By Hezne Abu Hasan
On the 21st of August 2017 in the United States, by the will of Allah, the moon will completely envelope the majestic sun in a total solar eclipse. Millions across the country will witness this celestial event, where daytime will be replaced by darkness, with only the sun’s corona shimmering in the darkened sky.
Many are preparing themselves for this auspicious event, equipping themselves with special glasses and cameras. Social media timelines and feeds will soon be flooded with filtered and edited photos of the eclipse. And then the glasses go back into the chest, until the next eclipse, maybe.
But eclipses are meant for much more than that. Allah never creates anything without a purpose, and the believer always reflects. Fortunately, the total solar eclipse is the perfect pondering point.
The sun is so magnificent, so bright and ever the abiding servant; rises and sets without fail. But come Monday, albeit only for a few minutes, we will not be able to count on the sun’s light to be there. It is not the norm; the balance of things will be thrown. What if this is what qiyaamah looks like; that a total eclipse serves as a reminder of the Hour?
“When the sun is wrapped up in darkness.” [At Takwir 81:1]
“And the moon darkens, and the sun and the moon are joined.” [Al Qiyamah 75:8-9]
The Prophet Muhammad ﷺ had witnessed a solar eclipse in his lifetime and he was in such an agitated state, thinking the Hour had begun. He feared Allah and hastened to prayer. He told the people that the eclipse was one of the signs of Allah, with which Allah makes His slaves afraid so that they may turn back to Him.
The sahabah (may Allah be pleased with them) used to stand to pray salat-ul-kusuf, the eclipse prayer because they believed that if indeed the Hour had come, they would not then be counted negligent of their prayer, and if this eclipse was nothing to do with the Hour, then they would not lose anything by praying, for they would have earned a great reward.
The Prophet ﷺ also dispelled the jahiliyyah thinking that the sun and the moon bereaved the passing of his son, Ibrahim by eclipsing. Imam al-Bukhari and Muslim narrated that Ibn Mas’ood al-Ansari said: “The sun was eclipsed the day Ibrahim the son of the Messenger of Allah ﷺ died, and the people said, ‘the sun is eclipsed because of the death of Ibrahim.’ The Messenger of Allah ﷺ 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.’”
The eclipse prayer begins the moment the eclipse begins and ends once it ends. If one does not know about it, then there is no need to pray as the reason for it is not there. Pray in the congregation as that was the way Prophet Muhammad ﷺ used to do it, although praying solo like any other nafl prayer is permissible. Call upon Allah, seek His forgiveness, give charity, do good in multiple ways.
“And of His signs are the night and day and the sun and the 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]
So grab the special glasses and take pictures. Marvel at the scientific phenomenon and smile in wonderment because the brain can make sense of it and you are not caught off-guard in the dark. But also, remember Him. The sun and the moon are two of His many creations and it is only in His perfect ability that He removes the darkness and restores the light, righting the balance of things. If only we would reflect and remember.