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PROPHETIC INVOCATIONS FOR RAIN / SALAT-AL-ISTISQA

Prophetic Invocations for Rain
&
Salāt al-Istisqā’(ستسقاء�ال صلاة إ ( Prayer for Rain
invocationُ) دَعاء) ‘duʿā

Introduction

This short paper will highlight how Allāh  always answered the prayers of His Prophet, our Master Muhammad s.
In particular, we will in sha’ Allah (“God-willing”) draw attention to how Allāh  answered his invocations when he
invoked for rain.
allāh’s responses to the prophet’s s duʿā’s for rain
A miracle when the Prophet s was a child
Jul’hama b. Urfata reports, ‘I came to Makka when there was a severe drought there. The Quraysh approached Abū
Tālib and complained about the multiple problems caused by the lack of rain. They requested him to come and pray for
rain. Abū Tālib appeared and with him was a small, handsome boy, [his beauty was such that] it was as if the sun shone
from his face; [accompanying Abu Talib] was the Prophet Muhammad s.
Abū Tālib instructed him to stand with his back to the Kaʿba. Thereafter, this small child proceeded to point
his fingers to the sky. It was only for a short time to pass, that miraculously clouds appeared and rain began to pour
profusely, flooding the valleys in and around Makka.
Upon seeing this miracle, Abū Talib remarked,
ُ َست ْسقي الغمام بوجهه
و أبيض ي
ِصمة لل أ ِ رامل
ِ ُمال اليتامي ع
ث
ُ يلوذ به الهلاّك من ال هاشم
فهم عنده في نعمة و فواضل
That gleaming face by which the rain is sought
The shelter for the orphans, the protector of the widows!
The afflicted from Banū Hāshim seek refuge in him
For because of him, they are in bliss and virtue!1
Drought in Madina
Once the people of Madīna were afflicted with a severe drought. Whilst the Prophet s was delivering the Khutba on a
Friday, a Bedouin stood up and said, “O, Allāh’s Messenger! Our possessions are being destroyed and the children are
hungry; Please invoke Allāh  for rain”. So the Prophet s raised his hands. At that time there was not a trace of cloud
in the sky. As soon as he lowered his hands, clouds gathered like mountains, and before he got down from the pulpit,
rain began to fall on the beard of the Prophet s. It rained that day, the next day, the third day, the fourth day till the
next Friday.
1 Al-Khasā’is al-Nabawiyya al-Kubrā, Imām al-Jalāl al-Dīn al-Suyūtī, al-Maktaba al-Qayyima, Cairo, pg. 201.
A week later at the Friday prayers, the same Bedouin or another man stood up and said, “O Allāh’s Messenger!
The houses have collapsed, our possessions and livestock have been drowned; Please invoke Allāh  to protect us”. So
the Prophet s raised both his hands and said, “O Allāh ! [Descend the rain] around us and not on us!”. So, in whatever
direction he pointed with his hands, the clouds dispersed and cleared away, and al-Madīna’s sky became clear. The
valley of Qanat remained flooded, for one month. None came from outside but talked about the abundant rain.2
When the Prophet Muhammad s left this world, the pious Muslims still prayed to Allāh  for rain via his wasīla. This
was done by invoking his blessed name or the pious men of Allāh  who had association with him.
Drought during the reign of the caliph, ʿUmar
Hāfiz Ibn Abī Shayba reports with his chain: ‘Mālik al-Dār, who was the food minister for Sayyiduna ʿUmar, reports that
during ʿUmar’s caliphate, a drought inflicted the people. One person (Bilāl ibn Hārith al-Muzanī) went to the resting
place of the Prophet s and said,
أمتك فانهم قد هلكوا
يا رسول الله! استسق ل�
‘O Messenger of Allāh! Please pray for rain for the sake of your Community, because they are being destroyed [as
a result of the drought].’
The Prophet s appeared in the dream of this person and said, ‘Go to ʿUmar; offer my salutations to him and tell him
that undoubtedly rain will descend upon you.’3
By the means of al-ʿAbbās
Imām al-Bukhārī reports from Anas ibn Mālik that: When there was a drought, Sayyiduna ʿUmar sought rain through
the wasīla of al-ʿAbbās ibn ʿAbd al-Muttalib, the Prophet’s s uncle. He remarked,
اللهم انا كنا نتوسل اليك بنبينا s فتسقينا و انا نتوسل اليك بعم نبينا فاسقنا قال فيسقون
O Allāh! We used to seek the wasīla of your Prophet and you would provide rain. And we [now] seek the wasīla
of the uncle of our Prophet so please provide rain.’ The reporter says: ‘They were provided with rain.’4
what is istisqā’?
The scholars all agree that seeking rain from Allāh  is Sunna, something which is called Istisqā’. The only dispute is
whether there is a specific prayer for this or not (Salāt al-Istisqā’). Imām Abū Hanīfa is of the opinion that there is no
specific prayer. Rather, like the above episodes suggest, praying for rain should be ideally done via seeking forgiveness
and supplicating to Allāh devoutly.
The other great Imāms (as well as Imām Abū Hanīfa’s disciples Imām Abū Yūsuf and Muhammad) state there
is a specific salāh that is performed for rain, referring to Salāt al-Istisqā’. Imām Mālik deems this as Sunna whereas
Imām Ahmad and Imām al-Shāfi’ī go one step further and deem it Sunna Mu’akkada. Over seventeen Companions have
reported this type of salāh.
According to these scholars, this salāh is a special feature of this Community and can be traced back to the sixth
year of Hijrah. In short, it is a simple salāh of two units, wherein the Imām leads the prayer of a Muslim congregation.
2 Sahīh al-Bukhārī, Kitāb al-Jumu’a. 3 Musannaf ibn Abī Shayba. Cited in A Commentary of Sūrah Fātiha based on Tibyān al-Qur’ān p. 134). Allāma Ghulām Rasūl Sa‘idī. Translated by Dr.
Ather Hussain al-Azhari, HSBT Publications, Birmingham, UK, 2009.
4 Sahīh al-Bukhārī, Kitāb al-Jumu’a.
There is no adhan or iqāmah and the Imām will recite aloud in both units. As many people as possible are asked to
come. The Imām delivers a Khutba at the end of the prayer. During this Khutba, the Imām will reverse his cloak (the
congregants will not). Then the Imām will stand and recite a collective duʿā, facing the qiblah with his hands raised. The
Muslims will remain seated and will say amīn to his supplications.
Muslims are requested to appear in their humblest of clothing and to avoid pride in any shape or form. Moreover,
they are encouraged to donate Sadaqa, seek forgiveness from Allāh  (istighfār) in abundance before and after the
prayer.
Reversing of the cloak
Imām Abū Hanīfa does not advocate this practice, as he believes that Salāt al-Istisqā’ is a du’ā and normally in du’ā’s, the
cloak is not turned. The other Imāms – Imām Mālik, Imām Abū Yūsuf, Imām al-Shāfi’i and Imām Ahmad – do support
this as they see it is an action of the Prophet s.
The method is that from behind the back, the Imām holds the left corner of the cloak with the right hand and
from the back, he holds the right corner of the cloak with his left hand. He lifts his hands over his back and as he does
so, the cloak will be reversed. Symbolically speaking, this is done as if one is asking Allāh  to change and reverse their
conditions.
conclusion
Undoubtedly, Allāh  always responded to the supplications of His beloved Messenger s and his request for rain was
no different. Salāt al-Istisqā’ itself teaches us many lessons. It shows our dependance on Allāh ; that no single drop
of water falls from the sky except with His permission. If we want rain, it is Him we turn to. Certainly, it shows the
importance of salāh. Specifically, it shows that for every situation there is a salāh. We have prayers for the day and
prayers for the night. We have a prayer when there is a solar eclipse. We have a prayer for rain. We have a prayer when
we are in the state of fear. We have a prayer for help on an important decision.
Finally, the request for rain from Allāh  not only reminds us of His favour upon us, but also gives us an
opportunity to reflect on our own spiritual states. In Sūrah Nūh, Allāh  recalls what the Community of Nūh were told
by him (peace be upon him),
ًا
فقلت استغفروا ربكم انه كان غفارا يرسل السماء عليكم مدرار
I said [to them]: Seek forgiveness from your Lord: ‘Verily He is oft-forgiving. He will send you rain in abundance.’
(71:9-10).

In other words, if you seek forgiveness, Allāh  will undoubtedly send rain. Hardship ensues when people have turned
away from Allāh .

Dr. Hafiz Ather Hussain al-Azhari
@hafiz_ather
BA Principles of Theology, al-Azhar University, Cairo, Egypt.
MA Arabic and Islamic Studies, Dar al-Ulum Muhammadia Ghawsia, Bhera, Pakistan.
BA Political Science, MPhil Theology & PhD Theology, University of Birmingham.

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