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Shaban: Merits, Dos, and Donts

By Mufti Taqi Usmani

Shaban is one of the meritorious months for which we find some particular instructions in the Sunnah of Prophet uhammad! Sall-"llahu ala#hi wa sallam. $t is reported in the authentic ahadith that Prophet uhammad! Sall-"llahu ala#hi wa sallam! used to fast most of the month in Shaban. %hese fasts were not obligator# on him but Shaban is the month immediatel# preceding the month of &amadan. %herefore! some preparator# measures are suggested b# Prophet uhammad! Sall-"llahu ala#hi wa sallam. Some of these are gi'en below: 1. %he blessed companion "nas! &adi-"llahu anhu! reports that Prophet uhammad! Sall"llahu ala#hi wa sallam! was as(ed! )*hich fast is the most meritorious after the fasts of &amadan+, -e replied! ).asts of Shaban in honor of &amadan., 2. %he blessed companion /sama ibn 0aid! &adi-"llahu anhu! reports that he as(ed Prophet uhammad! Sall-"llahu ala#hi wa sallam: ) essenger of "llah! $ ha'e seen #ou fasting in the month of Shaban so fre1uentl# that $ ha'e ne'er seen #ou fasting in an# other month., Prophet uhammad! Sall-"llahu ala#hi wa sallam! replied: )%hat 2Shaban3 is a month between &a4ab and &amadan which is neglected b# man# people. "nd it is a month in which an account of the deeds 2of human beings3 is presented before the 5ord of the uni'erse! so! $ wish that m# deeds be presented at a time when $ am in a state of fasting., 6. /mmul umineen 7"ishah! &adi-"llahu anha! sa#s! )Prophet uhammad! Sall-"llahu ala#hi wa sallam! used to fast the whole of Shaban. $ said to him! 7 essenger of "llah! is Shaban #our most fa'orite month for fasting+ -e said! 7$n this month "llah prescribes the list of the persons d#ing this #ear. %herefore! $ li(e that m# death comes when $ am in a state of fasting., 8. $n another %radition she sa#s! )Prophet uhammad! Sall-"llahu ala#hi wa sallam! would sometimes begin to fast continuousl# until we thought he would not stop fasting! and sometimes he used to stop fasting until we thought he would ne'er fast. $ ne'er saw the essenger of "llah! Sall-"llahu ala#hi wa sallam! fasting a complete month! e9cept the month of &amadan! and $ ha'e ne'er seen him fasting in a month more fre1uentl# than he did in Shaban., :. $n another report she sa#s! )$ ne'er saw the essenger of "llah! Sall-"llahu ala#hi wa sallam! fasting in a month so profusel# as he did in the month of Shaban. -e used to fast in that month lea'ing onl# a few da#s! rather! he used to fast almost the whole of the month., ;. /mmul- umineen /mm Salamah! &adi-"llahu anha! sa#s: )$ ha'e ne'er seen the essenger of "llah fasting for two months continuousl# e9cept in the months of Shaban and &amadan.,

%hese reports indicate that fasting in the month of Shaban! though not obligator#! is so meritorious that Prophet uhammad! Sall-"llahu ala#hi wa sallam! did not li(e to miss it. <ut it should be (ept in mind that the fasts of Shaban are for those persons onl# who are capable of (eeping them without causing deficienc# in the obligator# fasts of &amadan. %herefore! if one fears that after fasting in Shaban! he will lose strength or freshness for the fasts of &amadan and will not be able to fast in it with freshness! he should not fast in Shaban! because the fasts of &amadan! being obligator#! are more important than the optional fasts of Shaban. %hat is wh# Prophet uhammad! Sall-"llahu ala#hi wa sallam! himself has forbidden the uslims from fasting one or two da#s immediatel# before the commencement of &amadan. %he blessed =ompanion "bu -urairah! &adi-"llahu anhu! reports Prophet uhammad! Sall-"llahu ala#hi wa sallam! to ha'e said! )>o not fast after the first half of the month of Shaban is gone., "ccording to another report Prophet uhammad! Sall-"llahu ala#hi wa sallam has said: )>o not precede the month of &amadan with one or two fasts., %he essence of the abo'e-1uoted ahadith is that Prophet uhammad! Sall-"llahu ala#hi wa sallam! himself used to fast most of the month of Shaban! because he had no fear of de'eloping wea(ness or weariness before the commencement of &amadan. "s for others! he ordered them not to fast after the 1: of Shaban for the fear that the# would lose their strength and freshness before &amadan starts! and would not be able to welcome the month of &amadan with enthusiasm.

The Night of Bara'ah

"nother significant feature of the month of Shaban is that it consists of a night which is termed in Shariah as Laylatul-baraah 2%he night of freedom from .ire3. %his is the night occurring between 18th and 1:th da# of Shaban. %here are certain traditions of Prophet uhammad! Sall-"llahu ala#hi wa sallam! to pro'e that it is a meritorious night in which the people of the earth are attended b# special >i'ine merc#. Some of these traditions are 1uoted as follows: 1. /mmul- umineen 7"ishah! &adi-"llahu anha! is reported to ha'e said! )?nce Prophet uhammad! Sall-"llahu ala#hi wa sallam! performed the Salah of the night 2%aha44ud3 and made a 'er# long Sa4dah until $ feared that he had passed awa#. *hen $ saw this! $ rose 2from m# bed3 and mo'ed his thumb 2to ascertain whether he is ali'e3. %he thumb mo'ed! and $ returned 2to m# place3. %hen $ heard him sa#ing in Sa4dah: 7$ see( refuge of @our forgi'eness from @our punishment! and $ see( refuge of @our pleasure from @our anno#ance! and $ see( @our refuge from @ourself. $ cannot praise @ou as full# as @ou deser'e. @ou are e9actl# as @ou ha'e defined @ourself. %hereafter! when he raised his head from Sajdah and finished his salah, he said to me: 7"ishah! did #ou thin( that the Prophet has betra#ed #ou+ $ said! 7Ao! ? Prophet of "llah! but $ was afraid that #our soul has been ta(en awa# because #our Sajdah was 'er# long. -e as(ed me! 7>o #ou (now which night is this+ $ said! 7"llah and -is essenger (now best. -e said! 7%his is the night of the half of Shaban. "llah "lmight# loo(s upon -is sla'es in this night and forgi'es those who see( forgi'eness and bestows -is merc# upon those who pra# for merc# but (eeps those who ha'e malice 2against a uslim3 as the# were before! 2and does not forgi'e them unless the# relie'e themsel'es from malice3.,

2. $n another %radition Sa##idah "ishah! &adi-"llahu anha! has reported that Prophet uhammad! Sall-"llahu ala#hi wa sallam! has said! )"llah "lmight# descends 2in a manner -e best (nows it3 in the night occurring in the middle of Shaban and forgi'es a large number of people more than the number of the fibers on the sheep of the tribe! Balb., Balb was a big tribe the members of which had a 'er# large number of sheep. %herefore! the last sentence of the hadith indicates the big number of the people who are forgi'en in this night b# "llah "lmight#. 6. $n #et another %radition! she has reported Prophet uhammad! Sall-"llahu ala#hi wa sallam! to ha'e said! )%his is the middle Aight of Shaban. "llah frees in it a large number of the people from .ire! more than the number of the hair growing on the sheep of the tribe! Balb. <ut -e does not e'en loo( at a person who associates partners with "llah! or at a person who nourishes malice in his heart 2against someone3! or at a person who cuts off the ties of (inship! or at a man who lea'es his clothes e9tending be#ond his an(les 2as a sign of pride3! or at a person who disobe#s his parents! or at a person who has a habit of drin(ing wine., 8. Sa##idna uadh ibn Cabal! &adi-"llahu anhu! reports that Prophet uhammad! Sall"llahu ala#hi wa sallam! has said: )"llah "lmight# loo(s upon all those created b# -im in the middle Aight of Shaban and forgi'es all those created b# -im! e9cept the one who associates partners with -im or the one who has malice in his heart 2against a uslim3,. "lthough the chain of narrators of some of these traditions suffers with some minor technical defects! #et when all these traditions are combined together! it becomes clear that this night has some well founded merits! and obser'ing this night as a sacred night is not a baseless concoction as en'isaged b# some modern scholars who! on the basis of these minor defects! ha'e totall# re4ected to gi'e an# special importance to this night. $n fact! some of these traditions ha'e been held b# some scholars of hadith as authentic and the defects in the chain of some others ha'e been treated b# them as minor technical defects which! according to the science of hadith, are curable b# the 'ariet# of their wa#s of narration. %hat is wh# the elders of the ummah ha'e constantl# been obser'ing this night as a night of special merits and ha'e been spending it in worship and pra#ers.

What Should be Done in this Night?

$n order to obser'e the Aight of <araah! one should remain awa(ened in this night as much as he can. $f someone has better opportunities! he should spend the whole night in worship and pra#er. -owe'er! if one cannot do so for one reason or another! he can select a considerable portion of the night! preferabl# of the second half of it for this purpose! and should perform the following acts of worship: 2a3 Salah. Salah is the most preferable act to be performed in this night. %here is no particular number of Rakat but preferabl# it should not be less than eight. $t is also ad'isable that each part of the Salah li(e qiyam, rukoo and sajdah should be longer than normal. %he longest surahs of the -ol# Duran one remembers b# heart should be recited in the Salah of this night. $f someone does not remember the long surahs! he can also recite se'eral short surahs in one rakah

2b3 Tilawa. %he recitation of the -ol# Duran is another form of worship! 'er# beneficent in this night. "fter performing Salah, or at an# other time! one should recite as much of the -ol# Duran as he can. 2c3 Dhikr. ?ne should also perform dhikr 2recitation of the name of "llah3 in this night. Particularl# the following dhikr is 'er# useful: ?ne should recite Salah !durood" on Prophet uhammad! Sall-"llahu ala#hi wa sallam! as man# times as he can. %he dhikr can also be recited while wal(ing! l#ing on bed and during other hours of wor( or leisure. 2d3 Dua. %he best benefit one can draw from the blessings of this night is pra#ers and supplications. $t is hoped that all the pra#ers in this night will be accepted b# our 5ord! insha#llah Pra#er itself is an $%badah, and "llah "lmight# gi'es reward on each pra#er along with the fulfillment of the supplicators need. E'en if the purpose pra#ed for is not achie'ed! one cannot be depri'ed of the reward of the pra#er which is sometimes more precious than the mundane benefits one stri'es for. %he pra#ers and supplications also strengthen ones relation with "llah "lmight#! which is the main purpose of all (inds and forms of worship. ?ne can pra# for whate'er purpose he wishes. <ut the best supplications are the ones made b# Prophet uhammad! Sall-"llahu ala#hi wa sallam. %hese are so comprehensi'e and allencompassing pra#ers that all the human needs! of this world and the -ereafter! are full# co'ered in the elo1uent e9pressions used in them. "ctuall#! most of the prophetic pra#ers are so profound that human imagination can hardl# match their greatness. Se'eral boo(s in 'arious languages are a'ailable which pro'ide these prophetic pra#ers! and one should pra# to "llah "lmight# in accordance with them! whether b# reciting their original "rabic te9t or b# rendering their sense in ones own language. 2e3 %here are some people who cannot perform an# additional Salah or recitations for an# reason! li(e illness or wea(ness or being engaged in some other necessar# acti'ities. Such people also should not depri'e themsel'es completel# of the blessings of this night. %he# should obser'e the following acts: 2i3 %o perform the Salah of Ma&hrib, $%sha and 'ajr with (amaah in the mos1ue! or in their homes in case of their being sic(. 2ii3 %he# should (eep reciting the dhikr, particularl# the one mentioned in para 2c3 abo'e! in whate'er condition the# are until the# sleep. 2iii3 %he# should pra# to "llah for their forgi'eness and for their other ob4ecti'es. ?ne can do so e'en when he is in his bed. 2f3 %he women during their periods cannot perform salah, nor can the# recite the Duran! but the# can recite an# dhikr, tasb))h, durood sharif and can pra# to "llah for whate'er purpose the# li(e in whate'er language the# wish. %he# can also recite the "rabic pra#ers mentioned in the Duran or in the hadith with the intention of supplication 2and not with the intention of recitation3.

2g3 "ccording to a hadith, which is relati'el# less authentic! Prophet uhammad! Sall-"llahu ala#hi wa sallam! went in this night to the gra'e#ard of Baqi where he pra#ed for the uslims buried there. ?n this basis! some of the fuqaha hold it as mustahabb 2ad'isable3 in this night to go to the gra'e#ard of the uslims and recite 'atihah or an# other part of the Duran! and pra# for the dead. <ut this act is neither obligator# nor should it be performed as regularl# as an obligator# act.

What Should not be Done in this Night

1. "s mentioned earlier! the *i&ht of Baraah is a night in which special blessings are directed towards the uslims. %herefore! this night should be spent in total submission to "llah "lmight#! and one should refrain from all those acti'ities! which ma# displease "llah. "lthough it is alwa#s incumbent upon e'er# uslim to abstain from sins! #et this abstinence becomes all the more necessar# in such nights! because committing sins in this night will amount to responding to di'ine blessings with disobedience and felon#. Such an arrogant attitude can in'ite nothing but the wrath of "llah. %herefore! one should strictl# abstain from all the sins! particularl# from those mentioned in the -adith Ao. 6 1uoted earlier in this article! because these sins ma(e one de'oid of the blessings of this night. 2. $n this night some people indulge in some acti'ities which the# regard as necessar# for the celebration of the Aight of <araah! li(e coo(ing some special t#pe of meal! or illuminating houses or mos1ues! or impro'ised structures. "ll such acti'ities are not onl# baseless and inno'ated in the later da#s b# ignorant people! but in some cases the# are pure imitation of some rituals performed b# non- uslim communities. Such imitation in itself is a sinF performing it in a blessed night li(e the Aight of <araah ma(es it worse. uslims should strictl# abstain from all such acti'ities. 6. Some people spend this night in holding religious meetings and deli'ering long speeches. Such acti'ities are also not ad'isable! because these acts can easil# be performed in other nights. %his night re1uires one to de'ote himself for the pure acts of worship onl#. 8. %he acts of worship li(e Salah, recitation of the Duran and dhikr should be performed in this night indi'iduall#! not collecti'el#. %he *afl Salah should not be performed in (amaah, nor should the uslims arrange gatherings in the mos1ues in order to celebrate the night in a collecti'e manner. ?n the contrar#! this night is meant for worshipping "llah in solitude. $t is the time to en4o# the direct contact with the 5ord of the /ni'erse! and to de'ote ones attention to -im and -im alone. %hese are the precious hours of the night in which nobod# should inter'ene between one and his 5ord! and one should turn to "llah with total concentration! not disturbed or intermitted b# an# one else. %hat is wh# Prophet uhammad! Sall-"llahu ala#hi wa sallam! obser'ed the acts of worship in this night in total seclusion! not accompanied b# an#one! not e'en b# his fa'orite life companion Sa##idah 7"ishah! &adi-"llahu anha! and that is wh# all forms of the optional worship !*afl %badah", are ad'ised b# him to be done in indi'idual! not in collecti'e manner.

Fast of the 15th Sha'ban

?n the da# immediatel# following the Aight of <araah! i.e. the 1:th of Shaban! it is mustahabb 2ad'isable3 to (eep fast. Prophet uhammad! Sall-"llahu ala#hi wa sallam! is reported to ha'e recommended this fast emphaticall#. "lthough the scholars of hadith ha'e some doubts in the authenticit# of this report! #et it is mentioned earlier that the fasts of the first half of Shaban ha'e special merits and Prophet uhammad! Sall-"llahu ala#hi wa sallam! used to fast most of the da#s in Shaban. oreo'er! a large number of the elders !salaf" of the Ummah ha'e been obser'ing the fast of the 1:th of Shaban. %his constant practice indicates that the# ha'e accepted the rele'ant hadith as authentic. %herefore! it is ad'isable to fast the 1:th of Shaban as an optional 2nafl3 fast. ?ne can also (eep a fast of qada on this da# and it is hoped that he can also benefit from the merits of this fast.