By Imam Ridwan Jamiu
Prostration (Sujuud) to others is no more allowed
Prostration (with the face to the ground) as a manner of greeting has now been cancelled in our Shari’ah as contained in the Hadith. It was allowed in the past nations as a customary way of greeting, not Shirk, but not anymore, according to the Sunnah.
But any act of devotional obeisance to any objects such as images, symbols, trees, Jinn, hill, graves, sun, moon, and all supernatural things, other than Allah is Shirk, Q41/37. “Indeed, Allah does not forgive association with Him, but He forgives what is less than that for whom He wills. And he who associates others with Allah has certainly fabricated a tremendous sin.” Q4/48
You can stand up to greet
In the same vein is standing to receive a person as a mark of respect and greeting. It is reported in Sahih Muslim that whenever Fatimah, the daughter of the Prophet visited the Prophet, the latter would stand to receive her, and Fatimah used to do the same whenever the Prophet visited her. So, they stood for each other for greeting.
What is disliked is when it is done each time a person goes and comes, or when the person is seated while people are standing around him, as is done for some leaders and kings. It is permissible for security purposes though.
Anas ibn Maalik said: “No person was dearer to them than the Prophet (s.a.w), but when they saw him, they did not stand up for him because they knew that he disliked that.”
Narrated by al-Tirmidhi, 2754; classed as saheeh by al-Albaani in Saheeh al-Tirmidhi.
He’s always with them; it would lead to hero-worship if they stood for him all time.
Ibn Taymiyya (May Allah have mercy on him) said:
“Standing up for a newcomer is not the standing mentioned in the words of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him):
“Whoever likes the people to stand up for him, let him take his place in Hell.” Narrated by al-Tirmidhi, 2755; classed as saheeh by al-Albaani in Saheeh al-Tirmidhi.
That refers to when they stand up for him when he is seated; it does not refer to when they stand up to welcome him when he comes.
Hence the scholars differentiated between the two types of standing, because those who stand up to greet a newcomer are equal with him. It was narrated that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) stood up for ‘Ikrimah, and he said to the Ansaar when Sa’d ibn Mu’aadh came: “Stand up for your chief.” Narrated by al-Bukhaari, 3043; Muslim, 1768. That was when he [Sa’d] came to pass judgement on Banu Qurayzah, because they said that they would accept his verdict.
Ward off the greater of two evils
It is a jurisprudence principle to ward off the greater of two evils by doing the lesser of them, and to do that which serves a greater interest at the expense of that which serves the lesser interest.
The lesser evil is to do what is Makrkhu (disliked) in order to avoid what is Haram, such as breaking ties of kinship and spreading rancor and hatred by refusing to bend or kneel in greeting elders.
Al-‘Izz bin Abdis Salam (d. 1262) said, “Not standing to greet and welcome people deserving respect has led to hostility, hatred and rancor in this time. It is advisable to do the same because of this evil…It is not extreme to say that it is even compulsory to do that.”
We need to avoid brazen disrespect for scholars, teachers, parents and elders in our quest to practice Sunnah.
Proper understanding of Islam is key in engendering a harmonious social relationship and engineering a progressive Ummah. Muslim unity is very possible with seven things: if we can be more tolerant and respect other’s view and personality, if we address our differences with maturity and politeness, and by avoiding name-calling and by giving others benefit of doubt, spreading Sunnah by teaching and practice and when we work on personal spiritual and intellectual upliftment.