This prayer is taken recourse to when seeking rain from Allah during times of drought. It may be performed in one of the following manners:
1. The imam prays, with the followers, two rak’at during any time except those times in which it is not desirable to pray. In the first rak’ah, the imam recites al-A’la after al-Fatihah. And in the second rak’ah, he reads al-Ghashiyah after al-Fatihah, and he delivers a khutbah before or after the salah. As soon as he finishes the khutbah, the people present should turn their outer garments around, each placing its left side on his right side and its right side on his left, face the qiblah, supplicate Allah and raise their hands while doing so.
Ibn ‘Abbas reports: “The Messenger of Allah went out [to make the salatul istisqa’] wearing old clothes, in a humble and lowly manner, and prayed two rak’at as he prayed the ‘id, but he did not give a similar khutbah.” This is related by the five. At-Tirmizhi, Abu ‘Awanah, and Ibn Hibban grade it sahih.
‘Aishah says: “The people complained to the Messenger of Allah about lack of rain, so he gave orders for a pulpit, and when it was set up for him, he appointed a day for the people to gather. He came out on that day when the sun had just appeared and sat down on the pulpit. He extolled Allah’s greatness and praised Him. Then he said: ‘You have complained of drought in your areas and of delay in receiving rain at the beginning of its season, but you have been ordered by Allah to supplicate Him and He has promised that He would answer your prayers.’ Then he said: ‘All praise is for Allah, the Compassionate, the Merciful, the King of the Day of Judgment. There is no God but Allah Who does what He wishes. O Allah, there is no God except Thee. You are the Self-sufficient and we are the poor. Send down rain upon us and make it a source of strength for us and satisfaction for us.’ He then raised his hands and kept raising them till the whiteness of his armpits could be seen.
After this, he turned his back to the people and inverted his cloak, keeping his hands raised. Finally, he faced the people, descended from the pulpit, and prayed two rak’at. At that time Allah produced a cloud, thunder, and lightning. And, by Allah’s permission, it rained and before he reached the mosque there was flooding. Then he saw how quickly the people were running for shelter, he laughed until his molar teeth could be seen. He said: ‘I bear witness that Allah has power over all things and I am Allah’s slave and Messenger.'” This is related by al-Hakim who classifies it to be sahih and by Abu Dawud who says: “This hadith is ghareeb and its chain is good.”
It is furthermore related from ‘Ibad ibn Tamim from his uncle ‘Abdullah ibn Zaid al-Mazni that the Prophet sallallahu alehi wasallam went out to pray salatul istisqa’ and prayed two rak’at reciting them aloud. This is related by the group. And Abu Hurairah says: “The Prophet of Allah went out one day to make salatul ishtisqa’ and prayed two rak’at with us without any azhan or iqamah. Then, he addressed us and supplicated Allah and turned his face toward the qiblah, with his hands raised. Next, he reversed his cloak, placing its left side on his right side and its right side on his left side.” This is related by Ahmad, Ibn Majah, and al-Baihaqi.
2. The supplication for rain can also be made on the occasion of salatul jumu’ah. In this case, the imam makes supplications during khutbatul jumu’ah with the people of the congregation saying (Ameen).
Al-Bukhari and Muslim record from Shuraik on the authority of Anas that a man entered the mosque on Friday while the Prophet was addressing the people. The man said: “O Messenger of Allah, our wealth has been destroyed and we have no transport to the market place. Supplicate for us for rain.” The Prophet raised his hands and said: “O Allah, give us rain. O Allah, give us rain. O Allah, give us rain.” Anas said: “By Allah, at that time there were no clouds in the sky and there was no house or building between us and the mountain. From behind the mountain came a cloud looking like a shield. By the time it reached the middle of the sky, it burst and started to rain. By Allah, we did not see the sun for one week. Then, on the next Friday, a man entered the mosque from that (same) door while the Prophet was making the address. The man faced the Prophet and said: ‘Our livestock is dead and the paths are unpassable. Ask Allah to make it stop.’ The Prophet raised his hands and said: ‘O Allah, around us and not upon us. O Allah, make it upon the hills, small mountains, bottom of the valleys, and plantations.’ The rain stopped and we walked out in the sunshine.”
3. One may also make a supplication (for rain) without it being Friday and regardless of whether or not the prayer takes place inside or outside the mosque. Ibn Majah and Abu ‘Awanah record that Ibn ‘Abbas said: “A Bedouin came to the Messenger of Allah and said: ‘O Messenger of Allah, I come to you from a people whose shepherds do not have any fodder and whose prize stallion cannot move its tail due to the [drought].’Â The Prophet mounted the pulpit, praised Allah and said: ‘O Allah, give us saving rain which leads to something good and which is productive – a general heavy rain – now and not later.’ Then, he descended from the pulpit. People came from every direction saying that it was raining.” This is reported by Ibn Majah and Abu ‘Awanah and its chain is sound, but Ibn Hajar is silent about it in his Al-Talkhis.
Shurahbil ibn as-Simt said to Ka’b ibn Murrah: “O Ka’b, relate to us something from the Messenger of Allah.” Ka’b said: “When a man came and said to the Prophet of Allah, ‘Seek rain for the tribe of Muzhar,’ I heard the Prophet say: ‘You are a bold man. You want me to seek rain for the tribe of Muzhar?’ The man said: ‘O Messenger of Allah, you have sought victory from Allah and He gave you victory. You supplicated Allah and He answered you.’ The Messenger of Allah raised his hands and said: ‘O Allah, give us a saving rain, good and productive, general and heavy, now and not later, beneficial and not harmful.’ Allah responded to his supplication. It was not long before the people came complaining about the profusion of rain, and damage to their dwellings. The Messenger of Allah raised his hands and said: ‘O Allah, around us and not upon us.’ The clouds began dispersing left and right.” This is related by Ahmad, Ibn Majah, al-Baihaqi, Ibn Shaibah and al-Hakim. The later grades this hadith as hasan sahih and holds that its chain meets the conditions of al-Bukhari and Muslim.
Ash-Sha’biy says: “‘Umar went out to make ishsqa’ and he did no more than seeking Allah’s forgiveness. The people said: ‘We did not see you making ishsqa’.’ He said: ‘I sought rain by what makes it descend (i.e. istighfar or seeking forgiveness of Allah), unlike those (Arabs of days of ignorance) who sought it by the stars of the sky.’ Then, he recited the following two ‘ayat: ‘Seek forgiveness of your Lord. Lo! He is Ever-Forgiving. He will let loose the sky for you in plenteous rain.’ and: ‘Ask forgiveness of your Lord, and turn to Him (in repentance): He will send you the skies pouring abundant rain.'” This is related by Abu Sa’id in his Sunan, ‘Abdurrazzaq, al-Baihaqi, and Ibn abi Shaibah.