Why did Allah command the angels to bow down before Adam in his presence? Isn’t bowing down considered Shirk=form of polytheism in Islam?

What is the meaning of the angels prostrating to Adam and Prophet Yousuf’s brothers prostrating to him?

Why did Allah tell the angels to bow to Adam? I thought boing was only allowed for Allah alone. The same goes for Prophet Yusuf, why did his brothers bow to him?


Praise be to Allah.

First, we must state the definition of bowing varies from culture to culture and from religion to religion.  In was part of some of previous nations as a method of showing respect and it had nothing to do with worshipping at all. Allah exalted He made it crystal clear that no bowing to anyone at all beside him after Islam was revealed to Humanity via our final and last Prophet Muhammed peace be upon him.  

When Allah exalted, he instructed the angels and (Satan was with them before turning to be deviant) to bow down to his superior creation, by doing that they are submitting their will to Allah logically. In Islam Angels are sinless who were created from light not able to commit a sin.

They are Allah’s true servants. So, shirk=polytheism applicable to human is not applicable to Angels.

If Christians would point the finger and consider that Allah’s order to the angels to perform a bow out of respect to his new Creation Adam, so we would like to hear the Christian explanation to the following Biblical verse claiming that Prophet Abraham bowed to three angels in Genesis 18:2:

And he lifted up his eyes, and looked: and lo, three [b]men stood by him, and when he saw them, he ran to meet them from the tent door, and bowed himself to the ground.

How can it be Shirk=form of polytheism if Allah told the angels to do it in front of him?? Allah asked them to bow down to Adam because he wanted to see who would disobey him. Obviously, that was the moment that the Shaytan=Satan rebelled and refused to it.

If there wasn’t such a moment, the Shaytan=Satan wouldn’t have rebelled and there wouldn’t be a Shaytan=Satan that wants the ruin of humanity. It’s in the Quran. There is no school of thought in Islam that would consider this act Shirk since it was Allah that commanded it.

By definition:  

Following Allah’s commandments cannot be Shirk=form of polytheism. In fact, in this particular case, notbowing down would be an act of Shirk=form of polytheism: when Satan refused to bow down, he was putting his own arrogance ahead of obeying Allah.

Allah exalted He, does what he wants as our creator and true believers would obey, Almighty Allah in the Quran states:

“And when they perform an obscenity, they say, “We found our fathers (performing) it, and Allah has commanded us to (perform) it.” Say, “Surely Allah does not command obscenity; do you say against Allah that which you do not know?”

Quran Surah Al A’raf =Chapter the Heights (7:28)

Well, let us explore what the Glorious Holy Qur’an instructs us to do, Allah exalted He says:

“Surely Allah commands to justice and fairness and bringing (charity) to a near kinsman, and He forbids obscenity and maleficence and iniquity. He admonishes you that possibly you would be mindful.”

Surah An-Nahl-Chapter the Bee (16:90)

Verse Analysis and some of what Allah wants us to understand:

  1. He decided to create a khalifah/ the vicegerent of humans on Earth.

Is Adam the vicegerent, successor, caliph, or Khalifa of Almighty Allah on Earth?

  1. He has given him all qualities and made all required forces under his command to execute this viceroyalty.
  • He has taught Adam the knowledge of reality of all His creations; (the Quranic words are’ knowledge of all nouns ‘noun always is to indicate reality of a thing e.g. when we named ‘refrigerator ‘ , it indicates it’s reality )
  • He gave Adam and his progeny a potential collective human analytical ‘intellect ‘to discover reality of all His creatures and execute this potential to discharge his duties as his viceroy on the planet earth. Life on earth is associated with the whole universe under a very complex but scientific system. Therefore, subjugation of universe and its forces is essential to prolong and ensure versatility of life.
  • He therefore urged Angeles to prostrate before Adam because he was worthy of such respect as His Viceroy!
  • He reminded us of our greatest responsibility to act as His Viceroy and demonstrate such high qualities of head and heart that will prove the justification of Allah’s choice!
  • He through Quran reminded our great responsibility to seek knowledge and subjugate universe for collective human progress and not for hegemony of the one sort or the other!
  • This is what was the purpose of this prostration; no question of Shirk=polytheism or such mean analysis in which we have indulged! Those who are making discoveries day and night and shaping human life and civilisation by subjugating the universe are acting upon the true spirit of Quran, which all this should be at the end subjected to appreciating, respecting, and worshipping our lord Allah exalted he alone without associating any equals, sons, partners, or anything beside him. 

Beyond this, the laws that Allah revealed did change until Muhammed (peace be upon him) came, and what was permissible before Muhammed may not be permissible after Muhammed. So, for example, it is possible that Solomon (AS) had more than four wives, while Islam limits the wives to four (and only under stringent conditions, e.g., being fair that are difficult to meet; in addition, in countries that limit the number of wives to one, Muslims must abide by the laws in those countries).

In this particular case, there’s an instance where people bowed down before someone else, indicating that at the time it was permissible — the end of the story of Yusuf. At the end

“And he raised his parents upon the throne, and they bowed to him in prostration. And he said, “O my father, this is the explanation of my vision of before. My Lord has made it reality.

And He was certainly good to me when He took me out of prison and brought you [here] from Bedouin life after Satan had induced [estrangement] between me and my brothers. Indeed, my Lord is Subtle in what He wills. Indeed, it is He who is the Knowing, the Wise.” Qur’an Surah Yusuf (12:100)

It says that Yusuf’s parents bowed down to him as a sign of respect.

Most people misunderstood the bowing down in this context. God says the sun, moon and the stars bow down to him. Did they bow down like we do? No. Joseph dreamt of celestial bodies bowing down to him. Is it as we bow down? No.
When Adam was created all the angels were commanded to bow down to him and they did except Satan. What is depicted here is angels agreed to be subservient to our needs that will develop us reach higher plane…

They became the forces of good inherent in nature and in us helping us develop further. On the other hand, Satan by refusing to bow down became the evil forces inherent in nature and in us, to always impede our progress and derogate us constantly.

This event cast the die of the perpetual struggle between the forces of good and evil, in which me and you became the players. Satanic forces and angelic forces are both at our disposal to choose from, whichever side you chose to work with, God will help you in it.

Prostrating is of two kinds:

 It may an act of veneration and drawing closer to the one to whom one prostrates. This kind of prostration is worship, and should only be done for Allah, according to the laws of the Prophets.

 The second type is a kind of greeting and honoring a person. This is the kind of prostration which Allah commanded the angels to do in the case of Adam, so they prostrated to him as an act of honoring him. It was an act of worship towards Allah on their part because they were obeying His command to prostrate to Adam.

 The prostration of Yousuf’s parents and brothers was also a prostration of greeting and honoring, which was permissible according to the law (of Allah) at that time. But according to the sharī’ah brought by the Seal of the Prophets, Muhammed (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him), it is not permissible to prostrate to anyone at all except Allah.

Hence the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said:

“If I were to have commanded anyone to prostrate to anyone else, I would have commanded women to prostrate to their husbands.” The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) forbade his companion Mu’aadh to prostrate to him when he (Mu’aadh) said that the People of the Book prostrated to the great ones among them, and he mentioned the hadeeth quoted above.

The prohibition in this sharī’ah against prostrating to anyone at all except Allah is an aspect of its perfection in achieving true Tawhid=Monotheism. It is the perfect sharī’ah whose perfection is manifested in all its rulings. Allah says (interpretation of the meaning):

“This day, I have perfected your religion for you, completed My Favour upon you, and have chosen for you Islam as your religion” Qur’an [al-Ma’idah 5:3]

Allah knows Best.


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