Question 158: When Salat al-Ayat (Namaz e Ayaat) becomes obligatory on us? Please, explain about the method of offering the prayer (Salat al-Ayãt: Prayers for Eclipse or Frightening Acts of God).
Answer 158: Namaz-e-Ayaat becomes obligatory due the following four things: Solar Eclipse Lunar Eclipse. The prayer becomes Wajib even if the moon or the sun are partially eclipsed, and even if they do not engender any fear.
Earthquake, every incident which is frightening for the common people, regardless whether it is heavenly like an unusual black, red or yellow whirlwind, extra-ordinary darkness, an outcry, a loud sound, a fire appearing in the sky, or the like, or earthly, according to the more cautious opinion, like caving in or the like. It shall not be of any importance if the incidents are not frightening (to the people in general), nor in case of the events which are frightening to a few people.
The existence of fear is not a condition in the solar and lunar eclipses or an earthquake. The Salat al-Ayat is obligatory in these incidents in all circumstances.
Apparently the criterion for the solar and lunar eclipses is the applicability of the name to the eclipses, even if has not been caused by the usual cause of the earth and moon siding with each other, and it is sufficient for the eclipse to have occurred due to some other planets or other reasons.
Of course, if the eclipse is so minor that it cannot be observed through the ordinary ocular perceptions, though it may be observed by some having extraordinary ocular perception or it could be discerned through artificial equipments, then apparently no heed is to be paid to it, even if the eclipse has taken place due to one of the two usual causes.
Similarly, no heed shall be paid to it if it disappears quickly as when some of the atmospheric rocks happen to pass in front of the son or moon causing disappearance of their light and this condition may end quickly.
The time for offering the prayer for the eclipse
It is from the beginning of the eclipse to the beginning of its end. Caution must, however, not be given up by hastening to offer the prayer before its end, so that if a person delays it upto its end, he shall offer the prayer neither with the intention (Niyyat) of offering it on its due time nor as a compensatory one, but only with the intention of seeking closeness (to Allah) absolutely.
As regards an earthquake or the like in whose case mostly the time is not enough for offering prayers, as the thud or loud sound represents the causes and not the times. Their occurrence entails the obligation for offering prayer. If a person fails to offer the prayer due to insubordination, it would continue to be an obligation on him throughout his life. All these prayers are to be offered with the intention (Niyyat) of being offered on due time (Ada).
The obligation is meant exclusively for those who happen to be present in the place of the incident, so that the prayer for such incidents is not obligatory on others.
Of course, if a place is adjacent to the place of incident in a way that it is considered to be a single place, according to the stronger opinion, that place shall also be linked with the place of incident.
The incident, its time and its duration is determined by knowledge and the evidence of two morally sound persons, rather by the evidence of a single morally sound person, according to the more cautious opinion, or, according to the more cautious opinion, also by the information of an astronomer whose information is trustworthy, though it is not according to the stronger opinion.
On whom Namaz-e-Ayaat is obligatory
This kind of prayer is obligatory on every Mukallaf (a sane, adult person bound to fulfil religious duties). According to the stronger opinion, the obligation drops in case of a menstruating woman or a woman having puerperal blood. In case of the prayers whose time is determined by Shari’ah, it is not obligatory on such women to offer compensatory prayers, nor are they obliged to offer other compensatory prayers. This rule applies to the women having abundant menstrual or puerperal blood. As regards others, there are detailed rules for them. Anyhow, caution is better.
If a person has no knowledge about the occurrence of an eclipse until its end, and the eclipse has also not been full, he shall not be required to offer a compensatory prayer.
If a person delays offering the prayer
In case, however, if a person has had knowledge about the occurrence of the eclipse, but he failed to offer the prayer, though out of forgetfulness, or the eclipse had been full, it shall be obligatory on him to offer a compensatory prayer.
In case of other incidents, if a person delays offering prayers deliberately or out of forgetfulness, it would be obligatory on him to offer compensatory prayer as long as he is alive.
If, however, a person does not attain knowledge about the eclipse until its time is over, it is more cautious for him to offer the required prayer, although its being non-obligatory is not devoid of force.
If certain people say that the sun or the moon has been eclipsed
If a person receives the information about the eclipse though a group of persons who are not morally sound, and he has no knowledge about their being truthful, but after the time is over, it transpires that their information was true, apparently it shall be treated as if the person was ignorant of it, and so it shall not be obligatory for him to offer compensatory prayer, provided that the eclipse has not been full.
The same rule shall apply if a person is informed about the eclipse by two witnesses whose moral soundness is not known to him, but after the time is over, their information is confirmed, though, according to the more cautious opinion, the compensatory prayer is to be offered particularly in the latter case; rather caution must not be given up.
Method of Offering Namaz-e-Ayaat
A Salãt al-Ayãt consists of two Rak’ats, each Rak’at having five Ruku’s, the total being ten Ruku’s.
Its details are that, as in a (daily) obligatory prayer, a person is required to recite Takbirat al-lhrãm along with the expression of intention (Niyyat), then recite Surat al- Hamd (Chapter 1 of the Quran) and some other Surah of the Quran, then should perform Ruku’ (kneel down), then raise his head, then again recite Surat al-Hamd and another Sureh of the Qur’àn, perform Ruku’ and raise his head then again recite as before until he has repeated it five times in the same order, then he should perform prostration twice after raising his head from the fifth Ruku’. Then he should stand up and repeat again what he had done before, then recite Tashahhud and Salãm.
It makes no difference if the person recites the same Surah in all times or different Surahs each time. It is also permissible to divide a single complete Surah in each Rak’at of the five Rak’ats, so that after the Takbirat al-Ihram, he may recite the Surat al-Hamd and then after it recite one verse or more or less, and then perform Ruku’, and then raise his head and then recite a part of the same Surah in continuance of what he had recited earlier, and then perform the Ruku’ until he has finished the Surah and then perform the fifth Ruku’, and then perform prostration, and then stand up and repeat what he had done in the first Rak’at, so that in each Rak’at he shall recite Surat al-Fatihah once and one complete different Surah.
It is permissible to recite in the second Rak’at the same Surah one had recited in the first Rak’at, or some other Surah. But is not permissible to recite a part of a Surah in the whole Rak’at, as also it is not permissible to recite the Surat al-Fãtihah more than once in the first Qiyãm, except when he has completed the Surah, for example, in the second or third Qiyãm, so that it is obligatory on him to recite Surat al-Fãtihah in the following Qiyãm after the Ruku’, and then another Surah or a part thereof. In the same way, it is obligatory to recite Surat al-Fatihah in its Qiyãm every time he performs Ruku’ after completing a Surah, contrary to the case when he performs the Ruku’ after reciting a part of a Surah, so that he shall recite the Surah from where he had left it, without reciting Surat al-Hamd again, as already explained.
Of course, if a person performs the fifth Ruku reciting a part of a Surah, and then performs prostration and then stands up for the second Rak’at, then according to the stronger opinion, it shall be obligatory to recite Surat al-Fâtihah and then recite the Surah from where he had left it. However, caution must not be given up by performing the fifth Ruku the end of the Surah and start a second Surah after reciting Surat al-Hamd.
Conditions: The conditions applicable in the Salat al-Ayãt are the same as in the daily obligatory prayers, etc., and all that has already been understood or will be understood later in respect of what is obligatory or recommended in Qiyãm, Qu’ud (sitting) Ruku’and prostration, as well as the rules of omission and doubt about the excess or reduction of Rak’ats, etc.
If a person has doubt about the number of Rak’at in two Rak’ats of the prayer, the prayer shall be void as is the case in every obligatory prayer having two Rak’ats, because it also belongs to the same category, although each of its Rak’ats has five Ruku’s.
If in such prayer, a Ruku’ is reduced or added deliberately or inadvertently, the prayer shall be rendered void, as it is a pillar of the prayer.
The same rule applies to the Qiyam linked with the Ruku’.
Doubt: If a person has doubt about its Ruku’, the person should perform the Ruku’, if its time has not passed. If it has passed, the person should continue his prayer. The prayer shall not be void unless he comes to realize about the reduction or excess of the Ruku’ his doubt relates to the number of the Rak’ats. For example, he may not know it is the fifth Ruku’ in which case it would be the last of the first Rak’at or the sixth Ruku’ in which case it would be the first Ruku ‘of the second Rak’at.
Recite Loudly: It is recommended in a Salat al-Ayat to recite loudly regardless whether it is offered at night or in the day, including even the prayer offered for solar eclipse, as well as the Takbir every time the person kneels to perform the Ruku’ or rises from it except when he rises from the fifth and tenth Ruku’s, when he says “Sami’ Allàhu liman hamidah” (who has been praised has heard), and then performs prostration.
Prolong it: It is also recommended in this type of prayer to prolong it, particularly in the prayer for solar eclipse, and recite long Surahs like Surah’ Yasin” (Chapter 36 of the Quran), al-Rum (Chapter 30 of the Quran), al-Kahf (chapter 18 of the Quran), or the like.
Complete the Surah in each Qiyam: It is also recommended to complete the Surah in each Qiyam, and sit on the mat for offering prayer reciting Du’â and Dhikr until the end of the eclipse, or repeat the prayers if he has already finished it before the end of the eclipse.
Recite Qunut in each second Qiyam: It is also recommended in Salat al-Ayat to recite Qunut in each second Qiyam after the recitation of a Surah of the Quran, so that in both the Rakats there would be a total of five Qunuts. It is also permissible to be content with two Qunuts, one before the fifth Ruku’ but offered with the intention (Niyyat) of hope (that it would be desirable to Allah), and the other before the tenth Ruku. It is also permissible to suffice with the last one.
Offer it with Jama’at (Congregational):It is recommended to offer the Salat al-Ayat with Jama’at, and the Imam is responsible particularly for the recitation of the Surahs for the followers as is the case with the daily obligatory prayers, but not for other acts and words.
It is more cautious for a person offering prayers with Jama’at to join the Jama’at before the first Rukat or in it in the first or second Rakat in order to maintain the order of his prayer.
For further information on this issue, please read the following answers:
Index: Rules Concerning Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adhã Prayers, answer 143.
Index: The Secret of Prayer / Sirr us-Salat, answer 589.
Index: Qualification of an Imam of congregational prayers, answer 021.
Related Link: Answer in Farsi Language.
 . Tawzih al-Masael of maraja (annotated by Imam Khomieni), Vol. 1, Pgs. 250, 400, 813-819, Issues: 1491-1508; Tahrir al-Wasilah of Imam Khomeini (ra), Chapter on Salat al-Ayãt (Prayers for Eclipse or Frightening Acts of God). The official website of the Office of Sayyid Sistani (ha), Namaz-e-Ayaat.