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Why do the Shī‘ah prostrate on turbah [dried clay

Why do the Shī‘ah prostrate on turbah [dried clay

 

           

                                               

Reply: Some think that prostration on the earth or turbah taken from the burial site of martyrs is tantamount to worshipping it and consider it a form of polytheism [shirk].

In reply to this question, it must be noted that there is a great difference between the phrase, “as-sujūd lillāh” [prostration for Allah], and “as-sujūd ‘ala’l-ar [prostration on earth]. The problem of the mentioned people is that they fail to distinguish between the meanings of the two phrases.

It is clear that the meaning of “as-sujūd lillāh” is “prostration for the sake of Allah” while “as-sujūd ‘ala’l-ar” means “prostration on the earth”. In other words, by prostrating on earth we prostrate for the sake of God, and in principle, all Muslims of the world prostrate on something for the sake of God. All pilgrims to the House of God prostrate on the stones of Masjid al-Ḥarām in the same way but their aim is prostrating for the sake of God.

Given this, it becomes clear that prostration on earth, plant byproduct, etc. does not mean worshipping them but it means prostrating for the sake of God and worshipping Him by lowering oneself and getting close to earth. Similarly, it becomes clear that prostration on turbah is different from prostration for turbah.

On one hand, the Holy Qur’an states:

وَٱلأرْضِ ٱلسَّمَٰوَٰتِ فِي مَن يَسْجُدُ وَللهِ ﴿

“To Allah prostrates whoever there is in the heavens and the earth.”[1]

Also, the Holy Prophet () says:

”جُعِلَتْ لِيَ الأَرْضُ مَسْجِداً وَ طَهُوْراً.“

“The (pure) earth has been made for me as a place of prostration and an agent of purification.”

Therefore, “prostration for God” and “prostration on earth or turbah” are not only far from being inconsistent but they agree with each other completely. This is because prostration on earth or plant byproduct represents the highest form of meekness and humbleness before the One and Only God.

In order to clarify the Shī‘ah view, it is worth pointing to part of a speech by our great leader—Imām a-ādiq (‘a):

عمّا اخبرني :u الله عبد لأبي قلت قال: الحكم ابن هشام عن

لايجورْ السّجُود :قال لايجوز؟ عمّا و عليه السّجُود يجوز

فقلت .لبس أو أكُل ما إلاّ الأرض أنبتت ما أو الأرض إلاّعلىٰ

هو السجود لأنّ قال ذلك؟ في العلّة ما فداك جعلت له

و يؤكل ما علىٰ يكون أن فلاينبغي عزّوجلّ لله الخضوع

الساجد و يلبسون، و يأكلون ما عبيد الدّنيا أبناء لأنّ يلبس،

في جبهته يضع أن فلاينبغي عزّوجلّ الله عبادة في سجوده في

و .بغرورها اغتروا الّذين الدّنيا أبناء معبود على سجوده

الخضوع و التّواضع في أبلغ لأنّه أفضل الأرض على السجود

.عزّوجلّ لله

Hishām ibn al-akam says: “I asked Abū Abd Allāh (Imām a-ādiq) (‘a) regarding the things on which one is allowed to prostrate and the things on which one is not allowed to prostrate.” The Imām said: “Prostration is permissible only on earth and whatever grows in it excluding the edible and wearable.” I asked: “May I be your ransom! What is the reason?” He replied: “In prostration one shows humility and obeisance to God, the Honorable and Glorious, and so it is not proper to perform it on anything edible or wearable because materialists are slaves to things which they eat and wear while in prostration man is in a state of worshipping God, the Honorable and Glorious. Thus, it is not appropriate for one to place his forehead on something which stubborn materialists worship. Prostration on earth is the best way of prostration because it is the most appropriate way of showing humility and meekness to God, the Honorable and Glorious.[2]

This lucid statement clearly testifies that prostration on earth is performed as the most suitable way of expressing humility and meekness to the One and Only God.

* * *

Also, this question may be posed: Why do the Shī‘ah prostrate only on earth or some plant byproducts and why do they not prostrate on other things?

The reply is: Just as the act of worship should emanate from the sacred law of Islam, its conditions, parts and ways of performance should be explained in the light of the Holy Prophet’s () words and actions; for, the Messenger of Allah (), according to the Holy Qur’an, is an exemplar of excellence for the entire humanity.

Now, we shall state some Islamic traditions [aādīth] that elucidate the conduct and lifestyle of the Prophet ()—all of which indicate that the Prophet () used to prostrate on pure earth and on things that grow from it including straw mat, which is exactly the same method which the Shī‘ah follow:

1. A group of hadīth scholars [muaddithūn] recount the statement of the Prophet () in which he defines the earth as the place of his prostration, when he says:

”جُعِلَتْ لِيَ الأَرْضُ مَسْجِداً وَ طَهُوْراً.“

“The (pure) earth has been made for me as a place of prostration and an agent of purification.”[3]

From the word “ja‘ala” [“made”] which is used here to have a legal and legislative sense, meaning (“ordained”), we understand that this issue is a decree ordained by the Divine for the followers of Islam to abide by. This proves the legitimacy of prostration on earth, stone, and some other parts of the ground.

2. A group of narrations verify the fact that the Holy Prophet () used to order the Muslims to place their forehead on (pure) earth while prostrating. Umm Salamah, a spouse of the Prophet (), narrates that the Prophet () said:

“.لله وجهك تَرّبْ

“Place your face for the sake of Allah on earth.”[4]

And from the word “tarrib” in the statement of the Prophet (), two points can be inferred; one is that at the time of prostration one should place his forehead on “turāb”, i.e. dust; and the other is that this act is a binding order because the word “tarrib” which comes from “turāb” meaning “dust” has been expressed in the form of command.

3. The conduct of the Holy Prophet () in this respect is another vivid proof and a good guide for the Muslims. Wā’il ibn Ḥajar says:



[1] Sūrah ar-Ra‘d 13:15.

[2] Biār al-Anwār, vol. 58, 147 as in ‘Ilal ash-Sharāyi‘.

[3] Sunan al-Bayhaqī, “Bāb at-Tayammum bi--a‘īd a-ayyib,” vol. 1, p. 212; Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī, vol. 1, “Kitāb a-alāh,” p. 91; Ibn Taymiyyah, Iqtiā’ a-irā al-Mustaqīm, p. 332.

[4] Kanz al-‘Ummāl (alab), vol. 7, p. 465, hadīth 19809, “Kitāb a-alāh, as-Sujūd wa mā Yata‘allaq bih.”

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