Monday, 16 August 2010

Downsizing The Faithful

A renowned Pakistani English newspaper, for reasons best known to the editor, did NOT publish the following letter whose text I am reproducing here and whose title is: Downsizing The Faithful.

A prayer rug (musalla) is something that millions of Muslims use daily to offer prayers. Its ever-reducing dimensions worry me because in luxury hotels I encounter a 24”x36” size—fit only for little green men from planet Mars. Using this diminutive prayer rug, if one prostrates correctly, the feet stay out, and if one adjusts the feet, the forehead violates the boundaries. Moreover, in attempting to squeeze one’s entire body into the said dimensions makes one resemble a seated camel or a bag full of laundry.

The required ideal of being able to match one’s honesty of intention with the perfection in posture is so hard to achieve these days. Reproduced below are the Ahadith (sayings) of the messenger of Allah (peace on him) mentioned in Book 4, Hadīth 1002 of Sahih Muslim (also mentioned by Abu Awaanah, and Ibn Hibbaan):

“Maimuna reported: When the Apostle of Allah (peace on him) prostrated himself, if a lamb wanted to pass between his arms, it could pass.”

This explains how much space existed between his arms, as he prostrated, and the floor. Compare that space with the kind of miserly ‘sujood’ (prostration) we perform in our mosques because the Imams of the mosques force us to do so without correcting the situation.

In addition, in Book 4 (Sahih Muslim), Hadīth 997:
“Anas reported that the Messenger of Allah (peace on him) said: Observe moderation in prostration, and let none of you stretch out his forearms (on the ground) like a dog.”

At home, I am lucky to have a 25”x42” musalla that provides great tranquillity to my average frame. In many mosques, one finds carpets that indicate individual musalla size, but at prayer time—in an effort to squeeze Satan out of the rows of the faithful—men inconsiderately press against each other to render these markings meaningless. As a result, one finds it very difficult to raise one’s hands to pronounce the takbeer. Perhaps this is the reason we—unlike the rest of the world—love forming queues but only sideways. It seems that the musalla manufacturers calculate their profit margins carefully by downsizing us all and without considering an average Muslim’s dimensions.

Moreover, having patterns or pictures printed on a musalla is a distracting innovation (bidah). Now that five-star hotels have sprung up all around the Baitullah (House of Allah at Makkah), will we see hotel buildings or their logos on the prayer rugs of the future?

Before we forcibly turn the whole world into—well, just like ourselves—we need to get the size of the prayer rug correct by adhering to specified standards. The prayer rug needs to be of a comfortable size, neither too large nor very small, made out of decent materials (such as silk, wool, or cotton), and beautiful enough to make even a stone-hearted disbeliever fall down prostrate in praise of the Creator.

9 comments:

  1. This is true article. I am a Muslim and know the importance of this rug. Hope people will not forget what they used previously!! thanks for sharing

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  2. Very interesting... commerce wins everywhere!

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  3. Love letters? That's a nice (Islamic?!) nickname! Thanks for dropping by; I don't have much use for letters or love these days.
    :)

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  4. JB, try the smallish prayer rug some day when you're tired of Ashrams and retreats.
    :)

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  5. Yaar Tahir, how true. Good piece!
    Arif

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  6. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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  7. Thanks Arif pai jaan! You're the best optician!

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  8. very nice article, and the way you state things it occurs as if all the details are displaying right out of your words, mashaAllah.
    BTW, as long as I was able to perform sujood I had began to carry what you may have seen as a child's prayer rug, just so I have a clean space that I am confident of to make sajda, how do you like that idea? unfortunately I am no longer able to perform sujood due to physical constraints.
    Best wishes & regards.

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  9. Matloob sahib, thanks for your thoughts; your presence here was really MATLOOB! I write what truly bothers me (social, political, religious) or appeals to my sense of humour (Bollywood song parodies!). And I never fake it, which seems strange to some people.

    I'm sorry to hear about your health problem; may Allah grant you a speedy recovery so that you can prostrate on a large-sized prayer-rug!

    Regards, and do drop by more often!

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