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 social elders or superiors, as in the Chinese kowtow or Ancient Persian proskynesis. The act has often traditionally been an important part of religious, civil and traditional rituals and ceremonies, and remains in use in many cultures.
In Islam, prostrations are used to praise, glorify and humble oneself in front of Allah, and 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, while the Arabic word sujud (also meaning prostration) appears about 90 times in the Qur’an, a fact which many Muslim scholars claim to be another example of its significance in Islam.
In addition to the prescribed prayers in Sajda, with the exception of the Ahmadiyya thought, many schools of jurisprudence disallow individuals to beseech God as they please in their own language. According to a traditional account of the words and deeds of Muhammad as contained in the collection of hadith of Ibn Majah, Muhammad is reported to have said that “The prayer [salah] is a cure for many diseases”.
In another hadith he is also said to have advised people to perform prostration calmly and to get up only when the body has come to ease. It is also important to note that in Islam, prostration to any one but Allah is absolutely forbidden. Muhammad strictly prohibited Muslims from prostrating before him, because prostration should only be performed to Allah, not to creatures. Regardless of the circumstances, no Muslim should request, or even accept, it from others.