More than 1500 Friday attendees at the Dar Al-Hijrah mosque in Falls Church, Va., gathered for a second group prayer after the obligatory Jumah prayer on July 20, 2012. At 12:15 p.m., Sheikh Shaker Elsayed led a “rain prayer” at the mosque, to benefit those in drought-plagued areas in central and midwest United States. This prayer is known in Islam as Salatul Istisqa and the Prophet Muhammad Sallallahu ‘alyhi wa sallam performed it during times of drought.
Johari Abdul-Malik, outreach director at Dar Al-Hijrah, told the Falls Church Patch that Dar Al-Hijrah is joining other religious institutions in praying for rain in countries affected by drought.
Anyone living in the mid-Atlantic and upper-east coast regions of the U.S. can confirm that the summer of 2012 has had unusual weather marked by constant scattered thunderstorms and the occasional severe storm. However, as of mid-July, the central and midwest U.S. is parched by contrast.
“Dryness and drought, exacerbated by above-normal temperatures, have been increasing both in extent and intensity across much of the central and northern U.S.,” the National Weather Service Climate Prediction Center wrote on its website. “Based upon the July 10 U.S. Drought Monitor, nearly 61% of the contiguous U.S. was in drought.”
Dar Al-Hijrah’s prayer focused more closely on wildfires in the west and southwest states.
“When we got the call from CAIR that one third of the land was burning in the west, it was a no-brainer [to make Salatul Istisqa],” Abdul-Malik said. “The reason this is the best form of help is because people are not able to put out these fires. So it is best to ask Allah Subhanahu wa ta’aala.”
The drought is mainly being experienced in the central, midwest, deep south, and southeastern states. The drought is negatively affecting midwestern agriculture, mainly corn and soybean crops. The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) asked mosques nationwide to pray Salatul Istisqa during Friday’s congregational prayer.
“We believe in the power of prayer, through which Americans of all faiths can provide a spiritual component to help relieve the nation from this crippling drought,” CAIR National Executive Director Nihad Awad said in a press release.
Istisqa is an Arabic word which means “to ask or pray to Allah for water.” In this prayer, the imam prays, with the followers, two rak’at during any time. In the first rak’ah, the imam recites Surah al-A’la specifically after reciting Surah al-Fatihah to begin the prayer, and in the second rak’ah, the imam reads Surah al-Ghashiyah after al-Fatihah. A khutbah, or sermon, is given either before or after the prayer.
As soon as the khutbah is finished, the people present should turn their outer garments around, each placing its left side on his right side and its right side on his left, face the qiblah, supplicate to Allah and raise their hands while doing so. One may also make a supplication for rain without it being Friday and regardless of whether or not the prayer takes place inside or outside the mosque. It is commendable to repent before Salatul Istisqa.
Salatul Istisqa is a fairly uncommon prayer in the D.C. area, but Abdul-Malik stressed it’s importance.
“In the past, there have been national days of prayer for disasters and crises, but this is the first time for rain that I know of,” he said. The mosque is open to holding such a prayer again. “If the need requires it, of course.”