Turba of Imam al-Husayn (a)

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The word Turba (Arabic: تربة), in Shi'a tradition, refers to soil taken from Imam al-Husayn (a)'s gravesite. The significance and blessings of this soil have been mentioned in various narrations.

Meaning

Although Turba literally means "soil", in Shi'a culture it specifically refers to soil taken from Imam al-Husayn (a)'s gravesite. The terms "al-tin" and "tin al-qabr", which have been used in some narrations, also refer to Turba.

Abu Riyhan Biruni calls the gravesite of Imam al-Husayn(a) "Turbat-i Mas'uda" (the blissful soil).

Shia have always venerated and respected Turba as a religious and spiritual symbol.

In Narrations

The Reddening of Turba

It is reported that long before the day of Ashura, Jibra'il - or another angel - brought the Holy Prophet (s) some soil from Karbala, and told him that it would turn the colour of blood when Imam al-Husayn (a) was martyred. The Holy Prophet (s) was very touched, and gave the Turba to Umm Salama, who kept it in a glass container. Imam al-Husayn (a) related the story of the Turba given to Umm Salama when he arrived at Karbala. According to some narrations, she told him about it when he was about to start his journey from Medina. Some Shi'a narrations state that the Turba was with Umm Salama until her death, while others say that it was with Imam al-Baqir (a).

This event has been narrated in both Shi'a and Sunni sources by numerous wives and companions of the Holy Prophet (s). Due to differences in the reports regarding which angel brought the soil, some suggest that it may have occurred more than once. There are also explicit and implicit mentions of the event in some supplications of the Imams. (reference: Kamil al-ziyarat, 280, 282, 284, 285 and Bihar al-anwar 98:118,129)

Imam 'Ali's (a) Narrations

  • When Imam 'Ali (a) was passing the location of Imam al-Husayn (a)'s martyrdom, he cried, referred to the event of 'Ashura and mentioned the significance of Turba.

in one of these accounts, Imam Ali (a) takes a handful of Karbala's soil and after smelling it says "O' soil! there will be resurrected upon you a group of people who shall enter paradise, provided therein without any reckoning." (source: Bihar al-anwar 44:255)

Other Narrations

  • The Imams have described Turba as being "Mubaraka" (blessed), "Tahira" (immaculate) and "Miska Mutabarrika" (blessed Musk).
  • Some reports mention the angels' affection towards Turba.

Effects of Turba

Healing

There is a consensus among Shi'a scholars about the permissibility of seeking healing through Turba, and many works have been produced on the subject. According to some narrations, the healing effect of Turba is conditional to believing in it or believing in the Imamate of Imam al-Husayn (a). The manner of collecting and consuming the Turba is also important for its effect.

Safety

It is highly recommended to carry some Turba with oneself, as it attracts divine blessings and keeps one secure. Imam al-Rida (a) would put a little Turba along with anything that he wanted to carry, seemingly for the sake of security.

It is also recommended to place some Turba in the grave along with a deceased body as means of protection from grave sufferings.

Other Effects

Turba causes growth in sustenance, dignity and beneficial knowledge, and eliminates poverty. There is a disagreement as to whether these effects are from consuming Turba or from carrying it.

Performing Sujud on Turba

Turba is the best thing to put one's forehead on in Sujud (prostration to Allah). Imam al-Sadiq (a) kept some Turba in a yellow silk cloth, and at the time of prayer, he would put some on his Sajjada for Sujud. Performing Sujud on Turba and reciting Tasbih with a rosary made of Turba beads causes one to have a lenient heart (riqqat al-qalb).

The first time that Turba - as it is used today for Sujud - appears in historical texts, is in a letter from Imam al-Mahdi (a) in the year 308/921 in response to the questions of Muhammad b. 'Abd Allah b. Ja'far al-Himyari. In this letter, Turba is referred to as "lawh min tin al-qabr" (a tablet from the soil of the grave).

Making Tasbih with Turba

According to a narration from Imam al-Sadiq (a), Lady Fatimah (a)'s Tasbih was first made of a woolen thread on which knots were tied to aid in counting. When Hamza b. 'Abd al-Muttalib was martyred in the battle of Uhud, she then made a Tasbih using beads made from the soil of his grave. After the martyrdom of Imam al-Husayn (a), the use of Turba from his grave was initiated. According to a narration from Imam al-Sadiq (a), the Tasbih made from Imam al-Husayn (a)'s Turba are preferred over those made from Hamza's Turba.

The use of tablets and Tasbih made from Turba was not common before the year 308/921, when the letter from the Imam al-Mahdi (a) to Himyari was released.

Jurisprudential Rulings regarding Turba

Due to its sanctity, there are specific jurisprudential rulings regarding Turba.

  • It is forbidden to make Turba Najis. If this is done deliberately, it can be considered to be blasphemy.
  • Turba that is buried with the body of a deceased person should be placed in a way that does not show disrespect to it.
  • Eating Turba for the sake of healing is permissible, while consuming normal soil is forbidden. The amount of Turba permissible to eat for this purpose is limited to the size of a chickpea.
  • It is not permissible to consume Turba from the graves of other Imams. The narrations which state that this is permissible are in conflict with other narrations and are generally not accepted by the scholars.

The area of Turba

According to different narrations, the area suitable for collecting Turba could be 20 cubits, 25 cubits, 70 cubits, one mile, 4 miles, 10 miles, one league, or 5 leagues from the grave of Imam al-Husayn (a). Although any of these are acceptable according to scholars, it is understood that the closer the Turba is from the grave, the more its magnificence and effects.

There are many rituals and prayers for collecting, consuming and carrying Turba. These include having a ritual bath (Ghusl), reciting some verses of the Quran, kissing it and rubbing it on the eyes. Although the effect of Turba does not depend on these rituals and prayers, performing them may increase the speed and power of the effect.

Books written about Turba

Published Works

  1. Risala al-sujud 'ala al-turba al-mashwiyya by Muhaqqiq Karaki
  2. Al-Ardh wa al-turba al-Husayniyya by Muhammad Husayn Al Kashif al-Ghita'
  3. Al-Istishfa bi al-turba al-sharifah al-Husayniyya by Abu lma'ali Kalbasi
  4. Khak-i Bihisht by Mahdi Sadri
  5. Sijdigah dar fazilat-i sijdi bar Turbat by Sayyid Muhammad Emruhi Hindi
  6. Sijdigah-I Rasul Dar Sijdi Bar Turbat in Urdu by Ahmad Sultan Mustafavi Chashti

Unpublished Manuscripts

  1. Sharaf al-turba by Muhammad b. Bakran Razi
  2. Sharaf al-turba by Abu al-Mufzil Shaibani
  3. Lum'a ma'ani in Persian by Sayyid 'Ali Razavi Lahuri
  4. Masnavi shafanami a poem composed by Ta'ib Tabrizi

References

The content of this article is mainly taken from تربت in Farsi WikiShia.