(1) Prostration in Islam

Prostration in Islam

(Outside congregational prayers at Sultan Mosque, Singapore.)

Prostration in Islam

In Islam, prostration is an act of thankfulness, gratefulness and submission. And that is why Muslims perform a number of prostrations during each of the Muslim’s daily prayers (solat).

We often see even athletes and footballers kneel and put their foreheads on the ground – in thankfulness for winning an event or scoring a goal.

Singapore’s number one golfer Mardan Mamat, 44, after winning the Philippine Open Championship last year, kneeled, put his forehead on the ground and then lifted his cupped hands heavenward and wiped his hands on his face. He was thanking Allah and expressing gratitude to Him for the victory.

Many non-Muslim athletes as well as competition and game-show winners too had knelt and kissed the ground to express jubilation over their individual successes.

As seen on North Indian TV channels, many of the Muslims and non-Muslim talent competition participants, whenever they were selected for the next round of the contest, would kneel and kiss the stage floor. They are doing it naturally to express gratitude to God.

In religions, prostration (sujud) is a religious act of adoration and gratitude to God.

The Bible also says that Jesus Christ (Peace be on him), at the Garden of Gethsemane, “fell on his face, and prayed…” (Matthew, 26:39)

“Fell on his face” is a Biblical expression for prostration.

Prostration is most manifest in the solat. The Muslim performs it during his solat in complete submission to Allah, with respect, obedience and adoration to Him.

The Muslim does at least 34 prostrations in his obligatory prayers of each day, each time glorifying God in his breath: “O Allah, glory be to You, Most High” at least three times.

The prostration is so significant in Islam that apart from the obligatory prostration performed during the solat, it is sunnah to make a prostration during a Quran recital when a reciter comes to the word “sajda” or “sujud” in the verse and recites it. This act is called Sujud Tilawah. The listerner too performs Sujud Tilawah.

There are 14 places in the Quran where, when recited or hear, it is sunnah to prostrate.

An example of a verse where prostration is mentioned, and so the reciter and the listener make the prostration after the word, “sajda”, is recited is: “Surely those who are with your Lord are never too proud to perform acts of worship to Him but they glorify His Praise and prostrate before Him.” (7:206)

Even when the chapter with the “prostration” word, “Sajda” is recited by the imam in a congregational prayer, all the congrants will prostrate to show respect and obey the instruction.

The prostration position is also a moment when a Muslim asks Allah for His forgiveness, mercy and blessing.

Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) said: “The closest a servant is to his Lord is while he is in prostration, so make plenty of do’a.” (Abu Hurayrah)

Hence, prostration is the humblest and best position to:

  • thank Allah for giving something good.
  • glorify Allah for his greatness.
  • make an earnest request for some help from Allah.
  • seek forgiveness and mercy from Allah.
  • ask for Allah’s general blessings in life.

In Islam, when a Muslim is going to perform the solat, he would have to take the wudu (ablution) first, and then, when praying, face the Qibla, hence the prostration is a highly devotional act, an act done when a Muslim is in the state of purity.

However, those Muslim athletes who prostrate spontaneously in the sports stadium or field are doing it naturally in a sudden surge of happiness to thank Allah. Thus, Muslim scholars say that prostrating without being in a state of wudu, is better than not prostrating at all. There ought to be nothing shameful about it for a Muslim to prostrate to Allah in public as many Muslim sportsmen and sportswoman had done.

The Muslim could also do sujud syukur, a prostration performed at home or in the mosque after the obligatory solat to thank Allah for the blessings given to him or for achieving something that he has made do’a for.

In Islam, Prostration of Worship (Sujud Ibadah) is performed not to any human being, however reverent or high status he is, but to Allah alone.

Shaik Kadir

(28 Feb 2013)

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