Sha’ban, also known as Shab e Barat and Nisf Shaban, is the eighth month of the lunar calendar and the month before the holiest month of Ramadan. In it comes the 15th night which is a significant time in Islam based on what the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) said and did.
Some people take the 15th night of Sha’ban as very important with special prayers and fasting the following day. Others say this practice has no basis. What do we know of the 15th of Sha’ban, and specifically its night? What are its merits?
Other names for the 15th of Sha’ban
Bara’a Night or Laylatul Bara’a, Shab-e-Barat, Nisf Sha’ban
Hadith about Sha’ban
There are many ahadith about the 15th of Sha’ban and scholars have classed some as sahih (authentic), or hassan (good) and others as dhaeef (weak). Although the chain of narrators of some of these traditions (which follow) suffer with some minor technical defects, yet when all these traditions are combined together, it becomes clear that this night has some well founded merits and observing this night as a special night is not a baseless concoction.
This month itself is very meritorious and we find some particular instructions in the Sunnah of Prophet Muhammad (SAW). For example, it is reported he used to fast most of the month. These fasts were not obligatory on him but as Sha’ban is immediately prior to Ramadan, and for us too, it suggests some preparatory measures so that we can start the month of fasting in good spirits.
In another hadith, Aisha (RA) says ‘the Prophet (SAW) used to fast the whole of Sha’ban. I said to him, Messenger of Allah, is Sha’ban your favourite month for fasting?’ He said, ‘In this month Allah prescribes the list of the persons dying this year. Therefore, I like that my death comes when I am in a state of fasting.’
In another report Umm Salamah (RA) says: ‘I have never seen the Messenger of Allah fasting for two months continuously except in the months of Sha’ban and Ramadan.’
The above reports indicate that fasting in the month of Sha’ban, though not obligatory, is so meritorious that the Prophet did not like to miss it. But keep in mind that the fasts of Sha’ban are for those people who are capable of keeping them without causing any deficiency in the obligatory fasts of Ramadan.
The night of freedom from the Fire
In Shariah, the night of the 15th of the month is termed the night of freedom from the Fire and there are certain traditions of the Prophet (SAW) to prove it is a special night and people are showered with special Divine mercy:
Aisha (RA) reports the Prophet (SAW) has said: ‘Allah Almighty descends (in a manner He knows best) in the night occurring in the middle of Sha’ban and forgives a large number of people more than the number of the fibres on the sheep of the tribe, Kalb.’ Kalb was a big tribe the members of which had a very large number of sheep. So the last sentence of this hadith indicates the big number of people who are forgiven in this night by Allah.
Mu’adh ibn Jabal (RA) narrates the Prophet (SAW) has said: ‘Allah Almighty looks upon all those created by Him in the middle night of Sha’ban 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).
The above and other narrations is why numerous elders of the Ummah have constantly been observing this night as night of special merits and have been spending it in worship and prayers.
What should be done on the 15th Sha’ban night?
Try to remain awake as much of the night on you can. If this isn’t possible, select a portion of the night, preferably the second half of it and perform any of the following acts of worship:
- Salah – this is the most preferable act to be performed. No particular number of rakah (units) are fixed but try not to make it less than eight (8). Also advisable to prolong the qiyam, ruku and sajdah more than normal. Recite the longest surahs you know by heart, or can recite several short surahs in one rakah.
- Tilawah – Recitation of the Quran in another form of worship that is beneficial. Pray salah and then move on to quran recital.
- Zikr – Such as durood and salam on the Prophet (SAW) as much as you can. Any remembrance and glorification on Allah will do.
- Dua – Prayers and supplications are among the best benefits of this blessed night. They are themselves worship and strengthen one’s relationship with Allah, which is the main purpose off all kinds of worship. Although you can pray for whatever purpose you wish, the best supplications are the ones made by the Prophet (SAW).
There is nothing specifically mentioned from the Prophet (SAW) on what should be done on this night so you can perform any suitable act of worship you want.
What should not be done on this night?
Sinning. Although abstaining from sins is always incumbent on every Muslim, it becomes all the more necessary on nights such as these as you will be responding to divine blessings that are being showered profusely with disobedience and transgression. Such an arrogant attitude can invite what else but Allah’s wrath?
Practicing innovated customs. Burning lanterns, preparing special foods, sweet dishes, and believing that souls visit the families are considered false and innovated. In fact, some of these are imitations of some rituals performed by non-Muslims which make it worse.
Holding gatherings. Some people spend this night holding religious meetings and delivering long speeches. This is not advisable as these acts can easily be performed in other nights, not should the Muslims arrange gatherings in the mosques in order to celebrate the night in a collective manner.
On the contrary, this night is meant for worshipping Allah in solitude and a time to enjoy direct contact with and devote your attention to the Creator.
Important points about Sha’ban
- Sha’ban is a blessed month and the Messenger of Allah (SAW) would observe fast throughout this month.
- There is no Quranic evidence for the excellence of the 15th of Sha’ban, all the evidence that is put forward comes from hadith.
- The opinion that sustenance, death etc is determined on the night of the 15th of Sha’ban is false.
- Some ahadith on the merit of the 15th of Sha’ban are considered weak. However, there is a narration that has been argued by some scholars (when supported collectively) reaches the level of acceptability. The hadith states that Allah descends to the lowest heaven and forgives the sins of everyone except one who associates partners with Him and one who harbours enmity on that night.
- The scholars have differed on the excellence of this night. Some reject any special significance to it while other scholars have agreed on its excellence.
- Fasting specifically on the 15th of Sha’ban is not a sunnah nor was it practiced by the early scholars to fast specifically on this day, with the belief that it is meritorious is disliked. But as mentioned earlier, the Prophet (SAW) used to fast most of Sha’ban so this day can also be included along with other fasts you perform in the month.