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Sha’baan & The 15th Night
- The venerable Companion, Sayyiduna Anas, رضى الله عنه reports that Prophet Muhammad ﷺ was asked, “Which fast is the most meritorious after the fasts of Ramadan?” He replied, “Fasts of Sha’baan in honour of Ramadhan.” [Tirmidhi #663]
- The Mother of the Believers, Sayyidah Aishah, رضى الله عنها is reported to have said, “The Prophet ﷺ did not observe voluntary fast so frequently during any other month as he did during Sha’baan. He observed fast throughout the month of Sha’baan.” In another narration: “He fasted during the whole month of Sha’baan except for a few days.” [Ibn Majah #1710]
- The esteemed Companion, Sayyiduna Abu Hurayrah, رضى الله عنه reports that Prophet Muhammad ﷺ said, “Do not fast after the first half of the month of Sha’baan.” [Tirmidhi #738; Abu Dawud #2337]
Ibn Rajab Al-Hanbali (May Allah have mercy upon him) writes: Sha’baan is an introduction to Ramadan. Islam encourages certain acts of worship this month, usually done in Ramadan, such as fasting and reciting the Holy Quran. This is to prepare the self (nafs) to welcome Ramadan and to habituate it upon the obedience of Allah.
Sayyiduna Anas رضى الله عنه reports: “When Sha’baan would commence, the Muslims (Sahabah and Tabi’un) would dedicate themselves to the recital of the Qur’an.”
Salamah ibn Kuhayl (May Allah have mercy upon him) and Habib ibn Abi Thabit (May Allah have mercy upon him) are reported to have said, “The month of Sha’baan is the month of the Qur’an reciters.” (Laylatul Ma’arif, pg.258, 259)
– Fasting in the month of Sha’baan, though not compulsory, is so meritorious that Prophet Muhammad ﷺ did not omit it.
– Fasting in any day in Sha’baan without stipulating a day is a proven and is an authentic Sunnah.
– To fast excessively during Sha’baan is also in conformity with the Sunnah.
– A person should not be fasting in the second half of Sha’baan unless he or she is habitual of fasting on Mondays and Thursdays.
– The fasts of Sha’baan are for those individuals who are capable of keeping them without being lethargic for the obligatory fasts of Ramadan. If there is fear that due to fasting in Sha’baan one will not be as energetic and healthy to fast in Ramadhan, then they should refrain from fasting in Sha’baan. The fasts of Ramadhan are obligatory, therefore more important than the optional fasts of Sha’baan.
– People who were unable to keep the qadhaa fasts from previous Ramadan can keep the qadhaa fasts during Sha’baan. Sayyidah Aishah, (Allah is Pleased with her) would do the same. [Muslim #1146]
The Night of Bara’ah or 15th Night of Shabaan
Another significant feature of the month of Sha’baan is that it consists of a night which is termed as Laylatul-Bara’ah or The Night of Freedom from Fire. Laylatul-Bara’ah is the night occurring between the 14th and 15th day of Sha’baan. There are certain traditions of Prophet Muhammad ﷺ .
- The venerable Companion, Sayyiduna Abu Musa Al-Ash’ari رضى الله عنه reports that Prophet Muhammad ﷺ has said: “On the 15th night of Sha’baan Allah bestows His special attention on His entire creation. He then pardons His whole creation, except an idolater and one who harbours enmity.” [Ibn Majah #1390]
- The venerable Companion, Sayyiduna Abdullah ibn ‘Amr رضى الله عنه reports that Prophet Muhammad ﷺ has said: “Allah looks with particular attention towards His creation on the 15th night of Sha’baan and forgives all His servants except two categories of people, the person who harbours enmity and a murderer.” [Musnad Ahmad #6642, with a slightly weak chain]
- The Mother of the Believers, Sayyidah Aishah رضى الله عنها is reported to have said, “Once Prophet Muhammad ﷺ performed the Salah of the night (Tahajjud) 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 annoyance, and I seek Your refuge from Yourself. I cannot praise You as fully as You deserve. You are exactly as You have defined Yourself.’ Thereafter, when he raised his head from Sajdah and finished his salah, 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).’” [Targheeb wa Al-Tarheeb]
None of the narrations regarding this night’s excellence are free from criticism from the Imams of hadith, yet in some cases, the weakness is not severe. The numerous ahaadith, minimum fifteen, possibly more are narrated by at least ten different Sahaabah. When these narrations are combined, they acquire some strength. Imams of hadith have accepted these narrations’ collective strength; hence, the virtues of this night have been deemed acceptable by many scholars of ahaadith.
Due to the severity of the following sins, anyone indulged in it would be deprived of the blessings of this virtuous night:
- To associate any partners to Allah Ta’ala, regarding His Being and Qualities.
- To harbour enmity for one’s fellow Muslims.
- Not fulfilling the rights of close relatives and treating them unkindly.
- To allow the trousers and pants to hang below the ankles. (for men only)
- A murderer.
- To be disobedient towards the parents.
- A fornicator.
- An alcoholic.
What to do during this night?
A person can spend some time during the night in the following acts of worship:
- Recitation of the Holy Qur’an
- Salat-alan-Nabi (Durood Shareef)
- Istighfar/Tawbah i.e. asking Allah for forgivenes
All forms of the optional worship (Nafl Ibadah), are to be done individually at home and not collectively. Remaining awake throughout the night is not required. A person may spend as much time during the night as he or she is comfortable with. In Islamic terms, the night commences at sunset and ends at dawn.
This night is meant for worshiping Allah in solitude. It is the time to enjoy communicating with the Lord of the Universe, and to devote one’s attention to Him and Him alone, hence cell phones should be turned off while engaged in worship. This is how Prophet Muhammad ﷺ observed the acts of worship on this night, in total seclusion, not accompanied by anyone, not even by his dearest life companion, the Mother of the Believers, Sayyidah Aishah رضى الله عنها.
Imam Shafi’i (May Allah have mercy on him) has stated: “I have heard that du’as are accepted by Almighty Allah on five nights:
1) The night of Jumu’ah,
2) and 3) The nights of the two ‘Eids,
4) The first night of Rajab,
5) The middle (15th) night of Sha’ban
[Lataiful Ma’arif, pg. 1264]
Sheikh Muhammad Zahid al-Kawthari (d.1952CE – May Allah have mercy on him) was a Mufti from the Ottoman era who later took refuge in Egypt. He writes:
ليلة النصف من شعبان ليلة إعتادت الأمة إحياءها بصنوف العبادة ، و رفع الدعوات إلى قاضى الحاجات جل جلاله للآثار الواردة فيها
Trans: “As for the 15th Night of Sha’baan, the Ummah has maintained a practice of reviving this night with various acts of worship and by raising supplications to the One, The Most Exalted who fulfills all needs. This is due to the narrations that have been reported pertaining to it.” [مقالات الكوثرى pg.80]
Sheikh Abdullah Al-Khayyat (d.1415H, May Allah have mercy on him) was a former Imam at al-Masjid al-Haram. In a Friday sermon he said:
يقول شيخ الاسلام إبن تيمية (رحمه الله) فى كلام طويل: فقد روي فى فضلها من الأحاديث و الآثار ما يقتضى أنها ليلة مفضلة. و من العلماء من السلف ، من أنكر فضلها ، و طعن فى الأحاديث الواردة فيها ، و قال: لا فرق بينها و بين غيرها من الليالي ، لكن الذي عليه كثير من أهل العلم على تفضيلها
Trans: Shaikh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyah (May Allah have mercy on him) has said in a lengthy statement: “The narrations and Athar that have been reported in its virtue, prove that the night is a virtuous night. From the predecessors there are some Ulama that negated its virtue and have critiqued the narrations that have been reported. They have said, that there is no difference between it (15th Night of Sha’baan) and the other nights, but most people of knowledge are of the position that the night is virtuous.” [الخطب فى المسجد الحرم v.2 pg. 109-111]
Imam Ibn Taymiyah (May Allah have mercy on him):
وأما ليلة النصف فقد روى في فضلها أحاديث وآثار ونقل عن طائفة من السلف أنهم كانوا يصلون فيها، فصلاة الرجل فيها وحده قد تقدمه فيه سلف وله فيه حجة فلا ينكر مثل هذا
Trans: As for the 15th night of Shabaan, there are many narrations and Athar regarding its virtue. It has been reported from the predecessors that they prayed in this night. Therefore, praying alone on this night, does have precedence in the predecessors. This is sufficient evidence and something of this kind surely cannot be denied. [Majmu’ Fatawa, Vol. 23, pg. 132]
وسئل: عن صلاة نصف شعبان؟
فأجاب: اذا صلى الانسان ليلة النصف وحده أو فى جماعة خاصة كما كان يفعل طوائف من السلف فهو أحسن
Trans: Question: Praying salah on the 15th Night of Sha’baan?
Answer: If one prays salat on this night by himself or in a select congregation as some from the predecessors have done, then that is good.” [Majmu’ Fatawa, Vol. 23, pg. 131]
Mufti Taqi Usmani (May Allah preserve him) writes:
“Another peculiar feature of the month of Sha’baan is that it consists of a night which is termed in Shari’ah as “Laylatil-bara’ah” (The night of freedom from Fire), This is the night occurring between 14th and 15th day of Sha’baan. Ther are certain Traditions of the Holy Prophet ﷺ to prove that it is a meritorious night in which the people of the earth are attended by special divine mercy.”
After quoting some ahaadith, he further writes:
“Although the chain of narrators of some of these Traditions suffer from some minor technical defects, yet when all these traditions are combined together, it becomes clear that this night has some merits peculiar to it, 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 hadith as authentic arid the defects in the chain of some others have been treated by them as minor technical defects which, according to the science of hadith, are curable by the variety of their ways of narration.” [Islamic Months, pg. 70-73]
Fasting on the 15th of Sha’baan
It is not appropriate to fast only on the 15th day of Sha’baan. There is only one report indicating that fasting on the 15th day is recommended. This report is unreliable and extremely weak; hence it is not virtuous to fast only on the 15th of Sha’baan. Fasting only on the 15th of Sha’baan would be the same as fasting any other day of Sha’baan. If a person desires to fast on the 15th, then the 13th and 14th of Sha’baan should be added due to the following authentic ahaadith:
- The venerable Companion, Sayyiduna Abu Hurayrah رضى الله عنه reports: “My friend (Prophet ﷺ) gave me three pieces of advice, which I will not neglect until I die; fast for three days in every month, Salat Al-Dhuhaa (late morning prayer) and to sleep after witr.” [Bukhari #1178]
- The venerable Companion, Sayyiduna Abu Dhar رضى الله عنه reports that Prophet ﷺ has said: “If you want to observe fast on three days in a month, then fast on the 13th, 14th and 15th. [Tirmidhi #761]
- The venerable Companion, Sayyiduna Ibn Abbas رضى الله عنه reports that it was the practice of the Messenger of Allah ﷺ to never miss a fast of the ‘Bright Days’ (13th, 14th and 15th of the lunar month) whether he was at home or on a journey.” [Nasa’i #2345]
The 15th Night of Sha’baan will be on Saturday night Feb. 24th, 2024.
By Mawlana Mushtaq Shaikh