Assalaamu alaykum wa rahmatullaahi wa barakaatuhu, Shaykh. It is mentioned that there will be a sun eclipse this coming monday (9th may) in Bahrain, and Allaah, The Exalted, knows best. It is true that one must only pray the eclipse prayer when an eclipse is actually seen. However, I want to know whether that means that I should personally see it? Or can I pray even if the internet says that it is seen at that time? Also, I want to know; if its seen, I start praying, but how long should I pray? Should I pray for the time that was mentioned on the internet even before sighting it, or for how long? As I will be praying indoors, I may not be able to clearly determine whether the eclipse is still there or if it has ended. The last time when there was a moon eclipse here, I saw it myself and prayed, praise be to Allaah, but I did not know how long I should pray and then supplicate and so on, so I slept after some time as I would normally sleep at that time. Then later I heard that it was mentioned that it lasted until after that. Please advise, Shaykh. The time for this coming eclipse has been calculated as being from 2:11 till 6:12 PM. If I get news that it is seen and I start praying, then the time for the ‘Asr prayer might come, as that is around 3 PM. Can I stop then and continue after praying the ‘Asr, or does it only consist of two Rak‘ahs (units of prayer) and then Athkaar (plural of Thikr [expressions of remembrance of Allaah])? May Allaah reward you, Shaykh.
All perfect praise be to Allaah, The Lord of the worlds. I testify that there is none worthy of worship except Allaah and that Muhammad, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, is His slave and Messenger.
Your question included several points pertaining to the Eclipse Prayer, and the answer shall be in the following points:
1- The Eclipse Prayer is a confirmed act of the Sunnah for men and women, and it is not obligatory. The Hanbali book Kashshaaf Al-Qinaa‘ 'An Matn Al-Iqnaa‘ reads:
"The Eclipse Prayer is a confirmed Sunnah prayer; Ibn Hubayrah and An-Nawawi cited the scholarly consensus in this regard based on the evidence mentioned above indicating that the Eclipse Prayer was performed in travel and residence even by women. ‘Aa'ishah and Asmaa' performed it with the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, as cited in Saheeh Al-Bukhari. The author of Al-Mubdi` said, 'If women who are not feared to cause temptation attend it with the men, then this is good.'"
2- The Eclipse Prayer is prescribed when the eclipse can be seen with the naked eye. The person must see the eclipse with his very eyes or know with certainty that it has occurred (through authentic reports). He must not rely on the news or what is posted on the internet and the like. Shaykh Ibn ‘Uthaymeen said:
"It is impermissible to offer the Eclipse Prayer on the basis of news or astronomers’ reports when the sky is cloudy and the eclipse cannot be seen with the naked eye. This is because the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, conditioned the ruling (of performing the Eclipse Prayer) to the sighting of the eclipse. He, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, said, 'If you saw them occurring (eclipse of the sun or the moon), hurry to pray.' It is possible that Allaah causes some people to see the eclipse and hides it from others for a wisdom that He wills.'" [Majmoo‘ Fataawa Ibn ‘Uthaymeen]
Shaykh Ibn 'Uthaymeen also said, "If the astronomers forecast the solar or lunar eclipse, we should not perform the Eclipse Prayer unless we see the eclipse with our own eyes because the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, said, 'When you see that, pray.' If Allaah willed that we do not see it in our country except with a telescope or binoculars, then we do not perform the Eclipse Prayer." [Ash-Sharh Al-Mumti‘]
Al-Munaawi said, "The hadeeth means if you come to know that (i.e. either a solar or a lunar eclipse occurs, because they can never occur at the same time). The version cited by Al-Bukhari reads, 'If you see it, then pray.'" [Faydh Al-Qadeer]
3- The sufficient manner of performing the Eclipse Prayer is to pray two Rak‘ahs like all other voluntary prayers. However, the perfect manner is performing it in the manner described by the scholars as detailed in the Kuwaiti Encyclopedia of Fiqh. It reads:
"Scholars held different views regarding the perfect manner of performing the Eclipse Prayer and not the sufficient manner. It is sufficient to perform the Eclipse Prayer as two Rak‘ahs like other voluntary prayers according to all scholars. The least perfect manner of performing the Eclipse Prayer according to the three scholars (Ash-Shaafi‘i, Maalik, and Ahmad ibn Hanbal) is as follows: The praying person should recite Takbeerat Al-Ihraam (opening Takbeer [saying: Allaahu Akbar]) with the intention of performing Salat Al-Kusoof (Eclipse Prayer), recite the Faatihah, bow, rise from the bowing and stand upright in tranquility, bow a second time, rise and stand upright observing tranquility, perform two prostrations, and then do the same in the second Rak‘ah. Thus, the Eclipse Prayer is a two-Rak‘ah prayer each consists of two standing positions, two bowing positions, and two prostrations. The rest of the prayer is normal; reciting Soorahs from the Quran, Tashahhud, and tranquility. The Hanafis, on the other hand, held that it is two Rak'ahs, each with one standing position, one bowing position, and two prostrations, like all other voluntary prayers."
4- It is an act of the Sunnah to supplicate Allaah, seek His forgiveness, offer charity, and engage in good deeds when the eclipse occurs. Kashshaaf Al-Qinaa‘ ‘an Matn Al-Iqnaa‘ reads, "When an eclipse occurs, it is an act of the Sunnah to remember Allaah, supplicate Him, seek His forgiveness, recite Takbeer, offer charity, free slaves, and draw closer to Allaah Almighty with whatever one is able to do of good deeds. The Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, said, 'When you see that (an eclipse), supplicate Allaah, make Takbeer, pray, and offer charity.' [Al-Bukhari and Muslim]"
5- Muslims should perform the Eclipse Prayer until the eclipse is over and this is verified by actual sighting. If the person is performing the eclipse prayer under a roof, then he should rely on the authentic report of other people. Shaykh Ibn ‘Uthaymeen wrote, "The verification of the end of the eclipse is done through the actual sighting; whether it occurred in the daytime or night, it is clear through sighting. If the person is indoors, he should rely on people's reports." [Ash-Sharh Al-Mumti‘]
6- When the person starts performing the Eclipse Prayer and an obligatory prayer becomes due, if there is enough time to finish the Eclipse Prayer first and then perform the obligatory one, then he should do so. However, if there is not enough time, then he must perform the obligatory prayer first. Shaykh Ibn ‘Uthaymeen wrote, "If the person starts performing the Eclipse Prayer and an obligatory prayer becomes due, then what should he do? If there is enough time to finish the Eclipse Prayer and then perform the obligatory one, then he should carry on with performing the Eclipse Prayer. If there is not enough time, then he must make the Eclipse Prayer short in order to perform the obligatory prayer in its due time." [Ash-Sharh Al-Mumti']
7- It is an act of the Sunnah to perform the Eclipse Prayer in congregation, and it is also allowable to perform it individually at home or elsewhere. The Shaafi‘is and Hanbalis held that performing the Eclipse Prayer in congregation is an act of the Sunnah for both the solar and lunar eclipses. The Hanafi view and the famous view of the Maalikis is that the Eclipse Prayer should not be performed in congregation in case of the lunar eclipse. Al-Kaasaani wrote:
"As for the lunar eclipse, it is good to perform the Eclipse Prayer. The Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, said, 'So when you see any such thing, hasten to the prayer.' The Eclipse Prayer, in this case, is not performed in congregation according to our school of Fiqh (the Hanafi one). Ash-Shaafi‘i held that it should be performed in congregation. An-Nafraawi said in Al-Fawaakih Ad-Dawaani, 'There is no congregational prayer for the lunar eclipse. People may perform it individually because it is recommended based on the most likely correct view in this regard; so it is better to pray it at home.'" [Badaa'i‘ As-Sanaa'i‘]
8- If the person finishes the Eclipse Prayer and then discovers that the eclipse is not over yet, he bears no sin for it, nor is he required to make up for the Eclipse Prayer. Al-Buhooti wrote:
"If the persons misses the Eclipse Prayer, then he is not required to make up for it. The Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, said, 'So if either of them (solar or lunar eclipse) happens, then pray until it is over.' It has not been reported that he performed the Eclipse Prayer after the eclipse was over, nor did he command it. Moreover, the point is to hurry to prayer and implore Allaah until the light of the sun or moon is restored, and this has already happened. In addition, the Eclipse Prayer is a voluntary prayer. If one fails to observe it in its due time, he is not required to make up for it." [Kashshaaf Al-Qinaa‘]
Allaah knows best.
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