what should we prostrate on, in prayers?

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what should we prostrate on, in prayers?
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The Shi'a are of the belief that, in the Salat prayer, one must make the prostration on the earth, or on whatever that is from the earth, so long as the material on the ground not be made out of a substance that can be worn or eaten; prostration on anything else, when one has the choice, is not considered correct. This matter has been made clear in a hadith from the prophet (PBUH) that the Sunnis also record in their books:

'The earth ( al-ard) has been made for me ,a place of prostration ( masjid) [1] and a means of purification ( tahur). [2]

The word tahur, which envisages the tayammum,[3] shows that what is meant by al-ard in the saying is the natural substance of the earth, stone and the like.
Imam Sadiq said:

'The prostration is allowed only on the earth, or on what grows from the earth, except that which can be eaten or worn.[4]

The Shi'a are of the belief that, in the Salat prayer, one must make the prostration on the earth, or on whatever that is from the earth, so long as the material on the ground not be made out of a substance that can be worn or eaten; prostration on anything else, when one has the choice, is not considered correct. This matter has been made clear in a hadith from the prophet (PBUH) that the Sunnis also record in their books: 'The earth ( al-ard) has been made for me ,a place of prostration ( masjid) [1] and a means of purification ( tahur). [2]

The word tahur, which envisages the tayammum,[3] shows that what is meant by al-ard in the saying is the natural substance of the earth, stone and the like.

It was the general practice of the Muslims at the time of the Prophet to make their prostration on the ground of the mosque, which was covered by gravel and sand. During hot weather, when making the prostration on hot stones was difficult, they used to take up some gravel in their hands, hold it until it cooled, and then, when the time for prayer came, they would place that handful of gravel before them and make the prostration on it. The companion, jabir b. 'Abd Allah al-Ansari said:

'I was praying the noon prayer with the Prophet; I had a handful of gravel that I was moving from one hand to the other until it cooled, and made the prostration on it when the time for prayer came.'[5]

One of the Prophet's companions was avoiding getting his forehead rubbed into the earth; the Prophet said lo him: 'Make your forehead dusty with earth!' [6] Likewise, if someone were by chance to prostrate upon a part of the cloth of his turban, the Prophet would take the material away from underneath the forehead.[7]
These hadiths all bear witness to the fact that at the time of the Prophet it was incumbent on the Muslims to make prostration upon the earth or stone, and they did not prostrate on carpets, cloth or even the material of their turbans. But it was later revealed to the Prophet that prostration could also be made on mats of straw and reed, and many narrations indicate that the Prophet did prostrate on such materials.[8]
Of course, in times of necessity, some companions used to prostrate on part of their clothes, as Anas b. Malik says:

'We used to pray with the Prophet. Whenever one of us was prevented from prostrating on the earth, he would prostrate upon part of his turban or on a part of his clothes.'[9]

Therefore, the Shi'a have always felt themselves bound to maintain the principle of prostrating only upon the earth and what grows naturally from it, that is, reed, straw and the like, while avoiding any substances that are either worn or eaten. If they insist upon prostrating only upon such surfaces, it is for these reasons.
It would indeed be advantageous for all mosques in the world where Muslims pray to be built in such a manner that enables the followers of all the madhhabs of Islam to accomplish their respective duties in an appropriate and dignified manner.

we should not omit to mention the following point: stones and earth are 'prostrated upon' (masjudun alayhi) and not 'prostrated to' ( masjudun lahu); for it is sometimes wrongly supposed that the Shi'a actually prostrate to their stones! In truth, like all Muslims, prostration is solely to God. Our humility and effacement before the divine presence is given outward expression by this act of placing the forehead on the earth.

In conclusion, we should not omit to mention the following point: stones and earth are 'prostrated upon' (masjudun alayhi) and not 'prostrated to' ( masjudun lahu); for it is sometimes wrongly supposed that the Shi'a actually prostrate to their stones! In truth, like all Muslims, prostration is solely to God. Our humility and effacement before the divine presence is given outward expression by this act of placing the forehead on the earth.

1. The word masjid, commonly translated as 'mosque', literally means a place where one prostrates', being derived from the word sajada, to prostrate.
2. al-Bukhari, Sahih,, vol. 1, p. 91, Kitab al-tayammum, hadith no. 2.
3. The tayammum refers to the use of earth or a stone for purification in the ablution, when no water is available.
4. al-'Amili, Wasa'il al-Shi'a, vol. 3, ch.1 , hadith no. 1, p. 591.
5. lbn Hanbal, Musnad, vol. 3, p. 327; al-Bayhaqi, Sunan, vol. 1, p.
439·
6. al-Hindi, Kanz al-'ummal, vol. 7, p. 465, hadith no. 1981.
7. al-Bayhaqi, Sunan, vol. 2, p. 105.
8. lbn Hanbal, Musnad, vol. 6, pp. 179, 309, 331, 377; vol. 2, pp. 192-7.
9. al-Bukhari, Sahih, vol. 1, p. 101; Muslim, Sahih, vol. 1, p. 109.

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لا يكونُ أخوكَ أقوى مِنكَ على مَودّتِهِ.
Do not let your brother be stronger than you are in your amity for him.