Muslims around the world will observe Lailatul Bara’at on Friday night, which marks the two week countdown to the sacred month of fasting, Ramadan. Best known locally as Rua, Muslims will retreat to their local mosques or tune in to their local Muslim community radio station for spiritual guidance on one of the most blessed nights of the Islamic year.
Rua is the 15th night of Shabaan and is considered a ‘night of salvation’. Also known as Shabbe Barat and Nisful Sha’ban, the night is regarded as the conclusion of one spiritual year and the start of a new one, which is why many Muslims fast the next day. VOC will broadcast the evening’s spiritual program live from the Nurul Islam masjid in Heideveld between 7 and 9pm.
Muslims believe that their good and bad deeds are presented to the Almighty for review on this night and at the same time, it presents them with an occasion to spend the night in prayer asking for three main things – forgiveness of their sins, protection from hardship in the coming year and rizq or sustenance for the year that lies ahead. It is also customary to fast on the last day of the spiritual year, as well as on the first day of the next spiritual year.
According to the Sunni view, the night is one of worship and salvation, commemorating when the Almighty saved prophet Nuh (AS) and his followers from the deluge. In their belief, during this night, Allah prepares the destiny for all people on Earth for the coming year. For this reason it is sometimes called the Night of Emancipation (Lailat ul Bara’at).
Among others, Muslims are encouraged to spend as much of the night in worship individually. No specific dua or method of worship has been prescribed. One may engage in thikr, recitation of the Quran, salah, learning and teaching or any other form of worship. However, the ulema advises that one must refrain from worldly talk and wasting of time. If ‘ibadah (worship) is not possible, then at least avoid all sinful and useless acts and go to bed as soon as possible, the ulema say.
Writing in the newsletter of the Claremont Main Road Mosque newsletter, Al Mizan, Imam Dr Rashied Omar captured some of the varied views on this evening as follows:
Traditionally in the Cape, the 15th night of the lunar month of Sha`ban (Laylatul-nisfi min Sha`ban) is commemorated as Rua. The night is also known as the “Night of Repentance” (Laylatul Bara’ah). Customarily, on this night congregations would gather in the masjid, and sometimes families would meet at homes, to recite Surah Ya Sin (Quran, Chapter 36) three times between the Maghrib and ‘Isha prayers.
Each consecutive recital is followed by the making of a special prayer (known as the Roewa Du’a) and each recitation and supplication is done with a special intention (niyyah) – for long life in successful obedience to Allah, for abundant provisions and protection against calamities, and for independence from reliance on human beings and reliance only on Allah, the Sublime.
Historically however, there has not existed unanimity and consensus amongst Muslim scholars with regard to the significance of this night. Some scholars argue that the 15th night of Sha’ban has no special religious and spiritual significance and should be treated just as any other night. The majority of Muslim scholars, however, acknowledge that the night does have a special religious and spiritual significance. The well-known work, Tuhfatul Ikhwan, records a hadith in which the Messenger of Allah is reported to have said: “Allah’s special mercy and forgiveness is more munificent and available from the very beginning of this night”.
Such a view is supported by the following hadith contained in the collections of al-Tabarani, Ibn Hibban and al-Bayhaqi. The Companion Mu`adh ibn Jabal (may Allah be pleased with him) relates that the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) said: “Allah, the Most Compassionate, looks at His creation during the night of the 15th of Sha‘ban and He forgives all His creation except someone who associates others with Allah (mushrik) or one intent on hatred (mushahin) especially
towards his parents.”
Locally, there has been a long-standing debate concerning the authenticity of the ahadith extolling the virtues of laylatun nisfi min sha`ban and particularly the special supplication that is made on this night. Whilst it is not our purpose here to enter into the details of this debate, it suffices to say that the special supplication (Rua Du’a) was never made by the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) himself.
In conclusion, it is important for Cape Muslims to know that the significance of the 15th night of Sha’ban and the procedure for commemorating it is contested by some scholars who deride it as a bid`a practice (innovation). We concur that there is no evidence that the congregational commemoration and procedure of reciting Surah Ya Sin three times was done by the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh).
Notwithstanding this, CMRM have taken a pragmatic position on the customary practice (`urf) of commemorating Rua. It is our considered viewpoint that we should continue the Rua tradition of getting together on the 15th night of Sha’ban. If the only blessing of it is that we pray Maghrib and ‘Isha in congregation, then it suffices to justify continuing this traditional practice. Moreover, the recitation of Chapter 36 (Surah Ya Sin), the Heart of the Glorious Qur’an, is beneficial at any time.
Furthermore, we can substitute the traditional prayer (Rua Du’a) with any other supplications. In particular, we recommend the reading of the most significant supplication for forgiveness recommended by the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) known as the sayyidul istighfar. The night affords us with a wonderful opportunity at re-instituting the efficacy of prayer, which is so sadly neglected in our secularised world. The night could also be beneficially employed in stressing the important attribute of Allah, as ever an acceptor of repentance and reminding us that seeking Allah’s forgiveness should be central to our practice as conscientious Muslims.
What to do
Here are some of the things you can do on this holy night, as advised by Mufti Taki Usmani:
(a) Salah. Salah is the most preferable act to be performed in this night. There is no particular numberof Rak’at but preferably it should not be less than eight. It is also advisable that each part of the Salahlike qiyam, rukoo’ and sajdah should be longer than normal. The longest surahs of the Holy Qur’an one remembers by heart should be recited in the Salah of this night. If someone does not remember the long surahs, he can also recite several short surahs in one rak’ah.
(b) Tilawa. The recitation of the Holy Qur’an is another form of worship, very beneficent in this night. After performing Salah, or at any other time, one should recite as much of the Holy Qur’an as he can.
(c) Dhikr. One should also perform dhikr (recitation of the name of Allah) in this night. Particularly the following dhikr is very useful: One should recite Salah (durood) on Prophet Muhammad (SAW) as many times as he can. The dhikr can also be recited while walking, lying on bed and during other hours of work or leisure.
(d) Dua. The best benefit one can draw from the blessings of this night is prayers and supplications. It is hoped that all the prayers in this night will be accepted by our Lord, insha-Allah. Prayer itself is an ‘Ibadah, and Allah Almighty gives reward on each prayer along with the fulfillment of the supplicator’s need. Even if the purpose prayed for is not achieved, one cannot be deprived of the reward of the prayer which is sometimes more precious than the mundane benefits one strives for. The prayers and supplications also strengthen one’s relation with Allah Almighty, which is the main purpose of all kinds and forms of worship.
“One can pray for whatever purpose he wishes. But the best supplications are the ones made by Prophet Muhammad, SAW. These are so comprehensive and all-encompassing prayers that all the human needs, of this world and the Hereafter, are fully covered in the eloquent expressions used in them. Actually, most of the prophetic prayers are so profound that human imagination can hardly match their greatness,” he stated. VOC/AL BALAGH