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Istisqāʾ (Arabic: اِستِسقاء) (request for rain) is a religious tradition of asking God for rain in certain manners. There are hadiths that recommend Istisqa' during droughts in the former of prayers and supplications. Moreover, there are hadiths reporting the practice of Istisqa' by the Prophet (s) and the Imams (a).

Religious books mention peculiar rulings and practices concerning the request for rain. For example, it is recommended to perform the Istisqa' prayer during droughts. Before performing the prayer, it is better for people to fast for three days, and on the third day, they should go to the desert, where they perform the Istisqa' prayer and then ask God for rain while crying and weeping.

Reports of certain acts of Istisqa' are well-known in history. A case in point is Imam al-Rida’s (a) Istisqa' cited by al-Shaykh al-Saduq in his 'Uyun akhbar al-Rida. Another example is Sayyid Muhammad Taqi al-Khwansari’s Istisqa' after the 1944 drought in Iran, which was done at the request of people in Qom and led to a heavy rain.

Jurisprudential Definition and Background

Literally, "Istisqa'" means to ask for water. In jurisprudential terminology, Istisqa' is to ask God for rain during droughts. In books of hadiths and jurisprudence, a section is devoted to the "prayer of Istisqa'" (salat al-Istisqa'), in which the conditions of Istisqa' are discussed.

Background of Istisqa'

Particular ways of asking God for rain had precedents before Islam too. For instance, according to Ibn Shahrashub, during a drought, Abu Talib and several teenagers from 'Abd al-Muttalib’s household went to Masjid al-Haram. Allegedly, he composed his Lamiyya ode (al-Qasidat al-Lamiyya) for the rainfall that took place after the Istisqa'.

Hadiths about Asking for Rain

In sources of hadiths, there are reports of Istisqa' practiced by the Prophet (s) and the Imams (a), their recommendation to ask God for rain during droughts, performing the Istisqa' prayer, praying to God at the time of Istisqa', and other conditions. For instance, it is reported that some people went to the Prophet (s) and complained about the drought. The Prophet (s) ascended to his minbar and asked God for the rain. Furthermore, there are hadiths about the practice of Istisqa' by the Prophet (s), Imam 'Ali (a), and Imam al-Rida (a).

Moreover, certain Istisqa' supplications have been transmitted from the Prophet (s) and the Imams. The nineteenth supplication of al-Sahifa al-Sajjadiyya is about asking for the rain.

Istisqa' Prayer and the Manner of Istisqa'

In the Istisqa' ritual, a prayer is performed, which is known as the Istisqa' prayer. According to a fatwa by jurists, it is recommended to perform that prayer during droughts. Moreover, it is doubly recommended to perform it in congregation. The Istisqa' prayer consists of two rak'as, and its takbir and qunut are like those of the Eid prayers, except that in qunut the request for God’s mercy and rain replaces the supplications of Eid prayers.

The imam of the congregational prayer puts his robe inside out on his shoulder and then ascends to the minbar. He then loudly recites takbir one hundred times while he is directed to the qibla. After that, he turns to those who stand on his right and recites Subhan Allah one hundred times, and then he turns to those on his left and recites La-hawl wa-la quwwa illa billah one hundred times. Next, he looks at people and recites al-Hamd lillah one hundred times. Then, he raises his hands and asks God for the rain, and following him, people also pray. After this, he delivers a sermon and supplicates to God.

Other Rulings

Other recommended practices in Istisqa' and its prayer are as follows:

  • People should fast for three days. On the third day, they should leave their homes and go to a desert.
  • The third day had better be on Monday. If this is not possible, it had better be on Friday.
  • The prayer had better not be performed in mosques.
  • In the Istisqa' prayer, instead of adhan and iqama, the following should be recited: "al-salat, al-salat."
  • Elderlies and children had better be taken to the prayer. Moreover, children had better be separated from their mothers. According to the Muhammad Hasan al-Najafi , this is done to create a ground for crying and weeping to attract God’s mercy.

Well-Known Cases of Istisqa'

There is a hadith cited by al-Shaykh al-Saduq, in which the story of Imam al-Rida's Istisqa' is recounted in detail. On this account, this was done after a drought and at the request of al-Ma'mun the Abbasid caliph. After the Istisqa', a heavy rain fell.

Moreover, it is reported that in the 1900 drought in Zanzibar, Sayyid 'Abd al-Husayn Mar'ashi (d. 1905), a Shiite scholar there, asked the Shias to perform the Istisqa' prayer after the morning prayer. After the ritual, rain began to fall.

Another well-known case of Istisqa' is that of Sayyid Muhammad Taqi al-Khwansari, a Shiite authority in Qom. Reportedly, in 1944, no rain fell in Qom and the city was on the verge of a drought. He went outside of Qom on foot in two consecutive days and performed the Istisqa' prayer. On the second day, a heavy rain fell.

See Also


  • The material for this article is mainly taken from استسقاء is Farsi WikiShia.