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Solar and Lunar Eclipses in Islam and the Eclipse Prayer

October 13, 2023

Solar and Lunar Eclipses in Islam and the Eclipse Prayer

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم 

:الحمد لله، والصلاة والسلام على رسول الله، وبعد

 فَإِذَا بَرِقَ ٱلۡبَصَرُ (٧) وَخَسَفَ ٱلۡقَمَرُ (٨) وَجُمِعَ ٱلشَّمۡسُ وَٱلۡقَمَرُ (٩) يَقُولُ ٱلۡإِنسَـٰنُ يَوۡمَٮِٕذٍ أَيۡنَ ٱلۡمَفَرُّ (١٠) كَلَّا لَا وَزَرَ (١١) إِلَىٰ رَبِّكَ يَوۡمَٮِٕذٍ ٱلۡمُسۡتَقَرُّ (١٢)

(7) When vision is dazzled. (8) And the moon is eclipsed. (9) And the sun and the moon are joined together. (10) On that Day, man will say, “Where is the escape?” (11) No indeed! There is no refuge. (12) To your Lord on that Day is the settlement. (Quran, Chapter 75- Al-Qiyamah)

Everything in the heavens and on earth is created and sustained by Allah (SWT), the Lord of the universe. Throughout the Quran, people are encouraged to look around them, observe, and reflect on the beauties and the wonders of the natural world as signs of Allah's glory and reminders of His Lordship. We are also commanded to ponder on the Divine Laws that govern these aspects of the creation (Quran 7:54; 21:33; 55:05).

Eclipses of the sun or moon (al-Kusoof and al-Khusoof), which can be total or partial, are a natural phenomenon that occur from time to time in our human existence, through the Will and Wisdom of Allah Almighty. Throughout history they have been seen by people as having major significance - even religious ones: as omen or signs of divine punishment. Many people used to also associate this unusual phenomenon with some superstitious reasons and beliefs.

Our noble Islamic teachings tell us that eclipses, like all other natural phenomena and cosmic events, are signs of Almighty Allah’s existence and of His power and majesty. The mindful believer uses the eclipse as a reminder of their own mortality and their need of Allah, and as an opportunity to reflect on the Day of Judgment - when the sun, moon and stars will be devoid of their light and become conjoined. It is a time also for introspection and the need to remember and return to Allah and beseech Him for His divine aid and His forgiveness, humbling ourselves before the Most Omnipotent and the Almighty (SWT).

Al-Kusoof, or the solar eclipse, is the partial or total cutting off of the sun’s light when the moon comes between it and the earth. We in this part of the world will experience an annular partial solar eclipse from 11:42 am until 2:34 pm this coming Saturday (10/14) with the peak time at 1:06 pm. During the eclipse, Muslims are encouraged to pray and give charity, and to affirm their faith in the Almighty in the correct way and recognize the True Source of this event. 

During the lifetime of Prophet Muhammad (SAW), a solar eclipse occurred and he showed us the way to react and approach this type of phenomenon. He called for an additional (optional) very lengthy prayer and then after he addressed his companions, explaining the truth of the matter to them saying: “The sun and the moon are two of the signs of Allah; they do not eclipse for the death or birth of anyone. So when you see the eclipse, remember Allah and glorify Him, pray and give Sadaqa [charity].”

[Note: In essence the Messenger of Allah (SAW) was also warning them not to link the eclipse to the death of his infant son Ibrahim (RAA) that occurred on the same day in the city of al-Madinah, not long before the demise of our Prophet himself (SAW).]

Salat Al-Kusoof (The Eclipse Prayer)

Salat Al-Kusoof: It is a confirmed sunnah (mu’akkadah) by the majority opinion. Imam Abu Hanifah (RA) said it was obligatory (wajib), while Imam Malik (RA) regarded it as equal to Salat al-Jumu'ah (Friday Prayer) in importance.

The Kusoof Prayer consists of two rak`ahs, each one has two standings (qiyam), two instances of recitation from the Qur’an (qira’ah), two bowings (ruku`), and two prostrations (sujud). The sunnah is for the Prayer to be held in congregation in the mosque, although individuals who cannot reach the congregation may pray alone. The Eclipse Prayer should be very long - longer than any other normal daily, weekly, or annual Salahs, or as long as is reasonable, and the remainder of the eclipse is spent in a sermon or reminder, supplication, general mention and remembrance of Allah (including recitation of the Qur’an), and giving charity.

The Khutbah/Khatirah (sermon/reminder): The imam gives this after the congregational Prayer, based on the admonition of the Messenger of Allah, part of which is quoted above. The inclusion of this sermon or reminder is recommended and may be left out.

Timing: The time for the Eclipse Prayer lasts throughout the eclipse. The Prayer must be started during the eclipse (preferably when it begins), although it can end after the eclipse is over. The sermon or reminder is delivered after the Prayer, whether or not the eclipse is still in progress. After the eclipse, the requirement and time for the Prayer no longer exists and therefore it is invalid to pray Salat al-Kusoof outside the time of the eclipse. Imams Abu Hanifah (RA) and Ahmad (RA) have stipulated that the Eclipse Prayer cannot be held during times when Prayer is normally reprehensible, i.e., when the sun is rising or setting over the horizon, or when it reaches its zenith. Other scholars say that the recommendation of the Eclipse Prayer takes precedence over these discouraged times. 

Detailed Description of the Prayer:

  1. There is no Adhan or Iqamah for the Prayer, although the Prayer can be announced by calling, “As-Salatu Jami`ah” (“The congregation is gathering for Prayer”). 

  2. The imam begins the Prayer with takbirat al-Ihram, as usual, followed by recitation of Surat al-Fatihah and one or more long surahs. The recitation can be loud (majority view) or silent. 

  3. The imam does ruku` with takbir, as usual. 

  4. The imam rises from ruku` saying “Sami` Allahu Liman Hamidah” followed by the usual dhikr

  5. Remaining in the standing posture, the imam again recites Surat al-Fatihah and one or more other long surahs

  6. The imam goes into ruku` with takbir

  7. The imam rises from ruku` saying “Sami` Allahu Liman Hamidah” followed by the usual dhikr

  8. The imam performs the two prostrations as usual, except that the prostrations should be lengthy, as should be the sitting between them. 

  9. The imam rises for the second rak`ah, which is performed in the same manner as the first. 

  10. Hence there are a total of four of each of the following: standing straight (with recitation), bowing down, and prostrating. The sunnah is for each standing straight, bowing down, and prostration to be shorter than the previous one.

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