In Surah Al-Qalam, Chapter 68, Allah mentions two types of people: those who accept the faith and those who deny it. In verse 68:35 the faithful are called Muslimeen and the sinners Mujrimeen. The subsequent verses challenge the sinners. They are asked if Allah has sworn a covenant with them that on the day of resurrection they will inherit paradise. Do they have a guarantee from Allah that their interpretations and judgements will be accepted as correct? Or do they have other partners whom they associate with Allah who will give them the guarantee of entering paradise. Having posed this challenge, they are then reminded of the time when death will approach them. On the day when the calamity will unfold and they will lose all wits about them (their shins will be exposed), when they will be called upon to prostrate themselves, they will not be able to do so” [68:42]. On that day their eyes will be cast down in shame and guilt; ignominy will envelop them, and they will realise that when they used to be called to prostrate before Allah and offer prayers while they were healthy and good, they ignored the call of the Muezzin and did not offer prayers [68:43]. Coming back to their condition, Allah says that those who reject His word, Allah will bring them on to the hellfire little by little in ways they do not know. He gives them respite but His plan is firm [68: 44 & 45].
In this parable we are reminded how man moves on from childhood to youth to middle age and finally to old age. In the last days of his life there comes a stage when he cannot walk straight, his back becomes stiff and he is mostly confined to bed. In this condition he cannot attend to his own basic needs let alone prostrate which is beyond his capacity. These life changes also compare to man’s attitude, which is like a flame in childhood, a raging fire in youth, a well-lit bonfire in the middle age and fading ambers in old age. The flame and ambers look submissive and harmless but the raging fire and a well-built bonfire can consume anything and is most defiant and rebellious.
Allah is telling us that even the ability to prostrate before Him is a blessing because when this temporal life comes to an end, when our bones start cracking and when our backs turn stiff, one cannot bow down or lift us up from the ground. We see many brothers sitting in chairs in mosques because they cannot bend down or get up from the ground. It prevents them from making a prostration during the five times prayers. Those of us who have the ability to stand up and go down on the ground, even with some effort, must endeavour to avoid chairs as much as possible during the mandatory prayers because the very act of prostration is a blessing of Allah. Look how the sinners will be unable to perform prostration when they will be asked to do so because they did not pay heed when their bodies were young and able.