The followers of the Ahlul Bayt comply by what the Noble Qur’an teaches them to do during wudu (ablution) in regards to wiping their feet, rather than washing them. The Noble Qur’an commands, “O you who believe! When you intend (to perform) your prayers, wash your faces and your hands from the elbows and wipe (by passing wet hands over) your head and your feet up to the ankles.”1 Those who practice the washing of their feet during wudu argue that “your feet” in the Noble Qur’an is linked to washing the face, whereas the followers of the Ahlul Bayt argue that “your feet” is linked to rubbing the head; therefore, it should be wiped, and not washed.
In support of the latter view, Ibn ‘Abbas narrates from the Prophet, that they used to rub their feet during the time of the Prophet.2 Undoubtedly, all Muslims at the time of the Holy Messenger of Allah used to perform wudu in the same way. No disagreements occurred between them since the Messenger of Allah was present among them and all the Muslims used to submit their disagreements to him in accordance with the Noble Qur’an, “And if you differ in anything amongst yourselves, refer it to Allah and His Messenger.”3
The same situation existed during the time of the first caliph, Abu Bakr (11-13H) and no disagreements over the performance of wudu have been reported from that time period either. Similar was the period of the second caliph, ‘Umar ibn al-Khattab (13-23H), except for the fact, that he allowed wiping of the socks rather than the bare feet as the Noble Qur’an directs (5:6).
However, the disagreement regarding the performance of the wudu began during the time of the third caliph, ‘Uthman ibn Affan (23-35H) when he began to wash his feet instead of wiping them.4 Al-Muttaqi al-Hindi, in his book Kanz al-‘Ummal5 mentions that the third caliph, ‘Uthman ibn Affan (during his caliphate) was the first to differ in performing the wudu. In Sahih al-Muslim6 and Kanz al-‘Ummal,7 ‘Uthman ibn Affan says that during his caliphate, some of the companions of the Prophet who performed their wudu differently than himself attributed their practice to the Prophet. More than twenty narrations—all narrated by the third caliph—are about his new manner of performing wudu. These traditions indicate his establishment of the new method.
Some prominent Muslim historians, such as Ibn Abi al-Hadid al-Mu’tazili8 regard this trend as nothing new in the tradition of the third caliph since he was known for his numerous innovations (into the faith of Islam). There is a near consensus among the Muslim historians that the third caliph, ‘Uthman was murdered by Muslim revolutionaries in 35H. because of political and financial issues. However, other Muslim historians interpret the third caliph’s introductions (regarding some of the religious rules during the last six years of his caliphate) as a departure from the tradition of the first and second caliphs. The majority of the Muslims during his caliphate looked at the third caliph as a follower of the first and second caliphs, and the implementer of their practices. Since the third caliph witnessed numerous introductions during the time of the second caliph, and saw himself religiously and intellectually no less than his predecessors9, thus he decided to depart from the previous policy and have an independent opinion regarding different political, financial, and jurisprudential issues such as, washing the feet during wudu.
Although some people today consider washing the feet to lead to better cleanliness and hygiene than merely wiping the feet; however, Allah the Almighty who legislated all the acts of worship, including the wudu, is more aware of the advantages and disadvantages of washing or wiping the feet. It has been narrated that Imam ‘Ali ibn Abi Talib said, “If religion was according to human opinion, the bottom of the foot would be more worthy of wiping than the top. But I saw the Messenger of Allah wiping the top of his feet.”10
All Muslims agree that there are five mandatory prayers throughout the day and night. They also agree that these five daily prayers have specific times in which they must be performed, and that combining the prayers is, at least, sometimes permissible (saying the dhuhr (noon) prayer then immediately followed by the asr (afternoon) prayer, or saying the maghrib (post-sunset) prayer immediately followed by the isha (night) prayer).
The Maliki, Shafi΄i, and Hanbali schools of thought agree that combining of the prayers while traveling is permitted, but they do not allow combining of the prayers for other reasons. The Hanafi school of thought permits combining of the prayers only on the day of Arafat. Whereas the Imami Shi‘a school of thought, allows combining of the prayers in all cases—while traveling or not, for any other reason, during war and peace, while the weather is rainy or not, and so on. The real dispute is as to when the exact beginning and end of the prayer times are. Thus, the dispute must be referred to the Noble Qur’an and narrations of the Prophet Muhammad.
Three verses in the Noble Qur’an speak of the times for the prayers. Allah, the Exalted says, “Perform the prayers from mid-day until the darkness of the night, and recite the Qur’an in the early dawn. Verily, the recitation of the Qur’an in the early dawn is ever-witnessed.”11
“Mid-day” refers to the shared time for the dhuhr and asr prayers, “the darkness of the night” refers to the shared time of the mahrib and isha prayers, and “early dawn” refers to the fajr (dawn) prayer. The Noble Qur’an clearly and simply states that there are three main times for the five daily prayers. Although the prayers are five, they fall into three main periods of time. The great Sunni scholar, Fakhr al-Din al-Razi understood this interpretation from this verse also.12 Of course, the prayers must be done in order; the dhuhr prayer must be performed before the asr prayer, and the maghrib prayer must be performed before the isha prayer.
The Noble Qur’an also says, “And perform the prayers at the two ends of the day, and in some hours of the night. Verily, the good deeds remove the evil deeds. That is a reminder for the mindful.”13
Muslim jurists and Qur’an commentators agree that this verse refers to the five compulsory prayers, as the Noble Qur’an states, it determines the timing of the prayers—the three main times; two of them at the “ends of the day” and the third in “some hours of the night.” The first, “ends of the day” is the time of the morning prayer, the second, “ends of the day” begins at noon and ends at sunset (making this the time for the dhuhr and asr prayers), and the “hours of the night” is the third main time in which the maghrib and isha prayers should be recited; these prayers extend from the beginning of the night until midnight.
A similar division of times is expressed in a third verse, “So bear with patience (O Muhammad) all that they say, and glorify the praises of your Lord before the rising of the sun, and before its setting, and during a part of the night, also glorify His praises, and so likewise after the prostrations.”14 As in the previous verse, the jurists and the commentators also agree that this verse refers to the times of the five mandatory prayers; in addition to dividing the time for the prayers into three segments: first, the time from dawn until sunrise which is the time for the dawn prayers (fajr); second, the time from noon until sunset, which is the time for the noon and afternoon prayers; and third, the “part of the night” which extends from after sunset until midnight, which is the time for the evening and night prayers.
Referring to the last part of the cited verse (50:39-40), “And so likewise after the prostration,” according to the commentators, refers either to the nawafil (recommended) prayers, or specifically to salat al-layl (the midnight prayer) which are among the highly recommended prayers.
Imam al-Bukhari and others report that the Prophet used to combine his prayers into three sections of time, “The Messenger of Allah observed the noon and afternoon prayers together and the sunset and night prayers together without being in a state of fear or while on a journey.”15 Imam Muslim narrates the same hadith and adds that when the Prophet was asked by Ibn al-‘Abbas why he authorized combining the two prayers, the Prophet replied that he did not want to cause difficulty for his nation.16 In the same book, Ibn al-‘Abbas himself narrates that they used to combine the two prayers during the time of the Prophet.17
Therefore, both the Noble Qur’an and the tradition of the Prophet indicate clear authorization and permission to combine the two prayers without any particular reason. It also asserts that Allah the Merciful made His religion easy for the believers.
The entire adhan (call to prayer) was taught to the Prophet Muhammad by Allah on the night he ascended to Heaven, and the prayers were made obligatory on him that same night.18 The original adhan taught to him contained the phrase “hayya ‘ala khayril ‘amal” (come to the best of deeds); however, at the time the Islamic state was expanding, the second caliph, ‘Umar ibn al-Khattab thought that this phrase would discourage people from performing jihad (defense fighting) and thus ordered it to be removed from the adhan. Imam Muslim narrates, on the authority of Ibn Mas‘ud that the Prophet had commanded the Muslims to say in the adhan and iqaama (the call that signals the beginning of the prayer) “hayya ‘ala khayril ‘amal,” but once ‘Umar assumed authority he dropped that phrase.19 He also says that ‘Ali ibn Abi Talib and his followers, as well as, ‘Abdullah, the son of ‘Umar did not drop this phrase.20
‘Umar ibn al-Khattab has been narrated to have said, “O people, three things existed during the time of the Messenger of Allah that I prohibit and make unlawful and will punish for, they are: mut‘at al-hajj, mut‘at al-nisa, and ‘hayya ‘ala khayr al-‘amal.’ (the Mut’ah of the Hajj, mut’ah of the woman and ‘hasten towards the best of deeds’)”21
Malik ibn Anas narrates the story of how ‘hayya ‘ala khayr al-‘amal’ (Hasten towards the best of deeds) was replaced by “al-salat khayrun min al-nawm” (The prayers are better than sleep.) Anas said, “The mu’adhdhin (the person making the call to prayer) came to ‘Umar ibn al-Khattab to announce the morning prayers and found him asleep, so he said to him, ‘al-salat khayrun min al-nawm’ (prayer is better than sleep). ‘Umar liked this sentence very much, so he ordered that it be included in the adhan for the morning prayers.”22 Imam Muslim and Abu Dawud also concur that this sentence was not part of the adhan during the time of the Prophet, and Tirmidhi asserts that ‘Umar was the one who added it.23
Some people may wonder why the Shi‘a, in the adhan, include: “Ashhadu anna ‘Ali`yan waliuAllah” (“I testify that ‘Ali is the close friend of Allah”) after the first two testimonies. All the Shi‘a jurists and scholars have a consensus that this sentence is not an obligatory part of the adhan; nonetheless, saying it is a tradition. However, if anyone says it in the adhan, believing it to be obligatory, then his or her adhan will become void. The Shi‘as believe it began during the time of the Prophet, on the day of Ghadir after he appointed Imam ‘Ali as his successor, during which the Muslims paid their allegiance to Imam ‘Ali, and Abu Dharr al-Ghifari recited the adhan and added the phrase: “Ashhadu anna ‘Ali`yan wali Allah.” Afterwards, the Muslims came to the Prophet and said that they had heard something new in the adhan. When the Prophet asked what they had heard, they replied, we heard the phrase, “Ashhadu anna ‘Aliyan wali Allah” in the adhan. The Prophet asked them whether they had not just acknowledged this same phrase to Imam ‘Ali when they gave their allegiance (bay’ah) to him.
The Messenger of Allah has said, “Perform your prayers as you see me performing my prayers.” Therefore, crossing the hands makes the prayers void in the Imamiyyah (those who believe in the 12 imams who succeeded the Noble Prophet as appointed by Allah) school of thought, since it is deemed as the habit of the Magians25 (Majus).26 However, in the Hanafi and Shafi΄i schools, it is recommended (mustahhab) to cross the hands. Nevertheless, the two schools differ slightly in the hand posture; the Shafi΄i school says to cross the right hand on top of the left above the belly, while the Hanafi says to hold the hands below the belly.
The Messenger of Allah used to conclude his prayers with three takbirs. Imam Muslim narrates this fact on the authority of Ibn al-‘Abbas who says, “We knew that the Prophet had concluded his prayers when he would recit the three takbirats.”27
Prostrating on the earth (turbah) or nature made material does not in any way imply worshipping the earth or stone which one is prostrating upon. As a practice, it has a firm foundation in the tradition of the Prophet, which the Noble Qur’an teaches the Muslims to follow in all aspects.
Imam al-Bukhari narrates that the Prophet said, “I have been given five things which were not granted to anyone (any other prophet) before me:
1. Every apostle was sent particularly to his own people, whereas I have been sent to all people – whatever race they are.
2. The spoils of war have been made lawful for me, and these were never made lawful for anyone before me.
3. The earth has been made pure and a place of prostration for me, so whenever the time of prayer comes for any one of you, he should pray wherever he is (upon the ground).
4. I have been supported by awe (to cause fear and intimidation to enter the hearts of the Prophet’s enemies) from the distance (which if covered, would take one month to cross).
5. I have been granted intercession.28
In regards to the subject, the third narration very clearly states that the earth (the dust and the stones) is a place of prostration. In the history of Islam, the Prophet Muhammad has shown that his masjid in Madina had no floor covering; it was only dust, although numerous types of rugs and furnishings existed at that time. Since this masjid did not have a carpet or any other type of floor covering thus when it rained the floor of the masjid would turn into mud; but still, the Muslims prostrated on the mud and did not put any carpets or rugs down. Many other narrations are as follows:
Abu Sa΄id al-Khidri, a companion of the Prophet reported, “I saw with my own eyes, the Messenger of Allah had on his nose the traces of rain and mud.”
Imam al-Bukhari narrates that when the Prophet used to do the prayers in his own room, he would pray on khumra (a solid piece of dirt or a piece of straw).
The Messenger of Allah performed his prayer and I (one of the wives of the Prophet) was lying down opposite to him while I was in menses. Sometimes his clothes touched me when he prostrated, and he used to prostrate on khumra.29
One of the wives of the Prophet said, “I never saw the Prophet (while prostrating) prevent his face from touching the earth.”30
Wa΄il, one of the Prophet’s companions narrates, “I saw (that) the Prophet, once he prostrated touched his forehead and nose on the earth.”31
Other narrations say that the Prophet prohibited the Muslims from prostrating on materials other than the earth. One day he saw a man prostrating on some cloth from his turban. The Prophet pointed to him and told him to remove his turban and to touch his actual forehead on the ground.32
Despite the immense heat of the ground, the Prophet and his companions used to prostrate on it. A great companion of the Prophet, Jabir ibn ‘Abdullah al-Ansari says, “I used to pray the noon prayers with the Messenger of Allah and I used to take a bunch of pebbles in my palm to cool them because of the enormous heat so I could prostrate on them.”33
Another companion of the Prophet, Anas ibn Malik narrates, “We used to pray with the Messenger of Allah during the enormous heat, and one of us would take pebbles in our hands and once they were cool, put them down and prostrate on them.”34
Al-Khabbab ibn al-Arth, another companion of the Prophet says, “We complained to the Messenger of Allah about the intensity of the heat of the ground and its effects on our foreheads and palms (during prostration) but the Prophet did not excuse us from praying on the ground.”35
Abu Ubaidah, also a companion of the Prophet narrates that the companion ibn Mas‘ud never prostrated (on anything) except on the earth,36 while the companion ‘Ibada ibn al-Samit has been narrated to have pushed back his turban to allow his forehead to touch the ground.37
During the times of the first, second, third, and fourth caliphs the Muslims used to prostrate on the dust. Abu Umayyah narrates that the first caliph, Abu Bakr used to prostrate and pray on the earth.38 Prostrating on the earth was also the habit of the tabi’in (those who did not see the Prophet but met his companions). Masruq ibn al-Ajda’, a prominent tabi’in and a faithful jurist, and a student of ‘Abdullah ibn Mas‘ud made for himself a tablet from the dirt of Madina and used it to prostrate on, taking it with him on his trips, especially when he boarded ships.39
The people closest to the Prophet, the Ahlul Bayt were also 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. Imam Ja‘far al-Sadiq, the sixth Imam said, “Prostration is not permitted except on the earth and whatever grows from it except on those things that are eaten or made of cotton.”40
When he was asked whether having one’s turban touch the earth instead of the forehead was acceptable, he replied that this was not sufficient unless the forehead actually touched the earth.41 His companion and student, Hisham ibn al-Hakam asked him whether all seven positions (forehead, hands, knees, and big toes) needed to touch the earth during prostration, Imam al-Sadiq replied that as long as the forehead touched the earth, there was no need for the other six areas to touch the earth.
Thus, people can use carpets or prayer rugs to pray on as long as the forehead itself touches the earth. However, prostrating by putting the forehead on a piece of cloth, carpet, nylon, sheet, wool, or anything that is not a product of the earth (excluding items which are eaten or worn; things upon which prostration is not permissible) would not be considered prostrating on the earth.
Apart from the issue of validity of prostration, prostrating on the earth has very significant indications and lessons for a believer. Prostrating itself is a gesture of humiliation and insignificance before the Almighty, and if it is done on the dirt then it will have more effect than prostrating on a carpet. The Messenger of Allah said, “Make your faces dusty and cover your noses with dust.”42 When Imam Ja‘far al-Sadiq was asked about the philosophy behind prostrating on the earth, he replied, “Prostration is surrendering and humiliation to the Almighty. Therefore, it shouldn’t be on that which is worn and eaten because people are slaves of what they eat and wear, and prostration is the 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.”43
Of course, every rule has its exception. Certain narrations allow people in times of emergency, such as imprisonment or being in a place (e.g., a ship or an airplane) in which neither earth nor a piece of wood, leaf, or paper is available to prostrate on. Therefore, in these cases, people can prostrate either on the hem of their clothing or on carpet, for the Messenger of Allah has said, “Nothing has been forbidden to man, except that Allah permits it for whoever is compelled (in times of emergency).”
The followers of Ahlul Bayt prefer to prostrate on the earth of Karbala, where the great martyrs are buried and which holds the memory of the great sacrifice of Imam Husayn, grandson of the Prophet. They do not cherish the physical soil so much as the principles of Imam Husayn and his great revolution which saved Islam from corruption, deterioration, and the tyranny of the wrongdoers. Many imams from the school of Ahlul Bayt have narrated that prostrating on the soil of Karbala penetrates the seven veils separating the person praying from Allah, the Exalted.
Conventional wisdom also determines that some lands are better than others. This fact is normal and rational, and has been agreed upon by many nations, governments, authorities, and religions. Such is the case with places and buildings related to Almighty Allah. They enjoy a special status whose injunctions, rights, and obligations are sanctioned and safeguarded. For example, the Ka‘bah has an injunction of its own, as does the Masjid of the Prophet in Madina.
The land of Karbala is similar, for the Prophet has been recorded to have taken the soil from it, smelled it, and kissed it. The wife of the Prophet, Umm Salamah also carried a piece of the soil of Karbala in her clothes. The Messenger of Allah has been narrated to have told Umm Salamah, “Jibrail has come to me and informed me that some of my nation will assassinate my son Husayn in Iraq, and he brought me a piece of that soil.” He gave that piece of soil to his wife and said, “When it turns into fresh blood, then know that my son Husayn has been murdered.”
Umm Salamah took the soil and put it in a bottle. When Imam Husayn left for Iraq in 61H, she checked the bottle every day. One day, on the 10th of Muharram, she came to the bottle and saw that the dust had turned into fresh blood, and started screaming. The women of Bani Hashim gathered around her and asked what was wrong; she told them that Husayn had been killed. When they asked her how she knew this, she narrated the story, and they joined her in lamentation and crying for Imam Husayn.44
Hisham ibn Muhammad has said, “When water was released to overwhelm and obliterate the grave of Husayn, it dried after forty days, and the grave was completely left without any trace. A Bedouin from Bani Asad came and sampled the soil, one handful after another, smelling it each time, until he was able to identify the grave of Husayn, whereupon he wept and said, “May my parents be sacrificed for you! How sweet you smelled when you were alive, and how sweet your soil smells even when you are dead!” Then he wept again and composed this poem, “Out of enmity they wanted to obliterate his grave, but the good smell of the soil led to the grave.”45
The first to prostrate on the soil of Karbala (where Imam Husayn was beheaded and buried) was his son, ‘Ali ibn al-Husayn Zayn al-Abidin, the fourth Imam of the school of Ahlul Bayt, the great-grandson of the Messenger of Allah. Immediately after he buried his father in Karbala, he took a handful of the soil, made the earth into a solid piece and used it to prostrate upon. After him, his son Imam Muhammad al-Baqir and his grandson, Imam Ja‘far al-Sadiq did the same.
Imam Zayn al-Abidin and Imam al-Sadiq made prayer beads from the burial dust of Imam Husayn, and Imam al-Sadiq narrates that the daughter of the Messenger of Allah, Lady Fatima al-Zahra used to carry prayer beads made from twisted wooden threads with which she would praise and glorify Allah, the Exalted. But after Hamzah ibn ‘Abdul Muttalib was killed in the Battle of Uhud, she took the soil from his grave and made prayer beads from it and used them to glorify Allah. People learned her habit and did the same when Imam Husayn was martyred; taking the soil of his grave and using it to make prayer beads.
During the time of the Prophet, the prayers over the newly deceased had five takbirs (units). Ahmad ibn Hanbal narrates from ‘Abd al-A‘la, “I prayed behind Zayd ibn Arqam over a dead body, and I did the takbirat five times.” A man stood behind him and held his hand and asked whether he had forgotten. ‘Abd al-A‘la replied, “No, but I prayed behind Abul-Qasim Muhammad and he did five takbirat, and I would not do other than that.”46
For reference, al-Suyuti mentions the name of the companion who changed the number of takbirs from five to four.47
Imam al-Bukhari narrates from ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Abd al-Qari, “In one of the nights of the month of Ramadan, I went to the masjid with ‘Umar ibn al-Khattab. We saw the people in scattered groups, with individuals praying by themselves. Others were praying with a group praying behind them. ‘Umar looked at me and said, ‘In my opinion, if I can bring all these people together behind one who recites, then it would be better.’ So, he gathered them and made ‘Ubay ibn Ka‘ab lead them in prayers. I went with him another night to the masjid, and saw people all praying together behind a person reciting. ‘Umar looked at them and said, ‘Ni‘mat al-bid‘ah hadhihi (‘This is a good innovation’).’”48
In the Shi‘a tradition, the recommended prayers (al-nawafil) during the month of Ramadan are performed individually.