The Prayer Rug by Shahbano Bilgrami: Summary and Analysis

Read below our complete notes on the poem “The Prayer Rug” by Shahbano Bilgrami. Our notes cover the introduction, summary, themes, and analysis of this poem.

The Prayer Rug Poem by Shahbano Bilgrami:

Threaded desire on a handloom,

Threaded fear, repentence,

Trepidation bound with the tears

Of generations

Fabric of enmeshed passions

Palliated by the rise and

Fall of earthly yet disinterested

Ship or solid  stone , daily rubbed

By blood and bone and flesh of

Weary human soul

Tear the skin stained with the

Purple of longing

Help the threaded body hanging

Distant, silhouetted from   the scaffold

Break the strangling fibers of the noose,

Let the spirit loose upon the heavens

In a moment of unravelling ecstasy.

The Prayer Rug Introduction:

The prayer rug is a classical didactic poem. The poem depicts the communion of Muslims with God while they are on the rug. The Muslims share everything on this prayer; feelings, emotions, tear, desires as well as they can seek forgiveness and repentance. Because they know God is intimately and intently listening to them. The poetess beautifully depicts the situation of a Muslim with all its mix feelings of joy and fear while he is on the prayer rug.

The Prayer Rug Summary:

In the first stanza, she discusses the condition of a man who is sitting on the Prayer Rug which is a special type of cloth used by Muslims to perform daily Prayers. She depicts the situation of a man sitting on this prayer rug and interacting with God Almighty. He is surrounded by desires of futures; these desires are of the prosperity in the future. She says that the man sitting on the prayer rug is full of desire. His desires for his own self and for his family are very great and he is asking God to fulfil these desires. At the same time, when he wants to ask for the desires, he get in the region of fear because of the wrong deeds he has done. He wants to repent and seek forgiveness of God. He wants that God will purify him and he will be given all what he desires for. In this ambivalent situation his tears roll down because he gets stuck of what to do; on one side he wants the desires to be fulfilled while on the other side he as ashamed and guilty of the bad deeds he has done. He does not understand whether to repent first or ask for desire.

In the second stanza the poetess becomes the mouth piece of the prayer rug. She says that this prayer rug knows the reality of this person. This prayer rug is aware of the rise and fall of all earthly man. She here points to Muslims who come to this prayer rug and shares everything with God because they know that they cannot hide their activities from God. She says that all the desires and bad deeds of human beings are narrated by these human beings to God on this rug. A somewhat related example is when Pharaoh. It is famous about him that in the day light he would announce that he was the god of his subjects but in the darkness of the night he would repent to one True God and would admit that he was doing wrong. So similar is the situation of Muslim whatever they do or they want, they come to prayer rug and communicates with God. She then says that this prayer rug is a disinterested in the activities of the human being. It is neither interested in the activities of any sort nor is it concerned with their hardships. The prayer rug is like a ship who takes the travelers to their destination; the prayer rug connects human beings to God spiritually because whenever they come to prayer rug to communicate with God, they come purified, physically. She says that these humans come and rug their forehead to seek repentance because they are rejected by every door and the last door for them is God. She says that whenever they get tired of the people of this world and their attitude then they long for the spiritual touch of God almighty. So they rush towards the prayer rug and plead in front of God for forgiveness.

The last stanza is the stanza of love and peace. She addresses human beings that whenever you sit on the prayer rug to ask for yourself, you must not forget those who are gone astray. She says that we must not neglect those who are in the dark and need our prayers. She wants us to come out of our self-conceited shell and think about those who are in need of us. Even God has said in Koran that you must ask forgiveness through the tongue of which you have not committed mistake, it clearly indicates that we must ask others to pray for us and it will benefit us. Similarly, other people who are away from the real path of God and are going to be doomed need our prayers. Because our prayers can change their destiny. She says this can give us the ecstatic feelings of joy because God has clearly said that He wants us to help His subjects because He can be found in His subjects.

The Prayer Rug Themes:


The major theme of this poem is humanity. The poetess wants us not to forget others when we want something for ourselves from God. And this is the message of the last address of Holy prophet in which he said whatever you want for yourself, you must want it for the others as well. This thing can really promote love and harmony in the society. This society is the combo of good and bad people. Bad people are bad people because they are on the wrong track so we need to pray for them to bring them back to the true path.

The Prayer Rug Analysis:

  • The poem has a strong sense of Almighty God`s mercy. She tells us that whatever we do whether right or wrong, God listens to us and helps through our thick and thin.
  • She also sheds light on the limitations of man that whatever a man does, he cannot escape from the catch of God. So before doing anything he must think that God is watching him.
  • Another side of this poem is that the doors of God`s mercy are always open. Man needs to ask forgiveness and be repentant every time because he, unconsciously, commits mistakes on daily basis.
  • The end is worth reading because it gives the message of harmony in humanity. She is urging humans not to break the string of harmony and to tight it to the extant by giving helping hands to each other.