South Africans witnessed a spectacular total eclipse of the moon yesterday. The white full moon turned blood red as the longest lunar eclipse in a decade unfolded on Wednesday night, 15 June 2011. According to astronomers, the June 15 eclipse was among the best three in terms of length and totality that took place in the last 100 years in history. The last lunar eclipse closer to the center of Earth’s shadow was on July 16, 2000, when it lasted 107 minutes. This eclipse was a central eclipse, visible over Europe and south America after sunset, over Africa and most of Asia, and Australia before sunrise.
A lunar eclipse occurs when the moon passes behind Earth so that the earth blocks the sun’s rays from striking the moon. This can occur only when the Sun, Earth, and Moon are aligned exactly, or very closely so, with Earth in the middle. Is not Allah great?!
I watched a little when it began, my husband had his telescope out. Then hastened in to pray and supplicate to Allah. Later in the cold dead of night I was curious so I returned to see a red moon against a dark sky, praising Allah in amazement and at the same time afraid and seeking the forgiveness of Jalla wa ‘Ala. I looked up at the milky way- galaxies within galaxies. Allahu Akbar! And the thought crossed my mind… We are so minute down here on Earth, yet we take pride in man-made things that doesn’t belong to us, neither will it avail us in Aakhirah. May Allah forgive us with our limited understanding.
There are saheeh ahaadeeth wherein Rasoolullah (Sallallahu Alayhi wa Sallam) enjoined offering the eclipse prayer and reciting dhikr and du’aa’s when the Muslims see an eclipse of the sun or the moon. It is Salaatul Kusoof for the eclipse of the sun and Salaatul Khusoof for the eclipse of the moon. خسوف pertains to the eclipse of the light, or part of the light, of the moon. Rasoolullah (Sallallahu Alayhi wa Sallam) said: “The sun and the moon are two of the signs of Allah and they do not become eclipsed for the death or birth of anyone. But Allah sends them to make His slaves fear (Him), so if you see that, then pray and make du’aa’ until it is over.” According to another version he said: “So if you see that, then hasten to remember Allah and call upon Him and seek His forgiveness.”
The Salaah for eclipse is as one would perform a normal two raka’ah salaah but it is offered individually with prolonged qiraa’ah, ruku, sajdah and supplication afterwards. This is according to the Madh-hab of Imam Abu Haneefa (rahimahullah) and there are many reasons for this position:
1) There is no evidence from Rasoolullah (Sallallahu Alayhi wa Sallam) of congregational Lunar Eclipse Salaah.
2) The Hadeeth of Saheeh Bukhari mentions praying but doesn’t stipulate prayer with congregation.
3) Imposing congregational Salaah of Lunar Eclipse on people will be undue hardship as it occurs at night.
Imam Shaafi’ee (rahimahullah) has however differed on the matter and his given the evidence from the Sahabaa (RA) as follows:
Imam Hasan Al-Basari (rahimahullah) narrates that when Abdullah Ibn Abbas (radhiyallahu anhu) was the Ameer of Basrah the moon was eclipsed. Therefore he came into the Masjid and lead people in two rak’aat salaah and in each salaah he performed two rukuhs and said, “I have performed it the same way as I saw Prophet (Sallallahu Alayhi wa Sallam) perform his prayer” [Musnad Imam Shaf’ae (RA)] In other words it will be a two rak’aat salaah with four rukus. This is mustahab according to Imaams Abu Haneefah, Maalik and Hanbal (rahimahumullah).
Also, the salaah should only be performed by those in the region where the eclipse takes place. So if Americans for example did not witness the eclipse, then no salaah was necessary.
When Rasoolullah (Sallallahu Alayhi wa Sallam) offered Salaah for eclipse, in Madeenah and the people saw it, Allah said: “And let those who oppose the Messenger’s (Muhammad’s) commandment (i.e. his Sunnah legal ways, orders, acts of worship, statements) (among the sects) beware, lest some Fitnah (disbelief, trials, afflictions, earthquakes, killing, overpowered by a tyrant) should befall them or a painful torment be inflicted on them”. [Noor 24:63]
In his Kitaab Majmoo’ Fataawa wa Maqaalaat Mutanawwi’ah li Samaahat, Shaykh ‘Abd al-‘Azeez ibn ‘Abd-Allaah ibn Baaz writes: “If it was prescribed to offer the eclipse prayer on the basis of astronomers’ reports, or when an eclipse occurs in another region that is only seen by the local inhabitants, then Rasoolullah (Sallallahu Alayhi wa Sallam) would have said so and would have guided his ummah to do that. Since he did not say that, rather he said the opposite, and he told his ummah to base their actions on actual sighting of the eclipse, we know from that that this prayer is only prescribed for those who see the eclipse and in whose land it occurs. And Allaah is the Source of strength”.