The Prohibition of Prostrating to Other than Allah

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Translated by Zameelur Rahman

Hadiths

(1) Qays ibn Sa‘d (may Allah be pleased with him) narrated: I came to al-Hirah and I saw them prostrating to their governor, so I said [to myself]: “Allah’s Messenger (Allah bless him and grant him peace) is more deserving of being prostrated to.” Then, I came to the Prophet (Allah bless him and grant him peace) and I said to him: “Verily I went to al-Hirah and I saw them prostrating to their governor, while you, O Messenger of Allah, are more deserving of being prostrated to.” He said: “What is your opinion, if you were to pass by my grave, would you prostrate to it?” I said: “No.” He said: “Then don’t do [this]. Were I to instruct anybody to prostrate to another, I would have instructed women to prostrate to their husbands, due to the right that they have over them.” Abu Dawud narrated it as mentioned in Nayl al-Awtar, and he weakened it because of Sharik al-Qadi, but this is incorrect as Sharik’s hadiths are hasan.

(2) ‘Abdullah ibn Abi Awfa narrated: When Mu‘adh (may Allah be pleased with him) arrived from Sham, he prostrated to the Prophet (Allah bless him and grant him peace). Thereupon, he said: “What is this, O Mu‘adh?!” He said: “I went to Sham, and I found them prostrating to their high priests and their patriarchs, so I wished in my soul to do this for you.” Thereupon, Allah’s Messenger (Allah bless him and grant him peace) said: “Don’t do [this], for were I to instruct [anyone] to prostrate to another besides Allah, I would instruct the woman to prostrate to her husband.” Ahmad and Ibn Majah narrated it.

[Al-Shawkani] said in Nayl al-Awtar: “Ibn Majah narrated it with an acceptable chain (isnad salih), for Azhar ibn Marwan and al-Qasim al-Shaybani are reliable (saduq).” He also said: “Al-Bazzar transmitted the aforementioned story of Mu‘adh from the chapter with a chain whose narrators are the narrators of the Sahih. Al-Bazzar and al-Tabrani also transmitted it with another chain which contains al-Nahhas ibn Fahm who is weak.” He also said: “The matter of prostration is established in the hadith of Ibn ‘Abbas (may Allah be pleased with him) according to al-Bazzar, from the hadith of Suraqah according to al-Tabrani, from the hadith of ‘A’ishah (may Allah be pleased with her) according to Ahmad and Ibn Majah, from the hadith of ‘Ismah according to al-Tabrani and from others.” He said thereafter: “Thus, these hadiths, [saying] that ‘if it was appropriate to prostrate to a mortal, I would instruct the wife to [do] this for her husband,’ each of them supports the other, and each of them strengthens the other.”

Commentary

I say: The hadiths of the chapter explicitly prove the impermissibility of prostrating to other than Allah, and they prove that it has been specified for the Everlasting God and it is not suitable for a mortal, whether a prophet or a saint, whether living or dead. The distinction between [the prostrations of] worship (ta‘abbud), reverence (ta‘zim) and greeting (tahiyyah) is a baseless distinction invented by extremists, because Mu‘adh did not prostrate to the Prophet (Allah bless him and grant him peace) due to his belief regarding him that he is divine, rather because he is a Prophet and Messenger, and despite this the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and grant him peace) did not make a concession for him in this, rather he told him that prostration is an act of reverence (ta‘zim) that is exclusive to Allah, and is not suitable for a mortal. Likewise, if the Prophet (Allah bless him and grant him peace) were to instruct a woman to prostrate to her husband, he would not give this instruction because he is a god, but because he is deserving of reverence, and despite this, the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and grant him peace) did not make a concession therein, and he explained that this act of reverence has been specified for Allah Almighty. Hence, since prostration is an act of reverence specified for Allah Almighty, whoever establishes it for other than Him, he has made him a partner with Allah in this act of reverence specified for Him, so he becomes a polytheist (mushrik).

Therefore, Shams al-A’immah al-Sarakhsi said: “Prostration to other than Allah by way of reverence is disbelief (kufr).” Al-‘Ayni said in al-Binayah: “In this age, they do not prostrate to the sultan but out of reverence and awe, so there is no doubt concerning their disbelief.” Al-Mahbubi said in Sharh al-Jami‘ al-Saghir: “As for prostration to other than Allah (Glorified and Exalted is He), it is disbelief in the absence of coercion. That which the ignorant Sufis do before their shaykh, it is absolutely forbidden and the worst of innovations, so they must be prohibited from [doing] this.”

As for the prostration of greeting (tahiyyah), it appears from the verdicts [of the later Hanafi jurists] that it is not disbelief, but only unlawful (haram). However, this distinction between the prostration of reverence and [the prostration of] greeting, in that the first of them is disbelief and not the second, is not clear to me because just as reverence of other than Allah with that which is an act of reverence specified for Allah Almighty is polytheism, based on this same [principle], greeting with that which is an act of reverence specified for Allah Almighty is practical polytheism, just as there would be no difference if one prayed to another by way of greeting [him].

If it is said: The prostration of greeting was permissible for previous nations, we say: We do not concede that this prostration was in this form [i.e. with the forehead on the ground], because it is possible that it was by way of bowing as [mentioned] in His statement: “Enter the door, bowing (sujjada)” (2:58). [Even] if it is conceded that it was in this form, it was not at that time an act of reverence specified for Allah Almighty, and polytheism only arose from the angle of [its] specification [for Allah], so when there was no specification, there was no polytheism. Thus, this doubt is removed.

Moreover, that which the ignorant do at the graves of the saints and mashayikh, it is not from the category of greeting (tahiyyah), rather it is from the category of reverence (ta‘zim), since if it was from the category of greeting it would be like salutation and shaking hands so there would be no reason to specify it to the graves of saints and mashayikh. Hence, since they specify it to their graves and their souls, it shows their intention is excessive reverence, not an act of greeting [that is] common to them and others. Thus, the distinction between reverence and greeting does not avail them if it was established [that there is a difference between them], so what if it is not established? There is no doubt, therefore, that this act of theirs is disbelief and practical polytheism. Allah knows best.

I‘la al-Sunan 17:429

6 Comments

  • July 19, 2011

    Herz

    And what category does the prostration to Adam a.s. fall into?

    • July 31, 2011

      SunniWaqas

      Assalam u alaikum,

      The prostration of the angels to Adam (as) was an explicit Hukm of Allah (swt) and has been mentioned more than once in the Qur’an. Thus, I believe it won’t fit in any of the 3 categories mentioned here.

      Allahu ‘alam

      • August 10, 2011

        Herz

        Asalamu alaikum,

        No doubt akhi sunniWaqas,Insha’allah the people will stop revering Allah with an act that he is revered with.

  • September 9, 2011

    P A Raheem

    Asslamoaalikum. The prostration is an act . When it is done as a worship it has to be for Allah only. The prostration of Angles to Adam(AS) was an act of respect to the order of Allah. Iblis was punished for not following the order. Though it is represent that he was punished because he did not prostrate.
    Allah knows the best.

  • April 8, 2013

    Sharif Ahmed

    Sajdah in Arabic has different meanings one is the sijdah when doing salah another form of sijdah is similiar to a ruqu in salah which in English is similiar to ‘bow’ and was done to adam (s.a.w) by angels, however other forms of sijdah than ‘bow’ are kufr

  • April 22, 2013

    mohammad danish

    i have a Request. please give hadith number with chapter and volume number. i wanted to to prove a friend that prostrating other than Allah is not allowed but now i cannot because all the above hadith mentioned have no number from which chapter & volume it is . This is very disappointing.