ZELLIJ - THE PORTAL TO MOROCCO’S SPIRITUAL ORIGINS
As the believer folds in prostration for their daily dose of spiritual connection with the Creator, the Lasouk prayer mat unfolds itself to reveal beautifully complex patterns known as zellij. A quintessential aspect of Moroccan charm, these colourful mosaic tile patterns have been lovingly chosen for the brand’s Marrakech edition of prayer mats.
Zellij is a Moorish artisan form of art deeply steeped in Moroccan history and present in Islamic art, architecture and craft in the regions of North Africa and Spain. These colourful tiles made of clay are precisely chiselled by the worn hands of skilled craftsmen to form a melange of geometric shapes, and then delicately pieced together on a plaster base to create a tessellated pattern of infinite inspiration. With each tile that is interlaced and arranged in intricate combinations, a tapestry is woven and the mind and heart immediately go into a trance, blinded by its endlessness.
The word zellij comes from the root Arabic word زَلَجَ, meaning “to slide”, referring to the smooth glazed surface of the tiles. Amazingly, at times, the intended shape is not created simply by chipping away at the clay bricks to form it, but instead by chiseling other precise shapes that when fit together, form the shape so desired (image required for illustration purposes). There are an infinite number of combinations of geometric shapes, many of which have been memorised by heart by the craftsmen who have been continuing and preserving this trade for centuries. Squares, triangles, diamonds, stars, polygons and crosses are made to fit perfectly and precisely to form orderly mosaic patterns. However ornamental in nature, zellij stresses the importance of unity, order and logic, which not-so-coincidentally are key teachings of Islam.
“I am simply fascinated by the use of geometrics in Islam and how it is thought to reflect the language of the universe. A language that transcends time and space, and aids the believer in the reflection of life and the greatness of God's creation. Circles are featured as they have no end in the infinite, hence serving as a reminder that God is infinite. For believers, beauty has always been and will always be a quality of the divine,” says Heikal Gani, co-founder of Lasouk.
In essence, zellij is a wholehearted expression of deep spiritual connection with the Creator. Geometric ornamentation was not created to fit within a frame. It hints at an intensified level of freedom that can be achieved when meeting with the Creator. These patterns go on and on in repetition but not without intention - they purposefully serve as reminders of God’s endlessness, bounty, grace, love and mercy, thereby illuminating the path towards Him.
Although traditionally used on the surfaces of mosques, riads and palatial buildings, Lasouk has incorporated zellij into the everyday by bringing its timeless and chic patterns into our homes so we may gaze upon the reflection of Allah’s mesmerising beauty.
“Our prayer mats are inspired by the raw, everyday beauty of Mococcan life and so we sought out to recreate that with Lasouk,” Heikal affirms. “Prayer mats in particular have always been treated like a commodity in the market. There isn’t much innovation happening, and I strongly feel that it’s due for a modern revamp. Lasouk prayer mats are eco-friendly, biodegradable, made with natural rubber and are anti-slip. We have a home and ‘musholla’ version which is suitable for traveling, or a trip to the mosque.”
The Marrakech edition of prayer mats pays tribute to the beautiful geometric patterns found by Lasouk founders, Heikal Gani and Nadja Felgenheier, on their encounters in Morocco’s historical buildings, hotels and riads. “What’s beautiful about geometric patterns are how timeless they are, and can easily be adapted into our contemporary lifestyles,” Heikal explains. All the prayer mats are finished with a gold eight-pointed star, a symbolic ‘seal of the prophets’ which not only has ideological meanings in Islam but play great importance to Sufi mystics, who to Heikal, represent wholeness, strength and perfection.
The contrast between the dusty, hot environment the tiles are made in and the finished product of cool, vibrant and smooth zellij is a strong one, and not many artisans are left to carry on this important tradition. The craftsmanship of zellij is in danger of being lost forever to lack of youth interest in the trade, but Lasouk seeks to raise its awareness and keep the demand for this tradition alive, albeit on a much smaller scale.
The brand is also currently working with Efamorocco, a local Moroccan charity that aims to empower underprivileged girls with little to no access to proper education. For every few hundred prayer mats sold, Lasouk will fund a student’s education and boarding for one whole year.
To shop our prayer mats, click here (hyper link to https://www.lasouk.com/collections/home-version)