Bow and Prostrate with Humility

Maryam a.s. has been chosen by Allah for the role of the miraculous birth of Isa a.s., one of the 3ulul 3azm(possessors of great determination) prophets. She was also chosen by Allah for His worship, at a time and circumstance where girls/women were not usually admitted to serve in the house of worship of the Children of Israel. She gave birth to Isa a.s., being a virgin, and her rank is also elevated above other women of her time. She possesses great qualities, topmost among them modesty. In this ayah, Allah talks about choosing her, and purifying her, and elevating her rank above the women of the worlds.  The word إصطَفَاكَ was repeated twice in this ayah. The word gives the meaning of choosing on the basis of purity. And the word طَهَّرَكَ was used in between. طَهَّرَ، يُطَهِّرُ means to purify and it is usually used for physical purification, but can be used for intangible (spiritual) purification as well.

Some meanings from this :

  1. Maryam a.s. is purified from having any menstruation
  2. Maryam a.s. is purified from the touch of men, as she never married.
  3. Maryam a.s. is purified from sins, disbelief, indecency and great sins.
  4. Maryam a.s. is purified from the blames that were hurled at her

This ayah is a declaration of Maryam’s a.s. status in the sight of Allah  (the only status that matters).

Aali Imran 3:42

Sahih International

And [mention] when the angels said, “O Mary, indeed Allah has chosen you and purified you and chosen you above the women of the worlds.

In the next ayah, Allah tells Maryam a.s. to be devoutly obedient, make prostration, and bow with the others who do the same. The word اقنُتِي comes from the root ق ن ت. Qunoot, which means to constantly engage in acts of obedience with humility and khushu3, also  has the meaning of دَوَام in it, which means continuity. It also includes humility. So basically, it means to be in a state of constant acts of devout obedience with humility.
Aali Imran 3:43
Sahih International

O Mary, be devoutly obedient to your Lord and prostrate and bow with those who bow [in prayer].”

She is also told to make sajdah andruku3. In our prayer, bowing comes before prostration, so how come sajdah(prostration) is mentioned first?
Several reasons are given:
  1. Sajdah is more virtuous than ruku3. And if you are engaged in constant worship, you will be reciting ayaat of prostrations. Which means, while you are standing, you will fall into sajdah when you reach the ayat, and then get back up to resume the standing. The ruku is thus preceeded by the sajdah in this case.
  2. In the shariah of the Bani Israel, their salah do not have sujud and ruku in 1 rakaah like we do. So, in this case, Maryam a.s. is being told to do sajdah one time and ruku3 another time. Basically also, it means to be engaged in different acts of worship.

The significant lesson derived from these ayaat is that first, it is mentioned that Maryam a.s. was chosen and purified and Allah practically declared her high status over the women of the worlds. Think of Miss World, who is usually chosen based on how well she can display a swimsuit, evening dress, answer ‘difficult’ questions, smile, cat walk, etc. It’s a great accomplishment is it not? Or think of the Noble prize winner. Or Youth Director Award of the year.

Here, Allah Himself has chosen Maryam a.s. for a great title. It’s something that no other women has, and it’s a great honor for her.

When we achieve or attain something like that, we tend to bask in the glory, fall into 3ujoob (self admiration/amazement), and delight in the praises and well wishing showered on us. It’s so easy to then adopt some form of pride or arrogance (whether we realize it or not).

In the case of Maryam a.s., Allah is teaching us how to counter that inclination to arrogance after receiving a blessing from Him. Maryam a.s. is told to engage in constant acts of obedience with humility. She is also told to make sujud and ruku3 along with those who do sujud and ruku3.

The solution to avoid arrogance when we attain some form of success is to immediately turn to Allah, thank Him, increase in obedience to Him. You can only worship Allah if you are humble because when you are humble, you will obey.

We are being taught here that when we accomplish something, we have to react with the attitude,

“I didn’t attain this because of myself. It is because Allah has given it to me. So I turn to Him even more.’

The antidote to arrogance is to do more ibaadah. On top of that, do this act of worship along with others who do the same. For when one isolates himself, he may feel the arrogance creep in him in another way,

‘Oh, I’m different, and better than those people.”

But when he worships in congregation, he will feel that he is a part of a larger body. It will force him to put into action all that Allah has commanded in terms of interactions with other creations. He may also see in others strengths that he may not have, and appreciate the fact that the ummah is supposed to work together. He may also develop compassion when being with others.

As they say, when a tree bears more fruit, its branches should lower from the weight of the fruits. As we gain more accomplishments, our humility should increase.

[Taken from my tafseer and word analysis notes, taught by Sr Taimiyah Zubayr]


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