I am an Indian girl who embraced Islam recently. I have prostrated before my husband out of love, am I sinful?
I am an Indian girl who embraced Islam not long ago and since then I keep praying regularly and fast the month of Ramadan and it just happened that for reasons that are solely related to my feelings towards my husband that I prostrated before him without being aware of it and without knowing the juristic ruling on it. I later knew that prostrating to anyone or thing except God is an act of polytheism which drives the person out of Islam and therefore he or she has to reenter Islam again. I really don’t know what to do? Did I commit a sin? Please help me.
No dear sister, you did not lose your faith or religion by prostrating before your husband because faith is a solid conviction that resides in the heart and you can’t lose your faith unless you change your theological conviction through disbelieving in the Oneness of God, the lord of the worlds and the prophethood of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) who is the seal of all prophets and the last divine link between heaven and earth. The only type of prostration which causes the person to lose his faith is prostration for the sake of worship as for other types of prostration such as prostration for the sake of greeting and honoring is only prohibited and does not mount to disbelief (kufr). Examples for prostration for the sake of greeting and honoring occurred when the angels prostrated before Prophet Adam and when the brothers of Prophet Joseph prostrated before him and this type of prostration was amended and became impermissible in our Shari’ah. God says in this regard in the Quran, “And of His signs are the night and day and the sun and moon. Do not prostrate to the sun or to the moon, but prostate to Allah , who created them, if it should be Him that you worship.” 41:37
Therefore prostration for the purpose of greeting and honoring is only prohibited but does not mount to disbelief and what actually makes a prohibited act as a sin is realizing that it is prohibited therefore the act is not considered a sin if the doer of such act is not aware of its prohibition and therefore does not result in losing his faith or driving him out of religion. The Prophetic evidence on that was reported by ibn Majah who related that when Mu’adh ibn Jabal came back from Yemen, he prostrated before the Prophet (peace be upon him). The Prophet in turn forbade Mu’adh from prostrating before him but did not describe his act as an act of disbelief or polytheism.
Also it is well known that Mu’adh ibn Jabal- as the Prophet described him- is the Ummah’s most knowledgeable of matters which are prohibited and permitted. Therefore it is very obvious that Mu’adh understood that prostration is meant for worship which should not be directed to none save God but he also realized that there is a possibility that prostration could bear meanings other than worshipping the one before whom he prostrated. Therefore when a Muslim prostrates to anyone or thing other than God, it is impermissible to direct the purpose of this prostration to worshipping which leads to judging him or her with disbelief. Imam al Hafiz al Dhahabi al Shafi’i commented on this issue by saying, “Don’t you see that the prophet’s companions out of their utter love for Prophet Muhammad addressed him saying, “Shouldn’t we prostrate before you?” and he answered, “No”. This means that if the companion had the permission, they would have prostrated out of reverence and veneration and not for worship same as when the brothers of Prophet Joseph prostrated before him and same goes for Muslims who prostrate before the Prophet’s grave out of veneration and reverence, this act is not considered an act of disbelief but it is a sinful act. Therefore the doer of such act should know that it is prohibited” (book of Mu’gam al Shuyukh for Imam al Dhahabi, p. 56)
The difference between the act of prostration when it is done by a Muslim and a non Muslim is that the Muslim believes that worshipping is only due to God the Almighty as for the polytheist, he believes in the permissibility of directing one’s worship to others save God. Therefore, if we see such act of prostration from a Muslim and this act bears many meanings such as worship and other meanings, we ought to direct the purpose of prostration to meanings which suit the theological belief of Muslims because whoever becoms a Muslim through solid faith and strong conviction should not be stripped of it out of probabilities and doubts.
This ruling is based on a juristic legal maxim which clearly states that the actions which are done by Muslims should be interpreted in ways which do not contradict the original state of monotheism and it is impermissible to hastily accuse the Muslim with disbelief or polytheism. The fact of being a Muslim is such a strong evidence that necessitates for us not to interpret his actions as acts of disbelief. This capacious understanding was reiterated by Imam Malik who said in this regard, “Whoever carried out an action which could be interpreted from 99 ways as an act of disbelief and only could be interpreted from one way as an act of faith, we think of his act as an act of faith”.
So rest assured dear sister that you have not lost your faith because of your prostration before your husband and you did not even commit a sin because you were unaware of what you were doing and you didn’t know at that time that prostration was prohibited. You are rather rewarded for your kind intention and for your sincere desire to please your husband and get close to his heart. We pray to God that you holdfast to your religion and guide you always to goodness and happiness in this world and the hereafter.