Shaba'an and Shab-e-Baraa'at
(being responses by Haji Zainol A. Khan to questions posed by
Br. Asman Ghany on a T.I.A. Radio Programme)
Q. What is the meaning of the word “Shaba’an”?
A. The word Shaba’an means “consistently increasing”. It is derived from the Arabic word Shu’ba which means branch. It is to be noted that the Arabs used to concentrate their activities during the month to look for water.
Q. In what way is the word connected to Islam?
A. Shaba’an is the name of the eighth month of the Islamic calendar. This month falls just after the month of Rajab and before the month of Ramadaan. Shaba’an is the month during which the Holy Prophet Muhammad (pboh) offered most voluntary fasts in preparation for the month of Ramadaan. In addition, the night of the 15th. of this month is one of the five nights in the Islamic year during which a believer’s prayer is accepted. This night is called Laila tul Bara’ah (the night of Freedom from Fire) or, in the Urdu language, Shab-e-Baraa’at.
The Holy Prophet Muhammad (pboh) said:
“Shaba’an is my month, Rajab is Allaah’s month, and Ramadaan is the month of the community. Shaba’an is the expiator, while Ramadaan is the purifier.”
Q. What are the other four nights in the Islamic year during which a believer’s prayer is accepted?
A. The other four nights in the Islamic year during which a believer’s prayer is accepted are: the nights of the two Eids, the night of the first of Rajab: and the night of the 27th of Ramadaan.
Q. Are there any particular instructions in the actions and sayings of the Holy Prophet (p.b.o.h.) as regards the month of Shaba’an?
A. Yes. Of course. As mentioned, Shaba’an is the month immediately before the month of Ramadaan which is, as you know, the month of compulsory fasting for Muslims. Therefore some preparatory measures for the month of fasting should be taken as would be seen from the following ahadith:
(i) Hazrat Anas (may Allaah be pleased with him) reported that Prophet Muhammad (p.b.o.h.) was asked:
“Which fast is the most meritorious after the fasts of Ramadaan?”.
In reply, the Holy Prophet (pboh) said:
“Fasts of Shaba’an in honour of Ramadaan”.
(ii) Hazrat Usama ibn Zaid (may Almighty Allaah be pleased with him) reports that he asked the Holy Prophet (pboh):
“O Messenger of Allaah! I have seen you fasting in the month of Shaba’an so frequently that I have never seen you fasting in any other month.”
In reply the Holy Prophet (pboh) said:
“Shaba’an is a month between Rajab and Ramadaan which is neglected by many people. And it is a month in which an account of the deeds (of human beings) is presented before the Lord of the Universe. So, I wish that my deeds be presented at a time when I am in a state of fasting.”
(iii) Hazrat Aishah (may Allaah be pleased with her.) said:
Prophet Muhammad used to fast the whole of Shaba’an. I said to him: ‘Messenger of Allaah, is Shaba’an your most favourite month of fasting?’ He said: ‘In this month Allaah prescribes the list of the persons dying this year. Therefore, I like that my (preparation of) death comes when I am in a state of fasting.’
(iv) In another tradition Hazrat Aisha (may Allaah be pleased with her) said:
“Prophet Muhammad (pboh) would sometimes begin to fast continuously until we thought he would not stop fasting, and sometimes he used to stop fasting until we thought he would never fast. I never saw the Messenger of Allaah (pboh) fasting a complete month, except the month of Ramadaan, and I have never seen him fasting in a month more frequently than he did in Shaba’an.”
(v) In yet another report Hazrat Aisha (may Allaah be pleased with her) said
“I never saw the Messenger of Allaah (pboh) fasting in a month so profusely as he did in the month of Shaba’an. He used to fast the entire month (and) he used to fast the month leaving only a few days.”
(vi) Hazrat Umm Salamah (may Alllah be pleased with her) said:
“I have never seen the Messenger of Allaah fasting for two months continuously except in the months of Shaba’an and Ramadaan.”
Q. What conclusions can be reached from the traditions which have been quoted?
A. These traditions clearly indicate that fasting during the month of Shaba’an, though not obligatory, is so meritorious that the Holy Prophet (pboh) did not like to miss it.
Q. Should one therefore follow in the footsteps of the Holy Prophet (pboh) and also fast during most of, if not the whole month of, Shaba’an?
A. That depends on each individual. The fasts in Shaba’an should only be kept by those persons who are capable of keeping them without affecting the obligatory fasts of Ramadaan. Therefore, if a person is fearful that after fasting during the month of Shaba’an he may not be able to fast during the month of Ramadaan, or that he may not be sufficiently fit to fast properly during the month of Ramadaan, then he should not fast in Shaba’an. It must also be pointed out that the Holy Prophet (pboh) prohibited Muslims from fasting one or two days immediately before the commencement of Ramadaan. As a matter of fact the Holy Prophet (pboh) said: “
Do not fast after the first half of the month of Shaba’an.”
Q. What is the reason for this?
A. The reason is of course that while the Holy Prophet had no fear of becoming weak or tired by fasting before the commencement of Ramadaan, he feared that his followers might be adversely affected by so doing and as a result they would lose their strength before Ramadaan starts, and so would not be able to carry out their obligations to the fullest extent during that month.
Q. What is the significance and importance of the night of Bara’ah?
A. The night of Bara’ah means the night of freedom from fire. This is the night of the 15th of Shaba’an. You will be aware of course that the Islamic “day” commences when the sun sets and ends with the next setting of the sun about twenty-four hours after. In effect therefore the night of the 15th. of Bara’ah is the night between the 14th. and 15th. of the month.
Q. What are some authorities to support the commemoration of this night?
A. Almighty Allaah tells us in the Holy Qur’aan:
“We sent it down during a blessed night: for We ever wish to warn against evil. In that night is made distinct every affair of wisdom, by command, from Our Presence. For We (ever) send (revelations) as a mercy from thy Lord; for He hears and knows (all things).” Chapter 44 Verses 3-6
In this connection it must be mentioned that although the majority of commentators consider the “Blessed Night” in these verses to refer to the Night of Power (Laila tul Qadr) which is in the month of Ramadaan, yet the commentators also mention that this “Blessed Night” may be that of mid-Shaba’an (Laila tul Bara’ah). This view is based on the profusion of ahadith on the great merits of the night of Bara’ah. Consequently, the scholars have commended observance of this night.
Q. Are there any ahadith to support the commemoration of the night?
A. Yes. There are many ahadith transmitted by Imam Ibn Hibban, Imam al-Tirmidhi, Imam ibn Majah, Imam al-Baihaqi etc. on the merits of the night. Some of these ahadith are Sahih, some Hasan and some weak. The follwing are a few:
(i) Hazrat Aishah (R.A.) is reported to have said:
“Once Prophet Muhammad (pboh ) performed the Salaah of the night, that is Tahajjud, and made a very long prostration 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 prostration:
‘I seek Your forgiveness from Your punishment and I seek of Your pleasure from Your annoyance, and I seek Your refuge from Yourself.’
Thereafter, when he raised his head from prostration and finished his prayer, he said to me:
“Aishah, did you think that the Prophet had betrayed you?”
I said: ‘No! O Prophet of Allaah, but I was afraid that your soul had been taken away because your prostration was very long.’
He asked me: ‘Do you know which night is this?’
I said: ‘Allaah and His messenger know best.’
He said: This is the night of the half of Shaba’an. Allaah Almighty looks upon His slaves in this night and forgives those who seeks 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 towards another Muslim).
(ii) Hazrat Aishah (R.A.) has reported Prophet Muhammad (pboh) to have said:
“This is the middle night of Shaba’an. Allaah frees in it a large number of the people from Fire, more than the number of the hair growing on the sheep of the tribe Kalb. But He does not even look at a person who associates partners with Allaah, or at a person who nourishes malice in his heart (against someone), or at a person who disobeys his parents, or at a person who has a habit of drinking wine.”
(Kalb was a large tribe and its members had numerous sheep. Therefore, the hadith indicates the large number of persons who are forgiven on this night by Allaah.)
(iii) Hazrat Abu Musa al-Ash’ari (R.A.)) reports that Prophet Muhammad (pboh) said:
“Allaah Almighty looks upon all those created by Him in the middle night of Shaba’an and forgives all those created by Him, except the one who associates partners with Him or the one who has malice in his heart against a Muslim.”
Abu Huraira (R.A.) reported the Prophet (pboh) as saying:
Gabriel (pboh) came to me on the night of mid-Shaba’an and said to me :”O Muhammad, raise your head heavenwards.” I asked him: “What night is this?” and he replied: “This is the night when Allaah (Glorified is He) opens three hundred of the gates of mercy, forgiving all those who do not make anything His partner. The only exceptions are those who practise sorcery or divination, are addicted to wine, or persist in usury and illicit sex; these He does not forgive until they repent.”
“At a quarter of the night, Gabriel (peace be upon him) came down and said: “O Muhammad, raise your head!” So I looked up to behold the Gates of Paradise wide open. At the first gate an angel was calling: ‘Good news for those who bow in worship this night!” At the second gate an angel was calling: “Good news for those who prostrate themselves in worship this night!’ At the third gate an angel was calling: ‘Good news for those who offer supplication this night!’ At the fourth gate an angel was calling: ‘Good news for those who make remembrance this night!’ At the fifth gate an angel was calling: “Good news for those who weep this night from the fear of Allaah!’ At the sixth gate an angel was calling: ‘Good news for those who submit this night!’ At the seventh gate an angel was calling: ‘Will anyone ask, that his request may be granted?’ At the eight gate an angel was calling: ‘Will anyone seek forgiveness, that he may be forgiven?’
“I said: ‘O Gabriel, how long will these gates be open?’ He replied: “From the beginning of the night until the break of dawn.’ Then he said: ‘O Muhammad, tonight Allaah has as many slaves emancipated from the Fire as the number of woolly hairs on the flocks and herds of Kalb.”
(v) Hazrat Aisha (R.A.) reported that the Holy Prophet (pboh) said:
“Do you know what happens this night?” meaning the middle night of Shaba’an.
She asked: “What happens in it, O Messenger of Allaah (pboh)?”
‘In it a record is made of every human being who will be born and of every human being who will die, this year; in it their actions are taken up to heaven, and in it their Rizq (provisions) are sent down’
Q. You stated that the 15th. night of Shaba’an is one of the five special nights in the Islamic calendar during which a believer’s prayer is answered. How should onespend the night in order to gain the utmost from it?
A. One should, if circumstances permit, spend the whole night in acts of worship. And indeed many persons do so. However if one is unable to do so, one should spend as much of the night as possible, preferably the second half, in performing acts of worship.
Concerning supererogatory worship on the night of Bara’ah, Imam Suyuti says:
“As for the night of mid-Shaba’an, it has great merit and it is desirable (mustahabb) to spend part of it in supererogatory worship.
Q. What are some of the acts of worship which one should perform during the night of Bara’ah?
A. There are a number of such acts. The most preferable act is of course to perform nafl salaat, reading as many rakaats as possible.
In so doing, one should prolong as much as possible in the Rukuu and sajdah positions.
Q. Are there any special suurahs to be read on the occasion?
A. Two rakaats salaat should be read at a time and besides Suurah Al Fatihah one should read Suurah Ikhlaas three times in each rakaat.
Q. What other acts of worship can be performed?
A. One should recite as much of the Holy Qur’aan as one could.
One can also perform Zikr, that is, repeating Allaah’s names and, of course, recite daruud shareef.
Naturally one should offer sincere supplication to Almighty Allaah, praying for whatever one wishes. One can make supplication in whatever language one wants. One must remember however that certain persons are not forgiven on that night unless they sincerely repent and beg for forgiveness. These are:
1. those who associate partners with Allaah,
2. those who nourish malice in their hearts against anyone,
3. those who cut off the ties of kinship,
4. those who disobey their parents, and
5. those who have a habit of drinking wine (or intoxicants).
Q. What should one do if for some reason one is unable to perform any of the acts you have just mentioned?
A. One should at least perform the fard of Maghrib, Isha and Fajr salaat in jamaat, and also make zikr and du’a even in one’s bed.
Q. What should women, who are in a state such that they cannot perform the salaat and recite Qur’aan, do on the night of Bara’ah?
A. Such women can recite zikr, tasbeeh, and daruud shareef and of course make du’a to Allaah for whatever purpose they like. The du’as may include those found in the Holy Qur’aan and the ahadith but such du’as must be recited with the intention of supplication and not of recitation of the Holy Qur’aan.
Q. Should one visit the cemetery and offer du’a for the deceased on the night of Bara’ah?
A. Yes, indeed. Hazrat Aisha (R.A.) reports as follows:
“One night, which was the fifteenth of Shaba’an, I did not find the beloved Prophet (pboh) in the house so I went in search of him. After a long search I found him in Baqi (the cemetery of Madinah) offering du’a for the deceased and praying for their forgiveness.”
We must remember that the Holy Prophet Muhammad (pboh) has been sent by Almighty Allaah as His last Messenger and as The Perfect Exemplar. We must therefore follow in his footsteps in this matter, as indeed in all matters. Thus we should visit the cemetery on that night, if possible, and make Faatihah for all deceased Muslims, especially our family, close relatives and friends.
Q. You have told us what we should do on the Night of Bara’ah. Could you indicate to us some of the things that should not be done on this special night?
A. One should remember that it a special night from which, if spent in acts of devotion, one can obtain great spiritual and other benefits. Accordingly, one should abstain from all those activities which displease Allaah.
In addition, one should abstain from taking part in activities which could be postponed for another night, and also such lectures as are not relevant to the occasion.
Q. You stated previously that the Holy Prophet (pboh) used to fast very often during the month of Shaba’an. Are there any special days in this month in which it is preferable to fast?
A. Yes. One should keep nafl (voluntary) fast on the 15th. of this month, and even better, on the 13th., 14th and 15th
Q. Do you have any final thoughts for our listeners?
A. Yes. Hazrat Ali (R.A.) reported that the Holy Prophet (pboh) said:
“When the night of mid-Shaba’an comes let all of you spend it in prayer (that is, partly) and its day (that is, following it) in fasting, for Allaah descends to the nearest heaven during that night beginning with sunset and says: Is there no one asking for forgiveness that I may forgive him? Is there no one asking for sustenance that I may grant him sustenance? Is there no one under trial that I may relieve him? Is there not such-and-such, is there not such-and-such, and so forth until dawn rises?”