Prostration on Clay
All Shi’ah ‘ulamà’ unanimously agree on the preferability of prostrating on the earth, in accordance with the tradition they report from the Messenger of Allah (S): “The best prostration is on the earth.”
In another narration, he (S) said:
“It is not permissible to prostrate but only on the earth, or any plant coming out from it, provided it be unedible and unwearable.”
The author of Wasà’il al-Shi’ah, reports from Muhammad ibn ‘Ali ibn al-Husayn, with the authority of Hishàm ibn al-Hakam, from Abu ‘Abd Allàh (A) that he said: Prostration on the earth is preferable since it is more extremely indicative of modesty, and submission to Allah, the Mighty and the Glorious.” In another narration, he reported from Muhammad ibn al-Hasan, through his isnàd from Ishaq ibn al-Fadl, that he questioned Abu ‘Abd Allàh (al-’Imàm al-Sàdiq) [A] about prostration on mats (hasir) woven from reed (qasab). He (A) replied: There is no objection to it, but to prostrate on earth is more preferable to me, and the Messenger of Allah, may God’s peace and benediction be upon him and his Progeny, liked this, that to make the forehead touch the earth. I like for you whatever was liked by the Messenger of Allah (S).”
Whereas the Sunni ‘ulamà’ see no objection to prostrate on pens (zaribah) and carpets, though they prefer it to be (reedy) mats.
There are some narrations reported by al-Bukhàri and Muslim in their Sahihs, confirming the Messenger’s having a mat made of palm leaves, using it for prostration. Muslim reported in his Sahih under kitàb al-hayd, on the aurhotiy of Yahya ibn Yahya and Abu Bakr ibn Abi Shaybah, from Abu Mu‘àwiyah, from al-’A’mash, from Thabitt ibn ‘Ubayd, from al-Qasim ibn Muhammad, from ‘A’ishah who said: The Messenger of Allah (S) said to me, hand me the khumrah from the mosque. She says: I said: I am menstruant. He said: Your menstruation is not from your hands.278 (Muslim says: Al-Khumrah is a small rug-like, with the size enough for prostration).
The evidence indicating that the Messenger of Allah was much preferring prostration on earth, can be sought in the tradition reported by al-Bukhàri in his Sahih, on the authority of Abu Sa‘id al-Khudri (may God be pleased with him), who said that the Messenger of Allah, may God’s peace and benedictions be upon him and his Progeny, used to seclude himself during the second ten days of the Month of Ramadàn. He kept on this habit for one year, till the coming of the twenty-first night, the morning of which he was supposed to end his seclusion, when he said: Whoever secluded himself with me, should do so in the last ten days. I saw this night, and was made to forget it; I saw myself (in dream) wading in water and mud, in its morning. So seek it (the night) in the last ten days, and in every odd night. At that very night, it rained, and the mosque which was supported by a trellis, started to leak, when my eyes felt on the Messenger of Allah, may God’s peace and benediction be upon him and his Progeny, seeing the trace of water and mud on his forehead, in the morning of the twenty-first day.279
The other evidence demonstrating the Companions’ preferring prostration on earth, in the presence of the Prophet (S), being the hadith reported by al-’Imàm al-Nasà’i in his Sunan, under “bàb tabrid al-hasà Lis-sijud ‘alayh” (cooling the stones for prostrating on them), who said: Qutaybah informed us and said, ‘Abbàd reported, from Muhammad ibn ‘Amr, from Sa’id ibn al-Harth, from Jàbir ibn ‘Abd Allàh, who said: When we were performing the zuhr prayers with the Messenger of Allah (S), I picked up a handful of stones in the palm of my hand, cooling them and shifting them to the other palm, and when prostrating I would place them to put my forehand on.280
Added to this, the hadith uttered by the Prophet (S):
“The earth is made for me a place for prostration (masjid) and a purifier.”281
He also said:
“The earth as a whole is made to us a place for prostration and its soil made a purifier.”282
Why are Muslims then be fanatic against the Shi’ah because of their prostration on earth instead of zaràbi (moquette)?
And how dare they to charge them with impiety, reviling and defaming them, falsely and calumniously with the charge of being idolaters?
Further how do the Saudis beat them (the Shi‘ah) merely for keeping the turbah (piece of clay on which foreheads are put) in their pockets or bags?
Is this truly the Islam that commands us to respect each other, and never insult any monotheist Muslim witnessing that there is no god but Allah and Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah, establishing prayers, pyaing the poor-due, fasting the Month of Ramadàn and making pilgrimage to the House of Allah (Makkah)? And can it stand to reason that the Shi’i undergoes all those troubles, sustaining all those losses to make pilgrimage to the House (Ka’bah), and visit the Prophet’s tomb, while being worshippers of stones, as some people desire to portray?
Can’t the Sunnis be convinced with the statement of the Martyr Muhammad Bàqir al-Sadr, which I quoted in my first book Thumma Ihtadayt (Then I was guided), when I asked him about the piece of clay (on which they put their foreheads during their prayers, calling it al-turbah, and he answered thus: We all prostrate on the dust for Allah, but not for the dust, as some people claim that the Shi’ah do. And there is difference between prostration on the dust and prostration for the dust! For the prostration is only for Allah, praise be to Him the Highest.
And when the Shi’i takes care so as the place of his prostration be pure and accepted by Allah, responding to the commands of the Messenger of Allah and the Pure Imams of Ahl al-Bayt. Especially nowadays where all mosques being carpetted with soft moquette, which are made of unknown material to all the Muslims, and never be made in Islamic countries, besides some of them being made of materials on which prostration is forbidden... are we to discard and renounce the Shi’i who is concerned about the validity of his salàt, and accuse him of being infidel and polytheist just for a fictitious suspicion?
The Shi’i who cares about the affairs of his Din (religion), particularly his salàt which is the backbone of religion (‘amud al-Din), taking off his belt and watch whose band is made of leather of unknown origin; and sometimes his foreign trousers so as to pray in a loose and waving trousers, for the only reason to take precaution and attaching much importance to that magnificent halting before Allah, so as not to meet his Lord with any undeirable thing ... does all this deserve to be met with all this scorning and aversion, or it should be met with respect and exaltation? Since he has magnified the offerings consecrated to Allah, as said in the Qur’àn: “And whoever respecteth the signs of God verily it is (the reflection) of the piety of the hearts.” (22:32)
O bondmen of Allah, fear the wrath of Allah and speak words straight to the point. Allah says:
“And had it not been God’s grace upon you and His mercy in this world and the hereafter, indeed had seized you for the slander ye entered into, a grievous chastisement.” (24:14, 15)
278. Sahih Muslim, Vol. I, p. 168, "bàb jawàz ghasl al-hà'id ra's zawjihà"; Sunan Abi Dàwud, Vol. I, p. 68, "bàb al-hà'id tunàwil min al-masjid".
279. Sahih al-Bukhàri, Vol. II, p. 256, "bàb al-'i'tikàf fi al-`ashr al-'awàkhir".
280. Sunan al-'Imàm al-Nasà'i, Vol. II, p. 204, "bàb tabrid al-hasa li al-sujud 'alàyh".
281. Sahih al-Bukhàri, Vol. I, p. 86, "kitàb al-tayammum".
282. Sahih Muslim, Vol. II, p. 64, "kitàb al-masàjid wa mawàdi' al-salàt".
Adapted from the book: "To Be With the Truthful" by: "Muhammad al-Tijani al-Samawi"
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