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Sujud Al-Tilawah: Substituted by Dhikr or Not?

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“With Allah’s Name, The Beneficent, the Merciful”

The substitution of sujūd at-Tilāwah with the formula:

has become a common practice in society. So much so, that in our local hifz schools many have left the prostration altogether, teacher and student alike. The forthcoming thus addresses this substitution; its legislation and basis.

The intended discourse, however, requires a discussion of the formula serving as a substitute for tahiyyat al-masjid2since it was from this discussion that certain scholars would, eventually, deduct the permissibility of substituting sujūd at-tilāwah with the spoken formula. Further, living in a predominantly Shafi‘ī community, the author shall restrict himself to views expressed within the Shāfi‘ī school.

Substitution for tahiyyat al-masjid

The aforementioned formula acting as a substitution for tahiyyat al-masjid was first mentioned by al-Imām al-Ghazālī in his celebrated work Ihyā ‘Ulūm ad-Dīn, says al-Ghazālī3 :

… The person who enters (the masjid) with the intention of either passing through or sitting down4, should recite four times:

Subhan Allahi wal-Hamdulillahi wa La ilaha Illa Allahu waAllahu Akbar

as it is said that the recitation thereof equals the performance of two raka‘āt in virtue.

Jurists after al-Ghazālī would follow suit and document the formula as a substitution in their works. Among the more prominent jurist are: Khatīb ash-Shirbīnī in Mugnī al-Muhtāj5; ash-Shams ar-Ramlī in Nihāyah al-Muhtāj6; ash-Shabrāmallisī in his Hāshiyah alā an-Nihāyah; ash-Shirwānī in his Hāshiyah alā at-Tuhfah; and others7.

An addition and restriction was later contributed by two prominent jurists; the addition which reads

wa La Hawla wa La Quwwata illa Billah

by the erudite Egyptian scholar ibn ar-Rif‘ah8 and the restriction which states that the formula suffices only for he who is unable to perform wudū’ by ‘Alī ash-Shabrāmallisī9.

The eminent jurist of the ninth century, ibn Hajar al-Haytamī10 is on record for holding two opposing views, one in his magnum opus, tuhfah al-Muhtāj, and the other in his Fatāwā (a collection of legal verdicts issued by him).  In his Tuhfah11, ibn Hajar sides with all other jurists and questions not the basis upon which this substitution lays. When asked regarding an issue directly connected to the recitation of this formula in his Fatāwā12 he replied:

… And one should not consider what has been stated in Ihyā for three reasons: 1) it lacks of textual proof as al-Gazālī only stated: “it is said that the recitation thereof equals the performance of two raka‘āt in virtue”… 2) Had it authentically been proven from the Prophet sallahu alayhi wasallam analogy will not be permissible13… 3) the formula سبحان الله والحمد لله … has special merits, absent in other forms of worship…

When faced with contradiction within the works of ibn Hajar, his Tuhfah and his Fatāwā in particular here, the widely accepted view among the Shāfi‘iyyah, as stated by Shaykh Muhammad Sulaymān al-Kurdī, holds that preponderance will be given to what has  been stated in his Tuhfah. Consequently, the preponderant view considers the recitation of the mentioned formula as a valid substitution. That being said, due effort should be made to uphold the practice of RasūlulAllah sallAllahu ‘alayhi wasallam whose life was ﴾…a beautiful example for he who desires Allah and the last day…﴿ [al-Ahzāb: 23: 21].

The author, however, believes that since ibn Hajar addressed the issue with detail in his Fatāwā, contrary to his briefness in his Tuhfah, a case for the contrary could be made. Thus, we conclude that the mentioned formula does not serve as a valid substitution, and Allah knows best. This does not mean that the recitation of the formula is reprehensible or impermissible. Rather, the recitation thereof will be permitted, not as a substitution, but as a mere dhikr. A dhikr which could be made at any time, whence entering the Masjid or elsewhere. The author, after consulting his shaykh, Mawlana Taha Karaan, feels that this was, in all probability, the intent of al-Imām an-Nawawī in his Adhkār14 when he stated: “there is no problem in its recitation”.

Substitution for sujūd at-Tilāwah

Of all the referred to sources the only jurist to have stated, by extension, that the recitation of the mentioned formula will form a substitute for sujūd at-Tilāwah is the 11th century jurist, Shihab ad-Din Ahmad al-Qalyūbī15. Says he:

As in the case of tahiyyah al-Masjid, the formula:

stands as a substitute for sujūd at-Tilāwah. This is so, as it is said that the recitation thereof equals two rak‘āt in virtue

Others after al-Qalyūbī, ad-Dimyātī in particular, would quote this from al-Qalyūbī in their works and eventually it (reciting the formula as a substitute for sujūd at-Tilāwah) would become the common practice of many. When faced with the question: Does the formula, equaling two rak‘āt in virtue, suffice as substantiation? I answer with the reasoning of ibn Hajar: even if we were to assume that the recitation of the formula does constitute the reward of performing two raka‘āt, it will not constitute a valid substitution for sujūd at-Tilāwah.

Consequently, as in the case of tahiyyah al-Masjid, the formula stands not as a substitution. Its recitation would however be permissible, not as a substitution, but as a mere dhikr. At this juncture one might ask: if the recitation of the formula is permissible, why differentiate between it being a substitution or not? The difference lies in the fulfillment of the original act, sujūd at-Tilāwah or tahiyyah al-Masjid. A substitution would fulfill the original act and obviate the need of performing it; just as how the performance of tayammum in the absence of water obviates the need for wudū’. This is not the case with mere dhikr; the original act will not be fulfilled and accordingly its performance remains desired.


The mentioned formula stands not as a substitute for both tahiyyah al-Masjid and sujūd at-Tilāwah. Consequently, the legal address that requests the performance of: 1) tahiyyat al-Masjid on entering the Masjid and 2) prostration when reciting one of the verses of prostration, remains standing even after the recitation of the formula.

And Allah knows best

Abdurragmaan Khan

Dar al-Ulum al-Arabiyyah al-Islamiyyah

Strand, Cape Town, South Africa

Originallay written: November 2006

Re-Edited: May 2010

  1. The prostration made after reciting one of the verses of sajdah []
  2. A two raka’ah prayer performed on entering the Masjid. []
  3. Ihyā ‘Ulūm ad-Dīn []
  4. i.e. with no intention of performing tahiyyatul masjid []
  5. Khatib ash-Shirbini, Mugnī al-Muhtāj, vol. pg. []
  6. Ash-Shams ar-Ramli, Nihāyah al-Muhtaj, vol. 2 pg. 120 []
  7. Such as: al-Qalyūbī, ad-Dimyātī, al-Jamal, etc. []
  8. See Nihayah al-Muhtaj vol. 2 pg. 120 and others. []
  9. See Hāshiyah ash-Shabrāmallisī ‘alā Nihāyah al-Muhtāj. This restriction has also received approval from others, worth mentioning here are Abū Bakr ad-Dimyātī and Yūsuf al-Malibārī in I‘ānah at-Tālibīn vol. 1 pp. 560-561  []
  10. The views of ibn Hajar and his contemporary, ar-Ramlī, represents the final say or fatwā in the Shāfi‘ī school. []
  11. Ibn Hajar al-Haytami, Tuhfah al-Muhtāj, vol. pg.  []
  12. Ibn Hajar al-Haytami, Al-Fatāwā al-Kubrā al-Fiqhiyyah, vol. 1 pg. 194  []
  13. i.e. if we were to assume that the recitation of the formula does constitute the reward of performing two raka‘āt, even then will it not be permissible to establish it as a substitution for sujūd at-Tilāwah. The reasoning here being that badl (substitution) in Islamic rituals has to be text based and not rationally deducted. And Allah knows best  []
  14. An-Nawawi, Hilyah al-Abrār, pg. 76 []
  15. See Hāshiyah al-Qalyūbī ‘alā Kanz ar-Rāgibīn vol. pg.  []

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