Next Monday, August 21st, there will be a solar eclipse. This is when the physical disc of the moon blocks and eclipses the physical disc of the sun [as opposed to the shadow of the earth covering the moon during a lunar eclipse]. The eclipse will start approximately around 8:45AM, peak at 11:25AM, and end by 2:05PM1.
“Wow, that’s great! What do you want me to do? Buy a telescope?” Please. If you value your eyesight, do not buy a telescope. You can find safety tips on NASA’s website.
Rather, we should be doing whatever our Prophet Muḥammad, The Guide of Humanity, ﷺ did. So what did he ﷺ teach us to do? First thing’s first: rush to prayer. We should try to be in congregation at our local Masjid for the Prayer of the Solar Eclipse. Ideally, the Imām would lead the people in 2 very long units of silent [or audible] prayer. If you’re unable to pray in congregation, then try to pray 2 units on your own, and try to make them as long as possible. The prayer should ideally last the duration of the eclipse. If the eclipse hasn’t ended by the time the prayer is over, proceed to make duʿāʾ and ask God ﷻ until the eclipse finishes.
This should also be a time of fear and reflection. Our Beloved Prophet ﷺ had a heightened state of fear of Allāh ﷻ during an eclipse2. He ﷺ also reminded us that the sun and the moon are creations and indicators of God ﷻ, so when we see them [especially in such an intense state], we should remember Allāh and seek His Forgiveness3. The Imām might find it suitable to remind people of these things after the prayer is completed.
We may be tempted to go outside and stare [with polarized glasses] at the eclipse, and that makes sense since this is a very rare sight. However, when it first starts, take a moment to [safely] look at it, and then act like the companion ʿAbd al-Raḥmān ibn Samurah [rḍ] who was practicing archery when he noticed the eclipse, and then decided to run to The Prophet ﷺ to see how he ﷺ would act during such a situation4. If you’re worried about “missing it,” don’t worry. Here in California, we’ll only be able to see a partial eclipse anyways. And there will ALWAYS be a ton of pictures and videos online, especially from NASA.
And let’s not forget the honor and rank given to our Prophet ﷺ during this incident. This was one of those special times that God ﷻ Chose to give His Beloved Messenger ﷺ a glimpse of the Hereafter5. Interestingly enough, when we read those narrations, The Prophet Muḥammad ﷺ said that he saw Heaven and tried to grab a cluster of grapes, and also saw The Fire. It is as if Allāh ﷻ opened up a literal portal into the Heavenly dimension for His Prophet ﷺ to enter. Yet, our Dear Messenger ﷺ again chose to stay with us, his ummah, hoping to continue guiding us and teaching us — because he ﷺ loves us and wants to meet us safe and sound in Paradise—, despite the endless bounties awaiting him ﷺ on the other side.
At the same time, this was an event of loss for our Prophet ﷺ. The death of his dear son, Ibrāhīm [rḍ], coincided with the eclipse. Because of that, some people felt reassured of their pagan belief that eclipses were a cosmic sign of the birth and death of important people. However, our Prophet ﷺ taught us that this is not the case. And as we mentioned before, he ﷺ said that they are simply indicators towards God. So when you see them, remember God. And during the eclipse, continue to pray until the eclipse ends6. Again, look at how much our Beloved Prophet ﷺ chose to care for us. He ﷺ didn’t isolate himself at this difficult moment. Rather, he ﷺ still stayed amongst his companions [rḍ] to teach them, advise them, and guide them to what Pleases Allāh ﷻ. What a Messenger we have, ﷺ!
We have a great opportunity before us to [briefly] witness a spectacular sight from God ﷻ, and then follow a rare sunnah of our Prophet ﷺ.