Look How Contemporary Artists Negotiate Sacred and Profane on Prayer Rug

Each rug has magical powers ranging from Invisibility, Time Travel, Teleportation to being Bulletproof, Fireproof, and Evil-Eye Proof. 

Carpets found fame through Disney’s “Aladdin,” where they were imagined to have the power to fly. However, prayer carpets actually have a much more mundane daily use among Muslims.

Some have Talismanic powers said to bring the owner luck and keep them away from digital harm. Almost all the rugs levitate.

Every day, five times a day, millions of Muslims around the world perform salat, a ritual prayer, and do just that—upon a prayer rug.

The prayer rug, though not a necessity, marks a clean physical space and the intention to supplicate. It is treated with the utmost care, lasting a lifetime or even generations.

Muslim carpets have been traditionally produced for centuries in Muslim majority regions, sometimes known as “the rug belt,” spanning from Morocco to Central Asia and northern India. There is a wide variety of designs and materials.

It is common to find symbols such as the prayer niche, a recess in the wall indicating the direction of Mecca; also a lamp, which is a reference to God; as well as flowers and trees that symbolize the abundance of nature in God’s paradise.

Now, contemporary Muslim artists are upturning the traditional decorative vocabulary of the prayer rug to foster understanding of an often misrepresented religion.

These new rugs manipulate traditional patterns, distort dimensions, and reframe our thinking on what rugs can be.

These artists plucking the prayer rug out of Oriental tradition and incorporating elements of contemporary culture like UFOs, sneakers, and hip-hop lyrics and using unconventional materials.

Saks Afridi was born 1975 in Pakistan. His work exists in a term as ‘Sci-Fi Sufism’, which is about discovering galaxies and worlds within yourself.

“I try to visualize this search by fusing mysticism and storytelling. I make art objects in multiple mediums and I draw inspiration from Sufi poetry, Afrofuturism, South Asian folklore, Islamic mythology, Science Fiction, Architecture, and Calligraphy.”

Samira Idroos is an artist born and raised in California. Born to Muslim Sri Lankan immigrants in Los Angeles. Where she currently lives and works. With a foundation in painting her most recent works have been a deconstruction of perception and history of Islamic prayer rugs. Her most recent works explore the confluence of pop culture and religion through an inquiry into abstraction and direct preservation of language.

Baseera Khan is a New York-based visual artist who sublimates colonial histories through performance and sculpture in order to map geographies of the future.


“I collage distinct and often mutually exclusive cultural references to explore the conditions of alienation, displacement, assimilation, and fluidity.”

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