Prayer rug. Jai-namaj. This intricate piece of intertwined silk and cotton is a staple in every Muslim house, with each family often having multiple placed in different rooms for it to be accessible whenever the time comes. Typically, these are nothing more than a medium to which Muslims pray to Allah but to my father, it is so much more. The late 1960s were not a good time to be a Bangladeshi. Bangladesh was in the middle of a brutal revolutionary war against Pakistan, a war for independence and a separate cultural identity. Buildings were burned to the ground and villages were plundered, including my fathers. He witnessed his neighbors being dragged off into the night or executed in front of their families and he could not let his fate end the same way. He was too young to fight but his parents were too old and weak to run. His mother forced him to leave and gave him everything she had: money, food, clothing, and this prayer rug. He couldn't leave, but he had to. He was gone for 5 years until he heard news of the end of the war and within a week, he was back home. He was delighted to see that his father was let out of the Pakistani prison after the war was over but that happiness was short-lived because he soon found out that his mother was executed before the war had ended. His last interaction with his mother was of her stuffing this prayer rug in his backpack with tears in her eyes, telling him to be safe and since then, he never goes anywhere without this jai-namaj.
– Omar Siddique