Answered by Shaykh Hamza Karamali, SunniPath Academy Teacher
I have a few doubts concerning the sajdah tilawat (prostration of recital)
1. What are the criteria to determine that a verse of the Quran requires sajda when recited (sajda tilawat)?
2. Why do we (the Shafi’is) consider the verse in surah al-Hajj to be of this kind and others such as the Hanafis do not?
3. Why do we not consider the verse in surah Saad to be of sajda tilawat and others such as the Hanafis do?
4. During this Ramadhan, I prayed behind an Imam who missed or omitted deliberately (I’m not sure) quite a few sajdas of tilawat. He just carried on past the verse and went into ruku’ as normal after some verses. What should I do in such a situation? Do I make the sajdah tilawat after the taslim?
In the Name of Allah, Most Merciful and Compassionate
assalamu `alaykum wa rahmatullah wa barakatuh
Whether or not prostrations of Quran recital are legislated after certain verses–as you note in your question–are matters of scholarly disagreement. In this response, I will address your questions according to the Shafi`i school while acknowledging that those who disagree with the Shafi`is have their own proofs that lead them to different conclusions. All four schools of Sunni Islam have been accepted as valid and acceptable for Muslims to follow for centuries and intolerance of their scholarly disagreement is a blameworthy innovation (bid`a) of recent times.
According to the Shafi`is, the prostration of Quran recital is recommended, not obligatory. ( Imam al ) Bukhari relates from our master the Companion Ibn `Umar that he said, “We were commanded to prostrate [i.e. for Quran recital]: whoever prostrates has done the right thing, and whoever does not prostrate has not committed any sin.” So if your imam recites a verse of Quran recital and does not prostrate, your should continue to follow the imam in his prayer and your prayer remains completely valid.
There are fourteen verses of the Quran whose recital calls for a prostration. Most copies of the Quran mark fifteen verses as calling for prostrations.
Two of these fifteen are in Sura al-Hajj, and the Shafi`is hold both of these verses to call for a prostration. Abu Dawud and Hakim both relate that our master the Companion `Amr b. al-`As (Allah be pleased with him) said that the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace) taught him to prostrate at fifteen places in the Quran, two of them in Sura al-Hajj. al-Khatib al-Shirbini classes this hadith as well-authenticated (hasan) in his Mughni al-Muhtaj.
One of these fifteen verses is in Sura al-Saad. According to the Shafi`is, this verse does not call for a prostration of Quran recital based on the statement of our master the Companion Ibn `Abbas that “[The prostration of Sura] Saad is not one of the emphasized prostrations.” (Bukhari) Because of this hadith and other evidences, the Shafi`is hold that the prostration that is legislated at this verse is a prostration of thanks, not a prostration of Quran recital. For more detail on this particular prostration, and what to do if an imam of another school prostrates when it is recited, please see the following answer:
And Allah Most High knows best.
Reference: al-Khatib al-Shirbini, Mughni al-Muhtaj, 1.326, Dar al-Ma`rifa, 1997.