Understanding Eclipses The Islamic Way

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Nothing amongst the Signs of Allah are as clear and well known as the Sun and the Moon. Likewise, nothing is more intense and dramatic as when the Sun and Moon undergo the solar and lunar eclipse respectively. From the beginning of time, many nations have taken these events as to hold specific meaning, such as the birth or death of special people or other such mysterious theories.

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The Messenger of Allah ‎ﷺ has shown us how to understand such events in a way that is correct and pleasing to our Lord. Although we may know the physical reason for the eclipse of the Sun or the Moon, the Shar’î (legislated) reason can only be obtained by revelation.

The reason for Eclipses

We know that the real reason for the eclipse is to alarm the people, to instill in them an urgency to return back to the obedience of Allâh, the Mighty the Exalted. Imâm al-Bukhârî narrates in his Sahîh that the Messenger of Allâh ‎ﷺ said,

 “ “These signs that Allâh sends are not for the death or life of anyone, but Allâh makes His slaves afraid through them, so if you see anything of that [eclipses], then hasten to remember Allâh and make supplication to Him and seek His forgiveness.”[1]

In the same narration after the sun had eclipsed, the Prophet (sallallâhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) came to the masjid looking alarmed and startled as if the Hour was being established.[2] This was his reaction at a time when he probably knew that the Hour would not start before the other major signs of the Day of Judgement had already occurred. Also, this was the one who’s previous and future sins had been forgiven! Yet he (sallallâhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) was still frightened by this huge sign of Allâh’s power, so how should the sinning slaves of Allâh react in these current days of open disobedience to Allâh, where many of the signs of the Hour have already been established?![3]

The instilling of fear into the souls of the creation is often one of the only ways that one reflects on their daily situation. Fear and warnings are often things which make us return to the worship of Allâh as He, the Exalted tells us in His book,
“…

  and We send not the signs except as a warning.” (al-Isrâ’, 59).

Should we inform people about it in advance?

In these times of advanced technology, it is well known that we can predict when both the lunar and solar eclipses will occur, often to the exact second. Should we then prepare ourselves for prayers and other such actions?

It is important to remember that Islâm is a religion for all people, the scientists of them and the Bedouins of them. However accurate science might be, that it can let us know when exactly such an event will occur, it is not correct to pray unless we physically see the eclipse ourselves. It must be seen with the naked eye and not through telescopes and other such instruments, although it is permissible to use the calculations of the astronomers as a rough guide, and then if the eclipse is confirmed, we can pray; but if not, then we shouldn’t do anything either.

  Some scholars such as Shaykh al-‘Uthaymîn (rahimahullâh) preferred one not to inform people in advance that an eclipse would occur soon, because when an eclipse occurs all of a sudden, the effect and impact is much greater and dramatic, and therefore much closer to the effect it would have had on the early Muslims as narrated by Imâm al-Bukhâri in his sahîh. The Shaykh argued that maybe the people will prepare for it in a way similar to preparing for the Jummah prayer and therefore this prayer would also become something very ordinary and natural.[4]

On the other hand it can be argued that in the current times, it would be highly unlikely for us to not know about events such as eclipses and storms and hurricanes well in advance due to all the monitoring and observations that go on. Also, ibn Taymiyyah mentioned in his Majmû’ that a person should make the niyyah to make the Kusûf prayer once he has been informed by someone who is knowledgeable in that field, and that the preparation for it could be seen as an exhorting of the self to good deeds, from the chapter of hastening oneself to the obedience of Allâh by following the sublime sunnah of the Prophet (sallallâhu ‘alayhi wa sallam).[5] Allâh Knows Best.

The Prayer of the Eclipse

Although there are differences of opinion, the majority of the fuqah⒠consider Salât al-Kusûf for the Sun and Salât al-Khusûf for the Moon.[6]

The actions of these two prayers are the same, with only a difference in the name. Both are considered Sunnah Mu’akkadah[7] even though a group of the later Hanafîs considered it wâjib. The prayer has been described in detail from the hadîths of ibn ‘Abbâs, A’isha, Abû Mûsâ and others (radhy Allâhu ‘anhum):[8]

– There is no adhân or iqâmah to be called. It is prayed in congregation although it is still permissible to pray it individually.
– The prayer is of two units, in each raka’ah are two rukû’.
– The Imâm makes the normal Takbîrat ul-Ihrâm
– The recitation in the first raka’ah is long (especially in Salât al-Khusûf where the lunar eclipse lasts for much longer than the solar), as ’Aisha narrated, that it was approximately the length of Sûrah al-Baqarah.[9]
– The Imâm makes the takbîr and then goes in to rukû’ for a long time, making tasbeeh and tahmeed etc.
– The Imâm then raises his head and says, “Sami’a Allâhu liman Hamidahu” and then “Rabbanâ wa lakal Hamd”, and then remains standing. He does not go into sujûd.
– The second standing now starts with a recitation not as long as in the first raka’ah, the length of approximately Sûrah Aal ‘Imrân[10]
– The Imâm makes a second rukû’ although not as long as the first, then raises his head and straightens, and then goes into the sajdah as in the normal prayers
– The two sajdahs are elongated and then the Imâm stands again. This is now one raka’ah complete.
– The whole cycle is repeated again one more time, with each interval shorter in length of time than the very first standing.
– Once you have finished, you will have prayed a two unit prayer with four rukû’ i.e. bowings and four sajdahs i.e. prostrations

Is it prayed aloud or silently?

According to the strongest scholarly opinion, it is to be recited aloud as ‘A’isha (radhy Allâhu ‘anhâ) narrated that The Prophet ‎ﷺ recited the Salât al-Kusûf aloud.[11]

As for the Hanafîs, they consider that the Salât al-Kusûf should be recited silently.[12] They argued that if the prayer was recited aloud, then why did ‘A’isha have to estimate the length of the recitation? But the hadîth in Bukhâri is clear and is the strongest report on the issue.

 “ As for the hadîth that the Prophet ‎ﷺ stood in the prayer for a long time and not a sound was heard (from him), then this hadîth has a weak chain.[13]

Where it is prayed

It is from the Sunnah to pray the Salât al-Kusûf in the Masjid, in congregation as indicated by Imâm al-Bukhâri by his tabwîb[14]. The women are also allowed to attend the prayer in the masjid as narrated in the two saheehs.

The Hanafîs differentiated between the two prayers, and preferred that one prays the Salât al-Kusûf in the masjid whereas they considered it sunnah to pray the prayer of Khusûf at home individually. They used as evidence the principle that the voluntary prayers are to be prayed at home unless a clear evidence shows otherwise. Evidences for the solar eclipse are many but because there are many more lunar eclipses than solar eclipses, and nothing has been narrated[15] concerning the lunar eclipse prayer in the masjid, then the original ruling is that it is to be prayed at home. Also, the fact that the lunar eclipse always falls in the night strengthens this argument.[16]

The Khutbah after the Prayer

It is sunnah for the Imâm to give a Khutbah in two parts after the prayer, a reminder of the occasion of such a dramatic and graphic event as the eclipse. One should exhort the people to good, advise them in their religious affairs and command them to make tawbah and also specifically to seek refuge with Allâh from the punishment of the grave as indicated by Imâm al-Bukhâri in his Sahîh.[17] Some explained the link between the punishment of the grave and the eclipse by the fact that both envelop you in darkness, adding further insight how the early Salaf related to such events.[18]

It is narrated that the Prophet ‎ﷺ said in the Khutbah after the Kusûf prayer,If you knew what I know, you would laugh little and cry much.” [19]

This also again emphasizes the importance of understanding the eclipse for what it really is, a sign of the immense power of Allâh, a sign of things to come when the people will realise the Hour has arrived by the total breakdown of the solar system, of which the eclipse is just but a taster. One must try and benefit oneself from such an event, and not treat it as some great fun event as we see many of the disbelievers doing at such times.

Voluntary acts other than the prayer

It is narrated that the Prophet ‎ﷺ commanded the believers to make as much istighfâr and dhikr of Allâh in such times of fear.[20] Also, to make du’â to Allâh at such times is from the prescribed actions as well as to give charity. To free a slave and all other such good actions are recommended at such times, and one should not waste such an opportunity to not only fulfil the sunnah but become closer to Allâh with that what he loves.

I ask Allâh to protect us all from His Punishment and Anger, and to make us from those who love him and turn to him in repentance.

And Allâh, the Exalted Knows Best.

May the Peace and Blessings of Allâh be upon his Messenger, and his family, ‎ﷺ.

Footnote

Taken from islamicawakening.com

1. al-Bukhâri in Kusûf (no. 1059)

2. ibid

3. al-Fath (1/705)

4. Sharh al-Mumti’ (5/236)

5. Majmû’ al-Fatâwa (24/257)

6. al-Fath (1/691)

7. The Hanbalis considered it so in al-Mughni (3/321) as do the Shâfi’îs, and the famous narration from Abû Hanîfah (see Tuhfatul Fuqahâ 1/182). Ibn Rajab considered it a fardh kifâyah (see Sharh Mumti’ 5/237)

8. al-Bukhâri in Kusûf (no. 1044, 1046, 1047, 1055, 1056, 1059)

9. Abû Dâwûd (no. 1187) and authenticated by Albâni

10. ibid

11. al-Bukhâri in Kusûf (no.1065), Muslim in Salât al-Kusûf (no.901), Tirmidhi (no.563)

12. Badâ’i as-Sanâ’i (1/629)

13. Shu’ayb al-‘Arnaût amongst many others graded it weak in all its chains. See Sahîh ibn Hibbân (7/94-96).

14. the naming and placing of his chapter titles in a specific way to show his fiqh

15. this has been refuted by ibn Hajr in al-Fath (2/707) showing more than one narration of Salât al-Khusûf being performed

16. Badâ’i as-Sanâ’i (1/631)

17. al-Bukhâri in Kusûf (no.1055)

18. al-Fath (1/691)

19. al-Bukhâri in Kusûf (no.1044)

20. al-Bukhâri in Kusûf (no.1059)

(NOTE: If you want to build a strong and powerful relationship with Allah, check out Islamia TV, where you can watch Islamic speakers from across the globe deliver inspiring and motivational courses. Learn more at www.islamia.tv.)



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