, like the extreme heat or the likes. [As opposed to those who make it their Religion to pray on them all the time.]

2. That which the Prophet (may Allaah raise his rank and grant him peace) prayed upon was small in size, just big enough for one’s prostration or slightly larger, unlike the full-body sized “prayer rugs” the people have.

3. The Prophet (may Allaah raise his rank and grant him peace) did not pray on them thinking to protect himself from najaasah (impurities), or just to be sure of the purity of his prayer area, as the people who do not pray except on “prayer rugs” do.

4. It is not something the Prophet (may Allaah raise his rank and grant him peace) told the Companions to do, and thus they used to pray directly on the ground.  So if it was recommended or “Sunnah” to do it, then they would have done it.

5. The Prophet’s masjid (may Allaah raise his rank and grant him peace) had a dirt floor, and while he had access to the mats, bedding, and other things mentioned in the narrations, he did not take any of these things into the masjid to pray on them. [4]

Furthermore, it could be added:

6. The Prophet (may Allaah raise his rank and grant him peace) did not used to place one mat upon another, as the “prayer rug” fanatics do, placing their rug on top of carpet or another rug or layer of carpet.

7. He did not have pictures of the Ka’bah, other masjids, colored designs, Allaah’s Names, etc. on the mat he used occastionally, unlike that of the “prayer rug” fanatics.  Instead, he would keep such visual distractions away from his prayer area, as he returned a garment that had markings on it for one that did not in order not to be distracted in his prayer, and it is reported that Ibn ‘Umar used to remove visual distractions (like swords and mus-hafs) from the qiblah direction in the masjids.

8. He did not have the pride that would keep one from placing his face on the bare ground, as he used to prostrate directly on it, even when it was moist and remained on his forehead.  Those obsessed with prayer rugs could never imagine doing such a thing.

Muslims today may often unnecessarily delay their prayers to search for a so-called “prayer rug”, while the Prophet (may Allaah raise his rank and grant him peace) declared the entire earth as a place of purification and prayer. [5]

They may also pay large amounts of money for special  imported “prayer rugs” thinking them to have some benefit or special significance related to piety.

ACTION PLAN to Shun Excessiveness

Here are a few steps to help those who have become attached to “prayer rugs” wean themselves:

-1- Keep your house clean, and make some prayers in your house without any additional rugs or mats.

-2- The next time you go out to the park when it is prayer time (and there is no masjid nearby), simply pray at a clean place at the park, like at a clean, grassy area, the kind of place you would sit down to have a picnic. Put your forehead directly on the ground, no problem.

-3- Think of other uses for the “prayer rugs” – like: coffee table covers, office chair cushions, eating mats, or even welcome mats. They are not “holy rugs” that must be revered. If you are worried about disrespecting images of the Ka’bah or other masjids, then cut them up into pieces so the images are not clear, and use them for rags.

And Allaah knows best.

Written by: Moosaa Richardson

ST Archives – Originally published: 06-26-2005


[1] Soorah an-Nisaa’ (4:171)

[2] Collected by Ahmad (1/215), an-Nasaa’ee, Ibn Maajah, and others.  Al-Haakim (1/466) graded it saheeh (authentic) according to the conditions of al-Bukhaaree and Muslim.  See: Silsilat al-Ahaadeeth as-Saheehah (#1283).

[3] Majmoo’ al-Fataawee (22/172)]

[4] Summarized from Majmoo’ al-Fataawee (22/175-179)

[5] Al-Bukhaaree and Muslim collected the following hadeeth:

أعطيت خمسا لم يعطهن أحد قبلي: نصرت بالرعب مسيرة شهر، وجعلت لي الأرض مسجدا وطهورا، فأيما رجل من أمتي أدركته الصلاة فليصل، وأحلت لي المغانم ولم تحل لأحد قبلي، وأعطيت الشفاعة، وكان النبي يبعث إلى قومه خاصة وبعثت إلى الناس عامة 

 “I have been given five things that were not give to anyone before me:

  • I have been given victory (over my enemies in battle) before reaching them by a month.
  • The (entire) earth has been made for me as a place of prayer and purification, so when the time for prayer comes upon anyone in my Ummah let him pray wherever he is.
  • The spoils of war have been made halaal (permissible provisions) for me, and they had never been made halaal for anyone before me.
  • I have been given (the right of) intercession. 
  • A prophet used to be sent to his people specifically, while I have been sent to all of humanity.”

This is the wording of al-Bukhaaree.

12 thoughts on “Common Acts of Religious Excessiveness (Ghuluww) Regarding “Prayer Rugs”

  1. As salaamu ‘alaykum wa rahmatullaah wa barakaatuh:

    Akramak Allaah! Is there any problem in using a mat for those who are elderly and need the extra cushion to prostrate?

    And with regard to the size of a prayer mat, it reached me that prostrating one’s forehead only on a mat or something similar would resemble the practice of the shee’ah. If this is true, what limbs should prostrate on a mat without going to the extreme in size?

  2. As-Salaamu Alaykum wa Rahmatullahi wa Barakatu,

    Jazakallahu khayran, and thank you for this beneficial advice. This is an internal battle many of us face frequently, and it is good to see it laid out so clearly. Additionally, the advice for how we can correct ourselves is really useful.

    Should we worry about common areas where people may track impurities from public restrooms, or where it is known that dogs walk (though reasonably expected that the dogs don’t defecate or urinate there), or other worrisome things like this? Or are they not worrisome after all?

    Also, what if something from the ground does stick to either our forehead, hands, or knees during the prayer? Is it permissible to wipe it off during the prayer, or should we wait until we finish the salat?

    May Allah reward you with the good of this life and of the hereafter, and may Allah increase you in knowledge.

  3. للفائدة أيضا
    قال ابن تيمية في مجموع الفتاوى (22|192): «فإذا كان النبي وأصحابه يصلون في نعالهم ولا يخلعونها، بل يطؤون بها على الأرض ويصلون فيها، فكيف يظن أنه كان يتخذ سجادة يفرشها على حصير أو غيره ثم يصلي عليها؟! فهذا لم يكن أحد يفعله من الصحابة. وينقل عن مالك أنه لما قدم بعض العلماء وفرش في مسجد النبي شيئا من ذلك، أمر بحبسه، وقال: “أما علمت أن هذا في مسجدنا بدعة؟!”».

    وقال ابن قيم الجوزية في “إغاثة اللهفان” (ص126) : «وكذلك ترى أحدهم لا يصلِّي إلا على سجادة ، ولم يصل عليه السلام على سجادة قط ، ولا كانت السجادة تفرش بين يديه ، بل كان يصلِّي على الأرض ، وربما سجد في الطين ، وكان يصلِّي على الحصير فيصلي على ما اتفق بسطه ، فإن لم يكن ثمة شيء، صلَّى على الأرض »

  4. Assalāmu’alaikum what a beneficial read BārakAllāhu fīk, just a slight correction entire earth is pure for salāh except the place of relief i.e toilets and the graveyard, as is mentioned in the hadīth.

    • wa ‘alaykas-salaam. That’s not a correction. Its an explanation of a generality. And its welcome here, may Allaah bless you. The reason I say it is NOT a correction is that we don’t “correct” a hadeeth of the Prophet (may Allaah raise his rank and grant him peace), but we may explain it and give specific details to its generality. The Messenger of Allaah (may Allaah raise his rank and grant him peace) is the one who said the whole earth has been made a place of purification and prayer. So when we exempt toilets and graveyards (or even camel pens or stolen real estate), we are not correcting a hadeeth, we are explaining it. And Allaah knows best.

      • as salaamu ‘alaykum wa rahmatullahi wa barakaatuh,

        Can you mention the proof for the impermissibility of praying on stolen real estate?

        BaarakaAllahu feeka.

        • wa ‘alaykas-salaamu wa rahmatullaahi wa barakaatuh. There is no specific proof to prohibit praying on stolen land. However, the generality of the impermissibility of stealing includes everything that comes after it, all benefits of owning the stolen property, like selling it, using it, living on it, praying on it, giving charity from it, etc. None of those things are permissible based on the simple idea that it is not allowed to steal in the first place. The same can be said about stolen clothes – It is not allowed to pray in them because it is not allowed to steal them and have them in your possession in the first place. It is an obligation on the thief that he repent from stealing and return the stolen property to its rightful owner. And Allaah knows best.

          • “There is no specific proof” is a slip of the pen (or keyboard). “I do not know of any specific proof” is how a student of knowledge should speak. May Allaah guide us all to the manners He loves most from His servants.

  5. Assalaamu alaikum. My question is about the positioning of the prayer mat. There was this time when I prayed in a masjid, with my friend and we had only one prayer mat. So I positioned it lanscape. But then, someone stopped me fron doing so, cause he said it is prohibited. I just thought they are only being extremists. But I stopped in the name of respect. The design of the prayer mat is just like the munaarah with long body, like a lamp. Shukran.

    • Wa ‘alaykas-salaamu wa rahmatullaah. I would assume your masjid already has carpet, and if so there is no need for an additional mat. And when you do need a mat, because of a need, like hot ground or filth, then there is no need to turn it any specified way.

  6. Assalam alaykum wa rahmatullaahi wa barakatuhu.

    Alhamdulillah that was very insightful. I just wanted to clarify about when praying at home, is it more correct that you pray straight on the ground rather than on one of these prayer mats? And are we only to pray on these prayer mats when there is a need like heat and not to if there isn’t a need? I was unaware of the issue until I read this article now and have been praying on a prayer mat for all my prayers at home.
    baarakAllahu feek.

    • Wa ‘alayk as-salaamu wa rahmatullaahi wa barakaatuh. Islam is easy, just keep your home clean and pray anywhere in it on the clean floor. If you have a wooden or tile floor that would be painful to sit on directly, then put down a simple rug to avoid any hardship, not because Muslims pray on special “prayer rugs” though. And Allaah knows best.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.