Respect: Bowing down as a show of respect

Q571 :You have commented that the way we show our respect to parents, bowing down before them, is un-Islamic. Can we not compare this practice with the bowing down of the angels in front of Adam, or the prostration of Prophet Yusuf's brothers and parents?

A571 : My criticism of the practice you have described which involves that children or young people bow and touch the feet of their parents or elders as a gesture of respect remains valid. This gesture can easily be construed as a gesture of worship. Any practice which may give such an impression is not permissible in Islam. Your question seeks a clarification on whether such a practice may not be compared to the angels' bowing before Adam or Yusuf's brothers and parents bowing to him. I am afraid the analogy does not hold good. To start with, the angels prostrated themselves before Adam because they were commanded to do so by Allah Himself. The angels do not disobey Allah. Indeed, they do whatever Allah bids them. Hence, their prostration in front of Adam was not a matter of choice. It was not a gesture of worship, a gesture of recognition of any position. It was simply a demonstration of their obedience to Allah in all situations. If you have any evidence which suggests that Allah wants you to prostrate yourself in front of your parents, you may do so. Since you have no such clear instruction, you may do only what Islam says and bow in front of nobody at all. You only bow to Allah and no one else. In the case of Prophet Yusuf I can only say that at that time, believers were not forbidden to make that gesture. We must not forget his father was Prophet Yaqoob, the son of Prophet Ishaq, the son of Prophet Ibrahim. Prophet Yaqoob could not have contemplated for a moment doing such a gesture if it was forbidden. We can only say that such a practice was forbidden subsequently; may be at the time of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). We cannot rely on what Prophet Yaqoob did in order to support what people in your part of the world do with their parents and elders.

Our Dialogue ( Source : Arab News - Jeddah )