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We believe that a true and comprehensive understanding of Islam would not be possible without careful recognition of the Prophetic Tradition and the Prophet's Household. And Allah is the Source of Strength.

Shias and Prayers

Salat is a pillar of faith. Like on any other believer who obeys Quranic and Prophetic Orders, Shias perform. Sunnis do argue over certain issues, such as the timings or prostration on the Turba of Kerbala.

Abu Sa'eed used to relate that he had seen the Prophet doing his prostration (Sajdah ) on wet mud, so much so that he could see the stains of mud on his forehead.
Saheeh Bukhari, Part I, p. 104

The Prophet used to rest his forehead on the earth (turba) while prostrating.
Saheeh Bukhari, Part 1, p. 97

The Prophet used to do his prostration on Khumrah (Sijdaghah).
Saheeh Bukhari, Part 2, p. 214 & p.243
Jam'a Tirmizee, p.46
Kanzul Ummal, Part 2, p. 12

The Prophet declared that the best spot for prostration was the earth or a thing that grows from the earth.
Kanz-ul-Ummal Part 4. p. 113

"The Prophet said to his wife Umme Salma, "Please fetch the 'Khamrah' (Sajdaghah) from the mosque." The word Khumrah means a small piece of chatai made from palmleaf on which only the head could be rested when prostrating.
lbn-e-Aseer in his Jam'a-ul-Usool

I maintain that by this tradition it is 'sunnat' to keep a 'sajdagah'. To practice this 'sunnat', some Shi'as often perform their prostration on a fan made from palmleaf and do not care about the criticism of the ignorant. Most of the Shias although prostrate on the Turba of Kerbala.

The reason why Shi`as prostrate on the turba is based on two sound premises hinging upon two issues: First, It is commendable for one who prays to use a pure soil he is sure to be clean regardless of where he takes it from; there is no preference nor any distinction of one soil over another in as far as prostrating upon it is concerned. This is only an indication that the person offering his prayers demonstrates concern about the cleanliness of his body and clothes, and about the place where he offers his prayers. 

Secondly, The rule of "absolute consideration" determines that some lands are better than others, and it acknowledges the differences between relics and the views in their regard. This is something normal, rational, agreed upon by all nations, governments, authorities, and all the world's rulers. Through relating or attributing one land, place, or area of a specific significance to another, decisions are made and injunctions are derived which should not be violated, nor should those who violate them be pardoned.

The Land of Kerbala reminds us of justice, truth, unity and bravery. A land where the holy blood of Imam Hussain and his family was Shed, can such a land be impure and not of high standard? It is the same that caused the Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him and his progeny, to tearfully mourn his grandson al-Husain (as) and hold many a mourning ceremony in his memory and take the turba of Kerbala, smell it and kiss it, up to the end of the recorded tradition. It is the same that caused Lady Ummu Salamah, Mother of the Faithful, to keep a specimen of Kerbala's turba in her clothes. It is the same one that caused the Truthful Lady Fatima (as) to take a specimen of the soil of her father's pure grave and smell it. It is the same that caused the Commander of the Faithful Ali, peace be upon him, to take a handful of Kerbala's turba when he reached that land, smell it then cry till the ground became wet with his tears.

It is the same that prompted a man from Banu Asad to smell the soil where al-Husain (as) was buried then cry.

Hisham ibn Muhammad has said, "When water was released to overwhelm [and obliterate] the grave of al-Husain (as), it dried after forty days, and the grave was completely left without any trace. A bedouin from Banu Asad came and kept sampling one handful of soil of that site after another, smelling it each time, till he was able to identify al-Husain's grave, 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 (turba) smells when you are dead!" Then he wept again and composed this verse of poetry:
Out of enmity did they want to obliterate his grave,
But the good smell of the grave's soil led to the grave.
page 342, Vol. 4, of Ibn `Asakir's Tarikh and also to p. 293 of the book written by hafiz al-Kanji titled Al-Kifaya.

Having provided such a detailed account, we reveal to the discreet and free-minded researcher the secret why the turba of the sacred land of Kerbala is thus honored, the extent of its relationship to Allah, Praised and Exalted is He, the extent of its sanctity and that of the one to whom it is related in the light of his nearness to the Sublime One, the most High. What would you think of the sanctity of a soil that is the burial ground of someone who was killed in the Cause of Allah, of a supreme leader of His army who never flinched from defending His cause? Surely it is the soil of one whom He loves, of one who invited others to Him, who led them to Him, who rose for His sake, who sacrificed his family and his own life and everything precious for Him, one who imperiled his blood for the sake of raising the status of His Commandments, for the dissemination of His Unity, so that His Commandments may rule, and so that His path and means may be firmly rooted.

Is not prostrating on such a turba in order to seek nearness to Allah as one performs his prayers at the ends of the night and the day anything other than that? Is it, rather than any other soil, earth, hall, etc., more worthy of being held as pure and clean? Is it not better than rugs, sheets, or carpets woven by weaving machines operated by unknown hands? Moreover, there is nothing in the Sunnah that recommends prostrating on such items...

Is not a soil that symbolizes the signs of Tawhid and the defense of Tawhid to the end more worthy of prostrating upon? It surely invites one to be kind at heart, to be compassionate, to be affectionate and gentle.

When the Shi`as use Kerbala's soil to prostrate upon, they do not claim that doing so is absolutely obligatory, nor do they claim that it is an obligation derived from the Shari`a or the creed, nor is it one of the sect's obligation, nor does anyone among them, from the very first day, distinguish between it and others collected from the earth's soil, when they regard prostrating upon it as permissible, contrary to what ignorant folks claim, those who base their claim on their own personal views. To us, such a turba is mandated by reason and is highly commendable, that's all.

The Second objection Sunnis have is with the Shias praying 3 prayers and not the 5 deemed compulsory for Muslims.

Those who have done some sincere research before concluding the above mis-statement claim that Shias pray 5 prayers at 3 times and not 5 times. This is a valid statement and requires a justification.

Most of the Shias often pray five prayers at three times. The Shias pray Fajr at it's time. They then pray Zuhrein or Zuhr and Asr at the same time one after the other. Similarly, they pray Maghribein or Maghrib and Isha at the same time, one after the other. Thus Shias do pray 5 prayers, but often at 3 different times.

Coming to Sunni Resources, Rasool (SAW) used to practice what Shias do today, ie combining of the Prayers. Rasool (SAW) used to combine prayers when in fear (of war) or in times of rain.

Abu Juhaifa reported: The Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) went at noon towards al-Batha', he performed ablution, and said two rak'ahs of the Zuhr prayer and two of the 'Asr prayer, and there was a spear in front of him.
Sahih-Muslim - Book 004, Number 1017

Yahya related to me from Malik from Abu'z Zubayr al-Makki from Said ibn Jubayr that Abdullah ibn Abbas said, "The Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, prayed dhuhr and asr together and maghrib and isha together, and not out of fear nor because of travelling." Malik said, "I believe that was during rain."
Malik's Muwatta Book 9, Number 9.1.4

Similarly, Rasool (SAW) used to combine or shorten his prayers during travel.

Yahya related to me from Malik that he had heard that AIi ibn Husain used to say, "The Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, would join dhuhr and asr if he wished to travel the same day, and he would join maghrib and isha if he wished to travel the same night."
Malik's Muwatta Book 9, Number 9.1.7

Narrated Anas bin Malik: Whenever the Prophet started the journey before noon, he used to delay the Zuhr prayer till the time for the 'Asr prayer and then he would dismount and pray them together; and whenever the sun declined before he started the journey he used to offer the Zuhr prayer and then ride (for the journey).
Sahih Bukhari Volume 2, Book 20, Number 213

Thus when ever Rasool (SAW) was on a journey, he would combine the prayers in order to facilitate the travel. However, Shariah of Rasool (SAW) does not define how much distance/travel can be termed as a journey. Following are some notable Fatwas of well-known Sunni Sheikhs.

Shaykh Ibn Baaz said in Majmoo’ al-Fataawa (12/267), explaining what is meant by traveling: The view of the majority of scholars is that this is equivalent to approximately eighty kilometers for one who travels by car, plane or ship. This distance is what is called traveling according to the custom of the Muslims. So if a person travels by camel, car, plane or ship, for this distance or more, he is regarded as a traveler.

The Four Schools' agreed-upon criterion that establish such status is, generally speaking: travel a one-way distance of 55 miles [89 km] or more. And Ibn Qudama has argued that even less than that may constitute travel, on the strength of Anas's narration that the Prophet would shorten his prayer if he went out for a distance of 5 or -- one of the narrators does not remember -- 10 miles [8-17 km]. It is narrated by Muslim, Ahmad, and Abu Dawud. Ibn Qudama said (al-Mughni 2:257) that this constitutes enough proof unless there is a consensus to the contrary. Shafi`is fix it at 50 miles [81 km].

Based on prophetic traditions, The Sunni consensus is that any person traveling 80kms approximately is termed a traveler. Some claim that distances upto 10 kilometers also qualifies based on some traditions but they are deemed weak by the general consensus.

Keeping in view the above, any person who travels the given distance is Islamically allowed to combine his Prayers, the way of Rasool (SAW). Today in the socio-financial era, people travel daily through trains, airplanes on business trips. I personally travel 90 kilometers every day from my home to office and back.

I guess the Sunnis would not have any problems with Shias combining their salaat during rain, fear (of war) and travel. But what about Shias who combine their prayers without any rain, travel or fear?

We should again turn towards the life of Rasool (SAW) through Sunni resources.

Ibn 'Abbas reported: The Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) observed the noon and afternoon prayers together, and the sunset and Isha' prayers together without being in a state of fear or in a state of journey.
Sahih Muslim Book 004, Number 1515

Ibn 'Abbas reported that the Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) combined the noon prayer with the afternoon prayer and the sunset prayer with the 'Isha' prayer in Medina without being in a state of danger or rainfall. And in the hadith transmitted by Waki' (the words are):" I said to Ibn 'Abbas: What prompted him to do that? He said: So that his (Prophet's) Ummah should not be put to (unnecessary) hardship." And in the hadith transmitted by Mu'awiya (the words are):" It was said to Ibn 'Abbas: What did he intend thereby? He said he wanted that his Ummah should not be put to unnecessary hardship."
Sahih Muslim Book 004, Number 1520

Rasool (SAW) used to combine prayers without any obvious reason, as per Ibn Abbas's interpretations and understanding, to facilitate the believers.

The five time prayers are farz and are encouraged to be prayed in congregation. In times like today, where people find it hard to leave their office atleast 3 times (for zuhr, asr and maghrib prayers which usually occur during office timings) to go to the mosque and return back to work, what is wrong if we combine our prayers just like Rasool (SAW) did? If Islam is giving us a facility, why not avail it?

Sahih of Muslim has a whole chapter in Book4, Kitab ul Salaat (book of prayers), Chapter 100 entitled "Combination of prayers, when one is resident". If any Sunni Muslim challenges the way of the Shia, he must first challenge the Sahih of Muslim.

Add to that the Fatwa of Shaykh Muhammad bin Saalih al-`Uthaymeen from Saudi Arabia who wrote 50 books on fiqh:

Shaykh Muhammad bin Saalih al-`Uthaymeen says: As for (the question), “Is combining (the prayers) permissible when shortening is allowed?” Then we say, “Combining (the prayers) is not associated with shortening. Rather, combining is associated with a need.” So whenever the person needs to combine whether he is traveling or not, then let him combine. For this, the people combine because of rain, which due to it; it would be a hardship to return to the masaajid. Also, the people combine if there is harsh, cold wind during the days of winter, which due to it, it would be a hardship to go out to the masaajid. He combines if he fears losing his wealth or any harm in it, or whatever is similar to that - the person combines (his prayers). It is reported in Saheeh Muslim from ‘Abdullaah ibn ‘Abbaas that he said: “The Prophet (SAW) combined between Dhuhr and ‘Asr, and between Maghrib and Ishaa not due to any fear nor rain.” They asked, “Why did he do this?” He said that he did so in order not to cause any hardship upon his Ummah. Meaning, he did not want to place any hardship that would make one leave the congregation.

To us, what is important are 5 prayers, not 5 times of prayers. Just for information, Quran mentions only three times of prayers:

And keep up prayer in the two parts of the day and in the first hours of the night; surely good deeds take away evil deeds this is a reminder to the mindful.
Quran [11:114]

Two parts of the day and first hours of the night! To conclude it, Shias pray Five prayers daily at five different times. However, bulk of the people pray the Zuhr and Asr prayers at the same time and Maghrib and Isha prayers together due to the allowance in shariat in order to save time in modern era of extreme busyness, in order to facilitate themselves, just like Rasool (SAW) used to do.

You pray Zuhr or Asr at the same time or at different time is upto your own choice. Islam has given every opportunity to ensure that they are prayed and in congregation. Those who avail it are not Kaafirs. Those who do not avail it are not kaafirs.

This should clear any confusions and prove to be a step towards unity, as we all worship the same Allah following the same Rasool (SAW).

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