In this article we will try to understand the Quranic concept of Sajud (Sajdah). According to the majority of Muslim sources, Sajud (Sajdah) is the prostration to Allah during the prayer in the direction of Kaaba. In which nose, forehead, hands, knees and toes touches the ground together.
REJECTERS AND SAJUD
Sajud (Sajdah) is one of the mandatory elements of Muslim prayers. However, in Quran the rejecters/disbeliever (KAAFIR) are also invited for Sajud (prostration).
Let’s see the verses and try to understand the meaning of Sajud (Sajdah).
وَإِذَا قُرِئَ عَلَيْهِمُ الْقُرْآنُ لَا يَسْجُدُونَ
84:21. And when the Qur’an is recited to them, they do not prostrate (lā yasjudūn)
بَلِ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا يُكَذِّبُونَ
84:22. On the contrary, the disbelievers reject it.
Isn’t it astonishing, that disbelievers are asked for Sajud (Sajdah)? Does any Muslim today ask the rejecter or those who don’t believe in Islam for the act of Sajud traditionally called as prostration? Furthermore, according to the traditional Muslims, disbeliever must first enter into the circle of Islam before performing ritual prayer. But the question that arises is, does the traditional SALAT (prayer) consist of only Sajud as the verse does not talk about the other elements of traditional prayer? Then what type of Sajud is this?
IDOLATERS AND SAJUD
Let’s see another verse where the idolaters are invited to do Sajud to the Most Merciful (Rehman)
. وَإِذَا قِيلَ لَهُمُ اسْجُدُوا لِلرَّحْمَٰنِ قَالُوا وَمَا الرَّحْمَٰنُ أَنَسْجُدُ لِمَا تَأْمُرُنَا وَزَادَهُمْ نُفُورًا
25:60. And when it is said to them, “Prostrate to the Most Merciful,” they say, “And what is the Most Merciful? Should we prostrate to that which you order us?” And it increases them in aversion.
The thing to ponder about is that the invitation to Sajud is given to those who don’t know who is Rehman (the Most Merciful).
If we understand these verses beyond the barriers of traditional concepts then, we will come to know that here Sajud is related with those actions which start after listening to the message of Quran. The only thing that comes after listening to the commandments is action. And the above verses talk about the reading of Quran in front of rejecters and idolaters.
Therefore, Sajud (Sajdah) is related to following the divine commandments instead of ritual prostration.
In order to understand Rehman (the Most Merciful), it is important to listen to His commandments and then obey them i.e. to act upon the divine commandments. Sajud is the action that brings the doer closer to Allah (96:19)
Unfortunately today we give more importance to the ritual Sajud (prostration), and we believe that Allah needs this ritual act to be happy with us, whereas we are unable to understand the true meaning of Sajud that can bring us closer to Rehman (the Most Merciful).
From this we understand that actions on the guidance of Most Merciful are required to understand him.
PEOPLE OF BANI ISRAEL AND SAJUD
Allah instructed Bani Israel (children of Israel) for prostrating (Sajud), while entering into the gates of the city.
. وَإِذْ قُلْنَا ادْخُلُوا هَٰذِهِ الْقَرْيَةَ فَكُلُوا مِنْهَا حَيْثُ شِئْتُمْ رَغَدًا وَادْخُلُوا الْبَابَ سُجَّدًا
2:58. And when We said, “Enter this city and eat from it wherever you will in [ease and] abundance, and enter the gate prostrating. (sujjadan) …
How can it be possible to prostrate while walking because both actions can not be done at the same time. Therefore, here again Sajud cannot be taken as ritual prostration.
If we concentrate on the context of this verse then the meaning of Sajud can easily be understood. According to the context, Allah saved Bani Israel from Pharaoh (2:50), later Prophet Moses promised them for a prosperous life, but they showed anxiousness and they followed other commandments (2:51). Then Allah gave Moses (Musa) Furqan, the commandments which differentiate between truth and falsehood (2:53).
Following Allah’s commandment leads to a blissful life (Jannah), which remains hidden to people until they act upon them. Bani Israel anxiously wanted to see the results of obeying Allah’s commandments (2:55). Later Allah gave life to the dead nation and gave them all the blessings they desired (2:56-57).
Then we see this verse (2:58) in which Allah is reminding Bani Israel about Sajud while entering in to the life in which no one is going to be harmed and where people have plenty to eat.
We can enter in such life/state only when we obey Allah’s commandments consistently and humbly because there is always a chance of proudness when someone has plenty of wealth (2:57). This is why Allah reminded them to be humble and keep acting on the commandments that are given to them in FURQAN (2:53) in order to live a prosperous life.This is what Sajud (Sajdah) is all about.
PEOPLE OF BOOK AND SAJUD
It is also mentioned in Quran, that the people of Book, reciting the Quran whole night and they remain in Sajud (3:113). The next verse clarifies the type of Sajud (Sajdah) they do. Means they advocate virtue by example, and close the doors to vice by example, and try to lead in acts of collective good (3:114).
The most important thing after getting knowledge is to act upon it. Those people who possess the knowledge of previous scriptures, when the verses of Quran are recited to them, they do Sajud (act upon it). Means the knowledge is pre requisite of Sajud (17:107).
Sajud (Sajdah) is the practical demonstration of obedience. In verse 22:77 and 53:62, the word Abudu clarifies that Sajud is related to obedience.
PROPHET YOUSUF AND SAJUD
Prophet Yousuf (Joseph) told his Father that he saw a dream in which eleven planets, the sun and the moon are prostrating (sājidīna) to him (12:4).
The verse 12:100 explains the meaning of his dream.
وَرَفَعَ أَبَوَيْهِ عَلَى الْعَرْشِ وَخَرُّوا لَهُ سُجَّدًا
12:100. And he brought his parents up on the throne and they prostrate (sujjadan ) in appreciation/respect to him
. وَقَالَ يَا أَبَتِ هَٰذَا تَأْوِيلُ رُؤْيَايَ مِن قَبْلُ قَدْ جَعَلَهَا رَبِّي حَقًّا
And he said, “O my father, this is the interpretation of my dream before. Indeed, my Lord has made it a reality…
It is not possible that Prophet Joseph’s parents prostrated to him. Prophet Joseph has given his parents’ full respect and admiration by calling them on the throne. Think about it, how this can be possible that Prophet Joseph’s parents prostrate him in return to his kindness. Quran talks about the nature of human being beautifully.
Let’s imagine if Allah makes you a king and then you ask your beloved parents who have never seated on the throne before, to sit on the throne. What will be their reaction on this? Initially they will show humility but because they love you too much, they will act according to your will.
Therefore, Sajud (Sajdah) to Allah means showing humility and do as He commands.
ALLAH’S CREATION AND SAJUD
The following verses explain the whole concept of Sajud (Sajdah) beautifully,
. أَوَلَمْ يَرَوْا إِلَىٰ مَا خَلَقَ اللَّهُ مِن شَيْءٍ يَتَفَيَّأُ ظِلَالُهُ عَنِ الْيَمِينِ وَالشَّمَائِلِ سُجَّدًا لِّلَّهِ وَهُمْ دَاخِرُونَ ٘
16:48. Have they not considered what things Allah has created? Their shadows incline to the right and to the left, prostrating (sujjadan) to Allah , They are to remain in obedience.
. وَلِلَّهِ يَسْجُدُ مَا فِي السَّمَاوَاتِ وَمَا فِي الْأَرْضِ مِن دَابَّةٍ وَالْمَلَائِكَةُ وَهُمْ لَا يَسْتَكْبِرُونَ ٘
16:49. And to Allah prostrates (yasjudu) whatever is in the heavens and whatever is on the earth of creatures, and the Malaika [as well], and they are not proud.
. يَخَافُونَ رَبَّهُم مِّن فَوْقِهِمْ وَيَفْعَلُونَ مَا يُؤْمَرُونَ ۩ ٘
16:50. They all revere their Lord, high above them, and they do all that they are commanded.
. أَلَمْ تَرَ أَنَّ اللَّهَ يَسْجُدُ لَهُ مَن فِي السَّمَاوَاتِ وَمَن فِي الْأَرْضِ وَالشَّمْسُ وَالْقَمَرُ وَالنُّجُومُ وَالْجِبَالُ وَالشَّجَرُ وَالدَّوَابُّ وَكَثِيرٌ مِّنَ النَّاسِ ۖ وَكَثِيرٌ حَقَّ عَلَيْهِ الْعَذَابُ ۗ وَمَن يُهِنِ اللَّهُ فَمَا لَهُ مِن مُّكْرِمٍ ۚ إِنَّ اللَّهَ يَفْعَلُ مَا يَشَاءُ ۩ ٘
22:18. Do you not see that to Allah prostrates whoever is in the heavens and whoever is on the earth and the sun, the moon, the stars, the mountains, the trees, the moving creatures and many of the people? But upon many the punishment has been justified. And he whom Allah humiliates – for him there is no bestower of honor. Indeed, Allah does what He wills.
(Also refer to verse 13:15 and 55:6)
The traditionalists say that the Sajud of Allah’s creation is beyond our understanding and only Allah knows how His creation does Sajud to Him. However, we learn from the above verses that;
- Quran encourages the reader to see /observe/ witness the Sajud (Sajdah) of Allah’s creation.
- All the creations of Allah including Sun, moon, planets, stars, trees, Malaika, many human beings and every single element of this universe are doing Sajud, whereas, we have never seen them in prostration
- How they do Sajud?
- They are to remain in obedience (wa hum dakhirun)
- They are not proud (wa hum la yastakbarun )
- and they do all that they are commanded (wa yaf’aluna ma yumarun)