The art of creating a mindful prayer space

Tasmiha Khan 7 May 2021

As mosques have had to shut or limit numbers due to the pandemic, many Muslims have had to pray at home instead. For some this has had a rejuvenating impact on their domestic lifestyle

During the COVID-19 pandemic, many Muslim people have lost the spaces they once turned to for prayer and reflection. While mosques have had to operate at limited capacity to facilitate social distancing, many Muslim people have created their own zen spaces at home for reflection and worship. Saleha Contractor, an artist, found herself praying in her home studio. Though she wouldn’t usually use her home in this way, she found that it provided a sense of calm.

“There were no distractions or the day-to-day mess that usually catches our eye and occupies our minds. Without a dedicated space, I find there is less zen and more of a piling to-do list that looms over us as our eyes wander around our surroundings,” she explains. Saleha wanted a prayer space with natural elements, so her oversized monstera plant created that perfect forest vibe as did her vibrant purple velvet prayer mat—a colour associated with creativity and royalty.

Monstera plant in a vase

“I surrounded the space with my calligraphy artwork. My favourite is my Raining Mercy print—it's in the form of a Kaaba [sacred Islamic site in the Mecca]. Every ornament speaks about our personality, so I placed vases and ornaments that I collected over the years. The kids and I had a blast collecting pampas grass locally to place into these vases for that earthy touch,” she adds.

Designer Julia Salameh, founder of Tea & Linen,  tries to create spaces that take inspiration from modern interior design movements and draw from Islamic philosophies, explaining that Swiss design teaches moderation and balance. “It values form as well as function. Islam, too, teaches the importance of moderation and balance. Many of the designs we see in the Islamic world are far from simple, but I don't think that was always the case,” Salameh explains. When trying to create a space for prayer removing excessive clutter is essential for Salameh. She mentions how decor can become clutter when done excessively.

“We're taught to strive for submission in prayer. In order to focus, it's critical to design your space to be calm. People don't realise it, but every choice we make when furnishing our rooms is a design choice. The colour of the paint, the prayer rug, the art on the wall, etc. Certain colours are calming and others energising. Finding a balance of design elements that bring peace, joy, inspiration that can directly affect the way we feel and how well we focus—in this case on prayer.”

For Julia, modern minimalism removes extra embellishments and leaves her with clean lines and simple colours, an aesthetic which reminds her of art from the Ottoman empire. Julia finds it fulfilling to furnish her home with elements that are modern, clean, functional and with roots in Islamic design.

For others, adding accents facilitates the zen vibe. Reem Judeh, a mother of two elementary school children who manages Islamic ModernWallArt places two golden stainless steel candle holders as an accent to her prayer room. But these holders are unlike others as they each embody the word, alhamdulillah, meaning praise be to Allah, and the shahahda, which embodies the oneness of God, both in Arabic calligraphy. They give off a reflective light when a small candle is lit and placed inside. Judeh opts for small flickering LED candles. She appreciates the silhouettes when the room dims as a reminder of her true purpose: to worship God. This not only gives her a sense of calmness but also a stronger connection to Allah.

Ramadan journal

Journalling is key to implementing a more mindful lifestyle

Lail Hossain, a mother and founder of an Islamic business, WithASpin, tells us how this pandemic has taught her family to find a space to reflect, create memories filled with love, togetherness and be gratefulThe pandemic has taught us that our homes not only have to look good but need the ability to be flexible. People are leaning towards more relaxing and casual abodes. With a little bit of organisation, the social spaces in our homes have morphed into productive home offices and home learning stations,” Hossain says.

"This pandemic has taught her family to find a space to reflect, create memories filled with love, and be grateful"

As a result of the pandemic, many Muslims have opted to customise their homes to create a semblance of peace that embodies zen. “The trend for decorating the walls with inspirational Quranic verses, calligraphy or other Islamic art free of human or animal figures has been increasing,” explains Hossain. “Many people are also opting for seamless indoor-outdoor spaces and experiences as well. As a proven way to reduce stress and increase air quality, houseplants have also become more than a trend,” Hossain adds.

Other Muslims have found writing to be an important way to reflect from their home. Lena Sarsour, co-founder of Nominal and a speech pathologist, frequently journals as it helps her find peace. “When I journal and reflect, I do my best to be honest with myself about my strengths and weaknesses and how they played out during that time in my life,” she explains. “I then game plan how I can strengthen those weaknesses, ask myself if they're worth strengthening instead of delegating, and then how I can double down on my strengths. All of this gives me more clarity, which then gives me more peace.”

"Other Muslims have found writing to be an important way to reflect"

This reconceptualising of the home space as a place for zen and reflection may continue even after the pandemic, as mosques and other places of worship begin to reopen as normal. The changes we’ve all been through in the past 12 months have morphed the way we think about our homes, and the importance of creating moments of serenity within them.

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