When we recite Qur’an, we know we should have khushoo’(devotion) because we are reciting the words of Allah. When we go into sujood (prostration), we know that God answers our du`a’ (supplication), so we try hard to concentrate. Yet what do we feel when we go into ruku’ (bowing)?
Fulfilling the Needs of the Soul
We all have certain daily needs. A parent cannot wait to get home from work to embrace their children, and even if the children are asleep, the parent will give them a kiss just to fill that space. When we feel hunger, we sometimes become tired and cranky until we eat. Just like we have emotional and physical needs, we also have spiritual needs. The soul thirsts for the worship of God. Many people feel an emptiness, and try to fill it with other things. But just like a hungry person cannot satisfy his hunger by running—we would find that absurd—this spiritual thirst cannot be fulfilled except through the true worship of God.
Humility through Ruku’
True worship comes through humility of the soul, and ruku’ represents a part of that. One of the Arabs, Hakim bin Hizam, when accepting Islam, told the Prophet ﷺ that he would fulfill all of the commandments except Ruku’ during prayer because of the humility it involved. Thus when we go into ruku’, we should make a conscious effort to make the straightening of our backs, the lowering of our heads, and the uttering of “subhaan rabbiy al-`adheem” (Perfect is my Lord, the Supreme) a reflection of our internal state.
When we say “subhaan rabbiy al-`adheem,” we explained in the last article that we are disassociating Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala (exalted is He) from anything. “Rabb,” as with many other words, does not just have one meaning—rabb means the Lord, the Sustainer, and the Cherisher. When we think of what we have—the clothes we wear, our wealth, our health, our loved ones—who has provided them? So, how can we not humble ourselves to our rabb? And how can we not feel a special closeness to Him—that He is rabbiy, my Lord?
Glorifying Allah, the Supreme
The Prophet ﷺ said:
“In the Ruku’, therefore, glorify the Supremity of the Lord, Mighty and Sublime.” (Muslim)
When you recognize the supremity of Allah (swt), and the words are reflected in your heart, you should then have reverence for everything associated with Him. Allah (swt) has said in the Qur’an:
“And whoever honors the symbols of Allah—indeed, it is from the piety of hearts.” (22:32)
Thus, reverence during ruku’ is from piety of the heart and we should all strive to perfect it insha’ Allah (God willing). Ibn Al-Qayyim stated that the ruku’ is almost an introduction to sujood, when we take one form of humility before Allah (swt) to a deeper level. This effort that goes into feeling humility in ruku’ can only increase our love for Him, and is one way of manifesting the meanings in the famous hadith qudsi:
“If my servant comes closer to Me a hand span, I come closer to him or her an arms-length; and if he or she comes to Me walking, I come to him or her at speed.” (Muslim)
As we increase in good deeds to grow closer to Allah (swt), Allah loves us, and what more could we want than Allah’s love? This is why the Prophet ﷺ would lengthen his ruku’, such that his ruku’, his standing after ruku’, his sujood, and his sitting in between the two sajdahs (prostrations), were nearly equal in length (Bukhari & Muslim). Bear in mind that hisruku’` was also almost as long as his standing before ruku’, where he would sometimes recite five sections (ajza’).(Muslim)
Muslim bin Makki once described Abdullah bin Al-Zubair radi allahu `anhu (may Allah be pleased with him) as he was praying. He said that he saw him go into Ruku’, and in that time, Muslim read chapters al-Baqara, ali-’Imran, an-Nisaa’ and al-Maida (Qur’an 2, 3, 4, and 5), and Abdullah bin Al-Zubair (ra) was still in ruku’. SubhanAllah (Glory be to Allah).
Some of us may be inspired by this, but others of us may think, “I can never reach this level,” and not even try. However, let us remember the hadith above about servants who try to move closer to Allah (swt) by as little as a hand span—as long as we are trying to change the state of our prayers, we have fulfilled this part of the hadith.
May Allah allow us to taste the sweetness of ruku’.