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The Forbidden Prostration: A Translation Of An Urdu Jurisprudential Work On Sajda Taʿẓīmī




 In the post-scriptural exegetical and jurisprudential literature, Sunni Muslim jurists unanimously concurred that reverential prostration (sajda taʿẓīmī) was forbidden in the final law bequeathed to the Prophet Muḥammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him). The following piece is a partial translation of Aḥmad Riżā Khān’s al-Zubda al-zakiyya al-Zubda al-zakiyya fī tiḥrīm sujūd al-taḥiyya, a masterful work on this subject.

Four years ago, former prime minister of Pakistan Imran Khan caused a stir on social media after a video surfaced showing him (apparently) prostrating toward the grave of the medieval Sufi shaykh Farīd al-Dīn Masʿūd Ganj-i Shakar (d. 664/1266), located in the city of Pakpattan in Punjab, Pakistan.1On Ganj-i Shakar, see Sayyid Muḥammad Mubārak ʿAlawī Kirmānī, Siyar al-awliyāʾ dar aḥvāl va malfūẓāt-i mashāyikh-i Chisht (Lahore: Mushtāq Book Corner, n.d.), 117-57; Ḥāmid b. Fażl Allāh Jamālī, Siyar al-ʿārifīn (Delhi: Maṭbaʿa Riżāvī, 1893), 30-58; ʿAbd al-Ḥaqq Muḥaddith Dihlavī, Akhbār al-akhyār fī asrār al-abrār (Delhi: Mujtabāʾi Press, 1914), 52-4; Sayyid Muḥammad Bulāq Chishtī, Rawża-i aqṭāb (Delhi: Muḥibb-i Hind Press, 1887), 58-61; Muḥammad Ghulām Sarvar Lāhorī, Khazīnat al-aṣfiyāʾ (Lucknow: Naval Kishor, 1872), 1:287-305. While some members of opposing political parties cynically condemned him for trying to consolidate popular support by appealing to the emotions of shrine-goers,2 In the words of Imran Kazmi, “Critics said Imran could stoop to any low in his quest for the office of prime minister” (“Imran clarifies ‘sajda’ at shrine after social media backlash,” The Express Tribune, June 29, 2018, much of the local scholarly class—including traditional Sufi ʿulamāʾ of both the Deobandī and Barelvī persuasions3On Deobandism, see Barbara Daly Metcalf, Islamic Revival in British India: Deoband, 1860-1900 (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1982); Brannon Ingram, Revival from Below: The Deoband Movement and Global Islam (Oakland: University of California Press, 2018). On Barelvism, see Usha Sanyal, Devotional Islam and Politics in British India: Ahmad Riza Khan Barelwi and his Movement, 1870-1920 (Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1996). On the conflict between the two intellectual movements, see SherAli Tareen, Defending Muḥammad in Modernity (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 2020). censured him for partaking in an act forbidden by Islamic law.4Mahnoor Sheikh, “Religious Scholars Respond To Imran Khan Prostrating At Pakpattan Shrine,” Urdu Point, June 28, 2018,; 24 News HD, “Religious Scholars Respond To Imran Khan Prostrating in Pakpattan Shrine | 24 News HD,” YouTube video, 2:13, June 28, 2018,; MessageTV, “Mufti Tariq Masood About Imran Khan ka Mazar par Sajda aur Wazahat ! عمران خان کا سجدہ یا بوسہ ؟,” YouTube video, 2:32, June 30, 2018,

Some neo-liberal commentators, however, came to Khan’s defense. “Lay off IK’s ‘sajda.’” said journalist Nadeem Farooq Paracha, “your puritanical condemnation of it doesn’t make you any better.”5Nadeem Farooq Paracha, Twitter post, June 28, 2018, However, such counsel did not convince the bulk of the common public. Consequently, casual denunciations of Khan poured in from all cities on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook over the course of the whole week. In order to quell the cacophony of voices—comprising scholars, politicians, comedians, news anchors, and the “twitterati”—Khan finally offered a defense. “This was not prostration,” he clarified. “It was done out of respect for Baba Fareed, who was a great Sufi saint.”6Kazmi, “Imran clarifies ‘sajda’ at shrine”; Web Desk, “Imran breaks silence on ‘sajda’ at shrine,” ARY News, June 30, 2018,

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The sheer amount of scandal that ensued after Khan’s action shows how controversial the notion of prostration (sujūd, Urdu sajda) to other than God remains in Muslim societies. It is noteworthy, moreover, that Khan did not defend himself by denouncing his act; rather, he clarified that his prostration was not a “true” sajda at all. It was, as he put the matter, only done “out of respect.” It is precisely this issue of prostrating out of respect, as opposed to worship, that concerns us in the present essay. We begin with a similar controversy that arose in India in 1919.

On the 9th of Ramaḍān, 1337 (June 7, 1919), Ḥāfiẓ ʿAbd al-Samīʿ, a scholar of Benares, wrote to the Ḥanafī polymath Aḥmad Riżā Khān (d. 1340/1921) of Bareilly,7On Khān’s life, see Sayyid Ẓafar al-Dīn Bihārī, Ḥayāt-i Āʿlā Ḥażrat (Karachi: Maktaba Riżviyya, 1938); Muḥammad Masʿūd Aḥmad, Ḥayāt-i Mawlānā Aḥmad Riżā Khān Barelvī (Sialkot: Islāmī Kutub Khāna, 1981); Ḥasnayn Riżā Khān, Sīrat-i Āʿlā Ḥażrat (Karachi: Maktaba Qāsimiyya Barkatiyya, 1986); Usha Sanyal, Ahmad Riza Khan Barelwi: In the Path of the Prophet (Oxford: Oneworld, 2005), 51-84. asking the latter of the ruling concerning “reverential prostration” (sajda taʿẓīmī). Sajda taʿẓīmī referred to prostrating toward a created entity solely out of reverence or respect, as opposed to the prostration of worship due to God alone. The Qurʾān mentioned the prostration of the angels to Adam 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him)8See Qurʾān 2:34, 7:11, 17:61, 18:50, 20:116. and that of Joseph’s family to Joseph in Egypt.9See Qurʾān 12:4, 100. These were textual examples of sajda taʿẓīmī, and clear proof that prostration to other than God was neither forbidden in prior sacred laws nor something inherently repugnant to God. Indeed, as the Qurʾān taught, the angelic sajda to Adam 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) was something commanded by God Himself.10See Qurʾān 2:34, 7:11, 17:61, 18:50, 20:116 However, in the post-scriptural exegetical and jurisprudential literature, Sunni Muslim jurists unanimously concurred that sajda taʿẓīmī was forbidden in the final law bequeathed to the Prophet Muḥammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him). Deeming the aforementioned scriptural cases abrogated on the basis of other textual evidence, they conclusively judged reverential prostration to have no legal applicability in the last sharīʿa brought by Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him).

Seventeen days after ʿAbd al-Samīʿ’s question was sent to Bareilly, Aḥmad Riżā Khān received a second query on the same matter. This one came from a scholar based in Meerut, and read, “I have attached an [issue of the] periodical Niẓām al-mashāyikh … [and] ask you to inform me regarding the lawfulness or prohibition of reverential prostration.” Niẓām al-mashāyikh was a journal published in Delhi by the popular writer Ḥasan Niẓāmī (d. 1374/1955), who had penned several works on Sufism, Indian history, satire, and poetry.11On Niẓāmī, see Mullā Vāḥidī, Savāniḥ-i ʿumrī imām al-mashāʾikh shams al-ʿulamāʾ muṣavvir-i fiṭrat Ḥażrat Khvāja Sayyid Ḥasan Niẓāmi Dihlavī (Delhi: Dargāh-yi Ḥażrat Niẓām al-Dīn Awliyāʾ, 1957); Mawlā Bakhsh, Khvāja Ḥasan Niẓāmī kī nathr: Thiqāfatī lāʾiḥa-yi ʿamal (Delhi: Arshia, 2012). In the particular edition of Niẓām al-mashāyikh sent to Aḥmad Riżā Khān, an essay had been published—written by Niẓāmī himself—praising reverential prostration and arguing for its licitness in Islam. In order to bolster his defense, Niẓāmī gathered the aforementioned Qurʾānic references, various hadith reports, and many statements from the Sufis and scholars. His essay, however, turned out to be riddled with errors and misquotations, for, although Ḥasan Niẓāmī was undoubtedly a competent journalist and poet, he was not an expert in fiqh. As such, his knowledge of Islamic law was rudimentary at best. Unsurprisingly, Aḥmad Riżā Khān found many blunders in Niẓāmī’s work upon reading it. Never one to respond lightly to perceived heresy, Khān took it upon himself to write a scholarly rebuttal to both Niẓāmī’s work and the practice of sajda taʿẓīmī more generally. The title Khān gave his Urdu refutationary treatise was al-Zubda al-zakiyya fī tiḥrīm sujūd al-taḥiyya (The pure prohibition regarding reverential prostration), and it has come to be regarded as one of the masterpieces in his voluminous oeuvre.12For a complete list of Khān’s works, numbering 679, see Muḥammad ʿAbd al-Mubīn Nuʿmānī, Taṣānīf-i Imām Aḥmad Riżā (Lahore: Riżā Academy, 2005).

As was the case with Imran Khan in 2018, Ḥasan Niẓāmī’s defense of reverential prostration in 1919 was met with severe backlash from much of the scholarly (traditional ulema) class. What is important to keep in mind here is that the ʿulamāʾ who refuted Niẓāmī—with Aḥmad Riżā Khān foremost among them—were themselves passionate and devoted Sufis. Hence, the criticism Niẓāmī faced did not come from voices opposed to the Sufi tradition. On the contrary, Khān—himself a prominent Qādirī shaykh with many spiritual disciples—deliberately framed al-Zubda al-zakiyya as a scholarly example of “true Sufism” refuting perceived pseudo-Sufism. Consequently, the tension between Khān and Niẓāmī is inevitably the tension between a scholarly and “normative” Sufism (that which strictly adheres to Sunni theology and jurisprudence, and permits no break from the sharīʿa), on the one hand, and non-legalist and occasionally antinomian Sufism, on the other.

In some of his other major works, Khān had often castigated those he deemed to be false representatives of the Sufi path. In a collection of legal rulings sent to his followers in South Africa, Khān described those Sufis who claimed to have no need for the sharīʿa as “vile ones” (khabīśoń).13Aḥmad Riżā Khān, Fatāvā-yi Ifrīqiya (Faisalabad: Maktaba Nūriyya Riżāviyya, 2004), 129. Elsewhere, he described antinomian Sufis who violated Sunni fiqh as “severely ruined” souls who had taken “Satan as their spiritual guide (pīr).”14Ibid., 130. As for those Sufis who taught theological ideas that contradicted Sunni Islam—such as God’s indwelling in creation—Khān deemed such individuals “heretics.”15Ibid., 46. As is evidenced by al-Zubda al-zakiyya, Aḥmad Riżā Khān saw Ḥasan Niẓāmī as precisely one such “false Sufi.”

In al-Zubda al-zakiyya, Aḥmad Riżā Khān brings all of his scholarly acumen to play. In order to jointly answer both the questions he received on reverential prostration, Khān divides his work into seven major parts. These sections cover the following topics: (1) Qurʾānic evidences for the prohibition of reverential prostration; (2) forty hadith prohibiting reverential prostration, and additional sections for hadith reports on related themes; (3) 150 rulings of jurists prohibiting reverential prostration; (4) a refutation of the essay in Niẓām al-mashāyikh using its own sources, and showing Niẓāmī’s misquotes and misrepresentations of various Sufi authors16Some of the Sufis Niẓāmī references in order to justify his position are: ʿAbd al-Wāḥid b. Zayd (d. 177/711; on page 32), Ibrāhīm b. Adham (d. 161/777-8, on 34), al-Fuḍayl b. ʿIyāḍ (d. 187/803, on 33), Bāyazīd Basṭāmī (d. 261/875, on 38), Abū Hubayra al-Baṣrī (d. 281-2/895, on 35), al-Junayd al-Baghdādī (d. 298/910, on 36); ʿAbd al-Qādir al-Jīlānī (d. 561/1166, on 29), Shihāb al-Dīn al-Suhrawardī (d. 632/1234, on 30), and Bahāʾ al-Dīn Naqshband (d. 791/1389, on 31).; (5) Niẓāmī’s lies regarding the Prophet Muḥammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him); (6) Niẓāmī’s lies regarding God; and (7) a discussion of the prostration of the angels to Adam 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) and of Joseph’s family to Joseph 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him).

What follows below is a translation of the third portion of Khān’s monograph. I have chosen to render this particular part of al-Zubda al-zakiyya for a number of reasons. First, it helps shed light on Aḥmad Riżā Khān’s juristic expertise.17On Khān as a jurist, see Ghulām Rasūl Saʿīdī, Fāżil-i Barelvī kā fiqhī maqām (Lahore: Markazī Majlis-i Riżā, 1974); ʿAbd al-Ḥakīm Akhtar Shāhjahāńpūrī, Āʿlā Ḥażrat kā fiqhī maqām (Lahore: Farīd Book Stall, 1986); Muḥammad Aḥmad Āʿẓamī Miṣbāḥī, Imām Aḥmad Riżā kī fiqhī baṣīrat (Lahore: Riżā Dar al-Ishāʿat, 1993). Fiqh was, arguably, the field Khān was most proficient in; and his jurisprudential works bear sufficient testimony to his erudition. Khān remains a deeply misunderstood figure both within and outside the Subcontinent for several reasons: Salafī detractors frequently cast him as an antinomian Sufi obsessed with folkloric customs, “grave worship,” and heresy; the Deobandīs depict him as a foolhardy and intemperate man with a penchant for rash takfīr and deviant beliefs; and scores of shrine-goers in South Asia love him without following many of his teachings and knowing little of his scholarship. In reality, Aḥmad Riżā Khān was a staunchly traditionalist Ḥanafī Māturīdī scholar who refuted all those he felt had broken off from normative Sunnism, including puritan reformists, modernist reformists, and false Sufi claimants. From Khān’s perspective, South Asian Sunni Islam had been a seamless body of likeminded scholars for centuries, and the Deobandīs, the Wahhābīs, the modernists, and antinomian or non-normative Sufis, and other groups represented a break from what was, in his eyes, the pure Sunni tradition.

A second reason for translating this portion of al-Zubda al-zakiyya is that it provides an antidote to a common erroneous assumption. Aḥmad Riżā Khān and his followers—the “Barelvīs”—are simplistically contrasted in popular discourse with the “puritan” Deobandīs.18See, for example, Jon Boone, “The saints go marching out as the face of Islam hardens in Pakistan,” The Guardian, January 15, 2014, The polemics between the two scholarly channels often contribute to this perception. The reality, however, is that the concerns of both groups overlap in many areas where they are often presumed to clash with one another. For example, practically all Deobandīs are adherents of Sufi orders19According to Muḥammad Ṭayyib Qāsimī (d. 1403/1983), the tenth vice-chancellor of Dār al-ʿUlūm Deoband, the Deobandis were “Chishtī in sulūk but united all silsilas” (Dārul ʿUlūm Deoband kī Ṣad Sālah Zindagī [Deoband: Idāra-yi Taʾrīkh-i Deoband, 1968], 24). See also Metcalf, Islamic Revival, 158, where she remarks: “One important dimension of Deobandi influence as Sufis rested in their position as heirs to the legitimacy of all the major Sufi orders [in the Subcontinent]. They were not shaikhs of a single order.” See also Ingram, Revival from Below, 9; they are no different to Barelvīs on this matter. Hence, this sectarian dispute is not a case of Sufis in conflict with non-Sufis; rather, it involves two pro-Sufi groups in disagreement with one another. Apart from this, the Deobandīs are often depicted as being “reformist” and concerned with expunging many of the innovations in the Sufi tradition, with the Barelvīs assumed to be “unreformed” traditionalists whose practice is awash with various “accretions.” However, Barelvīs also condemn many of the same practices Deobandīs do, such as prostration to graves, dancing at shrines, and other such acts. This is not to say the two streams of intellectual thought are identical, but the picture is far more complex than it is often assumed to be. As the Barelvīs are often cast by their opponents as decadent and with little regard for Islamic law and scholarship, the following portion of al-Zubda al-zakiyya shows how mistaken such a perception truly is. Aḥmad Riżā Khān, his disciples, and their later scholarly inheritors were all learned scholars of jurisprudence, and this work appropriately demonstrates just how widely read he was in the field of fiqh. As one of the scholars of the Nadwat al-ʿUlamāʾ remarked regarding Khān, “a scholar of his class, with such extensive knowledge of Ḥanafī fiqh, its constituents, minutiae, and nuances, was rare—a testimony for which can be found in his collection of fatāwā.”20Sayyid ʿAbd al-Ḥayy al-Ḥasanī, Nuzhat al-khawātir wa-bahjat al-masāmiʿ wa-l-nawādir, 8 vols. (Beirut: Dār Ibn Ḥazm, 1999), 8:1182.

             THE TRANSLATION

Prostrating to other than God Almighty is forbidden by consensus. As for the question of whether the one who does it becomes a disbeliever, there are six different rulings found among the jurists:

  • Prostration to other than God Almighty is disbelief (kufr).
  • Prostration to other than God Almighty is absolute disbelief (kufr-i muṭlaq).
  • Prostration to other than God Almighty is not disbelief under duress; however, it is disbelief if done without compulsion.
  • Deliberate prostration to other than God Almighty is disbelief; however, if it is not done deliberately or if it was [really] intended for God Almighty, then it is not disbelief.
  • Prostration to other than God Almighty with the intention of worship is disbelief; however, prostration with the intention of reverence [as opposed to worship] is not disbelief; if there is no intention whatsoever, then it is also disbelief.
  • Prostration to other than God Almighty is not disbelief so long as it is not performed with the intention of worship. This ruling is the soundest, most favorable, and most inclined toward the truth.


  1. Imām [Fakhr al-Dīn] al-Zaylaʿī [d. 743/1342] in Tibyān al-ḥaqāʾiq 1:202
  2. [and] the meticulous researcher (al-muḥaqqiq) Imām Ibrāhīm al-Ḥalabī [d. 956/1549] in al-Ghunya al-mustamallī 266
  3. [and] the great scholar (al-ʿallāma) Sayyid Abū al-Saʿūd al-Azharī [d. 982/1574-5] in Fatḥ Allāh al-muʿīn 1:290 [state]: “The boundary of humility is prostration; hence, prostration to other than God Almighty is disbelief.”21This is position (1) from the six positions Khān had mentioned earlier. As we will see, several of the successive citations also adhere to this view. While Khān rejects this view, holding instead position (6), he nevertheless refers to it in order to underscore the deviancy of reverential prostration.
  4. [Imām ʿUmar b. Muḥammad al-Sunnāmī, d. 734/1333-4, in] Niṣāb al-iḥtisāb 49
  5. narrates from the Kifāya of al-Shaʿbī [d. 110/728]: “Whoever prostrates to other than God Almighty is a disbeliever, as it is forbidden to place one’s forehead upon the earth before any save God Almighty.”
  6. The exalted Imām (imām-i jalīl), the sun of the scholars (shams-i aʾimma) al-Sarakhsī [d. 483/1090] states in al-Mabsūṭ: “The one who prostrates out of reverence to other than God Almighty is a disbeliever.”
  7. The above ruling is transmitted, moreover, [by Imām Shams al-Dīn Muḥammad al-Qahistānī, d. 962/1554-5] in Jāmiʿ al-ramūz 535.
  8. [Mullā ʿAlī al-Qārī, d. 1014/1605–6, in] Minaḥ al-rawḍ al-azhar fī sharḥ al-Fiqh al-akbar 235 states: “I say that placing one’s forehead upon the ground is far more grievous than placing one’s face therein; it is an act of disbelief as prostration is uniquely for God alone.”

I say: indeed, it is most important to keep in mind that anyone who sets his forehead upon the ground [to other than God] for the purpose of worship becomes a disbeliever, even if he only kissed the ground, or simply bowed, or merely intended to do so. As for prostrating without the intention of worship, this is not disbelief according to the soundest and most reliable position. This is surely the truth and what is concordant with the religion. Additionally, it should be noted that the forehead is comprised of two parts; hence, if only one of these is placed upon the ground, it will be taken as placing the entire forehead.

9. The great scholar al-Qahistānī [d. 747/1346-7] in Sharḥ al-niqāya 535

10. [and Imām Nūr al-Dīn al-Bāqānī, d. 995/1586–7, in] Majmūʿ al-anhar sharḥ Multaqī al-baḥr 2:200 (both the preceding attestations were taken from the Fatāwā al-Ẓahīriyya [of Imām Ẓahīr al-Dīn Abū Bakr, d. 619/1222-3])

11. [and] the great scholar al-Shāmī [= Imām Ibn ʿĀbidīn, d. 1252/1836] in Radd al-muḥtār 5:378, relating from Jāmiʿ al-ramūz, [states]: “It is absolute disbelief to prostrate to anyone other than God Almighty.”

I say: according to a gloss by Imām al-ʿAynī [d. 855/1453] and a transmission by Mullā ʿAlī al-Qārī, the ruling given in al-Fatāwā al-Ẓahīriyya is unestablished … [however, both] Majmūʿ al-anhar and Imām Ibn ʿĀbidīn have transmitted the statements [directly] from Imām al-Qahistānī [himself], and there is no doubt that Imām al-ʿAynī is more reliable than the author [of the al-Fatāwā al-Ẓahīriyya]. Hence, we have not [independently] included the ruling of al-Fatāwā al-Ẓahīriyya in our attestations.

12. The great scholar al-Taqānī [d. 758/1356-7] states in the kitāb al-karāha portion of his Ghāyat al-bayān: “It is disbelief to prostrate to anyone other than God Almighty without being forced to do so.”

     13. Minaḥ al-rawḍ 235 states: “Whoever prostrates to anyone other than God Almighty without being compelled to do so becomes a disbeliever by consensus.”

I say: The claim of there being a “consensus” [on this matter] is incorrect due to the following reasons: (1) the correct and most reliable ruling [does takfīr only on the basis of there being an] intention of worship [during the act of prostration to other than God Almighty], and we shall provide many attestations in support of this position later on; (2) [many] exalted elders have given clear rulings that mere reverential prostration is not disbelief, e.g., in the Fatāwā al-kubrā [of Imām Ḥusām al-Dīn ʿUmar b. ʿAbd al-ʿAzīz, d. 536/1141–2] and in the handwritten manuscript (qalmī) of the Khazānat al-muftīn [of Imām Ḥusayn al-Samiqānī, d. 740/1339–40, in which the author] has related some events from the life of Imām Ṣadr al-Shahīd [d. 536/1141–2]. After doing so, [the author of Khazānat al-muftīn] cites the aforementioned ruling of Ghāyat al-bayān, and then states: “This is proof that the prostration of reverence [to other than God] is not disbelief; analogously, we can rule that those who prostrate before kings [for the sake of reverence as opposed to worship] are not disbelievers.” It also states in Jāmiʿ al-fuṣūlīn: “This previous ruling explicitly tells us that prostrating to a king out of reverence [as opposed to worship] does make the prostrater a disbeliever”; (3) Mullā ʿAlī al-Qārī’s own ruling will be presented later, where he states that prostration to the luminous grave [of the Prophet] is only forbidden, not disbelief; and, finally, (4) as it was shown in attestation 27 [of an earlier section], some of the scholars excommunicated those [who partook in reverential prostration], but this opinion is defective, weak, and inaccurate.

14. Imām Ibn Ḥajar al-Makkī [d. 974/1566] states in al-Iʿlām bi-qawāṭiʿ al-Islām 55: “It can be deduced from the numerous statements of the jurists that prostrating to other than God Almighty may be disbelief in particular contexts and merely forbidden in other contexts. It is disbelief when one intends to prostrate before the creation [for the sake of worship]; and it is merely forbidden if one prostrates to creation out of respect [as opposed to worship], or when there is no intention whatsoever.”

15. The kitāb al-istiḥsān portion of the handwritten manuscript of [Imām Burhān al-Dīn Abū Bakr’s] al-Jawāhir al-ikhlāṭī

16. [and] al-Fatāwā al-Hindiyya 5:368-9

17. [and] Niṣāb al-iḥtisāb 49

18. all of them (ye sab) quote the exalted Imām, the jurist Abū Jaʿfar al-Hindiwānī: “Whoever kisses the ground in front of a king or a chief, or prostrates to either, he is not to be charged with disbelief so long as the intention [behind the prostration] is that of reverence [as opposed to worship]; however, this act is still a major sin. If, on the other hand, the intention [behind the prostration] is to worship the king, or if there is no intention at all [i.e., neither of worship nor of reverence], then the person becomes a disbeliever.”

19. The fatāwā of Imām Ẓahīr al-Dīn Marghīnānī (d. 619/1222-3)

20. [and] their concise summary by Imām al-ʿAynī

21. [and Imām Aḥmad b. Muḥammad al-Makkī, d. 1097/1685-6, in] Ghamz al-ʿuyūn wa-l-baṣāʾir 31

22. [and] the kitāb al-hiba of the handwritten manuscript of [Imām Ṭāhir b. Aḥmad’s, d. 542/1147-8] al-Khulāṣa

23. [all state, with] Minaḥ al-rawḍ 235: “Some jurists have ruled that prostrating to other than God Almighty is absolute disbelief; however, others have [nuanced the ruling] by placing some conditions. The latter only judge it as disbelief if the intention behind the prostration is worship; hence, they deem the prostration of reverence to be merely forbidden. As for instances where there is no discernible intention [of either worship or reverence], then the majority of the scholars deem it to be disbelief.” The report of al-Khulāṣa states: “As for prostration before kings, this is a major sin; however, there is a difference of opinion on whether the prostrator will be charged with disbelief or not. While some have said that such a prostrator is an absolute disbeliever, others have [nuanced the matter] by stating that one needs to look more deeply into each case. The latter only judge it as disbelief if the intention behind prostrating [to other than God] is worship; otherwise, they deem it merely forbidden. This position concords with the verdict of al-Fatāwā al-Ẓahīriyya and what is found in the Mabsūṭ of Imām Muḥammad, may God be pleased with him.” Mullā ʿAlī al-Qārī transmitted the same ruling in the form of the following gloss: “It is in al-Khulāṣa that the one who prostrates before a king in the same manner that one prostrates to God becomes a disbeliever thereby. However, some of the scholars ruled that the prostrator does not become a disbeliever if it is simply a reverential prostration [for the king himself]. It is my view that this is the soundest position.”

I say: In al-Khulāṣa, only “worship” is mentioned, not “reverence” [as it is in Mullā ʿAlī al-Qārī’s gloss]; moreover, the latter mentions “according to some scholars” while al-Khulāṣa states “according to most scholars.” In conclusion, one can assume that the word “reverence” was used to connote worship in some of the handwritten manuscripts [of Mullā ʿAlī al-Qārī’s work]. And God Knows best.

24. The exalted Imām Ṣadr al-Shahīd’s Sharḥ al-Jāmiʿ ṣaghīr

25. [and] from it, Imām al-Samʿānī in the kitāb al-karāha section of Khazānat al-muftīn

26. [and] the kitāb al-istiḥsān section of al-Jawāhir al-ikhlāṭī

27.[and] from it, al-Fatāwā al-Hindiyya 5:638

28. [and Imām Maḥmūd b. Isrāʿīl, d. 823/1420-1, in] Jāmiʿ al-fuṣūlīn 2:314

29. [and Imām Aḥmad b. Mūsā, d. 550/1155-6, in] Majmūʿ al-nawāzil

30. [from] Wajīz al-muḥīṭ

31. [and] Jāmiʿ al-ramūz 535

32. [from Imām Burhān al-Dīn Maḥmūd, d. 616/1219-20, in] al-Muḥīṭ

33. [and] Jāmiʿ al-fuṣūlīn 11

34. [and] Majmūʿ al-anhar 2:520 [all transmit] Imām Ṣadr al-Shahīd’s statement: “Whoever kisses the ground before a king or chief, or prostrates before the same, he will not be charged with disbelief if he did [the act] with the intention of reverence; nevertheless, it is a major sin.” The words of Jāmiʿ al-ramūz and other works are: “Both kissing the ground and reverential prostration are forbidden and major sins.” In al-Jawāhir and al-Fatāwā al-Hindiyya, the same ruling is phrased in the following manner: “According to the sound opinion, anyone who kisses the ground or engages in reverential prostration [before a king] will not be deemed a disbeliever, though he will be a sinner guilty of a major sin.” Another statement in Jāmiʿ al-fuṣūlīn reads: “The one who engages in reverential prostration is a sinner who has done what is forbidden.” [Meanwhile,] Majmūʿ al-anhar states: “The one who performs a prostration of reverence will not be guilty of disbelief, but will be deemed a major sinner.”

35. It states in the kitāb al-khaṭr section of [Imām al-Ḥaskafī’s, d. 1008/1667] al-Durr al-Mukhtār

36. [and in] Majmūʿ al-anhar: “Regarding the question of whether a person becomes a disbeliever or not due to prostrating [before other than God], it is disbelief if done with the intention of worship, and a major sin if done for the sake of conveying a reverential salutation.”

37. The great scholar Ibn ʿĀbidīn states in Radd al-muḥtār 5:387: “There are two positions on this matter. First, there is the opinion that reverential prostration is disbelief, and this is the position of Imām al-Sarakhsī. The second opinion is that it is not disbelief, and this is the position of Ṣadr al-Shahīd.”

I say: Clearly, Imām Ṣadr al-Shahīd does not consider reverential prostration disbelief. Rather, as was mentioned in attestation 34, he rules the act to be a major sin. At times, he interprets “respect” in a general sense, and, on other occasions, he uses it specifically to denote salutation, and especially the type of salutation one may offer to people of eminence. In attestations 45 and 51—where I shall present the rulings of the jurist Imām al-Nasafī [d. 710/1310] and my master (sayyidī) ʿAbd al-Ghanī al-Nābulusī [d. 1143/1731], may his secret be sanctified—it will be seen that they do not distinguish between the prostration of salutation and reverential prostration. Rather, [they treat these two synonymously] and differentiate them [collectively] from the prostration of worship. [It should be kept in mind, however, that] sometimes “respect” is used to denote the type of reverence or awe that is lawful only when directed toward God Almighty. As we saw in attestation 23 from Minaḥ al-rawḍ, “respect” is treated as a type of worship when used in this manner. On the other hand, the author of al-Durr al-mukhtār distinguishes between “respect” and salutation, and Shams al-Aʾimma [= al-Sarakhsī] concurs with him.

38. Imām Muḥammad [d. 189/805] in al-Aṣl

39. [and] the kitāb al-sīr of al-Fatāwā [al-kubrā]

40. [and] from the two of them, the handwritten manuscript of [Imām Ṭāhir b. ʿAbd al-Rashīd al-Bukhārī’s] kitāb alfāẓ al-kufr in al-Khulāṣa

41. [and Imām Dāwūd b. Yūsuf al-Khaṭīb in] al-Fatāwā al-Ghayāthiyya 107

42. [and] al-Muḥīṭ

43. [and] from it, Sharḥ fiqh al-akbar 35

44. [and] Niṣāb al-iḥtisāb 49

45. [and] Imām al-Kurdurī in Wajīz 6:343

46. [and Imām ʿAbd Allāh b. Maḥmūd al-Mawṣilī, d. 683/1284-5, in] Ikhtiyār sharḥ al-mukhtār

47. [and] from it, the great scholar Shaykh Zāda in Sharḥ al-Multaqā 2:520 [all] state: “When any oppressive disbeliever compels a Muslim to prostrate before a king or chief on pain of death, it is still preferable to refuse doing so, as prostration [before creation] is disbelief, and avoiding disbelief is preferred even in times of great difficulty.”āwā Qāḍī Khān 4:378

49. [and] from it, al-Fatāwa al-Hindiyya 5:368

50. [and] the handwritten manuscript of [Ibn Nujaym’s, d. 970/1563] al-Ishabā wa-l-nazāʾir 2:1

51. [and] from it, the gnostic of God, Imām al-Nābulusī in al-Ḥadīqa al-nadiyya 1:381

52. [and] the kitāb al-karāha section of Khazānat al-muftīn

53. [and] from it, [Imām Ibn Ḥajar al-Makkī’s] al-Fatāwā al-kubrā

54. [and] the Wāqiʿāt of Imām al-Nāṭifī [d. 446/1054]

55. [and] from it, [Imām Abū l-Layth al-Samarqandī, d. 373/983, in] ʿUyūn al-masāʾil

56. [and] from it, the Wāqiʿāt of Imām Ṣadr al-Shahīd

57. [and] from it, the kitāb al-karāha section of Ghāyat al-bayān

58. [and] Jāmiʿ al-fuṣūlīn 2:314, from the Wāqiʿāt of Imām al-Nāṭifī, [states]: “If a disbeliever commands a Muslim to prostrate before a king on pain of death, it is better to refuse doing so if the Muslim is being commanded to prostrate for the purpose of worship. This is because patience is superior when given the choice between disbelief and what is [merely] abhorrent [i.e., death]. However, if the disbeliever is compelling the Muslim to perform a reverential prostration, then it would be preferred to prostrate in order to save one’s life.”

I say: It is clear from the ten previous citations that prostrating before anyone other than God Almighty is worse than alcohol consumption and eating the flesh of swine. Of course, the ruling regarding consuming these detested foods is that it is obligatory to do so if one’s life or limb is endangered; in such [exceptional] cases, it becomes obligatory [to consume alcohol and swine], and refusing to do so is sinful. Al-Fatāwā al-Hindiyya states: “If someone forces another to consume the meat of swine on pain of death, then it is obligatory for the victim to consume the meat [in order to preserve his or her life].” [Similarly,] al-Durr al-mukhtār states: “If one is forced to consume swine on pain of death, dismemberment, or major injury, then it becomes obligatory to do so [in order to preserve one’s life]; therefore, if a person practiced patience instead of consuming the meat, and was consequently put to death, he will be deemed a sinner.” [However, in the case of reverential prostration,] it is important to note that it is only recommended for the one who is compelled to do so on pain of death—it is neither obligatory nor mandatory [as it was in the case of alcohol and swine consumption]. Therefore, being put to death is permitted in order to avoid partaking in reverential prostration, although saving one’s life is still considered preferable. From all this, we can deduce that prostrating before anyone other than God [even for the sake of reverence] is far more grievous than consuming alcohol and swine. God Forbid! It has to be much more heinous for the consumption of swine has no connection to the act of worshiping other than God Almighty. Furthermore, no jurist has ever ruled [eating unlawful meat] to be an act of disbelief without some conditions. On the other hand, some jurists have ruled reverential prostration to be absolute disbelief [irrespective of whatever conditions may apply to it or not], deeming such an act to contravene the right of God Almighty. If a person has any faith and righteousness in him, then he will ponder all of this. “But it only increases the wrongdoers in loss.”2217:82

     59. al-Fatāwa al-Hindiyya 5:369

60. from al-Fatāwā al-gharāʾib, states: “Prostration to anyone other than God Almighty is forbidden.”

61. The exalted Imām, the seal of the preservers (khātim-i ḥuffāẓ) ʿAbd al-Ḥaqq al-Ḥanafī [d. 1252/1836-7] states in al-Iklīl: “There is here a prohibition on prostrating to other than God Almighty.”

     62. Niṣāb al-iḥtisāb 49

63. [narrates that] an exalted successor who was a warrior during the caliphate of ʿUmar said: “Unquestionably, it is forbidden to prostrate to anyone other than God Almighty in the law of Muḥammad, peace and blessings be upon him.”

64. [Imām Birgivī Meḥmed Efendī, d. 981/1573, in] al-Ṭarīqa al-Muḥammadiyya 13, while mentioning various acts that constitute humiliation, states: “Among those acts that constitute humiliation are prostrating before, bowing to, or genuflecting toward pious people while greeting them.”

     65. Minaḥ al-rawḍ 227 states: “It is forbidden to prostrate before anyone other God Almighty.”

66. The exalted Imām al-Nawawī [d. 676/1277] in Rawḍa

67. [and] from him, Imām Ibn Ḥajar al-Makkī in al-Iʿlām bi-qawāṭiʿ al-Islām 13 state: “It is, in all circumstances, forbidden to prostrate before shaykhs; this is utterly prohibited, irrespective of whether the prostration was in the direction of the qibla or not, or whether it bore the intention of prostrating to God or not. In some cases, such prostration constitutes disbelief.”

     68. Al-Iʿlām 55 states: “The scholars have detailed that the prostration of the ignorant before shaykhs is prohibited and, in some cases, utter disbelief.”

     69. Ghāyat al-bayān, while discussing the act of prostration, states: “The prostration that the ignorant among the Sufis perform before their shaykhs is forbidden and it is of the worst deviant innovations. They must be stopped from partaking in this.”

70. The preserver of the religion, Imām Muḥammad b. Muḥammad al-Kurdurī states in al-Wajīz 6:343: “It is understood from this that the prostration which the ignorant perform before their shaykhs—thinking this beneficial—is disbelief according to some scholars, and a major sin by consensus. If one deems such an act permitted, it is disbelief; and if a shaykh commands a person to prostrate before him, and the latter willingly complies, the one who prostrates becomes a disbeliever, though he was a Muslim prior to this.”

I say: The false Sufis that tend to order people to prostrate before themselves are free of the sacred law … God Forbid! Praise be to God. These were the seventy confirmations on the ruling of reverential prostration: it is solely for God alone, and, for other than Him, it is prohibited thrice-over, regardless of intention. Infinite glories be to God, and reverent salutations and blessings be upon our Master, the Messenger, his Family and Companions. The prohibition of kissing the soil or surface or ground before a blessed personality is also unlawful and this ruling was mentioned in the previous fifteen attestations. For further specificity, the following are also cited:

71. Imām al-Kabīr in al-Jāmiʿal- ṣaghīr

72. [and] from it, [Imām ʿĀlam b. al-ʿAlāʾ Anṣārī Dihlavī, d. 786/1384-5 in] al-Fatāwā al-Tātārkhāniyya

73. [and] from it, al-Fatāwā al-Hindiyya 5:369

74. [and] the exalted Imām Abū l-Barakāt al-Nasafī’s Kāfī sharḥ al-wāfī

75. [and] the kitāb al-karāha of Ghāyat al-bayān

76. [and] Imām Jalāl al-Dīn al-Kirmānī’s Kifāya sharḥ al-hidāya 4:43

77. [and] Imām al-Zaylaʿī in Tibyān al-ḥaqāʾiq 6:25

78. [and] Shaykh al-Islām Imām al-Tumurtāshī al-Ghazzī’s [d. 1004/1595] Tanwīr al-abṣār

79. [and] al-Durr al-Mukhtār

80. [and] Majmūʿ al-anhar 2:520

81. [and] Fatḥ al-muʿīn 3:402

82. [and] al-Jawāhir al-ikhlāṭī

83. [and] in 8:226 of Imām al-Tūrī’s takmila of [Ibn Nujaym’s] al-Baḥr al-rāʾiq

84. [and] Sharḥ al-Kanz

85. [and] al-Fatāwā al-gharāʾib

86. [and], from the above, al-Fatāwa al-Hindiyya. In these 16 attestations, it says: “It is forbidden to kiss the ground before the scholars and the righteous; the one who does so and the one who agrees with it are both sinners.” Al-Kāfī, al-Kifāya, Ghāyat al-bayān, al-Durr al-Mukhtār, Majmūʿ, Sayyid Abū al-Saʿūd al-Azharī, and al-Jawāhir al-ikhlāṭī all add: “Because this resembles idolatry.” The words of Imām al-Tūrī are: “The one who performs this act is similar to the idolaters.”

87. The great scholar Sayyid Aḥmad al-Ṭahṭāwī [d. 1231/1816] states in a footnote to al-Durr al-Mukhtār 4:192: “The reason this is akin to idolatry is because this act involves prostration before other than God.”

I say: Kissing the ground is not really prostration because prostration requires the forehead to be placed on the ground. However, even kissing the ground is referred to as idol worship. If merely such an act makes one akin to an idolater, then how much worse will it be to perform the act of prostration? God Forbid!

88. Imām al-Shurunbulālī [d. 1069/1658] in al-Ghunya 1:318

89. [and Imām al-Ṭarābulusī, d. 922/1516, in] Mawāhib al-Raḥmān [state]: “Kissing the ground before a jurist in order to greet him is forbidden.”

     90. Khādimī ʿalā al-Durar 155 states: “Kissing the ground or bowing upon it are both impermissible; they are prohibited.”

     91. Radd al-muḥtār 5:379

92. [and Imām al-Ḥaskafī in] al-Durr al-Muntaqā fī sharḥ al-Multaqā, in the chapter on the different types of kissing, state: “Kissing the ground for the sake of greeting is forbidden and doing so with the intention of reverence is disbelief.”

     93. Al-Fatāwā al-Ẓahīriyya

94. [and] Imām al-ʿAynī’s al-Mukhtaṣar

95. [and] Ghamz al-ʿuyūn wa-l-baṣāʾir 31

96. [and] Sharḥ al-fiqh al-akbar 335 [state]: “Kissing the ground is near to prostration, and placing one’s face or forehead upon it is far worse and more grievous.”

Attestations 64 and 69 have been mentioned above. Let us now cite 30 more sources on the prohibition of bowing before a created entity.

97. [Imām Najm al-Dīn al-Zāhidī, d. 658/1259-60, in] al-Zāhidī

98. [and] Jāmiʿ al-ramūz 535

99. [and] Radd al-muḥtār 5:378

100. [and Shaykh Zāda in] Sharḥ al-Multaqā 2:520 [all state]: “While greeting someone, bowing is similar to prostration.”

101. [Imām Muḥammad b. Abī Bakr Imāmzāda, d. 573/1177-8, in] Shurʿat al-Islām

102. [and Imām Yaʿqūb b. Sayyid ʿAlī al-Burūsawī, d. 931/1524-5, in] its commentary Sharḥ mafātīḥ al-jinān 312 [both state]: “Neither kiss [the ground] nor bow toward it, for both are reprehensible.”

103. [Imām al-Ghazālī, d. 505/1111, in] Iḥyāʾ ʿulūm al-dīn 2:124

104. [and] Ittiḥāf al-sāda 6:281 [state]: “It forbidden to bow while greeting someone because such an act is that of the fire-worshippers.”

105. The handwritten manuscript of ʿAyn al-ʿilm

106. [and] 1:274 of the commentary of Mullā ʿAlī al-Qārī

107. [and] from al-Dhukhayra

108. [and] al-Muḥīṭ [all state]: “Do not bow in order to greet a king or anyone else, for this is impermissible. This is also prohibited for it is the way of the Jews and Christians.”

     109. al-Ḥadīqa al-nadiyya 1:381 states: “It is known that those who greet the pious by bending their heads or their abdomen, even if they go to excess in this practice, do so with the intention of reverence as opposed to worship. Due to this, this  deed will not render them disbelievers. The fact that they are Muslims will work to guard their intentions, for the intention of worship would only come upon one who is already a disbeliever. Of course, any excessive bowing that connotes a sense of humiliation is evil. Due to all this, the blessed author al-Ṭarīqa al-Muḥammadiyya [= Imām Birgivī] deemed it prohibited and not disbelief.”

110. The exalted Imām ʿIzz al-Dīn b. ʿAbd al-Salām [d. 660/1262]

111. and from him, Imām Ibn Ḥajar al-Makkī in al-Fatāwā al-kubrā 4:247

112. and from him, the gnostic Imām al-Nābulusī in al-Ḥadīqa al-nadiyya 381 [state]: “No one is allowed to bow to the extent of rukūʿ … and there is no harm in bowing less than this for the honored people of Islam.”


     113. al-Wāqiʿāt of Imām al-Nāṭifī

114. [and] al-Multaqaṭ of Imām Nāṣir al-Dīn

115. [and] from both of them, Niṣāb al-iḥtisāb 49

116. [and] the kitāb al-istiḥsān of al-Jawāhir al-ikhlāṭī

117. [and] from it, al-Fatāwā al-ʿĀlamgīriyya [= al-Fatāwā al-Hindiyya] 5:369: “It is forbidden for anyone to bow before any king or ruler as this action is similar to the practice of fire-worshippers”

     118. Majmūʿ al-anhar 2:521

119. [and] Fuṣūl al-ʿImādī [= Fuṣūl al-aḥkām fī uṣūl al-aḥkām] state: “Bowing is unlawful as this is the way of the fire-worshippers.”

     120. Mawāhib al-Raḥmān

121. [and] from it, Imām al-Shurunbulālī in 3:18

122. [and] al-Muḥīṭ

123. [and] from it, Jāmiʿ al-ramūz 535

124. [and] from it, Radd al-muḥtār 5:378 [states]: “It is impermissible to bow in front of a king or anyone else.”

125. Imām al-Haytamī’s al-Fatāwā al-kubrā states: “Bending the abdomen [in order to bow] is reprehensible.”

     126. al-Fatāwā al-ʿĀlamgīriyya 5:369

127. [and] Imām Tumurtāshī’s Fatāwā [state]: “It is forbidden to bow while greeting someone as there is a narration prohibiting this.”

I say: the prohibition of prostrating before graves, kissing the soil in front of them, or bowing to the extent of rukūʿ before them, the ruling [is given in]:

128. Imām Raḥmat Allāh Sindhī’s [d. 993/1585] al-Mansik al-mutawassiṭ

129. [and] Mullā ʿAlī al-Qārī’s commentary [upon it], al-Maslak al-mutaqassiṭ 293 [state]: “When visiting the most illuminated shrine of God’s Messenger—peace and blessings be upon him!—neither touch the blessed walls, nor kiss them, nor embrace them, nor perambulate them, nor bow or kiss the ground [before them], for all these are heretical innovations.”


130. The same commentary [also adds]: “As for prostrating before the luminous grave, then this explicitly forbidden. Do not be fooled by the ignorant folk but follow the teachings of the scholars.”

131. [Imām Ibn Ḥajar al-Haytamī, in] al-Zawājir ʿan iqtirāf al-kabāʾir 1:110 [states]: “… to prostrate is most certainly a major sin but intending to do so for worship is disbelief.”

I say: As for the prohibition of prostrating before graves, even if they are in the direction of the qibla:

132. [Imām al-Ṭahṭāwī] in his Ḥāshiya ʿalā al-Durr al-mukhtār 1:183 [states]: “Prayer is reprehensible in the graveyard because, in such a scenario, the person praying will do so while facing a grave, and performing the prayer facing a grave is abhorrent.”

133. The handwritten manuscript of the [Ḥilya al-muḥallī] of Imām Ibn Amīr al-Ḥajj’s [d. 879/]

134. [and] Radd al-muḥtār 1:394

135. [and Imām al-Zāhidī’s] al-Mujtabā, the commentary on al-Qudūrī

136. [and] al-Baḥr al-rāʾiq 2:209

137. [and] Fatḥ Allāh al-muʿīn 1:362 [state]: “It is reprehensible to circumambulate a grave or to sit or sleep on it, or to perform the prayer on it or towards it.”

138. The last book of Ḥilya [al-muḥallī]

139. [and] Radd al-muḥtār 935 [state]: “It is forbidden to perform the prayer on a grave or towards it as God’s Messenger, peace and blessings be upon him, forbade doing so.”

140. Imām al-Zaylaʿī in Tibyān al-ḥaqāʾiq 1:246 [states]: “It is unlawful to build a wall on top of a grave or to sit on it or to perform the prayer while facing it, as God’s Messenger, peace and blessings be upon him, forbade graves from being turned into mosques.”

     141. al-Zawājir [ʿan iqtirāf al-kabāʾir] 1:117 [states]: “Due to this our scholars have stated that to perform Salaah facing the shrines of the Prophets and the Pious is prohibited, even though, if the intention is for reverence and blessings.”

142.  See, also, 1:116 of the above.

143. When speaking of the major sins, various scholars have also state, “Praying while facing graves is an enormity.”

144. Imām Aḥmad al-Qasṭallānī (d. 923/1517) in Irshād al-Sārī

145. through the Taḥqīq of Imām Ibn al-Jawzī (d. 597/1201), [states]: “It is forbidden to perform the prayer while facing the grave of God’s Messenger, peace and blessings be upon him.”


146. Imām Muḥammad in al-Aṣl

147. [and] from him, al-Muḥīṭ

148. [and] from it, al-Fatāwā al-Hindiyya 5 [state]: “I deem it reprehensible if a mosque faces a latrine or a grave.”

     149. al-Ghunya al-mustamallī 366 states: “It is abhorrent for the qibla of a mosque to face a latrine or a grave, as this is disrespect of the mosque.”

     150. al-Khulāṣa 1:56 states: “It is reprehensible for a mosque’s qibla to face a latrine or a grave, when the prayer area itself and the space around it has no wall to partition it [from the latrine or the grave]; if, however, there is a wall erected in between [the mosque and the latrine or grave], then it is not reprehensible.”



Conclusive remarks

This translated portion of Aḥmad Riżā Khān’s al-Zubda al-zakiyya fī tiḥrīm sujūd al-taḥiyya shows us the author’s extensive reading in jurisprudence. While the bulk of the sources Khān draws on are Ḥanafī, we nevertheless see him quoting some Shāfiʿī (e.g., ʿIzz al-Dīn b. ʿAbd al-Salām, al-Nawawī, Ibn Ḥajar al-Haytamī, al-Qasṭallānī) and Ḥanbalī scholars (e.g., Ibn al-Jawzī) as well.  In the next part of the work, Khān goes on to demonstrate his knowledge of Sufi literature, quoting from Fawāʾid al-fuʾād—the collected anecdotes and utterances of the famous Chishtī master Niẓām al-Dīn Awliyāʾ (d. 725/1325)—and from the Siyar al-awliyāʾ regarding Bābā Farīd Ganj-i Shakar (d. 670/1271). On the other hand, he dismisses popular Sufi texts like Dalāʾil al-ʿārifīn, Fawāʾid al-sālikīn, and Tuḥfat al-ʿāshiqīn for being misattributions to their purported authors and therefore unreliable.

Khan’s historical critical approach toward malfūẓāt literature also appears in how he assesses a particular passage cited by Niẓāmī from Laṭāʾif-i Ashrafī, the compiled utterances of the medieval Sufi shaykh Sayyid Ashraf Jahāńgīr Simnānī (d. 808/1386). As the quote cites an unnamed author, Khān dismisses the entire citation by arguing that no unknown source can be relied upon. This is yet another example of the way in which Khān as a jurist differentiated himself from the manner in which a popular journalist like Niẓāmī accessed the genre of malfūẓāt literature. Khan also quotes Shāh ʿAbd al-ʿAzīz Dihlavī’s (d. 1239/1824) fatāwā and tafsīr in order to refute Niẓāmī, who he feels misused the author. He further explains ambiguous passages in the aforementioned from Fawāʾid al-fuʾād with reference to the Persian poetry of Saʿdī Shīrāzī, a rather striking case of shedding light on one genre of Persian prose with poetic verse. It is also important to note, finally, that this subsequent section also features references to many other Ḥanafī works not cited in the preceding one, like the Sirājiyya and Baḥr al-ʿUlūm Farangī Maḥallī’s (d. 1125/1810) fatāwā, apart from the aforementioned fatāwā of Shāh ʿAbd al-ʿAzīz.

In conclusion, al-Zubda al-zakkiyya stands as a fine testimony to the juristic skill of Aḥmad Riżā Khān, and a good reminder that he is a far cry from what both his adversaries and some of his contemporary devotees assume him to be.


Related reading:

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Servant of Allah Ta'ala; lover of Islamic intellectual history; BA in Religion/Art History and MA in Near Eastern Studies; lecturer, researcher, Urdu translator; archivist of South Asian Muslim life.



  1. Momina

    February 28, 2023 at 2:27 AM

    Sajda is ONLY for Allah. Shirk and bidah at graves needs to STOP!

  2. Muhammad

    March 1, 2023 at 7:13 AM

    Thank you for summarising the whole article in one sentence.

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