Ruku' (Arabic: الرکوع) is among the elements of prayer and refers to bowing down to the extent that the fingers of the praying person's hands reach his knees. It is among essentials of prayer and necessary to be performed once in each rak'a of obligatory and recommended prayers, except in al-Ayat Prayer] which has five ruku's in each rak'a.
Meaning of Ruku' and Its Importance
The lexical meaning of "ruku'" is "bowing down and inclining the head"; and in religious terminology, it means bowing of the praying person to the extent that the fingers of his hands reach his knees.
In hadiths transmitted from the Ahl al-Bayt (a), the importance of ruku' is emphasized and it is advised to prolong it except in congregational prayer. In the two books of Wasa'il al-Shi'a and Mustadrak al-Wasa'il, 182 hadiths are mentioned about the rulings of ruku'.
A Part of Prayer or an Independent Act of Worship
In verses such as verse seventy seven of Qur'an 22, in which ruku' and prostration are mentioned; because, ruku' is mentioned together with prostration and prostration is also an act of worship beside being a part of prayer, some interpreters considered ruku' too an independent act of worship, which can be performed out of prayer, but some other interpreters considered ruku' in this verse, a command to perform ruku' in prayer and do not consider it an independent act of worship.
An Essential of Prayer
Ruku' is an obligatory part of the prayer and also considered an essential of the prayer and has to be performed once in every rak'a of the obligatory or recommended prayers, except al-Ayat prayer which has five ruku's in each rak'a. An essential of the prayer are the parts, increasing or abandoning which makes the prayer void whether it be intentional or inadvertent. Some scholars in the past separated the first two rak'as and the next two rak'as regarding rulings and said that if in the last two rak'as, the praying person remembers that he has not performed ruku' after the second prostration, he can return and perform ruku' and perform prostrations again and thus his prayer would be correct. This view is against the common view of fiqh scholars and religious authorities today.
Obligatory Issues in Ruku'
In every rak'a of obligatory or recommended prayers, ruku' should be performed before going to prostration. To perform this obligatory element, the praying person should bow down with the intention of ruku' from standing posture to the extent that his hands reach his knees. Some fiqh scholars consider putting the hands on the knees obligatory as well.
After the body becomes still in this posture, dhikr of ruku' should be said in correct Arabic pronunciation. The specific dhikr of ruku' is "Subhan-a Rabbi al-Azim-i wa bi-hamdih" ( سُبحانَ رَبّی الأعلی و بِحَمدِه), instead of which three times "Subhan-a Allah" ( سبحان الله) can be said. Some religious authorities have not considered saying other dhikrs permissible.
Intentionally abandoning stillness of the body when saying the obligatory dhikr of ruku' makes the prayer void, but if it is abandoned by mistake, the prayer does not become void; and if the praying person realizes it before standing up after ruku', he should repeat the dhikr when his body is still. Then, he should stand up and after his body becomes still, he should go to prostration. Standing before ruku' is an essential of the prayer too and intentional or inadvertent abandoning of it makes the prayer void. Therefore, those who cannot perform the whole prayer in standing posture, should stand upon saying Takbirat al-Ihram ( تکبیرة الاحرام) and also for ruku', if they can.
Rulings about Forgetfulness and Doubt
If a person remembers that he has missed ruku’ before he goes to prostration, he has to stand and go to ruku’. If a person remembers that he has missed ruku’ in the second prostration or after it, his prayer is void because ruku’ is a foundational element of the prayer and abandoning it intentionally or inadvertently makes the prayer void.
If before prostration, the praying person doubts whether he has performed ruku’ or not, he has to perform it; and if he doubts that during the prostration or after it, he should ignore his doubt and continue the prayer.
Intentional abandoning of dhikr in ruku’ makes the prayer void, but if a person realizes it after ruku’, he should not return to ruku’ and his prayer is correct. For such omission or additions in the prayer, some religious authorities consider it necessary for the praying person to perform two prostrations of Sahw after the prayer.
Rulings of Ruku’ in Congregational Prayer
If a person joins congregational prayer in the ruku’ of the imam of the congregational prayer and reaches his ruku’, his prayer is correct and it will be considered the first rak’a of his prayer. But, if he joins the prayer and before he goes to ruku’, the imam stands up from ruku’, there is a disagreement among the views of religious authorities on whether he should continue his prayer as individual prayer or he has to stand until the imam stands up from prostration and he should consider the next rak’a as his first rak’a with congregational prayer.
If [a person who joins the congregational prayer] is going to ruku’, but the imam stands up from ruku’, there is a disagreement among authorities on whether the person’s prayer is void or it is correct as individual prayer, etc.
In congregational prayer, if a follower inadvertently raises his head from ruku’ before the imam, according to common view, he has to return to ruku’ and follow the imam and such additions to ruku’ do not make the prayer void.
According to the common view, a person who reaches the ruku’ of the second rak’a of the Friday prayer, has grasped the Friday prayer and he should perform the second rak’a of the prayer by himself.
- It is recommended that while the body is still, the praying person should say “Allah-u Akbar” before going to ruku’ and “Sami’Allah-u li-man hamidah” after raising from ruku’.
- Putting the palms of hands on the knees with open fingers.
- Opening the hands from the side of the body like two open wings for men and abandoning it for women.
- Putting the right hand on the right knee before putting the left hand on the left knee
- Straightening the knees, straightening the back and keeping the neck equally in line with it
- Placing the knees aligned beside each other
- Leaving a space of one open palm between the feet
- Repeating the dhikr of ruku’ in odd number of times, such as three, five or seven times
- Saying Salawat before or after the obligatory dhikr of ruku’
In ruku’ and prostration of the prayer, reciting the Qur’an is disliked.