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A picture of a turbah used for prostration

Turbah (Arabic: تربة; also referred to as sajdagah and mohr) is a tablet of soil or clay that is primarily used by Shi'as to prostrate on during the prayers. In accordance to the twelver Shi’a jurisprudence, prostration must be performed on material that is earth itself or something that grows on it, given that it cannot be eaten or worn. These materials can include dust, stone, sand, grass or paper. Prostration can not be done on material such as carpets, cloth, barley, gold, etc.[1]



While a turbah (also referred to as mohr) itself is not obligatory, most Shi’as use it to perform the daily five obligatory prayers and as well as for any other prayer that is obligatory or recommended. In essence, the scholars of the non-Shia school of thought also allow prostrating on material such as earth or that which grows on it, however do not state that it is obligatory to do so.

As per Shi’a jurisprudence, there are also certain rulings that pertain to using the turbah it self.[2][3]:


The significance of praying on a natural substance has been discussed as a sign of humbleness and piety, and showing one’s insignificance before Allah. In the etiquette of prayers, it is encouraged to show complete humility before Allah in a true form of worship. Since prostration is a sign of surrendering to Allah and showing humility towards Him the teachings of the Prophet and his Ahlul Bayt suggest that we should not prostrate on items that can be worn or eaten. Imam Sadiq (6th Imam) states that people are slaves of what they eat and wear, and prostration is the worshiping 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.[4]


Narrations in Sunni Books

There exists numerous narrations in the books of Sunni that indicate that the Prophet Muhammad and his companions had prostrated on material that was from earth. Prostration was at times done on a material referred to as khumra, which is a mat made out of palm leaf fibers.

  1. حَدَّثَنَا أَبُو الْوَلِيدِ قَالَ حَدَّثَنَا شُعْبَةُ قَالَ حَدَّثَنَا سُلَيْمَانُ الشَّيْبَانِيُّ عَنْ عَبْدِ اللَّهِ بْنِ شَدَّادٍ عَنْ مَيْمُونَةَ قَالَتْ كَانَ النَّبِيُّ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ يُصَلِّي عَلَى الْخُمْرَةِ

    Narrated by Maimuna: `The Messenger of Allah used to pray on a Khumra.“[5]
  2. حَدَّثَنَا مُحَمَّدُ بْنُ سِنَانٍ قَالَ حَدَّثَنَا هُشَيْمٌ قَالَ حَدَّثَنَا سَيَّارٌ هُوَ أَبُو الْحَكَمِ قَالَ حَدَّثَنَا يَزِيدُ الْفَقِيرُ قَالَ حَدَّثَنَا جَابِرُ بْنُ عَبْدِ اللَّهِ قَالَ قَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ أُعْطِيتُ خَمْسًا لَمْ يُعْطَهُنَّ أَحَدٌ مِنْ الْأَنْبِيَاءِ قَبْلِي نُصِرْتُ بِالرُّعْبِ مَسِيرَةَ شَهْرٍ وَجُعِلَتْ لِي الْأَرْضُ مَسْجِدًا وَطَهُورًا وَأَيُّمَا رَجُلٍ مِنْ أُمَّتِي أَدْرَكَتْهُ الصَّلَاةُ فَلْيُصَلِّ وَأُحِلَّتْ لِي الْغَنَائِمُ وَكَانَ النَّبِيُّ يُبْعَثُ إِلَى قَوْمِهِ خَاصَّةً وَبُعِثْتُ إِلَى النَّاسِ كَافَّةً وَأُعْطِيتُ الشَّفَاعَةَ

The Messenger of Allah said, “I have been given five things which were not given to any of the prophets before me:
  • Allah made me victorious by inspiring awe (and fear in my enemies) for a distance of one month’s journey.
  • The earth has been made a place of prostration for me, and a place to perform Tayammum. Thus my followers can pray wherever (i.e. in any lawful place) they like when the time of prayer is due.
  • War booty has been made lawful for me.
  • Every prophet was sent only to his nation, but I have been sent to all mankind.
  • I have been given the right of intercession (on the Day of Judgement).“[6]

Prostrating on the Soil from Karbala

Shiites are commonly attacked and accused of being "innovators" for using a turbah that contains soil from the land of Karbala. It should be noted, that it is not obligatory to prostrate on such a turbah. However, several traditions exist in both Shiite and Sunni sources that explicitly point to the significance of this soil. The land of Kerbala is particularly significant as it was the site of the blood-shed of the grandson of the Prophet Muhammad, Husayn, the third Imam of the Shiites. As his act of martyrdom is considered one of the greatest sacrifices made for the cause of Islam, the soil of Karbala where he gave away his life symbolizes the signs of Tawhid and the defense of Tawhid.[7]


  1. Things on which Sajdah is allowed, #1085 The Official Website of Grand Ayatollah Sistani
  2. Obligatory acts relating to Namaz » Sujood Ibid
  3. Things on which Sajdah is Allowed Islamic Laws by Ayatullah Syed Ali Sistani
  4. Issues Pertaining to the Practice of the Prayers
  5. باب الصلاة على الخمرة Sahih al-Bukhari, Book of Prayers, # 374
  6. أبواب استقبال القبلة » باب قول النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم جعلت لي الأرض مسجدا وطهورا Sahih al-Bukhari, Book of Prayers, # 427
  7. Why Prostrate on Karbala's Turba Yasin T. al-Jibouri
  8. إخباره صلَّى الله عليه وسلَّم بذلك مقتل الحسين Al-Bidayah wa'l-nihayah, vol. 6, Ibn Kathir

External Links

٭ Why do the Shi'ah prostrate on Turbah?
٭ Why prostration in prayer must be done on earth

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