4. Prostration or “Sujud”; a cure from arrogance
Quran presents sujud as a universal phenomenon. Humans share with other creatures the act of sujud, “See you not that to Allah prostrate all who are in the heavens and on earth- The sun, the moon, the stars, the mountains, the trees, the animals; and a great number among mankind? But a great number are fit for punishment.” (22:18) Sujud is inherent and part of the creation and function of the sun, the moon, the stars, the mountains, the trees, and the animals; in addition to the angels who are always in the state of obedience. “They do not flinch from the commands they receive from Allah but do what they are commanded.” (66:6)
However, sujud in the human realm is a challenge. Humans have the free will to practice sujud in their journey towards Allah. When the believers prostrate before their Lord, they are declaring their total obedience to Him. When the believers put their foreheads on the ground before their Lord, they are liberating themselves from their own egos and everything that may come between them and Allah, their ultimate goal, and Qiblah.
Sujud is the cure for the diseases of arrogance, showing off, and insincerity. “And to Allah do prostrate all that is in the heavens and on earth, whether moving creatures or the angels: for none are arrogant.” (16:49) Sujud is the state where the believer is closest to Allah as Prophet Mohammad said. The act of sujud is the only act that is done twice in a row. This indicates that we do not reach, but we can only approach and get closer. “Prostrate and get closer” (96:19). In other words, the second sujud must be qualitatively better than the first, and the journey towards Allah must continue nonstop.
5. Al-Tashahhud: a revolution against slavery
The last state of the Muslim prayer is al-tashahhud or consciously bearing witness. Following the state of prostration of the last unit of prayer or “rak’aa” time has come for the praying believers to sit down and celebrate their accomplishments. The ceremony of al-tashahhud is highly prestigious, and we participate as witnesses. Praying believers offer blessed salutes and pure prayers to Allah – the Master of the ceremony. Peace and Mercy upon the Prophet describe the environment of the ceremony. The praying believers receive the utmost honor to bear witness to the Oneness of Allah in His presence, the presence of His angels and all those who are granted knowledge.
“There is no god but He: That is the witness of Allah, His angels, and those endued with knowledge, standing firm on justice” (3:18) This powerful verse is against the translation of Islam into submission, a term that carries the connotation of humiliation, helplessness, and absence.
In order to bear witness, we must be present and conscious. What is important here is that we are present with Allah and the higher society. This is elevation, empowerment, and the highest degree of freedom humans can achieve as a reward for their sincere worship of Allah. Therefore, there is no place for submission. Islam, as expressed in our “Shahaadah” is the continuous work to turn our faces only to Him.
The Shahaadah represented from day one a revolution against slavery. We must be able to say it with utmost confidence: There is no slavery in Islam. There is no justification for any practice related to slavery. All human beings are free, and no one has the right to enslave them. Quran changed the language of its readers. “Abd” may mean slave, but when you add to it Allah, as in Abdullah, Abdihi, and Ibadurrahman, it liberates of every form of bondage. Al-tashahhud liberates the believers from the state of helplessness to the state of autonomy and active citizenry. Al-tashahhud is a state of liberation and not enslavement or submission. Al-tashahhud is a state of empowered presence and autonomy and not self-sufficiency and transgression.
The Muslim prayer starts with Allah-Akbar, liberating us from everything in order to connect with the One who is greater than anything and everything. Imam Ali put it beautifully when he said, “Allah is magnified in their hearts so that everything else looked little in their eyes.”
The Muslim prayer ends with peace and mercy, an indicator for the believers to go back to their daily life and spread peace and mercy.
By Walid Khayr