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The history of sujūd

After creating Ādam (Adam) (‘a), God ordered the angels to prostrate before him. All of them prostrated except Iblīs.[1] On account of this defiance, God expelled him from His Presence.

The Qur’an mentions this episode repeatedly and we know that repetitions in the Qur’an are not without wisdom. It is as if it wants to say: “O man before whom all the angels prostrated! Why do you not prostrate before God, the Creator? O man! Iblīs was expelled for refusing to prostrate before you. Once you refuse to prostrate before God, what can you expect?

“Iblīs did not prostrate before you. He was saying: ‘I am superior to man.’ Can you afford to say: ‘I am superior to God’? You—who were once non-existent and once you came into the world, weakness and impotence enveloped your entire being, and in the end you shall also humbly depart from this world—how could you dare to be proud in front of the Creator of the universe?

At any rate, the first commandment of God after the creation of man was the command of prostration.


The importance of sujūd

Sujūd is the best position of man in the presence of God.

Sujūd is the best way to attain nearness to God:

﴾ وَ اسجُدْ وَ اقْترِب ﴿ “But prostrate and draw near [to Allah]!”[2]

A sign of the loyal Companions of the Prophet () was that the effect of prostration could be seen on their foreheads:

﴾ السُّجُودِ أَثَرِ مِّنْ وُجُوهِهِم فِي سِيمَاهُمْ ﴿ “Their mark is [visible] on their faces, from the effect of prostration.”[3]

Sujūd makes man harmonious and concordant with all of creation. This is because all creatures in heaven and on earth—from the stars to the plants—prostrate and are humble before God:

﴾ وَ للَّهِ يَسجُدُ مَا في السمَوَتِ وَ مَا في الأَرْضِ ﴿ “To Allah prostrates whatever is in the heavens and whatever is on the earth,”[4] and

﴾ وَ النَّجْمُ وَ الشجَرُ يَسجُدَانِ ﴿ “And the herb and the tree prostrate [to Allah].”[5]

Sujūd means harmony with the angels of God. Hadrat ‘Alī (‘a) says: “There is no layer of the heavens without having therein a group of angels in the state of sujūd.”[6]

Sujūd is the highest degree of obedience and servitude because man places on the earth the loftiest part of his body, i.e. his forehead, and expresses humility and impotence in the presence of the Omnipotent Authority.

Sujūd is the most sublime station for the noblest men and women of the world. God commanded His Prophet () to prostrate, and that was not only during daytime but also during the night: ﴾ وَ مِنَ الَّيْلِ فَاسجُدْ لَهُ وَ سبِّحْهُ لَيْلاً طوِيلا ﴿ “And worship Him for a watch of the night and glorify Him the night long.”[7] And in addressing Hadrat Maryam (Saint Mary)—that pure and devoted woman—He says: ﴾ يَٰمَرْيَمُ اقْنُتي لِرَبِّكِ وَ اسجُدِي ﴿ “O Mary, be obedient to your Lord, and prostrate.”[8]

Sujūd comes after the rukū. It is a more perfect and higher stage than rukū, and brings the person praying to the peak of humility. As such, rukūand sujūd are usually mentioned together in the Qur’an. For example,

﴾ يَأَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ ءَامَنُوا ارْكعُوا وَ اسجُدُوا ﴿ “O you who have faith! Bow down and prostrate yourselves,”[9] and ﴾ تَرَٰهُمْ رُكَّعاً سجَّدا ﴿ “You see them bowing and prostrating [in worship].”[10]

Sujūd is the symbol of faith in the divine signs:

﴾ إِنَّمَا يُؤْمِنُ بِئَايٰتِنَا الَّذِينَ إِذَا ذُكرُوا بهَا خَرُّوا سجَّدا ﴿ “Only those believe in Our signs who, when they are reminded of them, fall down in prostration.”[11]

Nightly prostration is one of the signs of the righteous servants of God: ﴾ وَ الَّذِينَ يَبِيتُونَ لِرَبِّهِمْ سجَّداً وَ قِيٰمًا…عِبَادُ الرَّحْمَنِ ﴿ “The servants of the All-beneficent are… those who spend the night with their Lord, prostrating and standing [in worship].”[12]

[1] Of course, sujūd is solely for God and man was merely assumed the qiblah of the angels.

[2] Sūrah al-‘Alaq 96:19.

[3] Sūrah al-Fath 48:29.

[4] Sūrah an-Nal 16:49.

[5] Sūrah ar-Ramān 55:6.

[6] Nahj al-Balāghah, Sermon 91.

[7] Sūrah al-Insān 76:26.

[8] Sūrah Āl ‘Imrān 3:43.

[9] Sūrah al-ajj 22:77.

[10] Sūrah al-Fat 48:29.

[11] Sūrah as-Sajdah 32:15.

[12] Sūrah al-Furqān 25:63-64.

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