What does the word 'sujood' mean?

Question:

D
o the stars and the trees really prostrate (55:6)? We know this is not possible physically. Some websites claim (using this verse) that 'sujood' does not mean to prostrate but it means to submit to God. Can you please shed light on this matter in the light of Quran?

Reply:

The verses that speak about all creatures and everything in the universe doing tasbeeh and Salat (24:41), or sujood (55:6), confirm that these worship acts are done in different ways by different creatures. The following verse tell us that the method of glorification and Salat of each group of creatures is known only to them:

Have you not seen that everything in the heavens and the earth glorifies God, even the birds in their flight
formation? Each has known its prayer and its glorification. God is Knowledgeable of what they do. 24:41

If the methods of prayer and glorification was the same for all creatures, regardless of who is doing them, then the underlined words above would make little sense.

And in the following verse we are told that we humans cannot understand the ways in which other creatures observe their worship acts:

Glorifying Him are the seven universes and the earth and all who are in them. There is nothing that does not glorify Him
with praise, but you do not understand their glorification. He is Forbearing, Forgiving. 17:44

We do not understand their glorification because it is not done in the same manner as we humans do it. And since different creatures do these worship acts in different ways from one another, we cannot use the verses of tasbeeh, Salat, or sujood of other creatures, such as 55:6, to define the meaning of the same acts when done by us humans.

The words in 55:6 which speak of the sujood of the stars and the trees cannot be used to define the meaning of the word sujood when done by human beings.

Here is an example that happens in front of our eyes:
All living creatures need oxygen for living, but the way different creatures attain their oxygen is not the same. Humans and animals breathe air and extract oxygen through their lungs, but fish breathe water (not air), and extract oxygen from the water through their gills.

If we follow the logic of the deniers of prostration, then we should also ask:
"How can you say that fish breathe oxygen? They do not have lungs like us to be able to extract oxygen, nor do they breathe air?"

In reply, it can be said:
The goal is the same = attaining oxygen
However, the methods are different.

Equally the goal of the acts of tasbeeh, Salat and sujood of all creatures is the same, the goal is to worship God. However, the methods are different.

Sadly, there are many deceptive websites, youtube videos and facebook accounts that spread a lot of falsehood thereby exploiting many gullible people. All they do is deliberately manipulate various Quranic words. Their agenda is to destroy the rituals of Islam that are given by God in the Quran.

Some claim that sujood is not a physical prostration, while others are saying that Zakat is not an obligatory money payment, and others are also saying that fasting should not be during the month of Ramadan, but during the hottest month of the solar year, etc etc.
On every occasion God exposed their falsehood in the Quran itself.
When we come to their claim about sujood not being a physical movement, but only submission to God, we find the following pieces of Quranic evidence.

Evidence 1

The following 2 verses in Sura 4 speak about the concession from God to shorten the Salat during times of fear of the enemy.

If you travel in the land, there is no blame upon you for shortening your Salat if you fear that those who disbelieved may harm you. Surely, the disbelievers are your clear enemy. 4:101

And if you are among them and you lead the Salat for them, let a group of them stand with you and let them hold on to their weapons. Then once they have done 'sujood', let them be positioned behind you and let another group, who has not yet observed the Salat, observe the Salat with you while remaining cautious and while holding on to their weapons. 4:102

God is saying that when the Imam leads the Salat, a group of believers stand to observe the Salat with him (while holding on to their weapons). The words that follow are very important, they say that once the first group do sujood, they should go to the rear (to guard), and a new group comes to pray with the Imam.
For argument's sake, let us substitute the word sujood in this verse with the words (submit to God). What would the verse mean in that case? It would mean the following:

1- The words "once they have done sujood" would mean that the group observing the Salat with the Imam could not have been submitting to God when they started the Salat but that sometime during the Salat they submitted to God.

2- The words would also mean that when people submit to God they should immediately go and stand in the rear! Then another new group comes to observe the Salat with the Imam, and they too continue with the Imam until they submit to God.

3- The words would also imply that there would be no need for further Salat since they have already submitted to God. Or will they lose their submission later and will need to submit to God again?

Considering that the verse speaks to those who are already believers, and warning them how to be on guard at times of war, it makes no sense to suggest that groups among the believers are not submitting to God already, or that they will decide in groups to submit to God halfway through the Salat!

Evidence 2

On the Day when a leg will be exposed, they will be called to 'sujud', but they will be unable to. With their eyesight subdued, humiliation will overwhelm them, for they used to be called to 'sujud' when they were sound and able. 68:42-43

What the above words tell us is that on Judgment Day, the wicked ones will be called to do sujood but they will not be able to. If we accept the meaning of the word 'sujood' to be submission, as some claim, this would immediately place 68:42 in direct contradiction with the Quranic assurance that the disbelievers will be in total submission to God on Judgment Day
:

They totally submitted to God on that Day, and that which they had fabricated deserted them. 16:87

Since the Quran harbours no contradiction, the word 'sujood', as in 68:42,
cannot mean submission.

The correct meaning of 'sujood', which is prostration, can be confirmed from the following verses:

Those are the ones who disbelieved in their Lord. Those will have chains around their necks, and those are the companions of the Fire; therein they shall permanently remain. 13:5

You will see the criminals on that Day bound together in chains. 14:49

Those who deny the Book and what We sent Our messengers with will certainly come to know when the shackles will be around their necks, and in chains, they will be dragged into the boiling water, then in the Fire, they will burn. 40:70-72

We have prepared for the disbeliever
s chains, shackles and a Blaze. 76:4

The above verses tell us that on Judgment Day, the wicked disbelievers will be bound together in chains and shackles. Any human being in such physical restriction will find it hard to move. Any human being in such physical restriction will find it virtually impossible to prostrate on the ground. It is the movement of the wicked people on that Day that will be physically restricted and not their spiritual state. Spiritually, they will be in total humble submission to God.

Evidence 3

In addition to the role of the precise words in 68:42-43 in asserting the physical aspect of prostration, we find other Quranic verses that also connect the act of sujud with physical movements.
The following is one example:

Say, "Believe in it, or do not believe in it." Certainly, when it is recited to those
who were given the knowledge before it, they fall down to their chins, prostrating, 17:107

The obvious connection between the chin, a physical part of the body, and prostrating, is indeed affirmative in establishing a connection between prostration and the physical body.

Evidence 4

The words house of God/masjid are used in many Quranic verses to mean a place for prayer. People go to the house of God/masjid specifically to observe their Salat and not because they wish to submit to God inside the masjid! They are already submitters to God before entering the house of God.

A number of Quranic verses make a clear connection between the phrase "house of God" and the physical acts of standing, bowing and 'sujood' (prostrating), all of which are observed inside the house of prayer during the Salat:

And when We made the House a focal point for the people and a secure place: "Take Abraham's station as a prayer house." And We took an oath from Abraham and Ishmael: "Purify My House for those passing by and the residents, and for
those who bow and prostrate (al-sujood)." 2:125

We appointed for Abraha
m the location of the House: "Do not associate anything with Me, and purify My House for those passing by and those standing, bowing, and prostrating (al-sujood). 22:26