Rafed English

Hadith of Istisqa’

We learn from history (books) that a very extreme dearth and barrenness occurred to the land during caliphate of Umar, in the Ramadah273 Year, Ka’b didn’t miss this chance without exploiting it as a means for directing to Islam one of his fierce stabs. So he said to Umar: When the Children of Israel were afflicted with such a calamity, they would seek water (from God) through the prophets’ ismah (infallibility). Hence many narrations were reported stating that Umar said: This is the uncle of the Messenger of Allah, and full brother of his father, and doyen of Banu Hashim: al-Abbas. Then they betook themselves to him and sought water. Anas274 said that the words uttered by Umar in this istisqa’: (O God) We used to implore You with our Prophet and You give us water, and now we beseech You with the uncle of our Prophet, and You will give us water.

Undoubtedly the purpose intended by this Jew through these words was only to mislead Umar regarding the first foundation upon which Islam was established, that is the sincere monotheism, so as to make him fall into the abyss of solicitation (tawussul) which means polytheism in itself. Then on falling of Umar into this abyss and his being an example to follow, with his act turning to be a sunnah having an influential impact on all Muslims in respect of the Islamic doctrine throughout ages and generations, the fact entailing demolition of the firm basis of the Din. But Umar, who had that insight and knowledge of religion, took notice of the intrigue and did not fall in the trap set by this impostor. So he never sought water through imploring anyone even the Prophet (S), satisfying himself with istighfar (asking for forgiveness).

Abu Bakr Abu al-Dunya in his book al-Matar, and the book Mujabi al-da’wah on the authority of Khuwat ibn Jubayr, said: Umar went out for seeking water (from God). He performed two-rak’ah prayer and said (in supplication): O God, we ask You to pardon and give us water. Before departing his place it started to raining.

Al-Shi’bi said: Umar went out for istisqa’ with people, but he sufficed only with asking forgiveness till coming back. People began to inquire: O Amir al-Mu’minin, but you haven’t implored God to provide us with water? He said: I asked for rain through the sky majadih275 (extreme parts, roots) from which rain is sought to come down. Then he cited the verse: “...Seek ye the forgiveness of your Lord! Verily He is the Most-Forgiving. He will send (down) upon you the cloud raining in torrents.” Then he cited: “And that Seek ye the forgiveness of your Lord, then turn ye unto Him repentant.” (11:3)276

Al-Shi’bi says: He (Umar) went out for asking God to send down rainwater. Then he ascended the minbar (pulpit) and cited the following verses: “Seek ye the forgiveness of your Lord! Verily He is the Most-Forgiving,” and the verse: “And that Seek ye the forgiveness of your Lord, then turn ye unto Him repentant.” As he descended (from minbar), he was asked: O Amir al-Mu’minin, what prevented you from seeking rainwater? He answered: I asked for rain through the sky majadih from which water drops are coming down.

Abd Allah ibn Dinar al-Aslami reported from his father as saying: When Umar decided to ask for rainwater and go out with people, he wrote letters to his deputies to go out on so and so day, and beg their Lord asking Him to deliver them from this misfortune. Then he went out on that determined day putting on the cloak of the Messenger of Allah (upon whom be God’s peace and benediction), till reaching the mosque. Thereat he addressed the people, and beseeched God, making people to insist in invocation. The point on which he insisted more in his supplication was asking for pardon and forgiveness. Then as he intended to return, he raised his hands toward the sky, converting his cloak putting the right side on the left, and vice versa. Thereat he extended his hand, persisting in supplication and invocation, weeping bitterly and shedding tears till his beard was moistened.277

Further it is reported in al-Mughni and al-Sharh al-kabir, that Umar went out for seeking rainwater (from God), but his invocation was no more than seeking forgiveness, exclaiming: I have asked for rainwater from the sky majadih.278

Al-Jahiz said: When Umar ascended the minbar gripping al-Abbas’s hand on the day of istisqa’, he sufficed with invocation and prayer. It was said to him: You have never sought rainwater but only asking for forgiveness. He said: I asked for rainwater through the sky majadih. Then he cited the holy verse: “Seek ye the forgiveness of your Lord! Verily He is the Most-Forgiving. He will send (down) upon you the cloud raining in torrents.”279

If the case was truly in this way, no harm in it as long as all of them were invoking Allah. It is almost certain that Umar has never pleaded with anyone in his istisqa’ supplication, never taking any means or medium to God except invocation and seeking forgiveness.


273. Ibn Sa'd and others stated that the year of Ramdah was the year 18 H., and it lasted for nine months. Al-Ramdah is with fathah on ra' and sukun on mim, and the year was called so due to serve barrenness that inflicted the land because of lacking of rain, with death of the cattle, and people starving to death, till were obliged to swallow the ash, and drill the holes of jerbons and rats extracting what they contained (Tabaqat Ibn Sa'd, Vol.II, p.223).

274. Undoubtedly this narration of Anas or other ones can never withstand the strong narration contradicting them. Anas was one of those whose narrations were not trusted, and Abu Hanifah was never trusting him, or Abu Hurayrah or Samurah ibn Jundab.

275. In Asas al-balaghah of Jar Allah, under the bab "jim-dal-ha" and khafq al-mijdan means the posteriors (latter parts), whose rain is abundant. It is said: The rain majadih have flowed. In a hadith by Umar: "I have sought a drink by majadih of the heaven", meaning to ask forgiveness.

276. Al-Bidayah wa al-nihayah, vol.IV, p.92.

277. Tabaqat Ibn Sa'd, vol.II, p.231.

278. See vol.II, p.290.

279. Al-Bayan wa al-nihayah, vol.IV, p.279. This khabar was reported also by Ibn Qutaybh in his book al-Shi'r wa al-shu'ara', under the biography of Yazid ibn Ubayd, beside al-Tabari in his Tafsir.

Adapted from: "Lights on the Muhammadan Sunnah" by: "Mahmud Ali Riyyah"

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