By Sadia Dehlvi
May 20, 2016
This month of Shaban is the eighth Islamic month, which precedes Ramzan, the month of fasting. Prophet Muhammad stated, “Rajab is the month of Allah, Shaban is my month and Ramzan is that of my Ummah, community.” The sanctity of Shaban comes from its proximity to Ramzan. Other than Ramzan, the Prophet is known to have observed more fasts in Shaban than any other month. He said fasting in Shaban cleanses the soul and prepares it to receive blessings in the sacred month of Ramzan.
Muslims believe the night of 15th Shaban to be a very special night, one in which God opens his doors of forgiveness and mercy. According to Islamic traditions, the destinies of all souls are sealed for the coming year. It is held that on this night the souls that are to be born and those who will depart from this world are identified. In Arabic this night is called Laylatul Bara’ah (night of deliverance), while in Urdu and Persian-speaking countries, it is known as Shab-e-Baraat.
In the subcontinent, this night of pardon assumes a festive flavour with fireworks and lighting of homes. Halwa is prepared, Nazar and Niaz offered over it. Food is distributed to the poor and the pious stay awake praying until Fajr, the predawn prayer.
Hazrat Ali reported Prophet Muhammad saying: “Let all of you spend the night of mid-Shaban in worship and its day in fasting. Allah descends to the nearest heaven during this night, beginning with sunset, and says: Is there no one asking forgiveness that I may forgive them? Is there anyone asking for sustenance that I may grant them sustenance? Is there anyone in difficulty that I may relieve them?”
These traditions encourage Muslims to spend the entire night of 15th Shaban in prayer. Most of the devout keep the recommended fast on the following day. Prophet Muhammad said that all of us err to varying degree, but the best are those who contemplate and then ask Allah for forgiveness for their wrong actions.
Other recorded narrations of prophetic sayings regarding this sacred night reiterate the idea of God’s mercy descending to all of creation. The Prophet said that all those who repented sincerely would be forgiven except for those who remain unjust. Others who would be excluded from God’s forgiveness are those who keep grudges against others and those who severe relationships with close family and friends.
Though historical documentation, we know that on the night of forgiveness, the Prophet visited Jannat ul Baqi, a graveyard in Medina. He offered supplications for the departed souls of his family and companions. Following in his footsteps, Muslims visit graveyards and Dargahs, seeking forgiveness for themselves and for the souls of loved ones.
Frequenting graveyards remind of the transitory nature of the world. Death is the only reality of which there is universally no doubt. Reflecting on death reveals the urgency of living a sincere, honest and fruitful life.
Sadia Dehlvi is a Delhi-based writer and author of Sufism: The Heart of Islam.