THE MONTH OF SHA’BAAN
Sha'baan, the month which precedes the glorious month of Ramadaan is regarded as a virtuous month, contrary to the opinions of modern day ‘scholars’. This has been proven via instructions in the Sunnah of the Prophet Muhammad, Sallallahu alaihi wa sallam. It is reported in authentic ahadeeth that the Prophet Muhammad, Sallallahu alaihi wa sallam, used to fast most of the month of Sha'baan. These fasts were not obligatory on him but Sha'baan is the month immediately preceeding the month of Ramadaan. Therefore, some preparatory measures are suggested by the Prophet Sallallaahu alaihi wa sallam. Some of these are given below:
1. The blessed companion Hadrat Anas, Radiyallaahu anhu, reports that Prophet Sallallaahu alaihi wa sallam, was asked, "Which fast is the most meritorious after the fasts of Ramadaan?" He replied, "The fasts of Shabaan in honour of Ramadaan."
2. The blessed companion Hadrat Usama Bin Zaid Radiyallaahu anhu reports that he asked the Prophet Sallallaahu alaihi wa sallam: " O Messenger of Allah, I have seen you fasting in the month of Sha'baan so frequently that I have never seen you fasting in any other month." He replied: "That (Sha'baan) is a month between Rajab and Ramadaan which is neglected by many people. And it is a month in which an account of the deeds (of human beings) is presented before the Lord of the universe, so, I wish that my deeds be presented at a time when I am in a state of fasting."
3. Ummul Mu'mineen Hadrat Aishah, Radiyallaahu anhaa says that the Prophet Sallallaahu alaihi wa sallam, used to fast the whole of Sha'baan. I said to him, 'O Messenger of Allah, is Sha'baan your most favourite month for fasting?' He said, 'In this month Allah prescribes the list of the persons dying this year. Therefore, I like that my death comes when I am in a state of fasting."
4. In another Tradition she says, that the Prophet Sallallaahu alaihi wa sallam, would sometimes begin to fast continuously until we thought he would not stop fasting, and sometimes he used to stop fasting until we thought he would never fast. I never saw the Messenger of Allah, Sallallaahu alaihi wa sallam, fasting a complete month, except the month of Ramadaan, and I have never seen him fasting in a month more frequently than he did in Sha'baan."
5. In another report she says, "I never saw the Messenger of Allah Sallallaahu alaihi wa sallam, fasting in a month so profusely as he did in the month of Sha'baan. He used to fast in that month leaving only a few days, so much so that he used to fast almost the whole of the month."
6. Ummul-Mu'mineen Hadrat Umm Salamah, Radiyallaahu anhaa, says: "I have never seen the Messenger of Allah fasting for two months continuously except in the months of Sha'baan and Ramadaan."
These reports indicate that fasting in the month of Sha'baan, though not obligatory, is so meritorious that the Prophet Sallallaahu alaihi wa sallam, did not like to miss it.
However it is important to note that the fasts of Sha'baan are only for those people who are capable of keeping them without causing deficiency in the obligatory fasts of Ramadaan. Therefore, if one fears that after fasting in Sha'baan, he will lose strength or vigour for the fasts of Ramadaan and will not be able to fast in it with strength and vigour, he should not fast in Sha'baan, because the fasts of Ramadaan, being obligatory, are more important than the optional fasts of Sha'baan. This is why the Prophet Sallallaahu alaihi wa sallam, himself has discouraged the Muslims from fasting one or two days immediately before the commencement of Ramadaan although he did otherwise. The blessed Companion Hadrat Abu Hurairah, Radiyallaahu anhu, reports that the Prophet Sallallaahu alaihi wa sallam said, "Do not fast after the first half of the month of Sha'baan is gone."
The essence of the above-quoted ahadeeth is that Prophet Muhammad, Sallallahu alaihi wa sallam, himself used to fast most of the month of Sha'baan, because he had no fear of developing weakness or weariness before the commencement of Ramadaan. As for others, he ordered them not to fast after the 15th of Sha'baan for the fear that they would lose their strength and freshness before Ramadaan starts, and would not be able to welcome the month of Ramadaan with the required enthusiasm.
The Night of Bara'ah
Another significant feature of the month of Sha'ban is that it consists of a night which is termed in Shariah as "Laylatul-bara'ah" (The night of freedom from Fire). This is the night occurring between 14th and 15th day of Sha'ban. There are ahadeeth of the Prophet Sallallahu alaihi wa sallam, to prove that it is a meritorious night in which the people of the earth are attended by special Divine mercy. Some of these ahadeeth are quoted as follows:
1. Ummul-Mu'mineen Hadrat Aishah, Radiyallaahu anha, is reported to have said, "Once the Prophet Sallallaahu alaihi wa sallam, performed the Salaatut Tahajud and made a very long Sajdah until I feared that he had passed away. When I saw this, I rose (from my bed) and moved his thumb (to ascertain whether he is alive). The thumb moved, and I returned (to my place). Then I heard him saying in Sajdah: 'I seek refuge of Your forgiveness from Your punishment, and I seek refuge of Your pleasure from Your wrath, and I seek Your refuge from Yourself, exalted is Your countenance. I cannot praise You as fully as You deserve. You are exactly as You have praised Yourself.' Thereafter, when he raised his head from Sajdah and finished his salaah, he said to me: 'Aishah, did you think that the Prophet has betrayed you?' I said, 'No, O Prophet of Allah, but I was afraid that your soul has been taken away because your Sajdah was very long.' He asked me, 'Do you know which night is this?' I said, 'Allah and His Messenger know best.' He said, 'This is the night of the half of Sha'baan. Allah Almighty looks upon His slaves in this night and forgives those who seek forgiveness and bestows His mercy upon those who pray for mercy but keeps those who have malice (against a Muslim) as they were before, (and does not forgive them unless they relieve themselves from malice).'"
2. In another hadeeth Hadrat Aishah Radiyallaahu anha, has reported that the Prophet Sallallaahu alaihi wa sallam, has said, "Allah Almighty descends (in a manner He best knows it) in the night occurring in the middle of Sha'baan and forgives a large number of people more than the number of the fibres on the sheep of the tribe, Kalb."
Kalb was a big tribe the members of which had a very large number of sheep. Therefore, the last sentence of the hadeeth indicates the vast number of people who are forgiven in this night by Allah Ta’ala.
3. In yet another hadeeth, she has reported that the Prophet Sallallaahu alaihi wa sallam said, "This is the middle Night of Sha'baan. Allah frees in it a large number of the people from Fire, more than the number of the hair growing on the sheep of the tribe, Kalb. But He does not even look at a person who associates partners with Allah, or at a person who nourishes malice in his heart (against someone), or at a person who cuts off the ties of kinship, or at a man who leaves his clothes extending beyond his ankles (as a sign of pride), or at a person who disobeys his parents, or at a person who has a habit of drinking wine."
4. Hadrat Mu'adh Bin Jabal Radiyallaahu anhu reports that the Prophet Sallallaahu alaihi wa sallam, has said: "Allah Almighty looks upon all those created by Him in the middle Night of Sha'baan and forgives all those created by Him, except the one who associates partners with Him or the one who has malice in his heart (against a Muslim)".
Although the chain of narrators of some of these traditions suffers with some minor technical defects, yet when all these traditions are combined together, it becomes clear that this night has some well founded merits, and observing this night as a sacred night is not a baseless concoction as envisaged by some modern scholars who, on the basis of these minor defects, have totally rejected to give any special importance to this night. In fact, some of these traditions have been held by some scholars of hadeeth as authentic and the defects in the chain of some others have been treated by them as minor technical defects which, according to the science of hadeeth, are curable by the variety of their ways of narration. That is why the elders of the ummah have constantly been observing this night as a night of special merits and have been spending it in worship and prayer.
*See article on 15th of Shab’aan.