By Ghulam Rasool Dehlvi, New Age Islam
June 18, 2013
Every year just ahead of Ramadan, we enter into the Islamic month of Sha’ban full of divine bounties, spiritual blessings and moral virtues. The sole reason behind its being prelude to Ramadan is to provide us with an abundant opportunity to spiritually prepare and mentally ready ourselves to benefit optimally from the rich harvest of Ramadan.
The first step towards mental preparation and spiritual readiness for Ramadan is to explore the multi-faceted objective of fasting as enunciated in the Quranic injunctions and Prophetic traditions. The Quran is very clear in its foundational objective of enjoining fasts upon Muslims. It says: “O ye who believe! Fasting is prescribed to you as it was prescribed to those before you, that ye may become righteous (achieve Taqwa).” (2:183).
So, the essence of fasting in Ramadan is Taqwa, meaning righteousness and God-consciousness, which Muslims are required to observe throughout the whole blessed month of Ramadan and onward. But one cannot attain Taqwa until he/she purifies his/her mind, soul and heart, as only a sound soul can be a proper stead of God-consciousness. Sha’ban comes as a prelude to Ramadan just to fill up this spiritual vacuum in one’s heart. And this is literally done when one starts strictly refraining from immoral and vicious acts and engages in virtuous deeds such as charity and zikr (remembrance of God) from the very month of Sha’ban.
Because of this highly meritorious and salient feature, Sha’ban is the best of all months in the estimation of Allah after Ramadan. Therefore, Muslims have been accustomed to celebrate some auspicious events during the month of Sha'ban by fasting most of its days, offering maximum prayers, reciting the Holy Quran and making a great deal of supplication to Allah, the Almighty. It has been narrated that upon the arrival of Rajab the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him) used to pray "O' Allah! Bless us abundantly in Rajab and Sha'ban and deliver us safely unto Ramadan."
Besides immediately preceding Ramadan, Sha’ban is known for two more special occasions: (1) the change of the Muslims’ Qiblah and (2) the night of freedom from fire (Laylatul Bara’at called Shab-e-Bara’at in India).
By enjoining upon Muslims to turn their faces towards His First House, the Ka`bah in Mecca, God wanted the Prophet Muhammad pbuh to test and identify his true followers. It helped him to clearly distinguish between the true believers and the hypocrites, because the obedience to the commandment of turning face towards ka’ba, while offering Salah, was the distinguishing sign of sincere faith in Islam, while disobedience or delay were signs of hypocrisy. The Qur'an draws this contrast between hypocrites and true believers in the following verse:
“We decreed your former qiblah only in order that We might know the Prophet's true adherents and those who were to disown him. It was indeed a hard test, but not for those whom Allah guided.” (2:143 )
Similarly, the night of freedom from hellfire (Shab-e-Bara’at) is an exceedingly meaningful and highly valuable blessing that Allah favoured upon Muslims on the 15th of Sha’ban. Therefore, whenever the month of Sha`ban drew to a close, Prophet pbuh would announce in his spirited voice:
"O Muslims! A noble and generous month has come to you. A month in which a night is better than one thousand months, and this month is the month of charity, patience and mercy. In this month the gates of Paradise become wide open, the gates of Hell are shut and the devils are chained." (An-Nasa'i)
The Holy Qur'an States: “Indeed, We sent it down during a blessed night. Indeed, We were to warn [mankind].” (44:3)
Although the majority of the Qur’an exegetes consider the "blessed night" in the above verses to refer to the Night of Decree which is considered to be in the month of Ramadan, some commentaries also mention that this "blessed night" may be that of mid-Sha`ban. This view is based on the scores of Ahadith about the great merits of the latter. Consequently the Shari`a has commended observance of this night.
Authentic Ahadith about Laylat al-Bara'a
Among the hadiths stressing the importance of 15th Sha`ban (laylat al-bara'a) are the following:
Narrated by Aisha (r.a), I missed Allah's Messenger during the night and found him in al-Baqi'. He said: Were you afraid that Allah and His Messenger would deal unjustly with you? I said: Allah's Messenger, I thought that you had gone to some of your other wives. He (the Prophet) said: Verily Allah, the Exalted and Glorious, comes down to the heaven of the world in "the middle night of Sha'ban" and forgives sins even more abundant than the hair of the goats of Kalb. [Sunan Tirmidhi Volume 001, Hadith Number 670, Ibn Maja Volume 002, Hadith Number1379]
Narrated by Abu Musa al-Ash'ari, Allah's Messenger said, Allah, the Exalted and Glorious looks down on "the middle night of Sha'ban" and forgives all His creation. except a polytheist or one who is mushahin(one bent on hatred). [Sunan Ibn Maja Volume 002, Hadith Number 1380]
Narrated by Abdullah ibn Amr ibn al-'As Allah's Messenger said, Allah, the Exalted and Glorious looks down on "the middle night of Sha'ban" and forgives all His creation except two people, the mushahin(one bent on hatred) and the murderer. [Musnad Ahmad Volume 003, Hadith Number 6353]
It is reported by Abu Thalaba that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said: On the 15th night of Shabaan, Allah looks over at his creation and forgives all the believers except for the one who begrudges and hates. He leaves them in their enmity. [Bayhqi, Tafsir ad-Dar al-Manthur under the Verse 44:3]
It is reported by Muaz bin Jabbal that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said: Allah looks at His creation in "the night of mid-Sha`ban" and He forgives all His creation except for a mushrik (idolater) or a mushahin (one bent on hatred). [Ibn Hibban, Sahih, ed. Shu`ayb Arna'ut Volume 012: Hadith Number 5665]
Narrated by A'isha: She said: The Prophet (peace be upon him) stood up in prayer during part of the night and made his prostration so lengthy that I thought his soul had been taken back. When I saw this I got up and went to move his big toe, whereupon he moved, so I drew back. When he raised his head from prostration and finished praying, he (pbuh) said: "O A'isha, O fair little one (humayra')! Did you think that the Prophet had broken his agreement with you?" She replied: "No, by Allah, O Messenger of Allah, but I thought that your soul had been taken back because you stayed in prostration for so long." He said: "Do you know what night this is?" She said: "Allah and His Prophet know best." He said: "This is the night of mid-Sha`ban! Verily Allah the Glorious and Majestic look at His servants on "the night of mid-Sha`ban, and He forgives those who ask forgiveness, and He bestows mercy on those who ask mercy, and He gives a delay to the people of envy and spite in their state."
[Bayhaqi in Shu`ab al-iman Volume 003: Hadith Number 3835]
Imran bin Husain (ra) reported, Allah's Messenger (peace be upon him) having said to him or to someone else: Did you fast in the "Middle of Sha'ban?" He said: No. Thereupon he (the Holy Prophet) said: If you did not observe fast, then you should observe fast for two days. [Muslim Book 006, Number 2607]
The virtues of the blessed night of mid Sha’ban are established by many authentic ahadith, the secondary source of Islam that Wahabis and Ahl-e-Hadith place even above the Quran. But ironically they declare it Bida’h (innovation) to stay up on this night and engage in worship of Alllah.
Usually the Wahhabi/Salafi/Ahle Hadith are seen claiming that all hadiths mentioned above are “Daeef” (Weak). First of all, the hadith of Ibn Habban is termed as "SAHIH" by classical scholars of this field. Even if any follower of such groups does not believe in classical scholars, then here is substantial evidence from the Salafi/Wahhabi so-called Mujaddid of the last century and a reputed scholar of Hadith Nasir ud Din Albani. He declared Hadiths of 15th Shabaan as “Sahih” (authentic). See: (Silsilat ul-Ahadith-as Sahiha, Nasir ud din Albani, Volume No. 3, Page No. 135)