Question # 435: Is it obligatory for a Muslim to prostrate on reciting or listening to the verses of prostration in the Quran (Sajdat-al-Tilaawah)?

bismi-llahi r-raḥmani r-raḥīm,

Assalamu ‘laikum warahmatullahi wabarakatuh,

All praise and thanks are due to Allah (سبحانه و تعالى), and peace and blessings be upon His Messenger (صلى الله عليه و سلم).

Dear questioner,

First of all, we implore Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) to help us serve His cause and render our work for His sake.

Shorter Answer: There are fifteen places in the Qur’an where Sajdah-al-Tilaawah (the prostration of recitation) is required. Majority of Muslim scholars are of the opinion that it is Sunnah and therefore, mustahabb (recommended) to perform sajdah al-tilaawah for the reciter as well as the listener, and it is not obligatory because it has been authentically recorded that the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) sometimes performed the prostration and sometimes left it. However, the Hanafi madhhab is of the opinion that it is mandatory.

Next, the listener should not prostrate unless the reciter prostrates. Further, although it is prescribed to say takbeer when prostrating but there is no salaam or takbeer when coming up from it and it is not essential to have wudu’ when performed outside salah (prayer). However, if the sajdah al-tilaawah is performed during salah (prayer), then it is obligatory to say takbeer when going down and when coming up.

Long Answer: There are fifteen places in the Qur’an where we should perform sajdat al-tilaawah (prostration of recitation) when reciting them. It was reported from Amr ibn al-Aas (رضي الله عنه) that the Messenger of Allah (صلى الله عليه و سلم) recited to him fifteen verses in the Qur’an where one should prostrate, three of which are in al-Mufassal and two in Soorat al-Hajj. (It was reported by Abu Dawood, Ibn Maajah, al-Haakim and al-Daraqutni, and classed as hasan by al-Mundhiri and al-Nawawi) The fifteen aayat are as follows:

  1. Surely those who are with your Lord (angels) are never too proud to perform acts of worship to Him, but they glorify His Praise and prostrate before Him. (Soorah al-Araf, 7:206)
  2. And unto Allah (Alone) falls in prostration whoever is in the heavens and the earth, willingly or unwillingly, and so do their shadows in the mornings and in the afternoons. (Soorah al-Rad 13:15)
  3. And to Allah prostrate all that is in the heavens and all that is in the earth, of the live moving creatures and the angels, and they are not proud [i.e., they worship their Lord (Allah) with humility). (Soorah al-Nahl 16:49)
  4. Say (O Muhammad): Believe in it (the Qur’an) or do not believe (in it). Verily! Those who were given knowledge before it, when it is recited to them, fall down on their faces in humble prostration. (Soorah al-Isra 17:107)
  5. When the Verses of the Most Beneficent (Allah) were recited unto them, they fell down prostrating and weeping. (Soorah Maryam 19:58)
  6. See you not that to Allah prostrates whoever is in the heavens and whoever is one the earth, and the sun, and the moon, and the stars, and the mountains, and the trees, and al-dawaab (moving living creatures, beasts, etc.), and many of mankind? But there are many (men) on whom the punishment is justified. And whomsoever Allah disgraces, none can honor him. Verily! Allah does what He wills. (Soorah al-Hajj 22:18)
  7. O you who believe! Bow down, and prostrate yourselves, and worship your Lord and do good that you may be successful. (Soorah al-Hajj 22:77)
  8. And when it is said to them: Prostrate to the Most Beneficent (Allah)! They say, And what is the Most Beneficent? Shall we fall down in prostration to that which you (O Muhammad) command us? And it increases in them only aversion. (Soorah al-Furqan 25:60)
  9. [As Shaytaan has barred them from Allah’s Way] so that they do not worship (prostrate before) Allah, Who brings to light what is hidden in the heavens and the earth, and knows what you conceal and what you reveal. (Soorah al-Naml 27:25)
  10. Only those believe in Our aayaat (verses, signs, etc.) who, when they are reminded of them fall down prostrate, and glorify the Praises of their Lord, and they are not proud. (Soorah al-Sajdah 32:15)
  11. And Dawood guessed that We had tried him and he sought forgiveness of his Lord, and he fell down prostrate and turned (to Allah) in repentance. (Soorah Saad 38:24)
  12. And from among His Signs are the night and the day, and the sun and the moon. Prostrate not to the sun nor to the moon, but prostrate to Him Who created them, if you (really) worship Him. (Soorah Fussilat 41:37)
  13. So, fall down in prostration to Allah, and worship Him (Alone). (Soorah al-Najm 53:62)
  14. And when the Qur’an is recited to them, they fall not prostrate. (Soorah al-Inshiqaaq 84:21)
  15. Fall prostrate and draw near to Allah! (Soorah al-Alaq 96:19)

Al-Albani said, in Tamaam al-Minnah: “On the contrary, the hadith is not hasan, because it includes two majhool [unknown] narrators. Al-Haafiz said in al-Talkhees, after quoting the opinion of al-Mundhiri and al-Nawawi that it is hasan: Abd al-Haqq and Ibn Qattaan classed it as daeef (weak). It includes Abd-Allah ibn Munayn, who is majhool, and the one who narrated from him is al-Haarith ibn Saeed al-Atqi, who is also unknown. Ibn Maakoolaa said: He did not narrate any hadith apart from this one.”

Hence al-Tahhawi was of the opinion that there is no second sajdah in Soorat al-Hajj, towards the end of the soorah. This is also the opinion of Ibn Hazm who said in al-Muhalla: “Because it is not narrated in any sahih report that this was the Sunnah of the Messenger of Allah (صلى الله عليه و سلم), and there is no scholarly consensus to this effect. But it was reported with a sahih isnad that Umar ibn al-Khattab, the daughter of Abd-Allah and Abu Darda performed sajdah in (the second verse quoted from Soorat al-Hajj).”

Then Ibn Hazm discussed whether the sajdahs for the other ayaat quoted are prescribed in Islam. He mentioned that the scholars are agreed upon the first ten, that performing sujood when reciting these ayaat is prescribed. Al-Tahhawi also reported this consensus in Sharh al-Maaani, but he said that the sajdah in Soorat Fussilat was prescribed, instead of the sajdah in Soorat Saad. Both scholars narrated ahadith with sahih isnads from the Messenger of Allah (صلى الله عليه و سلم) concerning the sajdahs in Saad, al-Najm, al-Inshiqaaq and al-Alaq. These last three are from the Mufassal, which is referred to in the hadith of Amr mentioned above.

In conclusion, even though the isnad of the hadith is weak, it is supported by the consensus of the ummah which supports most of it, and by sahih ahadith which support the rest of it, except for the second sajdah in Soorat al-Hajj, for which there is no evidence in the Sunnah or in the consensus of the scholars. But some of the Sahaabah used to prostrate when reciting it, which could be taken as evidence, especially since no one is known to have disputed with them in this regard.

Sajdat-ul-Tilawah has many excellences, among which what is reported by Imam Muslim, Ahmad, and Ibn Majah that Abu Hurairah (رضي الله عنه) narrated that the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) said: “If the son of Adam reads an Ayah with Sajdah, and then prostrates, Shaytaan would isolate himself and cry saying: ‘Woe to him, he was ordered to prostrate, and he prostrated, therefore he has Paradise, and I was ordered to prostrate and I disobeyed, so I have Hellfire.”

[Next,] Muslim scholars have different opinions concerning the ruling of the prostration due to the Qur’anic recitation. Majority of Muslim scholars are of the opinion that it is Sunnah; Ahnaf are of the opinion that it is mandatory. The evidence for the first opinion is that the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) sometimes performed the prostration and sometimes left it. This practice proves that it is not an obligation. Imam al-Bukhari also recorded from Umar (رضي الله عنه) that he said: “O people, sometimes we recite the verse of Sajdah, so whoever makes a prostration he act correctly and there is no sin upon the one who does not do so” …[Hence,] the prostration in these verses is mustahabb for the reader and the listener, and it is not obligatory.

The earlier scholars discussed a similar matter, as is mentioned in al-Fataawa al-Hindiyyah, which is a Hanafi book: “If he hears it (a verse in which prostration is required) in an echo from a far-off place, then he is not required to prostrate.” This is akin to hearing it on a recorder and the like.

Shaykh Ibn Baaz (may Allah have mercy on him) was asked: If a person is listening to recitation of the Qur’an on a recorder, and the reciter recites a verse in which there is a prostration of recitation, should he prostrate? He replied: “It is not prescribed for the one who is listening to prostrate unless the reciter prostrates, because Zayd ibn Thaabit (رضي الله عنه) recited Soorat al-Najm to the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) and he did not prostrate, and neither did the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم). This indicates that the prostration of recitation is not obligatory, because the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) did not rebuke Zayd for not prostrating. The hadith also indicates that the listener should not prostrate unless the reader prostrates.” (Majmoo’ Fataawa Ibn Baaz. There is a similar comment in al-Sharh al-Mumti’)

[Furthermore,] It is not essential to have wudu’ for sujood al-tilaawah, according to the more correct of the two scholarly opinions… [some scholars stipulate purity for this prostration while others allowed performing it even without purity. The reason for this disagreement is whether it is called prayer or not. Those who considered it prayer set the condition of being in the state of purity; and those who did not consider it prayer permitted it without Taharah. Ibn Umar (رضي الله عنه) used to “Perform the prostration due to recital of Qur’an without having Wudu” (Reported by Imam al-Bukhari)] [Next,] …and there is no salaam or takbeer when coming up from it, according to the more correct of the two scholarly opinions. It is prescribed to say takbeer when prostrating, because evidence to that effect is proven in the [following] hadith… narrated by Abu Dawood in his Sunan from Ibn ‘Umar (رضي الله عنه) who said: “The Messenger of Allah (صلى الله عليه و سلم) used to recite Qur’an to us, and if he reached a verse where a sajdah was prescribed, he would say Takbeer and prostrate and we would do likewise.” (Reported by Ahmad, al-Bukhari, and Muslim)

But if the sujood al-tilaawah is done during prayer, then it is obligatory to say takbeer when going down and when coming up, because the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) used to do that in every movement of the prayer, and he said: “Pray as you have seen me praying.” (Narrated by al-Bukhari in his Saheeh). The same dhikr and du’aa’s are prescribed in sujood al-tilaawah as in the prostration during prayer, because of the general meaning of the ahadith concerning that.

Among these du’aa’s are: Allaahumma laka sajadtu wa bika aamantu wa laka aslamtu, sajada wajhi lilladhi khalaqahu wa sawwarahu wa shaqqa sam’ahu wa basarahu bi hawlihi wa quwwatihi, tabaarak Allaahu ahsan al-khaaliqeen (O Allah, unto You I have prostrated and in You I have believed, and unto You I have submitted. My face has prostrated before Him Who created it and fashioned it, and brought forth its faculties of hearing and seeing by His Might and Power. Blessed is Allah, the Best of creators). (This was narrated by Muslim in his Saheeh, from the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم); he said that he used to say this dhikr during the prostration of prayer, according to the hadith of ‘Ali (رضي الله عنه))

It was narrated that the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) used to make du’aa’ when he did sujood al-tilaawah, and he would say:  “Allaahumma aktub li biha ‘indaka ajran wa’mhu ‘anni biha wizran waj’alha li ‘indaka dukhran wa taqabbalha minni kama taqabbaltaha min ‘abdika Dawood (O Allah, record for me a reward for this (prostration), and remove from me a sin. Save it for me and accept it from me just as You accepted it from Your slave Dawood).” (Narrated by at-Tirmidhi)

What is obligatory is to say “Subhaana Rabbiy al-A’laa (Glory be to my Lord Most High), as is obligatory during the prostration of prayer. Any additional du’aa’ or dhikr is mustahabb.

(The above reply is based on the following resources:

  • Islamweb.net, a web site belonging to the Ministry of Awqaf and Islamic Affairs in the State of Qatar
  • Various answers provided by Islam Q&A on similar topics)

Allahu A’lam (Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) knows best) and all Perfections belong to Allah, and all mistakes belong to me alone. May Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) forgive me, Ameen.

Wassalaam