Prostration is the placement of the body in a reverentially or submissively prone position as a gesture.
Typically, prostration is distinguished from the lesser acts of bowing or kneeling by involving a part of the body above the knee touching the ground, especially the hands.
Major world religions employ prostration as an act of submissiveness or worship to a supreme being or other worshiped entities (i.e. God or the gods), as in the sajdah of the Islamic prayer, salat, or to show reverence to persons or other elements of the religion.
In various cultures and traditions, prostrations are similarly used to show respect to rulers, civil authorities and elders or superiors. The Chinese kowtow or Ancient Persian proskynesis are examples.
Prostrations in Islam
In Islam, prostrations are used to praise, glorify and humble oneself in front of Allah. They are a vital part of the five obligatory prayers performed daily; this is deemed obligatory for every Muslim whether the prayers are being performed individually or in congregation.
Additionally, the 32nd surah of the Qur’an is titled As-Sajdah. The Arabic word sujud (prostration) appears about 90 times in the Qur’an. Many Muslim scholars claim that this fact is another example of its significance in Islam.