Assalamualaikum ustaz. Can you explain the ruling of reciting Qunut Nazilah when calamity befalls the Muslim ummah?
Alhamdulillah, praise and gratitude to Allah SWT for His countless blessings for us all. Praise and salutations to our beloved Prophet Muhammad PBUH, his family, companions and all those who follow his footsteps until the Last Day.
Qunut is basically a supplication. Qunut recitation is divided into two.
First, Qunut Ratibah, which is a qunut sunnah to be recited in two places:
- During the iktidal in the second rakaat of Subuh prayer
- During the final iktidal in Witir prayer beginning after the half-month of Ramadhan has passed
Second, Qunut Nazilah is a supplication recited in prayer during a calamity or disaster especially when it involves Muslims.
In answering this question, there is a story recorded in the sirah of Rasullullah PBUH, where the Prophet PBUH recited qunut nazilah during the betrayal incident and the murder of several of his companions. There are several hadiths that narrated the incident, among them is a narration from Anas bin Malik RA, who narrated:
أَنَّ رِعْلاً، وَذَكْوَانَ وَعُصَيَّةَ وَبَنِي لَحْيَانَ اسْتَمَدُّوا رَسُولَ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم عَلَى عَدُوٍّ، فَأَمَدَّهُمْ بِسَبْعِينَ مِنَ الأَنْصَارِ، كُنَّا نُسَمِّيهِمُ الْقُرَّاءَ فِي زَمَانِهِمْ، كَانُوا يَحْتَطِبُونَ بِالنَّهَارِ وَيُصَلُّونَ بِاللَّيْلِ، حَتَّى كَانُوا بِبِئْرِ مَعُونَةَ قَتَلُوهُمْ، وَغَدَرُوا بِهِمْ، فَبَلَغَ النَّبِيَّ صلى الله عليه وسلم، فَقَنَتَ شَهْرًا يَدْعُو فِي الصُّبْحِ عَلَى أَحْيَاءٍ مِنْ أَحْيَاءِ الْعَرَبِ، عَلَى رِعْلٍ وَذَكْوَانَ وَعُصَيَّةَ وَبَنِي لَحْيَانَ.
(The tribes of) Ril, Dhakwan, ‘Usaiya and Bani Lihyan asked Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) to provide them with some men to support them against their enemy. He, therefore, provided them with seventy men from the Ansar whom we used to call Al-Qurra’ in their lifetime. They used to collect wood in the daytime and pray at night. When they were at the well of Ma’una, the infidels killed them by betraying them. When this news reached the Prophet (ﷺ), he said Al-Qunut for one month In the morning prayer, invoking evil upon some of the ‘Arab tribes, upon Ril, Dhakwan, ‘Usaiya and Bani Libyan.” 
Furthermore, Abu Hurairah RA said:
أَنَّ النَّبِيَّ صلى الله عليه وسلم كَانَ إِذَا قَالَ سَمِعَ اللَّهُ لِمَنْ حَمِدَهُ فِي الرَّكْعَةِ الْآخِرَةِ مِنْ صَلَاةِ الْعِشَاءِ قَنَتَ اللَّهُمَّ أَنْجِ عَيَّاشَ بْنَ أَبِي رَبِيعَةَ اللَّهُمَّ أَنْجِ الْوَلِيدَ بْنَ الْوَلِيدِ اللَّهُمَّ أَنْجِ سَلَمَةَ بْنَ هِشَامٍ اللَّهُمَّ أَنْجِ الْمُسْتَضْعَفِينَ مِنَ الْمُؤْمِنِينَ اللَّهُمَّ اشْدُدْ وَطْأَتَكَ عَلَى مُضَرَ اللَّهُمَّ اجْعَلْهَا عَلَيْهِمْ سِنِينَ كَسِنِي يُوسُفَ
When the Prophet (ﷺ) said, “Sami’ al-lahu liman hamidah (Allah heard him who sent his praises to Him)” in the last rak`a of the `Isha’ prayer, he used to invoke Allah, saying, “O Allah! Save `Aiyash bin Abi Rabi`a; O Allah! Save Al-Walid bin Al-Walid; O Allah! Save the weak people among the believers; O Allah! Be hard on the Tribe of Mudar; O Allah! Inflict years of drought upon them like the years (of drought) of the Prophet (ﷺ) Joseph.” 
According to the above hadiths, Imam al-Nawawi said that the sahih opinion according to madhhab al-Syafie is: If calamity befalls a Muslim such as fear, famine, epidemic, (attack/infestation) of grasshopper and others, hence, recite qunut in all the prayers, however, if there’s no calamity, then qunut recitation isn’t necessary. 
Imam al-Nawawi also said: “Qunut is sanctioned in all obligatory prayers due to nazilah (certain incidents that take place) and don’t (recite it) in absolution (without any reason).” 
While Imam Ibn Hajar al-Haitami when commenting on the above words of Imam al-Nawawi, he said: “Whether the nazilah (the incident that happens) is a general or specific incident that involves the general public where it harms the Muslim ummah such as an epidemic and the plaque or damaging torrential rain.” 
Furthermore, Imam al-Syafie in the book al-Umm stated that during a calamity, it is permissible to recite Nazilah qunut in restricted times to recite qunut. This is based on his opinion: There is no qunut during the two Eid and Istisqa’ prayers. If the qunut is recited during a calamity I don’t rule it makruh. 
Qunut Nazilah is sunnah to be recited clearly (jahar) and it is sunnah to raise one’s hands when it is recited in the final rakaat after rukuk (bowing). Qunut nazilah is only recited in obligatory prayers.
Imam al-Nawawi said: “As for (Qunut) other than the Subuh prayer which is the other obligatory prayers, it is impermissible to perform qunut without any need. When the Muslim ummah is tested with a calamity, then qunut can be performed in all obligatory prayers.” 
Syeikh al-Bujairimi stated: “There are five times a makmum is permissible to increase his voice behind an imam: When reciting amin after the al-Fatihah together with the imam, in Subuh qunut, qunut in sunnah Witir beginning in the middle of the month of Ramadhan and in Nazilah Qunut in the five prayers.” 
Al-Khatib Al-Syarbini: “If there is any calamity on the Muslim ummah, it is sunnah to recite it (qunut) in all prayers (obligatory).” 
According to what has been stated, it can be understood that qunut nazilah is only recited in obligatory prayers and not sunnah prayers. It is only sunnah to recite qunut in sunnah Witir prayer. Other than that, it is not sunnah to recite Qunut.
Situations Where Qunut Nazilah Are Recited
According to Mulla Ali al-Qari, it is narrated that Saidina Abu Bakar recited qunut during the battle against Musailamah al-Kazzab and the People of the Book. 
It is stated that Saidina Umar RA, during the battle against the Christians, recited qunut in his prayer:
اللَّهُمَّ إِنَّا نَسْتَعِينُكَ وَنَسْتَغْفِرُكَ وَنُثْنِي عَلَيْكَ وَلا نَكْفُرُكَ ، وَنُؤْمِنُ بِكَ وَنَخْلَعُ وَنَتْرُكُ مَنْ يَفْجُرُكَ ، اللَّهُمَّ إِيَّاكَ نَعْبُدُ ، وَلَكَ نُصَلِّي وَنَسْجُدُ ، وَإِلَيْكَ نَسْعَى وَنَحْفِدُ ، وَنَرْجُو رَحْمَتَكَ وَنَخَافُ عَذَابَكَ إِنَّ عَذَابَكَ بِالْكُفَّارِ مُلْحَقٌ ، اللَّهُمَّ عَذِّبِ الْكَفَرَةَ ، وَأَلْقِ فِي قُلُوبِهِمُ الرُّعْبَ ، وَخَالِفْ بَيْنَ كَلِمِهِمْ ، وَأَنْزِلْ عَلَيْهِمْ رِجْسَكَ وَعَذَابَكَ ، اللَّهُمَّ عَذِّبْ كَفَرَةَ أَهْلِ الْكِتَابِ الَّذِينَ يَصُدُّونَ عَنْ سَبِيلِكِ وَيُكَذِّبُونَ رُسُلَكَ وَيُقَاتِلُونَ أَوْلِيَاءَكَ ، اللَّهُمَّ اغْفِرْ لِلْمُؤْمِنِينَ وَالْمُؤْمِنَاتِ ، وَالْمُسْلِمِينَ وَالْمُسْلِمَاتِ ، وَأَصْلِحْ ذَاتَ بَيْنِهِمْ وَأَلِّفْ بَيْنَ قُلُوبِهِمْ ، وَاجْعَلْ فِي قُلُوبِهِمُ الإِيمَانَ وَالْحِكْمَةَ ، وَثَبِّتْهُمْ عَلَى مِلَّةِ رَسُولِكَ ، وَأَوْزِعْهُمْ أَنْ يُوفُوا بِعَهْدِكَ الَّذِي عَاهَدْتَهُمْ عَلَيْهِ ، وَانْصُرْهُمْ عَلَى عَدُوِّكَ وَعَدُوِّهِمْ ، إِلَهَ الْحَقِّ وَاجْعَلْنَا مِنْهُمْ
“O Allah, we ask your help and forgiveness, we praise You and never once we disbelieved, we believe in You, we distance ourselves and leave those who disobey You, O Lord of whom We worship and to You we pray and prostrate ourselves to, and to You we are headed, and we hope for Your blessings and fear Your punishments. Indeed, Your punishments are for those who disbelieve. O Allah punish the disbelievers and place fear in their hearts and pull apart their alliance, and curse and punish them. O Allah punish the disbelievers from the People of the Book who obstruct Your road and discredit Your Messengers and kill Your prophets. O Allah, forgive the mukmin, Muslims and strengthen their alliance and place in their hearts faith and wisdom and keep them on the religion of Your Messenger and help them in their loyalty with Your promise You’ve promised and help them facing Your enemies and their enemies. O true Lord, make us from amongst those who You helps.” 
According to the above arguments and evidence, in our opinion, reciting qunut nazilah when the Muslim ummah is facing a grave calamity where it harms Islam and the Muslim ummah in general such as when they are literally at war or betrayed by the enemy is permissible. Furthermore, we state that it is sunnah according to the several narrations stated.
For example, in today’s context, it can be seen when during the war in Gaza and Syria, the imam of Masjid al-haram recited qunut nazilah, supplicating for the victory of Muslims concurrently praying for the destruction of the disbelievers who are battling against the Muslims.
In our opinion, the Muslims should also increase our istighfar, repentance, charity and obedience to Allah, the reason is it will solve the issues of the ummah. So true is the statement of Allah SWT:
فَقُلْتُ اسْتَغْفِرُوا رَبَّكُمْ إِنَّهُ كَانَ غَفَّارًا ﴿١٠﴾ يُرْسِلِ السَّمَاءَ عَلَيْكُم مِّدْرَارًا
“And said, ‘Ask forgiveness of your Lord. Indeed, He is ever a Perpetual Forgiver. He will send [rain from] the sky upon you in [continuing] showers.” 
May, Allah SWT grant us understanding in obeying all His commandments. Amin.