Some people have not, in their hearts, bowed to God.
Their outward prostration is a mere pretense. The Quran says about such persons that in the next world, they will be told to bow down before the Lord, but they will not be able to do so. (68:42)
Prostration is not just a ritual and time bound physical action; it is to surrender oneself to sublime reality. It is to make oneself follow truth in one’s whole life.
This verse of the Quran does not just refer to prostration in a limited sense; it indicates a truth which pertains to the whole of one’s life.
In this world, people – both on an individual and national level – do not in their hearts bow to the reality; they do not adopt the path of truth.
Yet in their outward demeanour they pretend to be on the side of truth; they speak words which make it seem that they are in the right and are not exploiting others.
But such deceit is only possible in this world of trial. In the next world, there will be no possibility of making lies appear true, and unjustness appear like justness. In the next world, words will refuse to take on false meanings.
No one will be able to disguise falsehood as truth. A person will appear exactly as he was in relation to reality, rather than in the manner which he used to contrive in front of others.
If people can convince others that they are in the right, then they are sure that they have been proved right.
But, in fact, only those who are proved right in God’s sight are truly in the right.
This verse, then, does not only refer to hypocritical prostration; it gives us an indication of the outcome facing both individuals and nations.