Solar eclipse only occurs at New Moon, when the Moon passes between the Sun and Earth and the Moon's shadow sweeps across a portion of Earth's surface and an eclipse of the Sun is seen from that region. Solar eclipses are two to five per year, but the ground covered by totality is only a band of about 30 miles wide, length being that portion of the globe which is under the moon's shadow. Solar eclipse always occurs at the end of an Islamic month. The closest time between solar and lunar eclipse is 2 weeks.
At solar eclipse the sun is partially or totally blocked by the moon. Some people are confused with this phenomenon that the moon surface is seen, and the Islamic month has begun. There is a big difference in seeing this dark circle blocking the sun and the visible Crescent that marks the beginning of an Islamic month.
Let me emphasize that a solar eclipse is the proof of disappearance of the moon and does not mark the beginning of a month. Few years ago Sheikh Ali Al-Tantawi, the Mufti of Egypt at that time, also said the same thing when the eclipse occurred in Saudi Arabia, and he said in a fatwa that this was a proof of the disappearance of moon and it is not Hilal nor should it be taken as a Hilal.
Here is an interesting story you may have learned in grade school. The story is about Columbus, the sailor when one of his ships was damamged and he stranded all his ships and crew in Jamaica (Caribbeans). His knowledge of astronomy and moon phases would end up saving the lives of himself and his crew. In the beginning the crew traded things for food with the natives, but later, the natives became annoyed with some of the less respectful sailors, and refused to deal with Columbus. Columbus and his crew faced starvation. That's when Columbus used his astronomy knowledge of precalculated lunar eclipse on February 29, 1504. He told them that he would remove the moon from the sky if they would not cooperate with him. The natives at first did not believe him. Then the full moon rose a blood red, then it began to dim. The natives worried. The moon got very dim; the natives got very worried. Then the moon disappeared. The natives were in a panic and pleaded with Columbus. Columbus knew precisely when the moon would reappear. He agreed to bring back the moon in due time, if they agreed to give him food. The natives agreed, and were awash with relief when the moon reappeared. Columbus saved himself and his crew from starvation.
Date of death of Ibrahim (son of our beloved Prophet, peace be upon him)
Sun Eclipse also occurred at Prophet's time when (his son) Ibrahim died. It was recorded in history that it was Jan 27, 632 CE (Monday), see details of this eclipse. It was the 29th of Shawwal, while Dhul-Qi'dah 1, 10AH was on Jan 29, 632 CE (Wednesday). Dhul-Qi'dah was of 29 days also and Dhul-Hijjah 1, 10AH was on Feb 27, 632 CE (Thursday), such that Hajj-e-Nabavi fell on Friday, March 6, 632 CE. This also proves that sun eclipse cannot be taken as the beginning of a month.
[See Shawwal 10 AH - Rabi-ul Awwal 11 AH Hijri calendar - Editor]
All the solar eclipses that could be noticeable in Arabia during the prophethood of Muhammad (peace be upon him) are listed below (For details of any eclipse, click on it):
Sun-Eclipse visible while Prophet(S) was in Makkah:
(Islamic date unknown because of undocumented practice of Nasi')
- July 23, 613 CE (Monday) - Around 10 am Local Time
- May 21, 616 CE (Friday) - Around 10 am Local Time
- November 4, 617 CE (Friday) - Around 11 am Local Time
- September 2, 620 CE (Tuesday) - Around 10 am Local Time
Sun-Eclipse visible while Prophet (S) was in Medinah:
- April 21, 627 CE (Tuesday) - Dhul-Qi'dah 29, 5 AH - Around 11 am Local Time
- January 27, 632 CE (Monday) - Shawwal 29, 10 AH - Around 10 am Local Time
Extreme care must be taken when watching the solar eclipse. You should visit a web site which discusses a number of ways to safely view the solar eclipse
At solar eclipse, congregational prayers (2 Rak'aat) should be performed as done by the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). According to Hadith, the Prophet (S) performed 2 long Rak'aat in congregation (Qir'at loudly) when solar eclipse occured, and individual prayers are encouraged (at least 2 Rak'aat) when lunar eclipse occurred. If congregational prayers are done at lunar eclipse, then Qir'at should be done silently.
Ref: MCW December 2015