Not Informing of Eclipses Before they Occur

Shaykh Muhammad bin Saalih al-Uthaymeen rahimahullaah was asked:

Q: Solar and lunar eclipses are a sign from the signs of Allaah the Most High for the purpose of causing fear to the servants, and to remind them of Allaah the Mighty and Majestic, so that they may avoid the sins that they fall into day and night.

However astronomers now say: that it is [merely] a natural occurrence which happens in a particular way – once a year or more. So how then; is it supposed to cause fear?

They also announce when it is going to occur in newspapers and other than that. Therefore, when it actually occurs people are not fearful, nor do they take heed, rather they are unaffected. What do you say regarding this? And how can this sign be a cause for fear?

A: This sign causes fear to those whose faith in Allaah the Mighty and Majestic and [whose faith] in that which the Messenger of Allaah sallAllaahu alaihi wa sallam said is complete.

There are two reasons for solar & lunar eclipses occurring:

(i) A natural reason: which can be apprehended by a person’s senses and by [astronomical] calculations. This is something known by astronomers; they have knowledge of it and can calculate it [precisely] to the minute.

(ii) A legislated reason: which is not known except by way of revelation. And it is that Allaah decrees this to strike fear into the servants.

So we ask: ‘Who decreed for this natural reason to happen so that the lunar and solar eclipses occur?’ Indeed it is Allaah.

Why [did He do so]? So that the people may be fearful and take precaution. This is why the Prophet sallAllaahu alaihi wa sallam went out in a state of fear[1] when he witnessed the solar eclipse, and [by mistake, took hold of the outer garment of a woman] till he was given his own garment[2]. And he was dragging his garment [till he entered the mosque][3]. The people also became frightened. He then commanded someone to call for the prayer to be prayed in congregation[4]. The Muslims gathered in one mosque supplicating to Allaah the Mighty and Majestic and turning to Him.

Therefore, the true believer is fearful. As for the one who’s mind is desensitized, or whose faith is weak, then he does not pay any attention to this [eclipse].

As for informing people of it before it actually occurs, then I see that it is not befitting that they should be informed of it. Because when people know in advance, they prepare for it as if it was a prayer that one looks forward to, just like they prepare for the Eid prayer, and it happens while they are ready for it, and not frightened. However, if it happens suddenly, then there will be terror and fear which does not occur to the one who has [prior] knowledge of it.

I will give you a practical example. If you went down a step, and you were ready, and you knew that there was a step below you – would you be affected? [No, you would not].

However, if you were oblivious and did not know [that there was a step], then you took the step [and tripped], it would have an effect upon your heart, and an effect upon you.

Due to this; I hope that they [the eclipses] are not mentioned and not spread amongst the people. Even if it was mentioned in the papers, don’t spread it between the people. Leave off [telling] the people until it occurs and they are not ready or prepared for it – so that it has a greater effect upon their souls.

[See ‘Majmoo` Fataawaa‘ of Shaykh Muhammad bin Saalih al-`Uthaymeen rahimahullaah; vol. 16 pp. 298-300]

He rahimahullaah was also asked:

Q: Is it better to inform people of the time of an eclipse – so that they may prepare [for it]?

A: It is better – in my opinion – that they do not inform [each other]; because if the eclipse were to occur unexpectedly then it would have a greater effect upon the souls.

Because of this we find that when people came to know of the perceptible reason for the eclipse, and they knew of it before it occurred – its effect became weaker upon the souls of the people.

And due to this, before the people came to know of these affairs, they would become extremely frightened if there was an eclipse; they would weep and go out to the mosques, scared and afraid. And Allaah’s aid is sought.

[See: ‘Majmoo` Fataawaa’ of Shaykh Muhammad bin Saalih al-`Uthaymeen rahimahullaah; vol. 16 pp. 303]

[1] Agreed upon. Reported by al-Bukhaaree no. 1059; & Muslim no. 906.

[2] Reported by Muslim no. 906.

[3] Reported by al-Bukhaaree no. 1040

[4] Agreed upon. Reported by al-Bukhaaree no. 1045; & Muslim no. 910.

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