Chapter Twelve: Prostrating on Turbah


Praying on the earth

As Shi’a we believe that the most perfect method of prostration is to place one’s head upon the earth, since this is lowest point that one can place onself when remembering Allah (swt). Prostrating itself is a gesture of humiliation and insignificance before the Almighty, and if it is done on dirt, it will have more effect than, say, prostrating on carpets. In Ahl’ul Sunnah’s authority work Targhib wal-Tarhib, Vol 1 page 581 we read:

“The Messenger of Allah (pbuh&hf) said: Make your faces dusty, and cover your noses with dust.”

The Prophet (s) explained the reasons for prostrating on soil in the most beautiful manner. In Kanz ul Ummal we see the hadith that beautifully ORDERS (during sujood) the Masah (rubbing of forehead) on EARTH/SOIL and its reasoning:

We read in Kanz al Ummal Volume 7 Hadeeth Number 19778:

تمسحوا بالأرض فإنها بكم برة (برة: أي مشفقة عليكم كالوالدة البرة بأولادها يعني أن منها خلقكم، وفيها معاشكم، وإليها بعد الموت

“Rub yourself by earth because its pity/mercy for you, pity/mercy just like the kind mother have mercy for her childern, verily you have been created from it, it is your livelihood (food) and to it you will be buried after death”

Similarly When Imam Ja’far al-Sadiq (as) was asked about the philosophy behind prostrating on the earth, he said:

“Because prostration is surrendering and humiliation to the Almighty. Therefore, it shouldn’t be on what is worn and eaten because people are slaves of what they eat and wear, and prostration is worshipping of Allah, so one should not put his forehead during prostration on that which is worshipped by the people (food and clothing) and that which conceits people.”
Wasa’il al-Shi’ah, Vol 3 page 591

The people closest to the Holy Prophet (s) and his Ahlalbayt (as) were very firm in their practice of prostrating on the earth and, in doing so, were following the tradition of their grandfather, the Messenger of Allah (s).

Imam Ja’far al-Sadiq said: “Prostration is not permitted except on the earth and whatever grows from it except on those things that are eaten or on cotton.”
When he (Imam Ja’far as Sadiq a.s) was asked whether having one’s turban touch the earth instead of the forehead was acceptable, he replied that this was not sufficeint unless the forehead actually touched the earth.

Wasa’il al-Shi’ah, Volume 3 page 592

The Prophet (s) said it was compulsary to prostrate on soil

There are many Prophetic traditions that clearly prove that he (s) also prostrated on earth and ordered his Sahaba to do likewise.

We read in Sunan Abu Dawud, Urdu Edition, page 381, 376:

“The Prophet (s) had the sign of Mud on his forehead and Nose, due to prostration on Mud”

All of the below traditions have been taken from Volume 7 of Kanz ul Ummal from the section on sujood laws/hadiths:

We read in Kanz ul Ummal, Vol 7 Tradition No. 19804

“From Umm Attiya it is narrated that the Salat of one who does not place his nose right on the EARTH is not accepted”

We should also point out that Ali Muttaqi al-Hindi raises no objection to this tradition in Kanz ul Ummal.

We also read:

Ibn Attiya narrates “Verily God does not accept the Salat of One who does not put his Nose right on the EARTH/SOIL”.
Kanz ul Ummal, Volume 7 Hadith 19775

This is second Hadith by Ibn Attiyah (from two different soures as can be seen in prefixes by Al Muttaqi Hindi in Kanz ul Ummal). The first one was mentioned a little above (i.e Tradition No.19804). Both Traditions insist on the Nose to be put RIGHT ON EARTH while the earlier one also stresses this with the word RUB (Masah) of NOSE on the EARTH. Again there is no objection with either of these traditions otherwise Muttaqi Hindi would have quoted as he does with analysis of other hadiths throughout Kanz ul Ummal.

We can see clearly its not a few but a large number of traditions from Ahl ul Sunnah which prove our position of Prostrating on Earth and Masah (Rubbing) of Face parts on it with Tawatur.

In another hadith, again the concept of praying on EARTH/SOIL is mentioned by Al Daylami who narrates from Abdullah ibn Masood, the Sahabi that:

إن الله عز وجل لا ينظر إلى صلاة عبد لا يباشر بكفيه الأرض.

“Verily Allah does not consider/look at the Salat of a person who does not touch his palms on the EARTH/SOIL.”
Kanz al Ummal, Vol 7. Tradition No. 19801

“Bow/Prostrate your Face on EARTH/SOIL Towards Allah”
Kanz ul Ummal Vo.7 Tradition No. 19809

And a similar (though mursal) tradition has been narrated by Abdul Razzaq from Khalid:

“O Suhaib, Bow/Prostrate your Face on EARTH/SOIL Towards Allah”
Kanz ul Ummal Vo.7 Tradition No. 19810

None of these above traditions has been shown to have any problem by anyone in Kanz ul Ummal in terms of authenticity of content or narrators.

Ibn Abbas issued a Fatwa that failing to prostrate on earth made one’s Salat invalid

Furthermore, we read the fatwa of Sahabi Abdullah Ibn Abbas:

“Abdullah Ibn Abbas said: He who doesnt put his nose with his forehead on the Earth/Soil when doing Sajdah (Prostration), his Salat is invalid”

We have taken this from the following Sunni sources

1. Kanz ul Ummal Vol 7, Page 464 (No. 19802)
2. Al Mu’jam al Awsat by Tabarani Vol3, Page 139 (No. 4111)

Al Muttaqi in his Kanz Al Ummal took the above narration from Tabarani which is proven due to the usage of the siglum “Taa Baa” i.e. Tabarani. Immediately after the Hadeeth, the author seeks to allay Sunni fears by stating

“there is Ikhtilaaf on some of the narrators because of their Tashayyi” (Shia leaning or Beliefs).

In response to this we will point out that this is an opinion of Haythami (as quoted from his book Majma al Zawaid). What is interestring is the fact that despite seeking to question it, he then goes on to say

“And its Rijal are most authentic (Mo’thiqoon)”.

Haythami does not declare that ALL Sunni scholars believe / consider the chain of narrations in this hadith to be weak on account of Shi’a leaning of certain narrators, rather he clearly says there is ‘difference of opinion’ amongst the scholars and only ‘some of them allege’ that the narrators were Shi’a. On these grounds, the narartion cannot be rejected nor can this opinon be held as the consensus of truthful Ahl ul Sunnah scholars especially when we know how divided they are and have historically issued Fatwas against one another’s positions / opinions and madhab adherence.

We would also like to point out that the above opinion is also not supported or endorsed by Al Muttaqi al Hindi (i.e accusing some narrators of this hadith o fbeing Shi’a) otherwise he would have said so or quoted other sources for giving strength to refute this. Rather he chose to give Haythami’s ruling to consolidate his position that this tradition is with a sanad that is thiqah.

Praying on Turbah

Shi’as normally place a Turbah (Sajdagaah in Urdu) made of clay to prostrate on while offering prayers and this act is proven from the Holy Prophet’s Sunnah, there are numerous traditions in the Hadeeth books of Ahl e Sunnah that Holy Prophet (s) used to place a Sajdagaah to prostrate on. We believe that the most humble act is to prostrate on Allah (swt)’s earth, rather than man made cloth. In this regards we find these traditions. The word used in the traditions is ‘Khumrah’ which has been translated as ‘Sajdagaah’ by the Sunni Scholars.

Allah’s Apostle used to pray on a Khumra

Tayseer Al-Bari, Vol. 1 Page 275, By Waheed Al-Zamaan

Tayseer Al-Bari, Vol. 1 Page 275, By Waheed Al-Zamaan

Allamah Waheed uz-Zaman while commenting on this tradition states in his esteemed commentary on Sahih al Bukhari:

“All the jurists unanimously agree that it is permissible to prostrate on Sajdagaah, but Umer bin Abdul Aziz says that he used to prostrate on the mud which was supposed to be brought for him, and Ibn e Abi Shaybah narrates from Urwah that he considered prostrating on anything else other the Sajdagaah as undesirable.”
Tayseer al-Bari Sharh Sahih Bukhari, Volume 1, page 275, published by Taj Company Limited.

Imam Bukhari and Imam Abu Daud have both maintained whole chapters on prostration on clay.
1. Tayseer al-Bari Sharh Bukhari, Volume 1, page 276.
2. Sunan Abi Daud, volume 1, page 291, translated by Maulana Waheed uz-Zaman.

The prostration of Holy Prophet (s) on clay is such a famous act that most of the narrators have mentioned it in their Hadeeth books.

According to Imam Shaukani, a famous Sunni scholar, more than ten Companions of the Prophet (s) have narrated traditions mentioning his prostration on a Khumrah. And he lists all the Sunni sources recording these traditions which include Sahih Muslim, Sahih al-Tirmidhi, Sunan Abu Dawud, Sunan al-Nasa’i and many others.
Nayl al-Autaar, Chapter of Prostration on the Khumrah, volume 2, page 128

In Sahih Tirmidhi, Hadhrath Abbas narrates that the Holy Prophet (s) prostrated on Sajdagaah.
Sahih Tirmidhi, volume 1, page 156, translated by Badee’ uz Zaman, published in Lahore

It is on the basis of these traditions that Medina born Imam Malik said:

“Other then the earth, to prostrate on anything else or botanic herbs or plants is undesirable.”
Urdu translation of Al-Muhalla, volume 3, page 115, by Imam Ibn e Hazm Andalasi, published in Lahore

Meaning of Khumrah

The Traditions that report about Holy Prophet’s (s) prostration spot usually state:

“The Holy Prophet (s) used to prostrate on Khumrah.”

Sunni scholars have defined the term Khumrah as follows:

Dr Mushin Khan in his English translation of Sahih al Bukhari vol. 1, book 8, no. 376 states in paranthesis)] defines Khumrah as:

“A small mat sufficient just for the face and the hands while prostrating during prayers.”

Ibn Athir in his Jami al-’Usul has written:

“Khumra is [like that] upon which the Shi’ah of our time perform their prostrations.”
Ibn al-’Athir, Jami’ al-Usul, (Cairo, 1969), vol. 5, p. 467

Lughaat Al-Hadees, Vol. 1 Page 133, By Waheed Al-Zaman

Lughaat Al-Hadees, Vol. 1 Page 133, By Waheed Al-Zaman

Maulana Waheed Uz Zaman Khan Hyderabadi in “Lughaat Al-hadeeth” said:

“Khumra is the small piece of mat (made of palm leaves), or made up of date-palm leaves on which one can only place his head during each prostration.” A little further he writes that Ibn al-Aseer had said in Jame’ Al Usool, “Khumrah is a prostration spot on which Shiites used to prostrate in our times….Although in our religion it is permissible on a cloth but it’s better to prostrate on soil or mat (palm leaves).”
Lughaat ul Hadeeth, volume 1, Book: Letter khay, page 133, published by Meer Mohammad Kutb Khana, Aaram Bagh, Karachi

Allamah Waheed uz Zaman’s personal practice of prostration on Khumrah and deeming it Sunnah

On the same page while concluding his discussions on using something to prostrate on Maulana Waheed Uz Zaman writes:

“I say that from this tradition, keeping something to prostrate on is lawful and it is incorrect for people to label those who do this as apostates. In accordance with this tradition, I sometimes keep a feather made of palm leaves to prostrate on and I do not care about the taunting and criticism of ignorant people. We should only be concerned with the traditions of the Holy Prophet (s), even if someone labels us as apostates.”
Lughaat ul Hadeeth, Volume 1, Book:Letter ‘Khay’, page 133, published by Meer Mohammad Kutb Khana, Aaram Bagh, Karachi

Lughaat Al-Hadees, Vol. 1 Page 113, By Waheed Al-Zaman

Lughaat Al-Hadees, Vol. 1 Page 113, By Waheed Al-Zaman

At another place he writes:

“I often my lay my mat on the floor of the mosque that has cloth spread on it. Some of the people of Ahl’ul Sunnah condemn me unnecessarily for this. They do not understand that we should offer the prayers in a way which is right according to all. This is more cautionary. It is also reported that the Holy Prophet (s), offered prayers on cloth but obligatory prayers cannot be offered on cloth.” The Sahaba report that the Holy Prophet (s) used to prostrate on soil or mat (palm leaves).”
Lughaat ul Hadeeth Volume 1, page 113, Book: Letter Bai, published by Meer Mohammad Kutb Khana, Aaram Bagh, Karachi

The earth was made a place of worship for Rasulullah (s)

We read this tradition in Saheeh al Bukharee, Book on Making Ablutions with Sand or Earth, hadith Volume 1, Book 7, Number 331:

Narrated Jabir bin ‘Abdullah:
The Prophet said, “I have been given five things which were not givento any one else before me.
1. Allah made me victorious by awe, (by His frightening my enemies)for a distance of one month’s journey.
2. The earth has been made for me (and for my followers) a place for praying and a thing to perform Tayammum, therefore anyone of myfollowers can pray wherever the time of a prayer is due.
3. The booty has been made Halal (lawful) for me yet it was not lawfulfor anyone else before me.
4. I have been given the right of intercession (on the Day of Resurrection).
5. Every Prophet used to be sent to his nation only but I have been sent to all mankind.

This narration very clearly says that the earth (the dust and the stones) is the place of prostration. The history of Islam and the Holy Prophet Muhammad (pbuh&hf) shows that his mosque in Madinah was furnished only with dust although numerous types of rugs and furnishings existed at that time. Because this mosque did not have a carpet or any other type of covering on the floor, when it rained, the floor of the mosque would turn into mud. Still, the Muslims prostrated on the mud and did not put any carpets or rugs down.

We read in Sahih Bukhari Volume 1, Book 11, Number 638:

Narrated Abu Sa’id Al-Khudri:
A cloud came and it rained till the roof started leaking and in thosedays the roof used to be of the branches of date-palms. Iqama was pronounced and I saw Allah’s Apostles prostrating in water and mud and even I saw the mark of mud on his forehead.

Imam Bukhari narrates that the Holy Prophet (pbuh&hf), when he used to do the prayers in his own room, would pray on “khumra” (a solid piece of dirt or a piece of straw.

We read in Sahih Bukhari Volume 1, Book 6, Number 329:

Narrated Maimuna:
(the wife of the Prophet) During my menses, I never prayed, but used to sit on the mat beside the mosque of Allah’s Apostle. He used to offer the prayer on his sheet and in prostration some of his clothes used to touch me.”

The Prophet (s) told his Sahaba not to prostrate on cloth and remove turbans so that forehead touch the ground

Prostration is the way to thank the blessings of Allah [swt] he bestowed on us and the best way is to prostrate on earth/soil. That is the reason Holy Prophet [s] used to aske Sahabah to remove any kind of cloth between the head and the soil so that all the aspects of Sujud shall be completed. There are many Hadeeths according to which Prophet (s) forbade prostrating on cloth (or with turbans) and never did he himself do such a thing.

We read in Hadith books:

“When the Prophet would prostrate he would lift his Amamah (turban) from his forehead”
1. Al Tabaqat al Kubra by Ibn Sa’ad Vol 1 P.352
2. Kanz ul Ummal Vol.7, P.49 (No.17896)

Along the same line we read that Holy Prophet [s] asked a Sahabi to remove his turban during prostration.

أَنَّ رَسُولَ اللَّهِ رَأَى رَجُلاً يَسْجُدُ بِجَنْبِهِ ، وَقَدْ أَعْتَمَ عَلَى جَبْهَتِهِ ، فَحَسَرَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ عَنْ جَبْهَتِهِ.

“The Apostle of Allah [s] saw a man prostrate next to Him and his (man’s) forehead was covered, so the Apostle of Allah [s] uncovered his (man’s) forehead”

  1. Sunan al Kubrah by Al Bayhaqi Volume 2 page 151 (No. 2659)
  2.  Al Isabah by Ibn Hajar al Asqallani Vol. 3, P. 465 (No. 4138)
  3. Usd ul Ghaaba by Ibn al Atheer Volume 3 Page 9

Sa’id Ibn Al Mussayab stated that praying on cloth was Bida’h

Imam of Ahle Sunnah, Jusrit of all Jurists and the most superior among all Tabaeen Saeed bin al Mussayyib had the following views about praying on carpet/cloth. Ibn Sa`ad records from Qatadah:

أخبرنا قتادة قال سألت سعيد بن المسيب عن الصلاة على الطنفسة فقال محدث

“I asked Sa’id Ibn Al Mussayyib about praying on carpets. He said ‘It is something new’.”

Tabqaat Ibn Saad, Vol. 3 Page 160, By Mohammad bin Saad Al-Basri

Tabqaat Ibn Saad, Vol. 3 Page 160, By Mohammad bin Saad Al-Basri

In the Urdu version of Tabaqat al Kubra we read:

“Narrated from Qatadah that when Sa’id Ibn Al Mussayyib was asked about praying on cloth, He said: ‘It is Bidah’.”
Tabaqat Ibn Sa`ad (Urdu), Vol 3 Part 5 page 160 (published by Daarul Ishaat Karachi)

Sahabi Abdullah Ibn Masud never prostrated other than on soil

Those ignorant Nasibis who call Shia innovators and deviated for keeping a Sagdagah with them for prostration during prayers shall read about the practice of a great Sahabi Abdullah Ibn Masud who never prared on anything other than soil. We read the testimony of another Sahabi Abu Ubaidah recorded by Al Haythami in his Majma’ al-Zawa’id by, Volume 2 page 57 Hadith 2272:

وعن أبي عبيدة أن ابن مسعود كان لا يصلي أو لا يسجد إلا على الأرض‏.‏

“Abu Ubaidah narrates that the companion Ibn Mas’ud never prayed or prostrated except on the soil”

Prominent Tabi`e Masruq ibn al-Ajda’ used to keep a brick with him for prostration

Tabqaat Ibn Saad, Vol. 3 Page 493, By Mohammad bin Saad Al-Basri

Tabqaat Ibn Saad, Vol. 3 Page 493, By Mohammad bin Saad Al-Basri

Masruq ibn al-Ajda a prominent tabi’i and a faithful jurist and a student of Sahabi ‘Abdullah ibn Mas’ud made for himself a tablet and used it to prostrate on, taking it with him on his trips especially when he boarded ships. Ibn Sa’ad in his al-Tabaqat al-Kubra, Volume 6 page 53 records:

“Muhammad narrates that Masruq used to keep a raw brick with him and used to prostrate on in it during journey on boats”
Tabaqat Ibn Sa`ad (Urdu), Vol 3 page 493 published by Daarul Isha`at Karachi


Sahabi Jabir bin Abdullah would prostrate on pebbles although their being hot due to extreme heat

The enourous heat did not stop the famous companion of Holy Prophet [s] Jabir bin Abdullah from prostrating on hot pebbles. We read in the books of Hadeeth:

“Jabir Ibn Abdullah reported : We were praying with Messenger of Allah [s] at noon (dhuher prayer) so I held pebbles in my palm to make it cold then switch it to my other palm and when I prostrate I put them down for my forehead”

  1. Sunan al-Nisa’i, Volume 2 page 204
  2. Sunan al-Bayhaqi Volume 1 page 439
  3. Musnad Ahmad ibn Hanbal, Volume 3 page 327.

Ibn Taymeeya’s Fatwa that prayer on a mat is an innovation, and people should pray on earth

Imam of the Nasibis Ibn Taymeeya issued this edict in Majmoo Al Fatawa:

“….And it was asked from him about the Prostration on a Prayer Mat / carpet in the Mosque and Prayer (performing of Salat) on it: Is it an act of Innovation (Bid’ah) or Not?

So He replied positively:

Praise be to the Lord of the Worlds, as for the Salat on the prayer mats on which the Salat Performer prays, that is NOT from the Sunnah of the SALAF of Muhaajireen or Ansar and Nor from the Sunnah of Tabi’een after them; on whom is the blessing/favor of Allah on the promise of the Prophet Mohammad (pbuh&f) BUT INFACT all of these people PRAYED in the MOSQUE on SOIL. Not even One of them ever took a PRAYER MAT / CARPET to pray on for their Salat. And it is narrated from Abdul Rahman ibn Mahdi:

When the CARPETS/PRAYER MATS  (first) came to Madinah then Malik ordained about confiscating them (or forbade people from using them) and then it was said to him, that is Abdulrahman ibn Mahdi.

So He said: And Truly Know! that verily the CARPET / PRAYER MAT  in OUR mosque is a BI’DAH (Innovation). And (this is) in the Sahih (tradition) from Abi Sa’eed al-Khudri in the tradition of Eitikaaf al Nabi (s)” 

Mujmoo al Fatawa by Ibn Taymeeya Volume 22 page163
Online Link:

Muhaddith Shah Abul Aziz Dehalvi’s views about prostratring on mud

Tuhfa Isna Ashriya, Page 97-98, By Shah Abdul Aziz

Tuhfa Isna Ashriya, Page 97-98, By Shah Abdul Aziz

Imam of Ahle Sunnah Muhaddith Shah Abdul Aziz Dehalwi offers following views regarding prostration on mund in his anti- Shia book:

“..The reply to this accusation is that when do the Ahle-Sunnah stay away from prostrating on clay? Infact the Sunnis even deem it permissible to prostrate on cloth and leather. It is in known narrations that before apostasy, Satan had not left any place in the heavens and the earth where he had not prostrated, but when it refused to prostrate in front of Adam [khaki] who was in the form of flesh, all his prostrations became unacceptable, so it is known that a person who only prostrates on mud, and does not prostrate on things that are made of mud and have changed shape, his/her situation will be the same that is of Satan.”
Tohfa Athna Ashriya (Urdu), pages 97-98, published in Karachi.


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