Praise be to Allah
Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala says (interpretation of the meaning):
“And of His signs are the night and day and the sun and moon. Do not prostrate to the sun or to the moon, but prostrate to Allah, who created them, if it should be Him that you worship.” [Fussilat 41:37]
Salat al-Kusoof is Sunnah mu’akkadah [a confirmed Sunnah] according to the consensus of the scholars. The daleel [evidence] for this is the Sunnah reported from the Messenger of Allah salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam.
Eclipses are signs from Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala by means of which He makes His slaves afraid. He says (interpretation of the meaning):
“And We send not the signs except as a warning.” [al-Israa’ 17:59]
When the sun was eclipsed at the time of the Messenger of Allah salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, he went out rushing nervously to the mosque, dragging his cloak behind him and led the people in prayer. He told them that the eclipse was one of the signs of Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala, with which He makes His slaves afraid, and that it may be the cause of punishment coming upon the people.
He commanded them to do that which could prevent the punishment that is to pray when an eclipse happens, make du’a, seek His forgiveness, give charity, free slaves and do other righteous deeds so that the punishment would go away and not befall the people. The eclipse is a reminder to people, making them afraid so that they will turn back to Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala and pay attention to Him.
During the Jahiliyyah, people used to believe that eclipses happened to mark the birth or death of a great person, but the Messenger of Allah salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam declared this belief to be false and explained the divine wisdom behind the occurrence of eclipses.
Imam al-Bukhari and Muslim narrated that Ibn Mas’ood al-Ansari said, “The sun was eclipsed the day Ibraheem the son of the Messenger of Allah salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam died, and the people said, ‘The sun is eclipsed because of the death of Ibraheem.’ The Messenger of Allah salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam said, ‘The sun and the moon are two signs from Allah, and they do not become eclipsed for the death or the birth of anyone. If you see that, hasten to remember Allah and to pray.’”
According to another hadeeth in al-Saheehayn,
“Call on Allah and pray until [the eclipse] is over.”
It is reported in Saheeh al-Bukhari that Abu Musa said, “These signs that Allah sends are not for the death or life of anyone, but Allah makes His slaves afraid through them, so if you see anything of that [eclipses], then hasten to remember Allah and call on Him and seek His forgiveness.”
Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala causes eclipses to happen to these two mighty signs, the sun and the moon, to teach His slaves and show them that these things are created and are subject to imperfections and changes just like any other created entities. Thus, He shows them His perfect ability and that He alone is deserving of worship.
The time for Salat al-Kusoof lasts from the beginning of the eclipse until it is over, because the Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam said, “When you see that, then pray.” (Agreed upon). According to another hadeeth, “If you see anything of that, then pray until it is over.” (Reported by Muslim)
Salat al-Kusoof should not be done once the eclipse is over because the time has gone. If an eclipse ends before one knows about it, one does not have to pray because the reason for this prayer is no longer there.
How to Offer the Prayer of Eclipse
The way in which Salat al-Kusoof is done is to pray two Rak’ahs in which Qur’an is recited aloud, according to the correct one out of the two scholarly opinions.
In the first Rak’ah, one should recite al-Fatihah and a long Surah such as Surah al-Baqarah or the equivalent, then do a long rukoo’, then raise one’s head and say,
“Sami’a Allahu liman hamidah, Rabbanaa wa laka’l-hamd”
(Allah listens to the one who praises Him; our Lord to You be praise) after standing upright, as in other prayers. Then one should then recite al-Fatihah and another long Surah, shorter than in the first recitation, equivalent in length to Surah Aal ‘Imran. Then one should do another long rukoo’ shorter than the first, and when raising one’s head, say,
“Sami’a Allahu liman hamidah, Rabbanaa wa laka’l-hamd hamdan katheeran tayyiban mubaarakan fih, mal’ al-samawaati wa mal’ al-ard wa mal’ ma shi’ta min shay’in ba’d”
(Allah listens to the one who praises Him; our Lord to You be praise, much good and blessed praise, filling heaven and earth and whatever You will besides that).
Then he should do two lengthy sujoods, without making the sitting between them too long. Then one should pray the second rak’ah like the first, with two long rukoo’s and two long sujoods, as he did in the first rak’ah. Then he should recite the Tashahhud and say the salaam.
This is the description of Salat al-Kusoof as prayed by the Messenger of Allah salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, as was reported with a number of isnaads. Some of these reports are in al-Saheehayn, including the hadeeth narrated by ‘Aa’ishah radhiAllahu ‘anha, “The sun was eclipsed at the time of the Messenger of Allah salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, and the Messenger of Allah salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam went out, stood up and said Takbeer (‘Allahu akbar’), and the people formed rows behind him. The Messenger of Allah salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam recited a lengthy recitation and did a lengthy rukoo’, then he raised his head and said,
‘Sami’a Allahu liman hamidah, Rabbanaa wa laka’l-hamd.’
Then he stood upright and recited another lengthy recitation, shorter than the first. Then he said ‘Allahu akbar’ and did another lengthy rukoo’, shorter than the first. Then he said, ‘Sami’a Allahu liman hamidah, Rabbanaa wa laka’l-hamd.’ Then he did sujood. Then in the second rak’ah he did likewise until he had completed four rukoo’s and four sujoods, and the eclipse was over before he had finished.” (Agreed upon).
It is sunnah to pray Salat al-Kusoof in jamaa’ah [congregation] because this is what the Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam did, but it is permissible to pray it individually, as with all other naafil prayers. However, praying it in congregation is better.
It is Sunnah for the imam to address the people after the prayer, and to warn them against negligence and being led astray, and to tell them to make lots of du’a and ask for forgiveness. In al-Saheeh it is narrated from ‘Aa’ishah radhiAllahu ‘anha that the Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam finished his prayer then addressed the people and started by praising Allah then he said,
“The sun and the moon are two of the signs of Allah, and they do not become eclipsed for the death or the birth of anyone. If you see that, then call on Allah, perform Salah, give charity…”
If the prayer ends before the eclipse does, then remember Allah (dhikr) and call on Him (du’a) until the eclipse ends. The prayer should not be repeated. If the eclipse ends before the prayer, then the prayer should be completed quickly, but it should not be stopped or cut off abruptly. The prayer should be at the time of the eclipse because the Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam said, “… until it (the eclipse) is over…” and he also said, “… until what you are going through is over …”
Shaykh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyah said, “Sometimes eclipses last for a long time, and sometimes for a short time, depending on how much of the sun or moon is eclipsed. The entire sun or moon may be eclipsed, or only half of it, or one-third. If it is a total eclipse, then the prayer should last long enough for all of al-Baqarah or something of similar length to be recited in the first rak’ah, and in the next rak’ah a shorter recitation is made. There are Saheeh ahadeeth narrated from the Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, as we have mentioned, and it is prescribed to shorten the prayer if the reason for it [i.e., the eclipse] is no longer there. So if it is known that the eclipse will not last for long, or if it started to get less, one should still pray, but the prayer should be shortened. This is the opinion of the majority of scholars, because this prayer is prescribed for a specific reason, and if the reason is no longer there and the eclipse is over, one should not pray.”
Originally published here.