Since Muslims are required to pray five times a day, and praying at home, work, school, or on-the-go is a necessary part of life for Muslims observing daily prayers. Having a dedicated prayer space at home is not a requirement in Islam, it can be a huge convenience given the frequency with which Muslims pray. The following article is a guide to help you set up your prayer space at home and can also be used to help you set up temporary prayer spaces when you find yourself praying while not at home or at a mosque.
Finding the qiblah (facing Makkah) is a prerequisite for setting up your prayer space. From the continental United States, the direction Muslims should pray to face Makkah is northeast. Depending on where you are in the world, you may have to offer your prayers in different directions. There are a few ways you can use technology to find the qiblah:
Once you’ve found the qiblah, ensure what you are facing and looking at while you are positioned towards the qiblah is not a statue of any sort. Islam has a very strong stance against idol worship and so statues of people and animals become an issue. For this reason, it is very important to make sure that a statue is not directly in front of you when you are facing the qiblah, just to make absolutely certain that a Muslim is not offering a prayer to someone or something other than Allah.
Where Muslims are Allowed to Pray
Muslims can pray almost anywhere in the world, but there are some prohibited areas. The Prophet Muhammad [saw] said, “All of the earth is a Masjid except for the graveyard and the washroom”(Jami` at-Tirmidhi 317). Except for two locations–a cemetery and a bathroom–there is no concept of only praying in a mosque in Islam. A coffee shop, next to a tree in a jungle, on a friend’s porch, or in a fitting room–all places that are fine to pray at. You get the idea! Sure, some spots are more sacred and special for Muslims, but Muslims don’t need to make their way to a local mosque or special area to offer all of their five daily prayers. Pretty much anywhere can do, isn’t that beautiful?
Ritual Purity of a Prayer Space
The next consideration is the ritual purity of the space you’ve chosen to pray. Things/places can be ritually pure or ritually impure in Islam. Ritual purity is different from what people would generally consider clean. Many would consider crumbs and spills from a meal all over the floor as dirty, but that floor would still be considered ritually pure from an Islamic perspective. However, it’s probably not a good idea to not be standing in a puddle of milk or to be placing your face against a dusty floor while you’re praying though, so you might clean up your space a little regardless of the ritual impurity. If you are praying outside, for example, and find a spot with leaves and twigs all over the ground, you may still want to brush them aside simply because it would be uncomfortable to pray on.
Ritually impure things, for example, are blood, urine, feces, sexual discharge/fluids, and saliva from a dog. So if a young child has an accident and urinates on the floor, the areas where the urine is in contact with would be considered ritually impure until the urine is removed and cleaned with water. However, technically speaking–if you are using a (waterproof…) prayer mat, it would be considered okay to pray in an area that may have ritual impurities there as long as you are not directly touching whatever is ritually impure. Using a prayer mat, although not necessary when offering prayers, is a great hack and mercy from Allah which can be particularly helpful if you have young, untrained children around and/or if you are in a place with a dog/s. That said, it is better to avoid praying in an area you know to have ritual impurities on it until it is cleaned or dealt with appropriately.
Tips for Setting Up Your Prayer Space
Many Muslims have a particular area in their homes where they offer prayer. This is not something mandatory in Islam, but it can be a convenience. A home prayer space can be a corner or small section of a room, or it can be a larger area or even an entire room–it doesn’t really matter and it all depends on what you have the space for in your home. After following the basic guidelines on what can make or break a prayer space, you can further beautify or add to your prayer space to inspire focus and calm to help you build a meaningful connection with Allah every time you pray.
There are some specific things you may buy to help make your prayer space special. These can include:
- a prayer rug: you can find these at a local Muslim-owned shop or online (commonly called sajjadah or janamaaz in Arabic and Urdu, respectively). The simpler the design on the rug, the better in my opinion!
- Free hack: a clean pillowcase or towel
- Clothing you wear for prayer: While you can pray in any clothing that covers the required areas of your body, you may have a set of prayer clothes you use in the home that you simply throw on over whatever you’re wearing. This is particularly relevant for women who have to observe full covering (nothing is showing except the hands to the wrist, feet to the ankles, and face) while praying. Many cultures around the world have their own versions of prayer clothing (like Malaysia, Palestine, Pakistan, Somalia) and are one or two pieces. You can search for options online or at a Muslim-owned shop by the following terms: prayer clothes, salah outfit, prayer hijab, khimar, namaz dupatta, or chadar.
- Prayer beads: although far from essential, many Muslims like to use prayer beads (also called a misbaha) after the ritual daily prayer is over to repeat praises of Allah
- Free hack: your fingers! (Count the three areas in between the knuckles on each finger and you get 33 on one hand–repeat this three times and you have got a built-in counter that goes up to 99 very easily).
- Prayer clock: this can help you keep track of prayers in the home by playing the Islamic call to prayer (adhaan) or displaying the start of the next prayer time or listing the times for all prayer times. With the popularity of prayer apps on smartphones that list prayer times of the day and have notification sounds (like the option to play the adhaan), this may be a bit obsolete.
- organizer/container or some sort: you may have a large basket, rack, hooks on a door, chair, or drawer to put your prayer rug/clothes away and store them away while you are not praying.
- Free hack: something around the house you already own, like a chair or cabinet
Your prayer space at home is the sanctuary you are creating to help you perform the mandatory five daily prayers that Allah has asked you to offer every day. I hope these guidelines and tips have helped you think about setting up your at-home prayer space or revamping it for Ramadan.
Meena Malik is a writer and high school English teacher by training. You can find many of her writings at muslimmatters.org and listen to her newly launched podcast,
Brown Teacher Reads.