By Dr. Salih Al-Fawzan
Istisqa’ prayer is a means of seeking rain from Allah, Exalted be He, during times of drought. That is, people are naturally disposed to ask help from the One Who is able to support them; Allah Alone.
This prayer was known among the previous nations. It is regarded also as one of the acts of the prophets (peace be upon them all). Allah, Exalted be He, says:
“And [recall] when Moses prayed for water for his people…” (Quran: Al-Baqarah: 60)
Similarly, Prophet Muhammad (Allah bless him and grant him peace) performed Prayer for Rain for his people many times, and in many ways. In addition, Muslim scholars unanimously agree on the legality of such an act.
When to perform Salat al-Istisqa’ (prayer for rain)?
The Prayer for Rain is ordained during times of drought and times when rain fails, which causes harm to people. Then there is no way out except by supplicating their Lord and asking Him for water (rain).
People may supplicate Allah in various ways. For instance, people may supplicate Allah in Prayer, whether in congregation or alone. They may also supplicate Him by invoking Him during the sermon of the Jumu’ah (Friday) Prayer, in which the imam may invoke Allah, and Muslims say, “Ameen”.
Furthermore, it may be by invoking Allah after performing prayers, or by supplicating Him in seclusions with neither prayer nor sermon. All such acts are related about the Prophet (Allah bless him and grant him peace).
The legal ruling concerning Salat al-Istisqa’
The Prayer for Rain is regarded as a stressed Sunnah. There are many hadiths in support of this practice. ‘Abdullah Ibn Zayd (may Allah be pleased with him) said:
“The Prophet (Allah bless him and grant him peace) went out to invoke Allah for rain. He faced the qiblah invoking Allah. Then he traversed his cloak and performed two rak’ahs and recited the Quran aloud in them” (Al-Bukhari and Muslim)
How to perform Salat al-Istisqa’?
The Prayer for Rain is similar to that of the Feast concerning its relevant rulings and the place where it is performed. That is, it is viewed desirable to perform it in the place where the Feast (‘id) Prayer is performed; outside the mosque.
Moreover, its rulings and practices are the same as those of the Feast Prayer. Ibn ‘Abbas (may Allah be pleased with him) narrated:
“The Prophet (Allah bless him and grant him peace) performed two rak’ahs as he does in the Feast (Prayer).
At-Tirmidhi says that this is a hasan (good) and sahih (authentic) hadith, and AI Hakim and others view it as a sahih (authentic) hadith, as well.
People are to perform it in a vast spacious place, away from the place of residence, as the Prophet (Allah bless him and grant him peace) did not perform it except in the desert.
This is because performing it in such a place is a means of showing much need to Allah, Exalted be He.
Recommended acts before performing Salat al-Istisqa’
When the imam wants to proceed to perform the Prayer for Rain, he should start with reminding people of what may soften their hearts by mentioning Allah’s reward and punishment.
They should also be commanded to turn to Allah in repentance and return rights to whom they are due. This is because sins are amongst the main reasons that cause rain and blessings to be withheld.
On the other side, repentance and asking Allah for forgiveness are reasons for Allah’s answering of supplication. Allah, Exalted be He, says:
“And if only the people of the cities had believed and feared Allah, We would have opened [i.e. bestowed] upon them blessings from the heaven and the earth; but they denied [the messengers], so We seized them for what they were earning” (Quran: Al-A’raf:96)
Furthermore, the imam should command people to give charity to the poor and needy, as this is regarded as a cause for sending Allah’s mercy.
After that, he is to set for them a certain day, at which they are to come out and be prepared for such an honorable occasion, and according to that which best suits it as an act of the Sunnah.
At that date, people are to go out to the place of prayer showing humbleness, submissiveness and neediness of Allah, Exalted be He, as Ibn ‘Abbas (may Allah be pleased with him) said:
“Allah’s Messenger (Allah bless him and grant him peace) went out to perform the Prayer for Rain showing humility humbleness, and submissiveness and supplicating (Allah).” (At-Tirmidhi said that this is a hasan, sahih (good, authentic) hadith.)
No Muslim should stay behind (from going out) while able, even boys and women, whose presence does not cause temptation, are to go out to perform it.
The legal rulings concerning the sermon
Then, the imam is to lead people performing two rak’ahs, as mentioned before. After doing so, he is to deliver one sermon. However, some scholars view that the imam is to deliver two sermons. Both opinions are permissible, but the soundest opinion is to deliver one sermon, according to the most preponderant legal proof.
In most cases, the Prophet (Allah bless him and grant him peace) delivered the sermon after performing the Prayer for Rain, and Muslims acted according to this. However, it is related that the Prophet (Allah bless him and grant him peace) delivered the sermon before performing the prayer. This is the view of some scholars, but the first view (delivering the sermon after performing prayer) is more preponderant; and Allah knows best.
In the sermon of asking for rain, the imam should ask for Allah’s forgiveness as well as recite the verses that command asking for forgiveness, in abundance, as this is considered a cause for sending rain.
Etiquette of Supplication
Moreover, the imam should supplicate Allah, Exalted be He, with much invocation, asking for rain. When supplicating Allah, the imam should raise his hands, as the Prophet (Allah bless him and grant him peace) used to raise his hands when invoking Allah in the Prayer for Rain, so much that the whiteness of his armpits became visible.
The imam should also confer blessings upon the Prophet (Allah bless him and grant him peace), as this is a cause for (Allah) answering his supplication. He may invoke Allah with the supplication related about the Prophet (Allah bless him and grant him peace) in such situations, as a means of following him. In this regard, Allah, Exalted be He, says:
“There has certainty been for you in the Messenger of Allah an Excellent pattern for anyone whose hope is in Allah and the Last Day…” (Quran: AI-Ahzab: 21)
It is viewed as an act of the Sunnah (Prophetic Tradition) to face the qiblah (direction of prayer) at the end of supplication, and to traverse one’s clothes, as related in the Two Sahihs that the Prophet turned his back toward the people and faced the qiblah asking Allah (for rain). Then he traversed his cloak.
The wisdom behind this – Allah knows best – is that it is like a good omen that the present hard condition may turn into prosperity and the sending of rain. People should also follow the imam and traverse their clothes, as Imam Ahmad related,
“..the people followed him (the Prophet) and traversed their clothes”
This would be until Allah sends down rain; otherwise, Muslims should repeat asking for rain, as long as there is a need for that.
Recommended supplications to make when it rains
It is considered an act of the Sunnah (Prophetic Tradition) that when rain starts to fall, one is to stand and receive some of it and say:
“O Allah! Let it be a strong fruitful rain,” and say, “The rain is due to the Favor and Mercy of Allah.”
However, when rain falls heavily and there is fear that it might cause harm, one should say as the Prophet (Allah bless him and grant him peace) used to say:
“O Allah! (Let the rain be) around us, not on us. O Allah! (Let the rain be) on the plateaus, on the mountains, on the hills, on the hillocks, in the valleys, and on the places where trees grow.” (Al-Bukhari and Muslim)
The article is an excerpt from the author’s book “A Summary of Islamic Jurisprudence” with some modifications.
Dr. Salih Al-Fawzan is a Professor of Islamic Jurisprudence, Member of the Board of Senior Ulema & Member of the Permanent Committee for Fatwa and Research.