Author: Ms. Seen Noon
During the mandatory five daily prayers, while facing the direction of Kaaba in Makkah, Muslims prostrate to Allah, in order to praise and glorify Him. The position of prostration involves having the forehead, nose, both hands, knees and toe(s) touching the ground.
Prostration (Sujud) as Part of Prayer (Salah)
In order to perform salah, a believer is required to offer the prescribed number of rak’ah; a unit of set actions that have to be performed in a prayer. In every rak’ah there are two prostrations (sujud), while the number of rak’ah may vary from two to three or four, depending on the time of the prayer.
List down the steps of Islamic prayer / salah, from the beginning, up till sujud, in order to understand the steps involved.
- Niyyah & Takbirat Al-Ihram: Step on the prayer mat (clean ground can also be used), make intention of starting salah, say Allah o Akbar, and raise your hands.
- Standing & Recitation: Fold your arms, start reciting Surah Fateha, and then any another short surah from the Qur’an.
- Ruku: Bow down, placing both hands on your knees, while not bending your knees, saying words to glorify Allah.
- I’tidal: Getting up, say more prescribed words of Allah’s glorification.
- Sujud: Go down in prostration, similar to the picture above, saying words of Allah’s glorification.
- Sit up, while staying on the floor, say the required words, go down again in the second prostration, while reciting words for Allah’s glorification.
- Standing: The second rak’ah has started, carry on as above, while reaching the second prostration.
- Tashahhud: Sit up, declare the “testimony of faith”, also known as at-Tahiyyat
- Taslim (conclusion): Look to your right shoulder, say ‘salaam’, look to your left shoulder and say ‘salaam’ (in case you are only offering two rak’ah. If not, skip this step and stand up).
Importance of Prostration In Prayer
One of the forms of praising Allah, paying gratitude and seeking forgiveness is by going in long prostration, saying our prayers, reciting supplication, that as a result we may get in the good books of Allah, and also, paying our tribute to the Almighty for blessing us even when we are knee deep in voluntary / involuntary sins.
Our beloved Prophet Muhammad S.A.W. said:
“A slave becomes nearest to his Lord when he is in prostration. So, increase supplications while prostrating.” [Muslim]
Sujud is an ideal form of worship indeed, bowing down in front of the Supreme King, putting down our foreheads, our faces, our palms, knees, legs and feet, making an effort to ensure that Allah hears our plea, forgiving us and showering His infinite blessings on us. The humility expressed by a believer in his prayers via prostration is ultimate, expressing to the creator, that no one is more supreme in the eyes of this believer. Allah, the Almighty, the most Forgiving has expressed to His creations that He is keenly listening to the pleas of those who are searching for Him in their prayers and prostrations. Allah says in Surah Al-’Alaq, Verse 19
‘…But prostrate and draw near [to Allah].’ (96:19)
In a Hadith of our beloved Holy Prophet (P.B.U.H.), the importance of prostration in front of the Almighty is highlighted further:
“Prostrate much because there is no Muslim that prostrates to God except that God raises him one degree in Paradise by it and forgives for him a sin.” (Ahmad)
Allah’s messenger (P.B.U.H.) would go into prostration in all of his emotional states; he’d go into a prolonged sujud / prostration in states of gratification, or when he felt sad, or when he was hurt by the negligence of the people who ignored his advice, or at times when he wanted to seek Allah’s forgiveness etc. Prostration was our beloved Prophet’s (P.B.U.H.) most liked position, he was in sujud so often that his companions would at times start to wonder if Allah’s messenger was still alive, SubhanAllah.
Undoubtedly, in all the states of salah / prayer, the state of prostration seals all the prior states performed as the steps of prayer. It’s such a beautiful moment of a connection being formed between you and the creator of the entire universe, the mankind, the space. It’s like, whatever is offered by us since the start of salah are only the pre-requisite steps performed by someone who is aiming at achieving the ultimate goal; connection to the Almighty. Allah loves His believing men in their states of pure bowing and prostrations, that He hears their whispers on earth while high up in the Heavens. Amazing, so reassuring for us, that we should regret and seek repentance, glorify and praise Him, offer gratitude with humility, when we are in the state of sujood in our prayers. It doesn’t mean that Allah is unaware of what’s in our hearts, rather, He loves to hear the deep, love-filled pleas of His creations, when we ask Him for our needs and wants.
Just think of it as one’s heart and soul so humbled by the state of closeness to Allah in their sujud, that they are unable to come out of it even while performing other parts of salah. The closeness, the humility, the brokenness of the heart is such a blessed feeling that one is overwhelmed by it throughout his salah, ultimately raising the level of acceptance of his prayers in the eyes of the All-Knowing. It is only those prayers that change the destiny of their performers, that help them in attaining the piety and humility that will vanish from earth one day while being taken over by worldly wants and desires.
Holy Prophet (P.B.U.H.) once said regarding sujud:
“My ummah on that day will surely have bright faces because of sujud, and bright arms and feet because of ablution.” (Ahmad)
Wow! Such a great assurance from the messenger of Allah, regarding any doubts we have about making a fresh ablution every time we offer salah or about offering short salahs and shortening the steps in order to get back to our worldly goals. Allah loves, loves, and loves, those who are pure in their hearts and actions, and this purity is reflected in all of their activities, whether its in dealing with his fellow humans or performing bread-earning rituals or bowing down in front of the Lord Almighty. We need to increase the lengths of our prostrations, along with that, the quality of our salah and its steps, ultimately passing the tests Allah will take on the Day of Judgement. As pointed out by our beloved Prophet (P.B.U.H.) that Allah will raise us as people with the brightest of faces, arms and feet, as a blessing resulting from the sincerity in our sujud and devotion in our ablution.
The need of the hour being, to clear our heads before we take the first step towards starting the meeting with our Lord. We should try to vacate our minds from worldly thoughts and plannings, shifting our focus towards being the most devoted and loyal servants of the Almighty, praising and glorifying Him in a manner that He deserves. Taking small steps in that direction will surely help us in attaining the best possible state of piety, humility, devotion, nothingness and submissiveness.
Satan, the one who has promised Allah to misguide us till eternity, hates us to the core as he didn’t obey Allah when the Almighty asked him to prostrate to Hazrat Adam (A.S.), resulting in satan’s exit from paradise.
Satan gets furious when Allah’s dedicated servants bow down and prostrate with their hearts and souls in front of Allah, and says: “Woe unto me, the son of Adam was commanded to prostrate, and he prostrated and Paradise was entitled to him and I was commanded to prostrate, but I refused and am doomed to Hell.” (Muslim)
Another golden benefit of improving our state of salah and sujud; becoming closer to the Holy Prophet (P.B.U.H.), and resulting in gaining his companionship in paradise. Allah loves those who love and praise Him and His messenger, and we can do so by being honest and pure-hearted in our prayers and supplications, offering our salah in the best manner possible, requesting the Almighty for the companionship of the beloved Prophet (P.B.U.H.).
One shouldn’t forget that the Holy Prophet (P.B.U.H.) once said:
‘Every slave will be resurrected in the state upon which he died.’ (Muslim)
Thus, hoping and praying to Allah, the most merciful, to enable us to be in a state of prostration when it is time for us to depart from this immortal world. That state referred here surely refers to the good or bad deeds one is engaged in at the time of their death, being the last thing they do and being raised like that in the Hereafter. So, requesting Allah that we may be in a state that is a pathway leading us closer to gaining the pleasure of Allah, reaching the heaven and the companionship of Allah’s beloved messenger (P.B.U.H.).
Allah says in the Holy Quran, in Surah Al-Fath, Verse 29
‘You see them bowing and prostrating [in prayer], seeking bounty from Allah and [His] pleasure. Their mark is on their faces from the trace of prostration.’ (48:29)
Subhan Allah, Allah, the most merciful, blesses and awards the ones who bow and prostrate to Him, with an everlasting mark on their foreheads, highlighting them as the blessed ones. Those servants and believers of Allah will be raised such that they will naturally fall into prostration at the sight of even a tiny glimpse of the Almighty at the day of judgement. Just think, if we are bowing down to Him, without having any idea of Him, His feel, then how can we stand erect when we are blessed with a glimpse of His glow in the Hereafter. We would for sure fall down in the state of prostration, submitting to Him with our pure and humble intentions. Unfortunately, those who disobeyed or followed the path of disobedience and evil deeds, won’t be able to bow down even if they intended to, and Allah will make their backs erect and stern, unable to bow down and prostrate, may Allah forgive us all.
This earth, proof of the Almighty’s creativity and supremacy, it is so in love with the touch of sujud performed by a believer that it cries when it remembers that devoted servant of Allah offering his salah and bowing down and laying his forehead on it when in sujud. All things created by the Almighty praise and glorify Him, and offer their thanks to only the most deserving, the most supreme, Allah. We need to overcome the love for worldly affairs, and become devoted slaves of Allah. Putting in all the efforts is our assignment, and accepting it in whole is somethings that we hope and pray for, from the Emperor of this universe.
Prostration and Science
Everyday there is more and more evidence of the benefits of actions prescribed by Allah in Qur’an or through His Messenger (S.A.W.). There are times when our minds wonder of the relation between the various forms of ibadah; praising our Lord, with the scientific benefits of those rituals. Because a lot of times we have found evidence of the benefits of the prescribed forms of worship by scientists or even directly in Qur’an. So, I felt like diving in and gaining insight about the deeper relationship of prostration and human health.
I was intrigued after reading a few stories on the benefits of long prostration on peoples’ sinuses, backaches, headaches, anxiety etc. Just think about it, the positions laid out for our five-time prayers should definitely have a link to human psychology and health, undoubtedly. A new term might have caught your attention; ‘earthing / grounding’, it means to walk barefoot on the grass or ground, connecting to the earth. The spiritual effect of this connection is very uplifting, decreasing our anxiety levels, depression, stress and increasing the positivity in us, drawing us close to contentment, calmness and peace. You can achieve the results when you prostrate on a ground outdoors, connecting yourself to the earth, and getting rid of all the negative energy around.
The in-depth analysis of the aforementioned phenomenon details about the absorption of electrons from the surface of the earth which in turn neutralize the positively charged free radicals in our body that damage our cells, cause diseases, accelerates aging. There is more to it, which you should research / google, in order to reap the benefits in this COVID-19 lockdown, a time when the stress, anxiety, frustration is at its peak.
I have become a strong believer in seeking peace and calmness in the actions and commands laid out by our Supreme King. Indeed, as a momin (believer), our utmost goal is to base our routine life dealings in a way that gain us the pleasure of Allah, and subsequently the blessings of the souls around us. The whole earth, and the mechanics of the way it functions, envelopes in itself great miracles and discoveries. We start to feel that today’s science has uncovered all that is out there, but then something remarkable surfaces that opens our hearts and minds. Studying the Holy Quran with translation (if you don’t know Arabic), and acting upon the Sunnah of our beloved Prophet (S.A.W.) can lead us to paths that are lit up with enlightening morals. The need of the hour is not just to be a book worm and read the text, but to allow our minds and souls to absorb all the intellectual essence in it, curing us physically, mentally, psychologically, spiritually, and emotionally. And, last but not the least; to share our learnings with our fellow brothers and sisters, in a way that is not confined to the basic approach of doing the usual Islam 101 classes. But, rather, transferring the scientific applications attached with the basic rituals, in order to capture the deeper motive of it all.