One of the subjects which has attracted the attention of both Sunnis and Wahhabis is why the Shi‘ahs prostrate on soil from Karbala, known as the soil [turbat] of Imam al-Husayn (as). They question the essence of this prostration and wonder whether it is for Imam al-Husayn (as) or the soil itself. We will now examine this topic to make this issue clear.
The Shi‘ah scholars [‘ulama’] do not say that it is obligatory [wajib] to prostrate on soil from Karbala. They have said that it is permissible to prostrate on any clay, earth and dust in general. Because of the fact that the soil from Karbala has special distinctions, it is considered preferable and more desirable to prostrate on it.
It can be deduced from a number of verses of the Holy Qur’an that certain lands have been blessed and have special distinctions over other lands. Allah, the Exalted, says,
﴿ إِنَّ أَوَّلَ بَيتٍ وُضِعَ لِلنّاسِ لَلَّذِي بِبَکَّةَ مُبارَکاً وَهُديً لِلْعالَمِينَ ﴾
“Most surely the first house appointed for men is the one at Bekka, blessed and a guidance for the nations.”1
And He also says,
﴿ وَقُلْ رَبِّ أَنْزِلْنِي مُنْزَلاً مُبارَکاً وَأَنْتَ خَيْرُ اَلمُنْزِلِينَ ﴾
“And say: O my lord! Cause me to disembark a blessed alighting, and Thou art the best to cause to alight.”2
Another Qur’anic verse says,
﴿ وَنَجَّيْناهُ وَلُوطاً إِلى الأَرْضِ الَّتِي بارَکْنا فِيها لِلْعالَمِينَ ﴾
“And We delivered him as well as Lut (removing them) to the land which We had blessed for all people.”3
Talking about the Prophet Moses (as), the Holy Qur’an says,
﴿ إِذْ ناداهُ رَبُّهُ بِالْوادِ المُقَدَّسِ طُوَي ﴾
“When his Lord called upon him in the holy valley, twice.”4
And likewise, while addressing him, the Holy Qur’an says,
﴿ فَاخْلَع نَعْلَيْكَ إِنَّكَ بِالْوادِ المُقَدَّسِ طُوَي ﴾
“Therefore put off your shoes; surely you are in the sacred valley, Tuwa.”5
In a story about Sulayman, the Holy Qur’an says,
﴿ وَلِسُلَيْمانَ الرِّيْحَ عاصِفَةً تَجْرِي بِأَمْرِهِ إِلى الأَرْضِ الَّتِي بارَكْنا فِيها ... ﴾
“And We made subservient to Sulaiman the wind blowing violent, pursuing its course by his command to the land which We had blessed.”6
About the Holy Prophet of Islam, the Holy Qur’an says,
﴿ سُبْحانَ الَّذِي أَسْري بِعَبْدِهِ لَيْلاً مِنَ المَسْجِدِ الحَرامِ إِلى المَسْجِدِ الأَقْصي الَّذِي بارَکْنا حَولَهُ ... ﴾
“Glory be to Him who made His servant to go on a night from the Sacred Mosque to the Remote Mosque of which We have blessed the precincts.”7
1. Surat Al ‘Imran 3:96.
2. Surat al-Mu’minun 23:29.
3. Surat al-Anbiya’ 21:71.
4. Surat al-Nazi‘at 79:16.
5. Surat Ta Ha 20:12.
6. Surat al-Anbiya’ 21:81.
7. Surat al-Isra’ (or Bani Isra’il) 17:1.