The misinterpretation of 48:29

Muhammad, the messenger of God, and those with him are stern with the disbelievers and merciful
amongst one another. You see them bowing and prostrating, seeking favour from God and consent.
Their traits are evident in their faces, displaying the signs of submission and humility.

The underlined words in 48:29 have been misinterpreted to imply that the righteous believers have dark marks on their foreheads due to their constant prostration in prayer.
As a result of this erroneous interpretation, we find many insincere Muslim preachers, in their desire to appear pious, have artificial marks engraved on their foreheads by tattoo artists. They do such artificially engraved marks thinking that it will qualify them to be those spoken of in 48:29, and that the onlookers would regard them as righteous, constantly prostrating men!

In reality, no amount of prostration will leave a dark mark on anyone's forehead! The Muslim nation includes millions upon millions of righteous people who were taught the Salat since their childhood years, yet we do not see any dark marks on their foreheads. This is because when people prostrate, they gently let their foreheads touch the ground, they do not bang their heads on the ground! The only dark marks on foreheads we see are the artificially tattooed marks on the foreheads of the pretenders.

It is also of interest to note that the imams and preachers who happen to acquire this tattoo like mark on their foreheads all seem to be in Egypt and not elsewhere in the Muslim world. This makes one wonder, are the Egyptian preachers the only ones with delicate foreheads!

The fictitious meaning of 48:29 is a result of the misinterpretation of four words in a sentence made up of six words. The four words are numbered in the following sentence:

(Seemahum) (fi) (wujuhihim) min athar (al-sujood)

This sentence in 48:29 has been wrongly interpreted to mean:
Their marks are on their foreheads as a result of prostration.

The following is a review of each of the four words:

1- The Arabic word "Seemahum" is two Arabic words combined.
1- Seemat (noun) means traits or characteristics. The verb 'yattasim' means: characterised by. This word does not mean a physical mark.
2- 'hum', which means they, or theirs.
Together, the combined word means: their traits/characteristics

The word "fi" means (in) and not (on). The significance of this word will be reviewed a bit later.

3- The word "wujuhihim" is also two Arabic words combined.
1- Wujuh (noun) means faces.
2- 'him', (variation of hum), same meaning: they, or theirs.
Together, the combined word means: Their faces. It does not mean their foreheads.
Considering that the word 'forehead' has already been used twice in the Quran (9:35 and 37:103), if the intended meaning was a physical mark on the forehead, God would have used the word 'forehead' in 48:29 and not "faces".

The word "al-sujood". This word has been used in the Quran in 2 different meanings:

Physical prostration: This entails touching the ground with the forehead during prayer. The following verse is an example of the use of "sujood" to mean physical prostration:

And those
'sujjadan' (who prostrate) and 'qiyaman' (stand) before their Lord during the night. 25:64

The words in 25:64 clearly speak about two physical positions, prostrating and standing. The believers spoken of in 25:64 prostrate and stand before God during the night.

The word "sujood" has also been used in the Quran to mean submission and humility, such as in the following verse:

When they were told, "Dwell in this town, eat therefrom as you please, speak with humility, and
enter the gate 'sujjadan' (in submission and humility). We will then forgive you your sins. We will increase further for the good-doers." 7:161

The word
'sujjadan' in 7:161 is the adverb of the noun 'sujood'. When God commanded the people of Moses to enter the town (also in 2:58 and 4:154), God was not instructing them to walk through the gate in the position of prostrating on the ground. It is physically impossible to walk while prostrating on the ground! What was meant by "sujjadan" in all three verses was that the people of Moses were instructed to enter/walk through the gate of the town in a state of submission and humility.
Similar to 7:161, the word "sujood" in 48:29 means submission and humility.
So how are the traits of the believers evident on their faces as a result of their submission and humility?
The traits of all people, whether they are righteous or not, are evident by the expressions on their faces. Facial expressions tell a lot about the content of the heart of a person.
The faces of genuine believers are often said to shine, or to emanate an inner light, while wicked people have disturbed or even evil facial expressions.
Genuine believers acknowledge their size beneath the greatness of their Maker, and so they behave with humility when they deal with other people. They do not act arrogantly. Genuine believers are blessed with an inner peace and they are content with what God gave them. This inner peace and content is in their hearts, and it radiates from their faces:

You recognise
in their faces the radiance of bliss. 83:24

This inner peace is a blessing granted by God (through the angels) to the believers:

Those who said, "Our Lord is God," then went straight, the angels descend upon them: "
Do not fear nor grieve, but rejoice in the good news of Paradise which you were promised. 41:30

Just like the traits of the believers are evident in their faces, we read in the Quran that the traits of the disbelievers are also evident in their faces:

When Our clear revelations are recited to them,
you detect evil in the faces of those who disbelieve. They almost assault those who recite Our revelations to them! 22:72

No one (yet) has interpreted the underlined words in 22:72 to mean dark physical marks on the foreheads of the wicked!

To conclude, the intended meaning in 48:29, as well as 22:72, has nothing to do with physical marks on the face. Had the meaning been physical marks, the words would have been (on the faces). Physical marks that are evident to the lookers must be on the faces to be seen rather than in (inside) the faces.
However, the traits and characteristics of the people emanate from their hearts. They come from within the person, hence the use of the word (in).