“Fasting is like a seed being planted in Rajab, in Sha’baan it is being watered, and in Ramadan we pick the fruits.”
[Ibn Rajab al-Hanbali]
As Muslims the world over prepare for the sacred month of Ramadan, the auspicious night of 15 Sha’baan, also known as Laylatul Nisfi min Sha’ban, dawns upon us. In a hadeeth (hasan: good authenticity), the Prophet Muhammad (may peace be upon him) states that Allah shows a special kind of mercy on this night, and forgives all his creation who expose themselves to His mercy. [Musnad Ahmad]
The exception to this category is the mushriq, the one who ascribes partners unto Allah and the mushaahin, those who harbour enmity against others. Muslims are, therefore, encouraged to forgo any hatred that they may hold against anyone during this period as a means to draw closer to the Creator.
“Don’t turn your heart to the garbage of hatred, because hate will consume you,” says Shaykh Yahya Al-Ninowy.
What is the authenticity of observing this night?
Cape Town Islamic scholar, Shaykh Ebrahim Moos, explains that many scholars have agreed upon multiple ahadeeth that speak to the significance of this night and encourage Muslims to make extra ibaada.
“While there are scholars who refute the authenticity, the vast majority seem to have looked at the ahadeeth in general, and have concluded that there is some virtue to this night,” the Shaykh says.
Ibn Rajab al-Hanbali, in Kitab al‘Ataaif, states that this is a night worth seeking and in which to increase ibaada, and Imam al-Shaafi’i states that it is one of the nights that ad’iyaah is mustajaab (accepted).
Mufti Sayed Haroon Al Azhari in his paper, 15th of Sha’baan – A night of Salvation, explains that the virtues of this night is reported by no less than 13 companions of Prophet (may peace be upon him), including; Sayyidina Mu’adh, Abu Tha’labah, Abu Moosa, Abu Hurairah, AbuBakr, and Sayyidah Aisha. In addition, from the famous Six Books of Hadeeth, Imaam Tirmidhi and Ibn Majah have dedicated and named a special chapter on “The Night of the Middle of Sha’baan”, and established the merits of this Night.
While many individuals continue to negate the practice of observing this night, ibn Rushd states that if you ever have ikhtilaaf (difference of opinion) about the matters relating to the rahmah (mercy) of Allah, then err on the side of rahmah.
In a hadeeth narrated by Sayyidinah Aisha (may Allah be pleased with her), she states that the Prophet (may peace be upon him), fasted most of the month of Sha’baan and further noted that it was his preference at times to fast the entire month. [Bukhari]
In another narration, Osama ibn Zaid, who was the son of Zaid bin Haritha (may Allah be pleased with them), asked the Nabi why he places so much emphasises on observing the month through fasting and why he does not instruct his companions to observe fasting during this month. The Nabi replied that he fasts since most people, during the month of Sha’baan, are lost between the months of Rajab and Ramadan, a period in which war was prevalent. The Nabi further stated that it is the month that deeds of the son of Adam are raised to Allah to be presented. [Sunan Al-Nisa’i]
Is this the night on which the following year is planned?
In Surah Dukhaan, Allah refers to Laylatul Mubaraka (the night of blessings), on which everything for the next year is planned, which many interpret as relating to the 15th of Sha’baan. The majority of scholars, however, disagree with this interpretation and instead connect the ayah with Surah Qadr, which confirms that a night found on an odd night in the last ten days of the month of Ramadan is the night on which the following year is planned.
While, a third group of scholars interpret the two ayaat, which both refer to a blessed period, as beginning on the 15th of Sha’baan and ending on Laylatul Qadr.
What is the origin of the name ‘Sha’baan’?
While Islamic months are named after a war or the weather, Imam ibn Hajar says that one of the reasons that the month was named Sha’baan with the impending month of Ramadan, is because people searched for water and prepared the wells during this period.
A second opinion is that the Arabs waited for the month of Sha’baan to descend upon opposing tribes following the month of Rajab.
As the month in which fasting was legislated, in the second year after Hijra, it is also considered most likely the month in which the Qibla was changed from Jerusalem to Makkah. This opinion is based on Anas ibn Malik’s narration, which states that the Qibla was changed 16 or 17 months after Hijra. Therefore, indicating that the event occurred in either Rajab or Sha’baan, in the second year after Hijra.
What ibaada should be performed on this night?
While there is no stipulated form of ‘ibaada to be performed on this night, there are narrations that speak about a specific type of salah that must be performed, but these narrations have been rendered daeef (weak) by Imam al-Nawawi, amongst others.
“But if we recite Surah Yaseen on that night, knowing that it is only culture to do so and as along as one does not consider it a compulsory ruling of Islam, then it is permissible to do,” Shaykh Moos explained.
Renowned Islamic scholar, Shaykh Hamza Yusuf, explains that though this hadeeth is based on a weak narration, the ulama stipulate that with regards to hadeeth that refer to fadaail a’maal (virtuous actions), which do not relate to a hukum (ruling), it is then permissible to accept.
Scholars, who do practice the recitation of Surah Yaseen on this night, recite the Surah thrice, each recitation accompanied with a specific intention. With the first Surah Yaseen, scholars make the intention of spending a long life in worship, with the second Surah Yaseen they ask for the protection from calamities, and with the third they pray to only be in need of Allah.
The scholars base their recital of Surah Yaseen on the hadeeth that states that when reading Surah Yaseen one receives the intention for what it is read.
Mufti Haroon lists the things to do on this blessed night and on the days that follow:
- Perform a ghusl (purification bath) to mentally prepare for the change you wish to make in your life.
- Make an intention to seek Allah’s pleasure and forgiveness.
- Join the Jama’ah (congregation) at your local masjid.
- Recite the Holy Qur’an even if it’s only Surah Yaseen or Surah Mulk.
- Perform other optional Ibaada (worship), such as Salaatul Awwabeen, Salaatul Tasbeeh, Taubah and Shukr.
- Make thikr of Allah alone or in a gathering; giving charity and helping others.
- Visit the graveyard as Rasoolullah (may peace be upon him) did. [Ibn Abi Shaiba 6/108, Al Musnad 6/238, & Daru Qutni]
- Ask those whom you have hurt for forgiveness and pardon those who have hurt you, since we all have shortcomings and need Allah to forgive us, so too must we be willing to forgive Allah’s creation.
- Fast on the 13th, 14th, and 15th of Sha’baan and try to keep this Sunnah in every other month as well.