Solar & Lunar Eclipses: A Muslim Perspective

In the first place, we would like to note that a Muslim looks at any cosmic event as a sign of the power and existence of Allah. A Muslim resorts to Allah in all times, specially at these times of solar and lunar eclipse when he needs His help.

During the time of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him), a solar eclipse happened. People hurried to link this to a worldly event, namely, the death of the Prophet’s son, Ibrahim. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) explained the truth of this matter to them. In his Sahih, Imam Muslim reported that `A’ishah (may Allah be pleased with her) said:

There was a solar eclipse in the time of the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him). He stood up to pray and prolonged his standing very much. He then bowed and prolonged very much his bowing. He then raised his head and prolonged his standing much, but it was less than the (duration) of the first standing. He then bowed and prolonged bowing much, but it was less than the duration of his first bowing. He then prostrated and then stood up and prolonged the standing, but it was less than the first standing. He then bowed and prolonged his bowing, but it was less than the first bowing. He then lifted his head and then stood up and prolonged his standing, but it was less than the first standing. He then bowed and prolonged bowing and it was less than the first bowing. He then prostrated himself; then he turned about, and the sun had become bright, and he addressed the people. He praised Allah and lauded Him and said:

“The sun and the moon are two signs of Allah; they are not eclipsed on account of anyone’s death or on account of anyone’s birth. So when you see them, glorify and supplicate Allah, observe the Prayer, give alms. O Ummah of Muhammad, none is more indignant than Allah when His servant or maid commits fornication. O people of Muhammad, by Allah, if you knew what I know, you would weep much and laugh little. O Allah, witness, I informed them.”

In his well known book, The Prescribed Prayer Made Simple, the prominent Muslim scholar Sheikh Tajjuddin B. Shu`aib, Director of King Fahd Mosque in Culver City, California, USA, wrote:

Kusoof, or solar eclipse, is the partial or total cutting off of the sun’s light when the moon comes between it and the earth. People used to associate this unusual phenomenon with some superstitious reason. It happened that the sun eclipsed on the day the Prophet’s son Ibrahim died in Madinah, so some people attributed that to his death. Hence, the Prophet took the opportunity to correct the people’s mistaken notion about the solar eclipse.

The Prophet ordered someone to announce “as-salatu jami`ah,” that is that Prayer is to be convened in public. When people gathered, he led them in Prayer after which he stated: “The solar or lunar eclipse is only a sign of Allah. They do not take place for the death or life of anybody. Whenever you see them, hasten to the Prayer.” (Reported by Muslim)

Salat al-kusoof (solar eclipse Prayer) is sunnah mu’akkadah (confirmed sunnah) for b
oth male and female believers. It is better to offer it congregationally in the mosque. Its time is from the beginning of the eclipse till it clears away. There is no adhan for the Prayer, but it should be announced, as stated earlier, with “as-salatu jami`ah.”

According to the hadith, narrated by `A’ishah (may Allah be pleased with her), salat al-kusoof is two rak`ahs; however, the worshiper bows twice in each rak`ah instead of once.

In the first rak`ah, after al-Fatihah, one recites a long or short surah. One then says allahu akbar and bows down in a long bowing. As one rises up, one says: sami` Allahu liman hamidah, rabbana lakal-hamd.”

One then says Allahu akbar and bows down a second time but not so long. As one rises up one says, sami` Allahu liman hamidah, rabbana lakal-hamd.”

As one resumes standing straight, one says allahu akbar and then falls down in prostration. One begins the second rak`ah by saying allahu akbar The second rak`ah should be observed like the first one. After the Prayer, the imam may give a guiding sermon.

Salat al-khusoof (lunar eclipse Prayer) is the same as salatal-kusoof (solar eclipse Prayer). The recital of al-Fatihah may be performed aloud or silently.

Tackling the issue in more details, we’d like to cite the following from “Islam and the Solar Eclipse” issued by Muslim Council of Britain & the International Council for Islamic Information:

“The sun and the moon are two of the signs of Allah; they do not darken for the death or birth of any person, but Allah strikes fear into His servants by means of them. So when you see them darken, remember and mention Allah, declare His greatness, offer Prayer, give in charity, and supplicate to Him and seek His forgiveness.” These words were said by the noble Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) when a solar eclipse took place on the very day that his infant son Ibrahim passed away: 29 Shawwal 10 AH / 27 January 632 CE. A false prophet would undoubtedly have claimed that such a magnificent celestial event was a sign of heavenly mourning for the loss of his loved one, but not the final Messenger of Allah, who led the community of Muslims in Prayer for as long as the eclipse lasted, then admonished them regarding their reckoning with their Lord on the Day of Judgment.

The Muslim reaction to lunar and solar eclipses can be summarized as follows:

1. Solar and lunar eclipses are reminders of the Day of Judgment, when the sun, moon, and stars will all lose their light. [When the sight is dazed, and the moon is buried in darkness, and the sun and moon are joined together: Man will say on that day, ‘Where is the refuge?’] (Al-Qiyamah 75: 7-10)

2. Being a reminder of the Last Day, the eclipse is a time for Prayer, charitable acts, and generally remembering Allah and seeking His forgiveness.

3. To believe that heavenly bodies (sun, moon, planets, stars) have power over events and people’s fates and fortunes is to reject Allah by ascribing partners to Him. [And among His Signs are the night and the day, the sun and the moon. Prostrate neither to the sun nor to the moon, but prostrate to Allah who created them, if it is truly Him you worship.] (Fussilat 41: 37) Thus, one cannot worship God by worshiping creation—whether the devotions are offered to nature, heavenly bodies, idols, or human beings. The worship of something or someone created in whatever form, Muslims consider to be an underlying error of many groups active in the UK, from pagans, Druids and New Age cultures (for whom the eclipse is a sacred event) to the numerous Christian denominations. The popular but false, empty faith in astrology, so widespread in the popular press, is also condemned in Islam. Islam teaches people to constantly turn to the Source of all events: Allah.

Salat Al-Kusoof (The Eclipse Prayer)

Ruling: Most of the people of knowledge regard it as a confirmed sunnah (mu’akkadah). Imam Abu Hanifah said it was obligatory (wajib), while imam Malik regarded it as equal to salat al-jumu`ah (Friday Prayer) in importance.

Form: The eclipse Prayer consists of two rak`ahs. Various forms of the rak`ahs have been narrated, but the most authentic hadiths indicate that each rak`ahhas two standings (qiyam), two instances of recitation from the Qur’an (qira’ah), two bowings (ruku`), and two prostrations (sujud) This is the view of the majority of the people of knowledge, including Imams Malik, Shafi`i, and Ahmad. The number of ruku` in each rak`ah has also been narrated as three, four, or more; the Hanafi scholars prefer only one ruku`, just as for the daily Prayers. However, the most authentic hadiths support the majority view, given above.

Congregation: The sunnah is for the Prayer to be held in congregation in the mosque, although individuals who cannot reach the congregation may pray alone. Women may pray at home or attend the congregation.

Khutbah (sermon): The imam gives this after the congregational Prayer, based on the admonition of the Messenger of Allah, part of which is quoted at the beginning of this article. The sermon is recommended according to Imam ash-Shafi`i and the majority of the other imams of Hadith, while the Hanafi scholars say that the sermon is not part of the Eclipse Prayer. They regard the Prophet’s admonition as a general reminder and not a formal sermon. If delivered, the sermon should contain praise of Allah, the two testimonies of faith, and reminders about Paradise and the Fire.

Timing: The time for the Eclipse Prayer lasts throughout the eclipse. The Prayer must be started during the eclipse, although it can end after the eclipse is over. The sermon 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 salatal-kusoof outside the time of the eclipse. Imams Abu Hanifah and Ahmad 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 imams say that the recommendation of the Eclipse Prayer takes precedence over these discouraged times.

Length: The Eclipse Prayer should be longer than normal daily, weekly, or annual Prayers. The Eclipse Prayer perfo
rmed by the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) was extremely long: it started soon after the beginning of the eclipse and ended after the eclipse was over. His Prayer included four instances of recitation from the Qur’an, with the first and longest of them being reckoned as “about as lengthy as surat al-Baqarah.” Further, the qiyam, ruku` and sujud were described as longer than any others seen performed by him. However, the imam should as always bear in mind the capabilities of his congregation, and the Prayer should not be prolonged excessively for the old and weak amongst them. There is no requirement to prolong the Prayer throughout the eclipse, nor to pray extra rak`ahs. The two-rak`ahs Prayer is made as long as is reasonable, and the remainder of the eclipse is spent in supplication, general mention and remembrance of Allah (including recitation of the Qur’an), and giving charity.

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 takbir, as usual, followed by recitation of Surat Al-Fatihah and one or more further 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 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.