Short Answer: Prophet Muhammad taught his companions the prayer for asking for rain, and also asking that the rain would only be beneficial and not harmful. Thus it covers both situations: no rain and excessive rain.
Peace be upon you, dear reader,
Thank you for sending us your question, and we hope that you get an answer that helps you gain more knowledge that benefits you in this life and the next.
Regarding your question, Islam is a comprehensive religion that benefits people whenever and wherever they may be.
Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings upon him) through his life, sayings, and actions (his sunnah) has taught us about almost all aspects of life.
The Prayer for Rain (Salatul-Istisqa’)
In regards to the prayer for rain, known as Salatul Istisqa’, we learn from a hadith narrated by Anas (may Allah be pleased with him) who said:
“Once during the lifetime of Allah’s Messenger (peace and blessings upon him), the people of Medina suffered from drought. So while the Prophet was delivering a sermon on a Friday a man got up saying, “O Allah’s Messenger (peace and blessings upon him)! The horses and sheep have perished. Will you invoke Allah to bless us with rain?” The Prophet (peace and blessings upon him) lifted both his hands and invoked. The sky at that time was as clear as glass. Suddenly a wind blew, raising clouds that gathered together, and it started raining heavily. We came out (of the Mosque) wading through the flowing water till we reached our homes. It went on raining until the next Friday, when the same man or some other man stood up and said, “O Allah’s Messenger (peace and blessings upon him)! The houses have collapsed; please invoke Allah to withhold the rain.” On that, the Prophet (peace and blessings upon him) smiled and said, “O Allah, (let it rain) around us and not on us.” I then looked at the clouds to see them separating forming a sort of a crown round Medina.” [Sahih Al Bukhari]
And in another narration it’s added that He said:
“O Allah, on the tops of the mountains and hills, in the bottom of the valleys and where the trees grow.” So (the rain) was lifted from Al-Madinah like a garment being removed. [Sunan AnNasae]
You can see how the Prophet taught the prayer for asking for rain, and also asking that the rain would only be beneficial and not harmful.
Thus it covers both situations: no rain and excessive rain.
Prayer for rain in California
The prayer for rain is not limited to Arabs/people in the East.
People in the West can also benefit from the teachings whenever applicable to them.
Actually, your question reminded me of what happened just a few years ago in California.
It was reported back in 2014 that California had been going through its driest weather ever and that the drought they faced was almost unprecedented.
Reacting to this situation, some Muslims in the area, led by Sheikh Hamza Yusuf, have arranged for praying Salatul Istisqa’.
It was reported that the following day, they witnessed the largest rainfall in 2014.
Why a prayer for rain?
Allah Almighty wants to teach us to seek Him and ask Him for all we need.
And when My servants ask you, [O Muhammad], concerning Me – indeed I am near. I respond to the invocation of the supplicant when he calls upon Me. So let them respond to Me [by obedience] and believe in Me that they may be [rightly] guided. (Qur’an 2:186)
If everything is going perfectly well in our lives, we will not seek Allah Almighty so earnestly and desperately, and we might forget about His ongoing favors upon us.
As He Almighty says:
No! [But] indeed, man transgresses because he sees himself self-sufficient. (Qur’an 96:6-7)
The prayer that the Prophet of Allah (peace and blessings upon him) made during Salatul Istisqa’ has a lot of meanings and reminders for us.
Aisha (may Allah be pleased with her) narrated that the Prophet said to people during the prayer for rain:
You have complained of drought in your homes, and of the delay in receiving rain at the beginning of its season. Allah has ordered you to supplicate to Him and promised that He will answer your prayer.
Then he said: “Praise be to Allah, the Lord of the Universe, the Compassionate, the Merciful, the Master of the Day of Judgment. There is no god but Allah Who does what He wishes. O Allah, You are Allah, there is no deity but You, the Rich, while we are the poor. Send down the rain upon us and make what You send down a strength and satisfaction for a time.”
He then raised his hands, and kept raising them until the whiteness under his armpits was visible. He then turned his back to the people and inverted or turned round his cloak while keeping his hands aloft. He then faced the people, descended and prayed two rak’ahs.
Allah then produced a cloud, and the storm of thunder and lightning came on. Then the rain fell by Allah’s permission, and before he reached his mosque streams were flowing. When he saw the speed with which the people were seeking shelter, he laughed till his back teeth were visible. Then he said: “I testify that Allah is Omnipotent and that I am Allah’s servant and apostle.” [Sunan Abi Dawud]
We are taught to believe in and direct ourselves towards Allah sincerely.
And He teaches us our individual lessons through everything that happens around us.
We will show them Our signs in the horizons and within themselves until it becomes clear to them that it is the truth. But is it not sufficient concerning your Lord that He is, over all things, a Witness? Unquestionably, they are in doubt about the meeting with their Lord. Unquestionably He is, of all things, encompassing. (Qur’an 41:53-54)
Hope this helps.