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Prostration As Mark Of Respect Prohibited Due To Being Shirk Or Being Haram.

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It was brought to attention that on IslamicAwakening forum people had disagreed on the reasons on which Sajdah to creation of Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala) was prohibited. One opinion was that Sajdah to creation was prohibited because it was [worship hence] Shirk. The second position was that Sajdah performed to honour a creation is prohibited as consuming of pig is prohibited. The third position was that Sajdah was prohibited because it means/road to Shirk - such as worship of other than Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala). The last position can perfectly compliment the first and the second position therefore finale position by itself is not a separate position.

Angels And Prophet Yaqoob (alayhis salaam) Prostrate To Creation:

Sajdah is not worship on every occasion because Quran attests to angels prostrating to Prophet Adam (alayhis salaam): “And (remember) when We said to the angels: "Prostrate yourselves before Adam", and they prostrated except Iblis (i.e. Satan), he refused and was proud and was one of the disbelievers.” [Ref: 2:34] And Prophet Yaqoob (alayhis salaam) prostrating to his son: “And he raised his parents to the throne and they fell down before him prostrate. And he said: "O my father! This is the interpretation of my dream aforetime! My Lord has made it come true! He was indeed good to me, when He took me out of the prison, and brought you (all here) out of the bedouin-life, after Shaitan (Satan) had sown enmity between me and my brothers. Certainly, my Lord is the Most Courteous and Kind unto whom He wills. Truly He! Only He is the All-Knowing, the All-Wise.” [Ref: 12:100] If it was worship in all cases [therefore Shirk] then the angels would not have been instructed to prostrate to Prophet Adam (alayhis salaam) and Prophet Yaqoob (alayhis salaam) would not have prostrated to Prophet Yusuf (alayhis salaam).

Prohibited But Never Stated To Be Shirk:

Mu’adh Ibn Jabal (radiallah ta’ala anhu) travelled to Sham (i.e. ancient Syria), there he saw Christians prostrating to priests and bishops as sign of respect. So Mu’adh Ibn Jabal (radiallah ta’ala anhu) intended that he will perform prostration to show respect to Prophet (sallallahu alayhi was’sallam). Upon his return from Sham he prostrated to Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wa aalihi was’sallam) as gesture of respect and Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wa aalihi was’sallam) prohibited him from repeating it again: “It was narrated that: Abdullah bin Abu Awfa said” When Muadh bin Jabal came from Sham, he prostrated to the Prophet who said: 'What is this, O Muadh?' He said: 'I went to Sham and saw them prostrating their bishops and patricians and I wanted to do that for you.' The messenger of Allah said: 'Do not do that.“ [Ref: Ibn Majah, B9, H1853] Then Prophet (sallallahu alayhi was’sallam) said to him, if I were to command such action then wife will be instructed to prostrate to her husband: “The messenger of Allah said: 'Do not do that. If I were to command anyone to prostrate to anyone other than Allah, I would have commanded women to prostrate to their husbands. By the one in who hand is the soul of Muhammad! No woman can fulfill her duty towards Allah until she fulfills her duty towards her husband. If he asks her (for intimacy) even if she is on her camel saddle, she should not refuse.' “ [Ref: Ibn Majah, B9, H1853] In another Hadith it is recorded companion Qays Ibn Sad (radiallah ta’ala anhu) narrated that he travelled to Al Hirah. He saw people prostrating to their governor. He came back and said to Prophet (sallallahu alayhi was’sallam) that you are more right of being prostrated infront due to being Messenger of Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala): “Narrated Qays ibn Sa'd: I went to al-Hirah and saw them (the people) prostrating themselves before a satrap of theirs, so I said: The Messenger of Allah has most right to have prostration made before him. When I came to the Prophet, I said: I went to al-Hirah and saw them prostrating themselves before a satrap of theirs, but you have most right, Messenger of Allah, to have (people) prostrating themselves before you.” [Ref: Abu Dawood, B11, H2135]  Prophet (sallallahu alayhi was’sallam) enquired if the companion will prostrate to him while passing by his grave, the companion said no. Prophet (sallallahu alayhi was’sallam) said then do not do so now: “He said: Tell me , if you were to pass my grave, would you prostrate yourself before it? I said: No. He then said: Do not do so. If I were to command anyone to make prostration before another I would command women to prostrate themselves before their husbands, because of the special right over them given to husbands by Allah.” [Ref: Abu Dawood, B11, H2135] This establishes Prophet (sallallahu alayhi was’sallam) did not wished to be respected in a manner which will not be used after his death.

The Missed Perfect Opportunity:

On these ocasions Prophet (sallallahu alayhi was’sallam) did not state –: [every] Sajdah in Islam is worship, or [every] Sajdah performed to honor other than Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala) is Shirk in Islam. If it was Shirk then Prophet (sallallahu alayhi was’sallam) would have stated; it is Shirk in Islam to perform prostration to honor other than Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala). Yet we find no Hadith which gives Shirk as reason for prohibiting prostration to creation of Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala). If prostration to other then Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala) by its very nature was worship and resulted major Shirk then Messenger (sallallahu alayhi wa aalihi was’sallam) would have pointed out to these companions. These incidents were perfect oppurtunities for teachings that in Islam prostration of respect/reverance is worship even if the actor has no intention of it.

Did Companion Ask Prophet (sallallahu alayhi was’sallam) To Legalize Shirk:

Why would the companions of Prophet (sallallahu alayhi was’sallam) seek permission to prostrate to him? Maybe companion didn’t know the true and proper understanding Tawheed/Shirk [as a Khariji knows]? How likely is that a companion of Prophet (sallallahu alayhi was’sallam) who has been a Muslim for years didn’t understand Tawheed/Shirk? Or when did companions sought permission of Prophet (sallallahu alayhi was’sallam) to perform acts of worship to him or sought permission to legalize polytheistic beliefs? How often if ever, a companion of Prophet (sallallahu alayhi was’sallam) sought permission to worship his mother or father or anyone else? Did a companion ever seek permission from Prophet (sallallahu alayhi was’sallam) to believe in Ilah other then Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala)? If prostration to other than Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala) was act which nullified Tawheed in Islam the companions of Prophet (sallallahu alayhi was’sallam) would have known it. Can anyone contemplate a companion of Prophet (sallallahu alayhi was’sallam) didn’t understand who has the right to be worshiped? Or can you comprehend, a companion of Prophet (sallallahu alayhi was’sallam) not knowing that prostration of worship was sole right of Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala)? Prostration by itself, if performed to honor anyone other than Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala), is not Shirk/worship. If it was then companion of Prophet (sallallahu alayhi was’sallam) would have known and would not have dared to seek permission for something which is Shirk. His seeking of permission only indicates that he understood that act of prostration maybe Haram/Halal if done with intention of respect.

Which Aspect Of Prostration Was Forbidden – Respect Or Worship:

The polytheistic aspect of prostration (i.e. prostrating to worship a creation) was prohibited when the angels prostrated to Prophet Adam (alayhis salaam) and also in the Sharia of Prophet Yaqoob (alayhis salaam). It was also prohibited from day one in Sharia of our beloved Prophet (sallallahu alayhi was’sallam). Hence the only aspect of Sajdah which was not prohibited in the previous laws of Prophets was - Sajdah of respect. So our beloved Prophet (sallallahu alayhi was’salam) was given the instruction to prohibit performing of Sajdah of respect for a creation. Sajdah of respect was not Shirk in prior to our Sharia as evidenced by prostration of angels to Prophet Adam (alayhis salaam) and Prophet Yaqoob’s (alayhis salaam) prostration to his son Prophet Yusuf (alayhi salaam). So Shirk cannot be the reason for prohibiting the Sajdah of respect in our Sharia. If according to the laws of previous Prophets, Sajdah to creation had been only act of worship, then prohibition of Sajdah to creation in our Sharia would have been for Sajdah being act of worship. Had this been the case then prohibition of Sajdah in our Sharia would have been for the reason of Shirk. Yet the evidence establishes Sajdah was not only for worship but also a sign of showing respect and which was not Shirk. Hence the aspect of Sajdah not already forbidden was prohibited in Sharia of beloved Prophet (sallallahu alayhi was’sallam) and this aspect was performing Sajdah for a creation to show respect.

Prohibited Due To Blocking Means To Shirk:

Prophet (sallallahu alayhi was’sallam) prohibited Sajdah of respect to a creation to block the means to Shirk.[1] Sajdah to creation was prohibited in religion of Islam because Sajdah is part of ritual acts of worship. If Sajdah to creation as a mark of respect was permitted then Shaytan might have caused confusion in the minds of Muslims, leading the confused to worship of creation. It is important to point out that Sajdah was means to Shirk and this does not imply only who performs prostration to honor a creation has gone into Shirk. Something which is means to Shirk is means to Shirk and not Shirk. A road which leads to a city is not the city just leads to it. One cannot say I have arrived in the city just when he is on the road to the city. One has to enter the city following the road to be in the city. Similarly road to Shirk leads to Shirk. One becomes guilty of Shirk when one follows the road and enter into Shirk by believing; (1) a creation is deity, (2) or worthy of worship, (3) or intends to worship a creation. Then on the basis of beliefs [1 and 2], action of prostration is worship. Also due to intention of worship the action of prostration is worship. Engaging in means to Shirk does not qualify one as Mushrik until one affirms polytheistic belief.

When Prostration To Other Than Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala) Worship And Major Shirk:

Prostration by itself is not act of worship. There are two factors which make the prostration worship. The first one is creed and the second intention. If one believes y is a deity and invokes y for help, or praises y, then these acts will be acts of worship. Ritual worship essentially is honoring, respecting with physical actions. If n believes y is Ilah (i.e. deity) besides Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala) and worthy of worship, then any ritual act of n directed toward y, to honor, to show respect, will be interpreted as an act of worship. Also any action done with intention of worshiping a deity will be taken as an act of worship. Note all aspects have been conditioned with taking y as deity. Absence of this essential belief removes the praising, invoking, respecting, from worship.


It is established with sound reasoning that Sajdah was prohibited due to it being a sign of respect. Sajdah of worship performed for a creation was prohibited in the Sharia of all previous Prophets and only aspect which was not prohibited was of respect. Showing of respect with prostration was not Shirk hence prohibition of Sajdah of respect in our Sharia could not have been for the reason of Shirk.

Wama alayna ilal balaghul mubeen.
Muhammed Ali Razavi


- [1] The concept of ‘blocking the means to Shirk’ is a concept which the anthropomorphist Ibn Taymiyyah invented. In the 17th century Muhammad bin Abdul Wahhab the creator of Wahhabi sect of Kharijites employed this concept to prohibit and destroy anything which was deemed by them as means to Shirk. Prophet (sallallahu alayhi was’sallam) blocked the means to Shirk in the religion of Islam as the prohibition of prostration to creation of Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala) establishes. Exceeding what has been prohibited due to concept of blocking the means to Shirk in our Sharia is reprehensible innovation. Adhering to restrictions which are invented by Khawarij under the pretext of, blocking means to the Shirk, is akin to taking lords besides Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala). The Kharijites prohibit people from facing blessed resting place of Prophet (sallallahu alayhi was’sallam) while making dua to Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala) on the principle this concept. Instead these Khawarij instruct the Muslims to face the direction of Qibla while facing Dua and there saying this is also a innovation, neither Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala) nor His Messenger (sallallahu alayhi was’sallam) instructed the believers to face the Kabah during the Dua. Kabah is our Qibla, the direction we face to perform our Salah. We are under no obligation to face the Kabah when we engage in Dua. Coming back to the topic of, blocking the means to Shirk, if facing the blessed resting place of Prophet (sallallahu alayhi was’sallam) during the Dua is means to Shirk or warrants Shirk then how facing Kabah prostrating or making dua facing toward it is not means to Shirk? They say; do not kiss the walls of chamber where the blessed resting place of Prophet (sallallahu alayhi was’sallam) is situated. When a Muslim asks, they say it is Shirk or it is means to Shirk. Will not a Muslim reason with them by saying; how come it is not Shirk when one kisses Hajr Al Aswad nor kissing it is means to the Shirk? If kissing warrants Shirk or is means to Shirk then how come only kissing the walls of blessed chamber is Shirk and not Hajr Al Aswad? And when was facing a specific direction during Dua Shirk and when was kissing something Shirk in Islam? The wise man said, when Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala) wishes to take-away the Eman of a person He first takes his intellect away.

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