This trend prevails mostly within the Oriental cultural circle where the carpet making tradition has always been strong, deeply rooted and highly developed. In this case, Turkish prayer rugs may serve as one of the most notable examples.
Over the course of history, art and religion have frequently been closely related. Almost every civilization can boast of its individual heritage of sacred art which sometimes encompasses not only the fields of paining, architecture or sculpture, but also the rug weaving. This trend prevails mostly within the Oriental cultural circle where the carpet making tradition has always been strong, deeply rooted and highly developed. In this case, Turkish prayer rugs may serve as one of the most notable examples.
Since the Turks converted to Islam, they have devoted themselves to Islamic art and involved it into their everyday life. A devoted Muslim is supposed to pray five times a day at specific hours. To respectfully worship Allah, one must perform the ablution and find a relatively clean place to kneel and prostrate first. Such precepts were partly responsible for the creation of Turkish prayer rugs which came to the assistance of the followers and made sure that each equipped in a rug was ever prepared for the proper worshipping of God. The importance of these remarkable weaving pieces is expressed in the wide variety of their designs combining the traditional Oriental rug patterns with the religion-inspired motifs which over time have also become the classics.
The entire design of a prayer rug centers around a niche. It is symbol of mihrab in every mosque – a directional point to Mecca which is the alleged place of Muhammad’s birth. A niche – usually supported by two columns, containing a hanging lamp or flower inside, surrounded by four spandrels, one in each corner – is supposed mark the proper position for the believer 2-4 feet wide and 4-8 feet long rug. In nomadic or village examples of prayer rugs the niche is rather geometric, simple and angular, whereas formal and city rugs distinguish themselves by the more ornamental and rounded style. Due to the Islamic proscription known as Aniconism, the depiction of animals and humans on prayer rugs, and in art in general, used to be strictly forbidden as a condemnation of idolatry. Nonetheless, this limitation has motivated the artisans to push their imagination to the limits and invent a dazzling array of motifs, including the arabesque, the tree of life, and all sorts of intricate flowery or foliage patterns. The majority of designs that we see presently on Turkish prayer rugs was developed as early as in the 9th century. Besides the decorative purpose, they also serve as a reminder –a comb and a pitcher appear quite frequently to aid the worshiper’s memory and ensure he washes his hands and combs his hair before the prayer. An emblem of handprints, on the other hand, is there to help the newly converted Muslims place their palms in a right position.
Everything in Turkish prayer rugs is well-thought-out and deeply symbolic but most importantly – beautiful. These exceptional carpets have always been appreciated not only for their practical, religion-related function but also for the upmost artistic value. Nowadays they fascinate the collectors of all religions who, above all, cherish their fine execution and the unique range of designs.