Al-Ayat prayer (Arabic:صلاة الآيات, literally: prayer of signs) is among obligatory prayers and mukallaf people must perform it upon the occurrence of certain natural events. Al-Ayat prayer has two rak'as, each of which has five ruku' and its manner of performance is mentioned in the books of practical rulings. Its performance is to acknowledge that these events are signs of God's power and accurate order of natural world. It prevents human being from superstitions and vain fantasies, directs his attention toward God and takes away his fear and distress and calms down his heart.
"Ayat" in Arabic is the plural form of "ayah" meaning "sign". This prayer is called "ayat" because its performance becomes obligatory (wajib) when certain natural events occur.
In the past, some people believed in some superstitions upon the occurrence of natural events. For example, when Ibrahim, son of the Prophet (s) passed away, solar eclipse occurred and people thought that it happened because of the death of Ibrahim. It is narrated from Imam al-Kazim (a), "after Ibrahim (a) passed away, three traditions remained for Muslims: first, when he passed away, solar eclipse occurred. People said that it occurred because of the death of Ibrahim. When the Prophet (s) heard that, went up on the pulpit, praised God and said, 'O people! Solar and lunar eclipses are signs of God which take place following His order and do not occur because of someone's death. When they happen, you should perform al-Ayat prayer.' He (s) then came down the pulpit and performed al-Ayat prayer together with people. Since then, al-Ayat prayer became obligatory for Muslims..."
Conditions of the Obligation
If one of the following events take place where the person is present, one must perform al-Ayat prayer:
- Solar or lunar eclipses (partial or complete)
- Lightning, storm; yellow and red windstorms and other natural events if it causes fear among the majority of people.
By solar or lunar eclipses, those instances are meant which can be seen by naked eyes, but if it is so partial that it can be only seen by instruments or is very transient and ends soon, al-Ayat prayer would not be obligatory.
Time of al-Ayat prayer for solar and lunar eclipses is from the beginning of the eclipse until the full sun or moon appears. In complete eclipses, if the prayer is not performed in time, it must be done later as a compensation.