Turbah (Arabic: تربة) or muhr (Farsi: مُهر) is a piece of stone or molded clay which Shi'a put their forehead on when prostrating in the prayer. Shi'a believe that turbah is not essential in prostration, and prostrating on the ground, soil, stone, or what grows from the ground (except edible and wearable things) is valid. They use turbah as an easy access to soil.
In early Islam, Muslims usually spread soil, sand, mat from palm leaves on the ground of mosques and houses, on which prostration is acceptable. In many hadiths transmitted by Shi'a and Sunni, the Prophet (s) and his companions prostrated on soil, pebbles, and mat from palm leaves. Also, according to Shi'a hadiths, the Ahl al-Bayt (a) prostrated on soil, mat made from palm leaves and also especially on the soil from the grave of Imam al-Husayn (a). Gradually, Shi'a molded some soil for easy access in prostration and called it turbah. After a while, using turbah became common among Shi'a and turned to a Shi'a symbol.
According to Shi'a fiqh, turbah is not essential in prostration and the obligation in prostration is to prostrate on the soil, elements of the ground, or things which grow from the ground (except edible and wearable things).
Also according to Shi'a fiqh, prostrating on the soil from Karbala is recommended and it is the best thing to prostrate on. Thus, Shi'a used the soil from the grave of Imam al-Husayn (a) to make turbah and prostrate on it.
Impermissibility of Using Turbah
Some marja's declared it impermissible to use turbah in some conditions or places; such as prostrating on turbah in Masjid al-Nabi and Masjid al-Haram for being flagrant and preparing the grounds for abusing Shi'a and that it is against taqiyya and unity of Muslims.
According to the rulings of Sunni scholars of fiqh, it is not obligatory to put the forehead on the soil in prostration, but prostrating on anything which is not najis is valid. However, Sunni people do not prostrate on turbah.
Wahhabis are against prostrating on turbah and consider it a bid'a; while, Shi'a believe that turbah is actually soil and the Prophet (s) and his companions always prostrated on pebbles and soil. In Al-Sujud 'ala al-turbat al-Husayniyya, al-'Allama al-Amini rejected those who considered making turbah a bid'a and wrote, "how come you do not consider the act of the Sunni faqih, Masruq b. al-Ajda', bid'a, who used to take some of the soil of Medina with himself for prostration? But, molding the clay from the soil of Karbala in different shapes and sizes a bid'a?". Also, some Shi'a marja's considered prostrating on turbah a tradition and prostrating on carpet a bid'a.
Wahhabis consider prostrating on turbah an act of polytheism and claim that Shi'a worship turbah. Shi'a respond to this false claim that, if prostrating on turbah is an act of polytheism, then prostrating on mat and clothes would be an act of polytheism too and thus, Wahhabis too worship the mat.
Turbah is made of soil and stone in different shapes and sizes. Shi'a make turbah from different types of soil and stones, but due to the merits mentioned in hadiths, Shi'a are interested in turbahs made from the soil of Karbala.
- The material for this article is mainly taken from مهر نماز in Farsi WikiShia.