(RNS) — A Muslim convert, Mustafa Dustin Craun cherishes a brown prayer rug he bought on his first Umrah pilgrimage to the sacred site of Mecca more than 15 years ago.Unlike the Hajj, the mandatory pilgrimage to Mecca, Umrah is a voluntary spiritual journey, which Craun performed in 2007. While in Saudi Arabia, he ventured to Medina, where the Prophet Muhammad is buried and where Craun found his prayer mat. It has been with him everywhere he has moved since — Mexico, Ghana, Morocco and San Diego, California, where Craun has been working on a documentary about a Muslim group he helped found, known as Border Mosque, that met at the U.S.-Mexico border to pray alongside a nonsectarian Christian ministry.
Craun has organized places for Muslims to pray during the Occupy Oakland demonstrations in 2011 and at other protests throughout California, and in 2020 he launched the nonprofit Center for Global Muslim Life.
To Craun, “there’s a profound impact on us praying collectively in public and making prayer a public conversation,” he said.
RELATED: At Border Mosque, a Muslim prayer is shared across the US-Mexico divide
Now, Craun is spearheading the Global Prayer Rug Project, an international competition and local initiative aimed at showcasing innovative prayer rug designs from the U.S. and around the world.
Mustafa Dustin Craun. Video screen grab
An Islamic prayer mat’s basic function is cleanliness. Muslims are supposed to pray five times a day — at dawn, noon, mid-afternoon, sunset and evening — and they can’t always choose the ground on which they pray. Prayer rugs are not just physical manifestations of devotion; …