By Mufti Abu Hajira
“Prostration of gratitude” in terms of fiqh means that when some blessing of Allāh is bestowed, or when Allāh Ta’ālā opens the doors of myriads of bounties upon His servant that it is mustaḥabb (desirable) and afḍal (virtuous) to face the Qiblah and prostrate. While prostrating, the servant shall praise Allāh and recite the tasbīḥ. Thereafter he says the takbīr (“Allāhu Akbar”) and raises his head. At this juncture he will neither recite the tashahhud nor perform the salām.
As for the Ḥanafiyyah, many echo the opinion of Imām Abū Ḥanīfah (raḥimahullāh) that he did not regard such a prostration to be “anything”, that rather he regards it to be makrūh and that it should be left out. Such is mentioned in the primers like Nūr al-Īḍāḥ:
“According to Imām Ṣāḥib, the prostration of gratitude is disliked, not rewarded, and one should leave it out. The Ṣāḥibayn say that it is a means of proximity [to Allāh] and one will be rewarded for it; its modality is like that of sajdah al-tilāwah.”
While understanding this difference of opinion between the teacher and his two students, we come across varied statements.
‘Allāmah Ibn ‘Ābidīn al-Shāmī al-Ḥanafī (raḥimahullāh) has mentioned, quoting from al-Muḥīṭ al-Burhānī of ‘Allāmah Burhān al-Dīn (raḥimahullāh), that Imām Abū Ḥanīfah (raḥimahullāh) was of the opinion that this prostration of gratitude is not wājib. This is because if it were wājib to perform this prostration at the reception of any bounty of Allāh, then a servant would be forever liable to perform these prostrations of gratitude because Allāh’s bounties are bestowed around the clock like rain. This would obviously render undue hardship, which is not stipulated in the Sharī’ah.
The Ṣāḥibayn (Imām Abū Yūsuf and Imām Muḥammad (raḥimahumallāh)) on the other hand say that this prostration is a type of worship and that one who performs it will be rewarded. In other words, according to the Ṣāḥibayn, the prostration of gratitude is mustaḥabb and virtuous.
‘Allāmah al-Shāmī (raḥimahullāh) has mentioned at the end of his discussion that the difference between the opinions of Imām Ṣāḥib and the Ṣāḥibayn (raḥimahumullāh) is in regard to the sunniyyah of this prostration, and not in its permissibility in the Sharī’ah. He says,
“And the relied upon opinion is that the difference is in regard to the prostration being a sunnah, and not in regard to it being permissible.”
While the above is a nice and concise reconciliation of the issue, it does not seem to explain away exactly why Imām Ṣāḥib (raḥimahullāh) would regard such a prostration to be “disliked”, not rewarding, and worthy of being left out. If there is no difference about the permissibility of the matter, then carrying out a permissible does not warrant dislike. Let us then look further.
In al-Fatāwā al-Tātārkhāniyyah, quoting from al-Qudūrī, it has been mentioned that Imām Ṣāḥib considered the prostration of gratitude to be makrūh. The same has been attributed to Imām Ibrāhīm al-Nakha’ī (raḥimahullāh), a teacher of Imām Ṣāḥib, in al-Siyar al-Kabīr. In al-Mukhtalif, Imām Ṣāḥib has been reported to have said that the prostration of gratitude is not a stipulated (mashrū‘) way of gaining proximity (qurbah).
‘Allāmah Ibn Kamāl Pāshā (raḥimahullāh) has mentioned that according to the Shaykhayn (Imām Ṣāḥib and Imām Abū Yūsuf (raḥimahumallāh)), anything less than one unit (rak’ah) is not a means of proximity (qurbah) except in cases where there is a clear naṣṣ, and the case of this is the prostration of tilāwah. So a singular prostration cannot be a means of proximity (in attaining the shar’ī status of qurbah) aside from what has been narrated.
Ḥusām al-Dīn al-Sighnāqī (raḥimahullāh) mentions that Imām Muḥammad (raḥimahullāh) considered the prostration of gratitude to be a masnūn act, while according to Imām Abū Ḥanīfah and one of the opinions of Imām Abū Yūsuf (raḥimahumallāh), it is not a sunnah. In one narration of Imām Abū Ḥanīfah (raḥimahullāh) through Imām Muḥammad (raḥimahullāh), it is mentioned to be makrūh. It is also mentioned from Imām Ṣāḥib (raḥimahullāh) that he does not regard the prostration of gratitude to be “anything”.
The Mutaqaddimūn have differed in interpreting Imām Ṣāḥib’s statement regarding this prostration “not being anything”:
A. It means that he does not regard it to be a sunnah.
B. His intent is to negate the wujūbiyyah.
C. His intent is to negate the mashrū’iyyah (inceptual stipulation from the side of the Sharī’ah)
D. It is not a complete form of gratitude
Since “A & B” both essentially decrease the rank of the prostration and do not negate it completely, let’s focus on “C & D”, where Imām Ṣāḥib (raḥimahullāh) did not consider such a prostration to be a proper perfection in thanking Allāh for the bounties (kamāl al-shukr). The perfection of gratitude then is in offering a two rak’ah prayer as Rasūlullāh (ṣallallāhu alayhi wasallam) did on the day of the Conquest of Makkah, as mentioned in al-Siyar al-Kabīr. This understanding is not baseless either.
The ṣalāh performed by Rasūlullāh (ṣallallāhu ʿalayhi wasallam) on the day of the Conquest at the house of Umm Hāni’ (raḍiyallāhu ‘anhā) were two rak’ahs as a form of gratitude towards Allāh. This is the complete form of gratitude. Ibn al-Qayyim (raḥimahullāh) affirmed this in Zād al-Ma’ād, refuting those who considered these two rak’ahs to be Ḍuḥā (forenoon prayer). He says, “This ṣalāh is the Ṣalāh al-Fatḥ. In the incident is the evidence indicating that it was due to the conquest made, as a gratitude towards Allāh. For indeed, Umm Hāni’ (raḍiyallāhu ‘anhā) stated, ‘I never saw him perform this ṣalāh, neither before this instance nor after it.’”
This above interpretation is what Imām Ṣāḥib (raḥimahullāh) has adopted as his view of the prostration of gratitude, i.e. that it refers to a two rak’ah ṣalāh for gratitude. This is because using the term “prostration” in its general form (iṭlāqan) to refer to a complete ṣalāh is abundantly prevalent in the Sharī’ah as well. Sayyidunā Thawbān (raḍiyallāhu ʿanhu) narrates that Rasūlullāh (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam), “You should adopt abundant prostrations for sake of Allāh (i.e abundance of ṣalāh).” And in the narration of Rabīʿah (raḍiyallāhu ‘anhu), he (ṣallallāhu ʿalayhi wasallam) said, “Aid me in that with abundance of prostrations.” Imām al-Nawawī (raḥimahullāh) mentions in its explanation: “What is intended by it (prostration) is prostrating during ṣalāh.”
And if we can take the meaning of “prostration” to mean complete ṣalāh in these narrations, then the same can be done in other instances as well where there is no indication to interpret it otherwise. By this response we can also substantiate the interpretation that Imām Abū Ḥanīfah (raḥimahullāh) negated stipulation of such prostration from the side of the Sharī’ah (i.e interpretation C) since these evidences then would all refer to complete units of ṣalāh.
It will hence be said that this does not negate the stipulation of this prostration as a means of proximity, rather the intent here is to negate the stipulation of it as a compulsory (wājib) act of gratitude since it is impossible to measure the bounties of Allāh. With this understanding, we may look towards “A & B” as an explanation of “C & D”. While Imām Ṣāḥib drops the level of such prostration down from wājib and sunnah, he does so by negating their stipulation in the Sharī’ah as a sunnah or wājib. And since it is not a complete form of gratitude, one should rather opt for a complete form. But this still begs the question of why there would be no reward for such prostration, since negation is not being made of prostration as a means of proximity (qurbah).
On the other side of the coin, Imām Abū Yūsuf and Imām Muḥammad (raḥimahumallāh) opine according to one narration from them that the prostration of gratitude is a means of proximity and worthy of being rewarded. This is due to the narrations mentioned in the six books of aḥādīth except for al-Nasā’ī on authority of Abū Bakrah (raḍiyallāhu ʿanhu) that whenever Rasūlullāh (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam) would face a matter that pleased him or he received glad tidings, then he would perform prostration. On authority of ‘Abdur Raḥmān ibn ʿAwf (raḍiyallāhu ‘anhu), it is mentioned that Rasūlullāh (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam) came out towards his orchard, faced the Qiblah, and went down into prostration. He prolonged his prostration and thereafter raised his head and said, “Indeed Jibrīl came to me, gave me glad tidings, and said, ‘Indeed Allāh (azza wajall) says to you that whosoever sends salutations upon you, I shall bestow salutations upon him (have mercy on him).’ Hence I prostrated to Allāh as a form of gratitude.”
Similarly, Sa’d ibn Abī Waqqāṣ (raḍiyallāhu anhu) mentions, “We came out with Rasūlullāh (ṣallallāhu alayhi wasallam) from Makkah intending toward Madīnah, then when we were closer to Ḥarūrā, he dismounted, raised his hands in supplication toward Allāh for some time and then went down into prostration. He did this thrice, and said, ‘I sought from Allāh and interceded to him for my Ummah and He bestowed me the intercession of a third of my Ummah, so I prostrated for gratitude. Then I raised my head and asked Allāh for my Ummah and He bestowed another third of my Ummah, so I went into prostration of gratitude. I then raised my head and asked Allāh for my Ummah, and He bestowed the last third of my Ummah, so I went down into prostration of gratitude.’”
Sayyidunā Abū Bakr (raḍiyallāhu anhu) also prostrated for gratitude when the news of the demise of Musaylimah, the false prophet, reached him. And Sayyidunā ‘Alī (raḍiyallāhu anhu) also prostrated for gratitude when he found Dhū al-Thudayyah among the dead bodies of the Khawārij.
Hence, the narration of the occurrence of such prostration of gratitude are many, recorded in many acceptable compilations. Those who hold to the opinion that Imām Ṣāḥib (raḥimahullāh) did not consider such prostration to be anything, contend that these are either interpreted towards full ṣalāh, or are abrogated. However, the Ṣaḥābah (raḍiyallāhu anhum) having done it gives strength to the permissibility of it.
An appropriate reconciliation is mentioned in al-Fatāwā al-Tātārkhāniyyah, that the statements of Imām Abū Ḥanīfah (raḥimahullāh) are contextual to the prostration being “wājib” while the statements of Imām Muḥammad (raḥimahullāh) are contextual to it being “mustaḥabb”. The two should not be mixed or confused, and both will be acted upon. One must not feel the need to prostrate for gratitude upon realization of every bounty of Allāh as Imām Ṣāḥib (raḥimahullāh) mentions, but at the same time it is permissible to do so when bestowed with some particular bounty of Allāh which pleases one. In this reconciliation, the dislikeness (karāhiyah) will refer to sanctioning something which is mubāḥ or mustaḥabb to a higher status of sunnah or wājib, which will become a bid’ah and blameworthy in the Sharī’ah, hence makrūh just like Imām Ṣāḥib’s statement. Whereas without such belief of wujūbiyyah, one’s exertion to thank Allāh through this permissible action will be a means of proximity and reward from Allāh, in accordance with the Ṣāḥibayn’s statement.
Hence we shall not stop the masses from carrying out the prostration of gratitude within its right confinement, embodying humility, servitude, and worship. This is our fatwā on the issue. And with this detail we may understand the statement of Nūr al-Īḍāḥ when it says, “According to Imām Ṣāḥib, the prostration of gratitude is disliked, not rewarded, and one should leave it out. The Ṣāḥibayn say that it is a means of proximity [to Allāh] and one will be rewarded for it; its modality is like that of sajdah al-tilāwah.”
[prepared from study notes for “Nur al Idah” Ijazah Class for ilmhub.com]