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Islam and Spiritualism ( 31 May 2016, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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15th Of Shabaan Rituals and Innovation

By Abida Rahmani

May 20, 2016

We are fast approaching into the night of 15th of Shaabaan. This night marks a night of festivity and celebrations in our culture and some of the Muslims all around the world.

Being a small kid, I remember impatiently waiting for this month of Shaabaan. This month marked the month of fireworks for us. We would make a big rag ball, dipped in kerosene oil for days. At night set it on fire and tried our muscles to throw it higher and higher.

Our elders would always participate in this fun. Sometimes this burning ball of rags would make ablaze here and there. Then we would get money from our elders for other fireworks, crackers, tracers, bombs (bums) and the innocent ones Phuljarian, the twinkling stars. It was a month of celebrations and fun for us.

Then after growing up a little bit, we were told to offer at least 100 Rakats of Nawafil (non-obligatory prayers) on that night. Our Maulvis or scholars were against the fireworks and called it a night of worship and salvation. In our families the ladies would gather and try to offer at least 100 Rakats. The ladies used to make and distribute special meals among friends and families on that night. it was considered rewarding to be awake whole night and doing Ibada.

In Urdu speaking families mostly it was a big ritual of making different kind of Halwas. (This tradition is mostly related to the loss of teeth of Prophet s.a.w in battle of Uhad). So much toil and efforts were done in the preparations, days before this ritual would start. A variety of Halwas of suji, gram (channa), eggs, dry dates, coconut etc. the kids would distribute the delicacies among neighbours and friends. Those with sweet tooth would wait whole year for these Halwas. Meanwhile the cooking ladies tried their best to show expertise .All other cultures were not far behind in cooking their best meals and distributing to poor and friends.

In General it was considered a night of festivities. I remember some of my friends wearing new clothes on this evening, especially stitched for this occasion.

The scholars or Maulvis then asked the ladies not to get so tired in those preparations; it is not needed at all. They should preserve their energy for the night of worship, solitude and salvation. They have to fast the next day too.

Then after going through and interacting with some more learned and authentic scholars of Islam came to know that even this is not a night of worship and salvation , therefore no extra efforts are required for this night and no fast is authentic according to Sunnah for the next day. The Ahadith related to this night are weak and this celebrated night of power is ليلة القدرin the last 10 nights of Ramadan and not ليلة البراءات .

Once when I was visiting Egypt. On 14th of Shaabaan in Old Muslim Cairo, saw people buying beautifully made lanterns, sweets and vermicelli. On my query I was told that it is for the celebrations of this night the 15th Shaban.

Next day we were in Haram Baitullah Makkah for Umrah and many of the ladies were fasting.

It is great to practice authentic and pure religion and to simplify life but in this way we are taking all the beauty, fun and festivities from kids and families.

Here I ' m quoting some of the authentic narrations.

In preparation of Ramadan Muhammed (saw) did fast frequently in the month of Sha’ban, and he recommended not to fast after 15th of Shabaan so that we can have full strength for Ramadan to fast.

There is no evidence of fasting on 15th of Sha'ban as compulsory/recommended ................ one can fast whenever, other than the obligatory fasting of RAMADHAN!

On The night of 15th Sha’ban the preparation for the Shab-e-Baraat festivities is also heating up. Most mainstream Sunni and Shia sects believe this night to be blessed and perform special prayers, keep a fast and distribute food.

There is only one blessed night mentioned in the Qur’an, which is Laila tul Qadr. The Qur’an was sent down in this night and it is one of the nights in the last 10 days of Ramadan. However, those who believe that 15th Sha’ban is blessed interpret the verses in Surah Ad-Dukhan to refer to this night rather than the night of Qadr.

حمٓ (١) وَٱلۡڪِتَـٰبِ ٱلۡمُبِينِ (٢) إِنَّآ أَنزَلۡنَـٰهُ فِى لَيۡلَةٍ۬ مُّبَـٰرَكَةٍ‌ۚ إِنَّا كُنَّا مُنذِرِينَ By the manifest Book (this Qur'ân) that makes things clear, (2) We sent it (this Qur'ân) down on a blessed night, ad Dukhan 2,3

Many Scholars refer to this Ayah for Shab i Baraat or 15th of Shabaan instead of Laylatul Qadar and made this night very special.

But is Surah Ad-Dukhan referring to the 15th Sha’ban or to the night of Qadr? The clue is in the reference to the revelation of the Qur’an:

Verily, We have sent it (this Qur’an) down in the night of Al-Qadr (Decree). [Surah Al-Qadr 97:1]

Therein descend the angels and the Ruh [Jibril (Gabriel)] by Allah’s Permission with all Decrees. [Surah Al-Qadr 97:4]

The verses quoted above prove that the Qur’an was revealed on the night of Qadr, when Allah’s angels also descend with all Decrees (related to life, death and wealth). We then find the key evidence in Surah Al-Baqarah which tells us exactly which month it is:

The month of Ramadan in which was revealed the Qur’an, a guidance for mankind and clear proofs for the guidance and the criterion (between right and wrong). So whoever of you sights (the crescent on the first night of) the month (of Ramadan i.e. is present at his home), he must observe Saum (fasts) that month, and whoever is ill or on a journey, the same number [of days which one did not observe Saum (fasts) must be made up] from other days. Allah intends for you ease, and He does not want to make things difficult for you. (He wants that you) must complete the same number (of days), and that you must magnify Allah [i.e. to say Takbir (Allahu Akbar; Allah is the Most Great] for having guided you so that you may be grateful to Him. [Surah Al-Baqarah 2:185] [Emphasis added]

We can then conclude that the only night of blessing referred to in the Qur’an is the night of Qadr. There is no reference whatsoever to a Shab-e-Barat (or the night of 15th Sha’ban) as a blessed night.

The practices and beliefs associated with this night are a strange mish-mash of information found in the Qur’an and Sahih Hadith. Of the many things associated with this, it is said that Prophet Muhammad (SAW) visited a graveyard on the night of 15th Sha’ban. He prayed for the forgiveness of those who died as believers and were buried in Al-Baqi). Based on this Hadith, Muslims have now created a ritual whereby they visit graveyards on this night every year. This 15 Sha’ban hadith is found in Tirmidhi. There is Jirah (criticism) on this Hadith and Tirmidhi himself acknowledged that the reference to 15th Sha’ban was based on a single report (this means that the Hadith is classed as weak and is unreliable).

Crucially, we find authentic reports of this incident in Sahih Muslim (Sahih Muslim, Book #004, and Hadith #2127). There is no mention at all of Sha’ban, or of any other month when this incident happened. In fact, the Prophet (SAW) explained that he was ordered by angel Gabriel (AS) to pray for the forgiveness of the inhabitants of Al-Baqi. This is an isolated incident, in the sense that the Prophet (SAW) did not repeat this practice as a matter of routine. What we do learn from this Hadith is a prayer for forgiveness for those who died as believers but we find no mention of a particular date, so we do not know which night it was.

Despite this, the 15 Sha’ban myths has gained acceptance and Muslims have started to visit graveyards on the 15th Sha’ban every year; this is a ritual that can only be classed as a Bid’ah. Rather than sending a prayer for forgiveness regularly, what they have started to do instead is to congregate in graveyards, put flowers and Kewra (fragrance) on graves and say Salat un Tasbeeh prayers all night. It is worth pointing out that Salat un Tasbeeh itself is an innovated prayer not proven from Prophet (SAW). And while some spend this night saying prayers, others light up fireworks and sparklers. As we do not tire of repeating, Bid’ah tend to grow into more Bid’ah very quickly and what we see is that one innovated festival makes room for many more.

It is also believed by these sects that reports of actions or deeds are taken to Allah on this night and this is why one should fast on the day. What we find in Sahih Hadith is that all matters are taken to Allah on Monday and Thursday every week, which is why Prophet (SAW) used to fast on these days. (Sahih Muslim, Book #006, Hadith #2603)

Abu Huraim reported Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him) as saying, “The deeds of people would be presented every week on two days, viz. Monday and Thursday, and every believing servant would be granted pardon except the one in whose (heart) there is rancor against his brother and it would be said: Leave them and put them off until they are turned to reconciliation. (Sahih Muslim, Book #032, Hadith #6224)

It is also believed that Allah’s decisions regarding matters of life, death and wealth are revealed to angels on 15 Sha’ban. This view contradicts the Qur’an, where we are told clearly that all such Decrees are brought by angels on the night of Qadr, which is a night in Ramadan.

We can conclude that:

There is only one blessed night, the night of Qadr, mentioned in the Qur’an. The Prophet (SAW) recommended Nafil Ibadah in the last 10 nights of Ramadan, one of which may be the night of Qadr. This is the night when the Qur’an was revealed and when angels bring Allah’s Decrees.

The Prophet (SAW) visited the graveyard of Al-Baqi one night and said a prayer for those who died as believers. There are no authentic reports which tell us exactly which night this was.

Here is the Hadith:

Muhammad b. Qais said (to the people): Should I not narrate to you (a Hadith of the Holy Prophet) on my authority and on the authority of my mother? We thought that he meant the mother who had given him birth. He (Muhammad b. Qais) then reported that it was ‘A’isha who had narrated this: Should I not narrate to you about myself and about the Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him)? We said: Yes. She said: When it was my turn for Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him) to spend the night with me, he turned his side, put on his mantle and took off his shoes and placed them near his feet, and spread the corner of his shawl on his bed and then lay down till he thought that I had gone to sleep. He took hold of his mantle slowly and put on the shoes slowly, and opened the door and went out and then closed it lightly.

I covered my head, put on my veil and tightened my waist wrapper, and then went out following his steps till he reached Baqi’. He stood there and he stood for a long time. He then lifted his hands three times, and then returned and I also returned. He hastened his steps and I also hastened my steps. He ran and I too ran. He came (to the house) and I also came (to the house). I, however, preceded him and I entered (the house), and as I lay down in the bed, he (the Holy Prophet) entered the (house), and said: Why is it, O ‘A’isha, that you are out of breath? I said: There is nothing. He said: Tell me or the Subtle and the Aware would inform me.

I said: Messenger of Allah, may my father and mother be ransom for you, and then I told him (the whole story). He said: Was it the darkness (of your shadow) that I saw in front of me? She said: Whatsoever the people conceal, Allah will know it. He said: Gabriel came to me when you saw me... He (Gabriel) said: Your Lord has commanded you to go to the inhabitants of Baqi’ (to those lying in the graves) and beg pardon for them. I said: Messenger of Allah, how should I pray for them (How should I beg forgiveness for them)? He said: Say, Peace be upon the inhabitants of this city (graveyard) from among the Believers and the Muslims, and may Allah have mercy on those who have gone ahead of us, and those who come later on, and we shall, God willing, join you. This night was the 15th of Shaabaan.

We should beg forgiveness for our deceased near and dear ones always. However this practice had become a norm in subcontinent and this is just one instance of Prophet S.a.w going to Baqee on the night of 15th of Shabaan.

والله اعلم بالصواب