An in-depth commentary of the “Prostration” of inanimate and animate creation to Allah (God)

{Have they not observed what Allah has created? Their shadows revolve from the right and the left, bowing to Allah as they shrink away. To Allah bows down everything in the heavens and everything on earth—every living creature, and the angels, and without being proud. They fear their Lord above them, and they do what they are commanded.} [Quran Ch16 – V48-50]

The following excerpt is taken from “The Quran: A Reformist Translation” by Edip Yuksel pg. 198-

It is true that SaJDa means obedience, submission to God’s law (16:49). From this verse we should not necessarily infer that everything has a mind like humans. Even if we subscribe to such a fancy assumption, mental events too are physical events; they are the consequence of interactions of electrons. In fact, the prostration of all the creatures we perceive is physical. Any event that can be sensed by our five senses is a physical event. Atoms peacefully surrender to God’s laws when they interact with each other. When water freezes it peacefully surrenders to God’s law and expands; when it is heated to a certain degree it evaporates. When Hydrogen, Carbon, Nitrogen, and Oxygen atoms come together in a particular order they create bases called Adenine, Cytosine, Guanine, and Thymine; and when these bases join each other in a particular order, pre-ordained by God, they create DNAs that produce new qualities and events, including life. Every cell and organ in our bodies submits to God’s law. These are all physical demonstration of SaJDa to God. No wonder, the entire universe is stated to have submitted to God (3:83; 13:15). Interestingly, in these two verses the same idea is depicted yet in 3:83 the verb aSLaMa (submitted) is used while in 13:15 the verb yaSJuDu (prostrating) is used. This is strong evidence that both verbs belong to the same semantic field. As we know, submission to God is not just a mental activity but also a physical action, such as working hard, delivering God’s message, feeding the poor, etc.

The word SaJDa in some verses means ONLY mental (in quantum, electronic or neural level) prostration while in other verses it means ONLY bodily (atomic and molecular level) prostration. The prostration mentioned in 27:20-24 must be bodily, and the one in verse 77:48 most likely refers to mental prostration.

As for verse 22:18, it describes both mental and bodily submission to God. One might argue, “Has anyone ever seen any of these creations bow and prostrate on the ground (animals excluded)? Since all things in heavens and earth do not prostrate to God by casting themselves face down on the ground in humility, then we should not prostrate that way either.” This conclusion is based on a false assumption that ALL creatures prostrate the same way. Every creature in the heavens and the earth glorifies God (24:41; 57:1; 59:1,24; 61:1; 62:1; 64:1). But we may not understand their glorification (17:44). We are also instructed to glorify our Lord day and night, not like birds or planets, but like humans, in our language and according to our natural design (3:41; 5:98; 7:206; 19:11; 20:130; 32:15; 40:55; 50:39-40; 52:48-49; 56:74,96; 69:52; 76:26; 87:1; 110:3).

Hence: “Do you not see that everything in the heavens and the earth glorify God, including the birds in columns. Each knows his/her/its prayer (sala) and glorification. God is fully aware of everything you do.” (24:41).

The following verse is also important: “Are they seeking other than God’s system, when everything has submitted (aSLaMa) to Him in the heavens and the earth, willingly or unwillingly, and to Him they will be returned?” (3:83). Now those who reject that sala prayer includes bodily bowing and prostration should ask a similar question about how to be a muslim just as they ask about how to perform prostration: “Has anyone ever seen any of these creations give charity or deliver God’s message or study the Quran?” Perhaps, according to those who object physical prostration besides mental one, we should not give charity, should not deliver the message, should not study the Quran, and should not use computers!

One might refer to 2:62 and ask: “No, not all the listed groups bow and prostrate on the ground. Will they lose? No, it is the people who do not submit to God and follow His commands that will deserve His punishment.” This is a hasty conclusion. The groups mentioned in the verse (believers, Jews, Nazarenes, and those from other religions) attain salvation as long as they believe in God, do righteous work and believe in the hereafter. Perhaps not all bow and prostrate, and perhaps not all believe and follow the Quran, either. First, we should remember that God holds each responsible depending on their circumstances. As those who witnessed Moses’ miracles will be held responsible for their reaction to them, similarly those who are instructed to bow and prostrate will be held responsible for their reaction. Each nation received a messenger and each received their instruction (10:47; 22:34; 40:28).

Referring to verse 18:50, one might conclude: “There is no need to get on the ground to worship your Lord because He has not commanded us to do this. He wants us to bow and prostrate our wills to that of His will.” This is a reasonable conclusion. However, knowing that the word prostration was also used to mean humbly getting on the ground, we cannot equate the prostration in this verse to all others. The verse refers to an event which took place before the creation of life on earth. Besides, the instruction is to Satan, a creature made of energy, not matter like us. The nature of the prostration asked of Perverse or the controllers might be a little different than the one asked of us; or, more accurately, the form, way or style of our prostration might not necessarily be expected to be the same as that of the controllers.

David, who was observing sala prayer, is described by the Quran as: “& He then implored his Lord for forgiveness, bowed down (KhaRra RuKka’An), and repented.” (38:24).

David’s repentance is clearly described as bowing down, both mentally and bodily. We should remind those who are trying hard to eliminate the formal component of sala prayer of the following verse: “& When the revelations of the Gracious are recited to them, they fall prostrate (KhaRRu SuJjaDan), weeping” (19:58). See 41:37; 13:15; 3:83.

References:

Abd-Allah, Muhamed. 323 Verses on Science in the Quran . Kindle Edition.

Yuksel, Edip. Quran: a Reformist Translation (Koran, Kuran in Modern English) (pp. 198-199). Brainbow Press. Kindle Edition.

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