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Prayer for rain (salat al-istisqa)

By: Hojjat al-Islam Muhsin Qaraati
When divine mercy (rain) is withheld, springs and canals dry up and water scarcity takes place, a prayer is offered for divine mercy and rain. This prayer is called salat al-istisqa or prayer for rain.
This is also a lesson in monotheism, and paying attention to the divine power and mercy, because at the time of draught, famine and water scarcity, nobody can be of help. It is only God who can shower His mercy on the people by sending the dark clouds. God says:


Say, Tell me, should your water sink down {into the ground}, who will bring you running water?[1][618]
The scarcity of water and lack of rain in a place is a sign of divine wrath and sometimes due to the sins committed by the people in society. So, attention to God, weeping, beseeching, repenting with humility might be accepted by God and the scarcity of water removed. The prayer for rain is meant to earn the mercy of God.

Reason behind the absence of rain
As indicated above, sometimes, the absence of rain is the result of the sins of people and is a sign of divine wrath and chastisement.
The Messenger of Allah (S) has said: When God is displeased with a community and does not bring chastisement to it, inflation will occur and the lifespan will become shorter; traders will not profit and trees will not bear fruit; rivers will not be full of water and rain will be withheld from people; wickedness will become rampant.[1][619]
In another hadith, Imam as-Sadiq (a) has said: When the rulers and judges practice injustice, rain will not come down from the sky.[1][620]
According to hadiths, besides those mentioned already, prevalence of sins, denial of blessings, obstruction of rights, hoarding, oppression and deception, abandonment of the enjoining of good and the forbidding of evil, non-payment of zakat, are sometimes the reason for the absence of rain.[1][621]
It is narrated in a hadith that Hadhrat Sulayman (a) along with his companions was going out in order to pray for rain. He came across an ant that lifted one of its feet toward the sky, pleading: O God! We are Your weak creatures and we are not independent of Your provision. So, on account of the sins of the Children of Adam, do not bring us to perdition.
Hadhrat Sulayman (a) said to his companions: Go back! Indeed, because of the supplication of others, you shall be satiated![1][622]
So, one must not be arrogant. Sometimes, because of the request of an ant, God will send down His mercy to His servants. At times, He hears the supplication of even an unbeliever, such as Pharaoh, and shower abundant rain. It is stated in a hadith from Imam as-Sadiq (a) that the companions of Pharaoh talked about the lowering of water level of the Nile River in his presence, expressing that This will end in our perdition.
Pharaoh asked them to return that day. When the night arrived, he went to the middle of the Nile and raised his hands toward the sky and said: O God! You are aware that I know that except You, no one can bring down water. So, give water to us. The following morning, the Nile River was overflowing with water.[1][623]


They saw security and got insecure.
I tried to befriend them but they turned inimical to Me.
How can We who nurtured the enemy as such
forget the friends?[1][624]

Manner of performing the prayer for rain
Like Id prayer, this prayer consists of two rakahs and is offered in congregation. The first rakah has five qunuts while the second rakah has four qunuts.
In the qunuts, any supplication may be recited but it is better if the supplication to be recited contains something about request for rain, and before every supplication salawat to the Prophet and his progeny (a) should be offered. It is recommended {mustahabb} to recite aloud Surah al-Hamd and another surah.
Since this prayer is for drawing the mercy of the Lord, there are recommended acts {mustahabbat} which demonstrate the, weakness and intense need of the servants of God and attract divine mercy.
Among these acts are the following: The people must fast for three days and go to the open field on the third day and pray there.
They must gather together in an open space.
They must be barefooted.
They must bring the pulpit {minbar} along with them;
They must let callers to prayer {muadhdhin} accompany them.
They must also bring with them the aged, their children and four-footed animals.
They must separate the children from their mothers so as to intensify the crying and wailing.
They should not let the unbelievers with them go outside.
The imam and the people must go to the open space with utmost humility and seriousness and choose a clean place for the performance of prayer.[1][625]
When the prayer is finished, the imam has to mount the pulpit, and hang his cloak, or place it on his back or shoulder. He has to recite takbir a hundred times aloud. Facing the people on the right, he has to recite subhan Allah {glory be to Allah} a hundred times aloud. Then, facing the people on the left, he has to recite la ilaha illallah {there is no god but Allah} a hundred times aloud. There is nothing wrong if the people repeat these slogans aloud to win divine mercy and forgiveness.
Thereafter, the imam and the people have to raise their hands in supplication, fervently pray, beseech, and implore. The imam of the congregation has to deliver a sermon and request God for rain. It is better for him to recite the sermons transmitted from the Infallibles (a) such as those transmitted from Hadhrat Amir (Ali)[1][626] (a) and Imam as-Sajjad (a).[1][627]

Historical precedence of the prayer for rain
As indicated in historical accounts, there has been prayer for rain during the periods of the prophets (a), an example of which was the account about Hadhrat Sulayman (a) mentioned earlier.
The transmitted supplications and hadiths about the life conduct {sirah} of the Messenger of Allah (S) in offering prayer for rain, the sermons related to this prayer narrated from the Commander of the Faithful (a), and the supplication of Imam as-Sajjad (a) bespeak of the fact that this tradition {sunnah} was practiced in the past.[1][628]
In history, some distinguished ulama have also offered this prayer and their request for rain has been granted by Allah. Of course, this prayer is crucial because if the request for rain is not granted by God and it does not rain, it will embarrass the worshippers for not being heard by God. For this reason, to perform this prayer requires courage and sacrifice to the extent of risking ones honor.
One of the most famous prayers for rain in our contemporary history was the prayer of Ayatullah al-Uzma Sayyid Muhammad Taqi Khwansari (may Allah be pleased with him).
It has been recorded that in 1363 AH (1944), the same year when the Allied Forces had occupied Iran after World War II, there was no rain in Qum. The gardens and fields dried up, and draught and famine were threatening the people of Qum.
The abovementioned religious authority {marja at-taqlid} went to the open fields in the suburbs of Qum for two successive days, in order to pray for rain. Although this move was subjected to the insults of those who were denying spiritual and unseen affairs, on the second day, there was such a heavy downpour that the rivulets were overflowing. This was the effect of the lofty spirit of that man of God.[1][629]

Other prayers
For the purpose of establishing relationship between God and His servant, many prayers have been recommended, among which are the following:
Salat al-Ghufaylah;
Salat al-Hajat;
Salat al-Layl ad-Dafan (prayer on the first night of burial of a dead Muslim);
Prayer on the first day of the month; and
Many other prayers which are discussed in the books on supplications and those who are interested may refer to those books.
I shall end up this writing with the hope that it will serve as a provision in the hereafter and a useful venture for me and others.

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