Eclipse Prayer (Ṣalāt al-Kusūf)

Allāh the Mighty and Exalted demonstrates His existence and attributes through the many signs He has placed for us to contemplate on. Some of these signs are what the scholars call Universal Signs (al-Āyāt al-Kawniyyah) and some of these signs are Divinely-Legislated Signs (al-Āyāt al-Sharʿiyyah). The first refers to physical phenomena we know of through our physical senses such as the sun, moon, stars, oceans, rivers, mountains, trees, day and night, life and death etc. One of the attributes of Allāh they indicate is Allāh’s complete and perfect power. The second refers to things which we only know about through revelation from Allāh because our intellects and senses on their own cannot come to know of them such as the existence of angels, the events of the Day of Judgement, the descriptions of Paradise and Hell etc.

Both sets of signs are there to direct us towards believing in Allāh, being in complete and utter awe of Him and following this up by submitting to Him completely and worshipping Him alone without any partners.

Eclipses are one of the universal signs (al-āyāt al-kawniyyah) of Allāh. So, why do eclipses happen? How should we as Muslims react in the event of an eclipse? What should we do? Are eclipses a sign of the birth of someone important or the death of the same? Are eclipses something we should treat as an exciting social event, or is it something from which we should take a lesson? Please read on to find out the answers.

Definition

The term kusūf covers both the solar and lunar eclipse. However, if they occur together in a sentence, kusūf refers to the sun and khusūf refers to the moon [al-Sharḥ al-Mumtiʿ by Sh. ʿUthaymīn, 5:174].

The jurists define an eclipse (kusūf) as the disappearance of the light of one of the two shining ones (al-nayyirān) or some of it [SM, 5:174]. In the Arabic language, one of the ways to refer to both the sun and the moon using just one word is to say al-nayyirān which literally means the two shining or illuminated ones. Sh. ʿUthaymīn (d. 1421) notes an inadequacy in the jurists’ definition. He argues that in reality the light does not disappear, it only becomes veiled and concealed thus, a more precise definition would be, “the concealment of the light of one of the two shining ones due to an abnormal reason.” This concealment can be partial or whole i.e. a full eclipse or partial eclipse.

Possible Dates

A solar eclipse cannot, due to the position of the relevant celestial bodies, take place on the following lunar dates: 7th, 8th, 9th or 10th. It is possible on the 28th, 29th or 30th [SM, 5:175].

A lunar eclipse cannot take place on the following lunar dates: 8th, 9th, 10th, 11th, 17th, 20th, 25th and 27th. If it does take place, it can only take place on the 14th or 15th as this is when the earth can come between the moon and the sun [SM, 5:175].

Coincidentally, today (Monday, 15th July 2019) is the 12th of Dhū-l-Qaʿdah 1440. After Maghrib it will be the 13th thus Tuesday after Maghrib will be the 14th and Wednesday will be the 15th – dates on which a lunar eclipse is possible.

Why Do Eclipses Happen?

The divinely legislated reason (al-sabab al-sharʿī) for eclipses is for Allāh to put fear into His slaves. This was stated by the Prophet ﷺ himself in a ḥadīth recorded by both al-Bukhārī (1048) and Muslim (911): on the authority of Abū Bakrah who said, Allāh’s Messenger ﷺ said, “Indeed the sun and moon are two sign from the signs of Allāh, they do not eclipse due to the death of anyone, rather Allāh, exalted be He, puts fear into His slaves through it.”

Sh. ʿUthaymīn, may Allāh have mercy upon him, notes [SM, 5:177] that if there was any significant benefit to knowing what the physical reasons were for eclipses, it would have been clarified to us through revelation as Allāh knows the physical reasons as well. Understanding the physical reasons for such matters are left to us by Allāh so that we can learn the signs which He has placed in this universe. As for the divinely legislated reason (al-sabab al-sharʿī), this can only be known through Allāh’s revelation and not through our intellects or senses. This is why Allāh has explained the cause of eclipses to us through His Prophet ﷺ and this is the cause (sabab) we should be focusing and reflecting on.

When an eclipse took place during the time of the Prophet ﷺ, he was in such fear that he immediately went out dragging his clothes until he reached the masjid and then led the people in prayer. Compare this to how most people behave when they hear of an eclipse. Instead of fearing Allāh and contemplating over His power over the creation, people treat it like an entertaining spectacle; they gather their families and friends and get out their binoculars etc and observe the eclipse as though they were observing fireworks!

What Should You Do During an Eclipse?

If you see an eclipse with your own eyes, you should head to the masjid and pray the eclipse prayer with the congregation and then listen to the sermon which the Imām should deliver after the prayer. The Prophet ﷺ also encouraged remembering Allāh, supplicating to Him, seeking Allāh’s forgiveness, spending in charity and freeing slaves.

Ruling

Sh. ʿUthaymīn states that the strongest juridical view is that the prayer is an obligation. Of the two types of obligations, he inclines towards the view it is a communal obligation (farḍ kifāyah). This is based on the fact that the Prophet ﷺ commanded us to pray it when he said, “If you see it then pray”.

This is also strengthened by the fact that the Prophet ﷺ stated the reason for the eclipse was to strike fear into our hearts, he also delivered a tremendous sermon after it and was even shown Paradise and Hell during the prayer. The Shaykh also alludes to the fact that if we were to say it is not obligatory this would demean the Prophet’s command and the manner in which he conducted himself during the eclipse. How can we not be required to pray it when the reason for the eclipse is to strike fear into us so we remember and turn to Allāh? How can we just treat it like a normal event when the Prophet ﷺ did not? Where is the fear?

Description

The eclipse prayer is a long and audible TWO rakʿah prayer but with FOUR rukūʿs. Yes, you read that right, FOUR rukūʿs; two in each rakʿah.

The most authentic description of the eclipse prayer is that recorded by both al-Bukhārī (no. 1052) and Muslim (no. 907). ʿAbd Allāh b. ʿAbbās (d. 68), may Allāh be pleased with them both, said,

“The sun eclipsed during the lifetime of the Prophet ﷺ. Allāh’s Messenger ﷺ offered the eclipse prayer and stood for a long period equal to the length of the recitation of Sūrah al-Baqarah. He then bowed for a long period and then stood up for a long period (reciting) but it was shorter than the first standing.

He then bowed again for a long time but for shorter period than the first; then he prostrated twice and then stood up (reciting) for a long period which was shorter than that of the first standing; then he bowed for a long time which was shorter than the previous one, and then he raised his head and stood up (reciting) for a long period which was shorter than the first standing. He then bowed for a long time which was shorter than the first bowing and then prostrated (twice) and finished the prayer. By then, the sun (eclipse) had cleared.”

So in summary, this is how the eclipse prayer is prayed:

  1. Announcing the Prayer
    1. No adhān or iqāmah
    2. Announce: “al-Ṣalāt Jāmiʿah” (lit. “the prayer is being communed”)
  2. Takbīrat al-Iḥrām (The Opening Takbīr)
  3. Opening supplication
  4. 1st Recitation – Audible
    1. al-Fātiḥah
    2. Long recitation
  5. 1st Rukūʿ (Bowing)
    1. 1st rukūʿ – long
    2. Standing from rukūʿ
  6. 2nd Recitation – Audible
    1. Long recitation
  7. 2nd Rukūʿ (Bowing)
    1. Not as long as 1st rukūʿ
    2. Standing from rukūʿ
  8. Sujūd
    1. 1st sajdah – long
    2. Sit up from sajdah
    3. 2nd sajdah – long
  9. Stand back up
  10. 3rd Recitation – Audible
    1. al-Fātiḥah
    2. Long recitation
  11. 3rd Rukūʿ (Bowing)
    1. 3rd rukūʿ – long
    2. Stand up from rukūʿ
  12. 4th Recitation – Audible
    1. Long recitation
  13. 4th Rukūʿ
    1. 4th rukūʿ
    2. Stand up from rukūʿ
  14. Sujūd (Prostration)
    1. 3rd sajdah – long
    2. Sit up from sajdah
    3. 4th sajdah – long
    4. Sit up from sajdah
  15. Tashahhud
  16. Taslīm

Khuṭbah (Sermon)

The prayer should be followed up with a sermon to the congregation reminding them of the signs of Allāh, to fear Him, seek His forgiveness and spend in charity. In the same ḥadīth of Ibn ʿAbbās regarding the description of the prayer he states:

“The Prophet ﷺ then said, “The sun and the moon are two signs from amongst the signs of Allāh. They eclipse neither because of the death of somebody nor because of his life (i.e. birth). So, when you see them, remember Allāh.” The people said, “O Allāh’s Messenger, we saw you taking something from your place and then we saw you retreating.” The Prophet ﷺ replied, “I saw Paradise and stretched my hand out towards a bunch (of its fruits) and had I taken it, you would have eaten from it as long as the world remains. I also saw the Hell-Fire and I had never seen such a horrible sight. I saw that most of its inhabitants were women.” The people asked, “O Allāh’s Messenger! Why is it so?” The Prophet ﷺ replied, Because of their ungratefulness.” It was asked whether they are ungrateful to Allāh. The Prophet ﷺ said, “They are ungrateful to their husbands and ungrateful to kindness and favours done to them. If you were kind and did favours towards one of them throughout life, and if she sees anything (undesirable) from you, she will say, “I have never seen any good from you.”

What If You Missed the Eclipse?

Do not pray the eclipse prayer if you miss the eclipse. This is because of the general principle that every act of worship connected with a cause, if the cause is no longer there, the act of worship is no longer legal. So, in this case, the eclipse is the cause of the eclipse prayer, if the eclipse is no longer there, there is no prayer to be prayed as the cause has gone [SM, 5:190].

What If the Eclipse Ends During Prayer?

If the eclipse ends during the eclipse prayer, the Imām should shorten the length of the prayer [SM, 5:189].

What If It Becomes Cloudy During the Eclipse Prayer?

If the eclipse was visible to the human eye and then people engage in the eclipse prayer but during it the clouds conceal the eclipse, Sh. ʿUthaymīn advises us to take the timing predicted by meteorologists and astronomers when the eclipse will end and act by that. This is because the accuracy of their predictions is established through experience and experiment [SM, 5:189-190].

What If the Eclipse Begins Shortly Before an Obligatory Prayer?

If the time for the obligatory prayer is short then the eclipse prayer must be shortened. If, however, the time span for the obligatory prayer is long then the eclipse prayer should be lengthened [SM, 5:190].

What If You Miss the First Rakʿah of the Eclipse Prayer?

Sh. ʿUthaymīn is of the opinion that if you reach the first rukūʿ of the eclipse prayer, you have reached the first rakʿah. However, if you reach the second rukūʿ of the first rakʿah, you need to make up that rakʿah. The Shaykh argues that the first rukūʿ is a pillar of the prayer whilst the additional rukūʿ is not [SM, 5:197].

How Many Times Should “al-Ṣalāh Jāmiʿah” be Announced?

It can be announced two or three times until the announcer is preponderantly sure people have heard the announcement. One may need to announce it numerous times if it occurs in the night because people will most probably be sleeping. This is in contrast to the day time when just announcing it two or three times will suffice [SM, 5:198].

I ask Allāh the Almighty and Most Merciful, to make us amongst those who benefit positively from all of His signs, and that He forgives us our sins and raises us with the People of the Sunnah on the Day of Judgement.

Bibliography

al-Sharḥ al-Mumtiʿ by Sh. Muḥammad b. Ṣāliḥ al-ʿUthaymīn, 5:173 [SM]