The Sunnah of Allah’s Messenger (sallallahu alaihi wa sallam) in the Month of Shabaan
Compiled by Shawana Abdul Aziz
Shabaan is the eight month of the Islamic calendar. It falls between two sacred months, Rajab and Ramadaan. Allah’s Messenger (sallallahu alaihi wa sallam) used to spend most part of Shabaan by fasting, Imaam Bukharee (rahimahullah) reports in his Saheeh that Aa’ishah (radhi allahu anha) said: “The Messenger (sallallahu alaihi wa sallam) used to fast until we thought he would never break his fast, and he would not fast until we thought he would never fast. I never saw the Messenger of Allah () fasting for an entire month except in Ramadaan, and I never saw him fast more than he did in Shabaan.”
Ibn Rajab (rahimahullah) said: “Fasting in Shabaan is better than fasting in the sacred months (i.e. Dhul-Qadah, Dhul-Hijjah, Muharram and Rajab – Soorah Tawbah (9): 36), and the best of voluntary fasts are those that are (observed in the months) closest to Ramadaan, before or after. The status of these fasts is like that of al-Sunan al-Rawaatib, which are done before and after fard (prayers) and which make up for any shortfall in the number of obligatory prayers. The same applies to fasts observed before and after Ramadaan. Just as al-Sunan al-Rawaatib are better than other kinds of voluntary prayers, so fasts observed (in the months) before and after Ramadaan are better than fasts at other times.”
[Lataa’if al-Ma’aarif fimaa li Mawaasim al-‘Aam min al-Wazaa’if, by Ibn Rajab al-Hanbali]
When Allah’s Messenger (sallallahu alaihi wa sallam) was asked, why he fasted so abundantly in the month of Shabaan, he () said: “(Shabaan) is a month to which people do not pay attention, between Rajab and Ramadaan, and it is a month in which deeds are lifted up to the Lord of the worlds. I like for my deeds to be lifted up when I am fasting.” [an-Nisa’ee, see Saheeh al-Targheeb wa’l-Tarheeb, p. 425] This and other Ahaadeeth of Allah’s Messenger (sallallahu alaihi wa sallam) encourage performing good deeds when people are likely to become negligent of Allah’s remembrance and worship, like remembering Allah in the market place, where people get busy in their dealings and in times of difficulty – Allah’s Messenger (sallallahu alaihi wa sallam) said: “Worship at times of tribulation (fitnah) is like Hijrah (migration) to me.” [Saheeh Muslim (2984)] The virtue and superiority of worshiping Allah when people tend to become negligent of Allah’s remembrance is because worship at such times is more difficult than worshiping Allah when everybody is engaged in the worship.
Fasting in Shabaan serves as training before Ramadaan. However, fasting the whole month of Shabaan is Makrooh (dislike) and against the Sunnah of Allah’s Messenger (). Ibn Abbas (radhi allahu anhu) said: “The Messenger of Allah () did not fast any entire month apart from Ramadaan.” [Saheeh al-Bukharee] It is also prohibited to fast at the end of Shabaan with the intention of not missing the first days of Ramadaan, except for those who have the habit of fasting regularly and the last day of Shabaan coincides with a day when the person habitually fasts, those who are bound by vows or have to make up some obligatory fasts. It is reported in Saheeh al-Bukharee from Abu Hurayrah (radhi allahu anhu) that the Prophet () said: “Do not pre-empt Ramadaan by one or two days, except for those who have the habit of fasting regularly, in which case they may fast.” [Saheeh al-Bukharee (1983)] Fasting at the end of Shabaan is prohibited to maintain distinction between the obligatory and voluntary fasts – it is also a precaution to prevent the people from falling into the trap of Shaytaan, who persuaded the People of the Book to add more fasts to that which Allah had made obligatory for them. For this same reason, it is also prohibited to fast on the ‘day of doubt.’ A day of doubt is when people are not sure about the start of Ramadaan, because of cloudy weather, or some other reason.
15th Shabaan: Is there any reality?
Some ignorant people have themselves specified particular nights of the year, when they stay awake all night and worship Allah. It is believed that anyone who worships Allah in these specific nights, it will recompense for his yearly deeds and will be enough for his salvation and entering Jannah. One among these nights is the night of mid Shabaan (15th Shabaan), which is popularly known as ‘Shabb-e-Baraa’t’ in the Indian sub-continent.
Specifying particular nights for worshiping Allah is against the Sunnah of the Prophet (). In fact, he () has strictly forbade specifying particular nights for worship, he () said concerning Friday: “Do not single out the night (preceding) Friday among the nights for prayer and do not single out Friday among days for fasting but only when anyone among you is accustomed to fast (on dates) which coincide with this day (Friday).” [Saheeh Muslim (no. 2546)]
Friday is the best day of the week and it is also greatly encouraged to perform good deeds on Friday. If it had been enough to worship Allah during some specific nights, and then become negligent of Him throughout the year, then Allah’s Messenger (sallallahu alaihi wa sallam) would have specified the night of Friday for worshiping Allah, but he () forbade it. This clearly proves that worshiping Allah only during some particular nights in the whole year does not fulfill the slave’s obligation of worshiping his Lord. The slave is required to worship Allah at all times until his death, because worship is the sole purpose of man’s creation. Allah says,
“Glorify, the praises of your Lord and be of those who prostrate themselves (to Him). And worship your Lord (O Muhammad ()) until there comes to you death.” [Soorah al-Hijr (15): 99] It was the practice of Allah’s Messenger (sallallahu alaihi wa sallam) to worship Allah all throughout the year, all his nights and days were spent in the worship of Allah.
The Sunnah of Allah’s Messenger (sallallahu alaihi wa sallam) during the month of Shabaan was to fast and he () said concerning the virtue of Shabaan, “…it (Shabaan) is a month in which deeds are lifted up to the Lord of the Worlds. I like for my deeds to be lifted up when I am fasting.’” [an-Nisa’ee, see Saheeh al-Targheeb wa’l-Tarheeb, p. 425] Also, it is reported in Bayhaqee, Ibn Hibban and Tabaranee with authentic (Saheeh) chain of narrators that Allah’s Messenger (sallallahu alaihi wa sallam) said: “On the 15th night of Shabaan, Allah, the Exalted, looks upon His slaves (with Mercy) and forgives everybody except the disbeliever and he, who holds malice for anybody.”
Apart from this, most narrations that are commonly spread among the people concerning the virtues of the month of Shabaan or specifically the night of 15th Shabaan are weak and fabricated. Scholars like ash-Shawkani, Ibn Jawzi, Ibn Hibban, al-Qurtubee (rahimahumullah) have greatly condemned these narrations. (For details refer to ‘al-Fawaaid al-Majmoo’ah’, ‘Moudhoo’aat al-Kubra’ and Tafseer Qurtubee’). From among the fabricated Ahaadeeth are those which mention, on this day (15th Shabaan) Allah frees people from the Hell Fire in accordance with the number of hair found on the skin of the goats of the tribe of Banu Kalb, anyone who prays fourteen Rakahs of Salaah on the night of 15th Shabaan will get the reward of accepted fasts and Hajj of twenty years, etc. Anybody who relates such fabricated Ahaadeeth should be reminded of the authentic Hadeeth of Allah’s Messenger, which says, “Whosoever narrated a lie on my behalf, let him make his place in Hell-Fire.” [Saheeh al-Bukharee]
The night of 15th Shabaan has also been given the status and virtues of Laylatul-Qadr by misinterpreting Qur’aanic verses. It is claimed that the laylatim-mubarakah (blessed night) mentioned in Soorah ad-Dukhan (44): 3, refers to the night of 15th Shabaan, when Allah forgives the sins of His slaves, increases their ages and provisions. Therefore, people stay awake all night and say innovated supplications in loud voices.
Allah says in Soorah ad-Dukhan: “By the manifest Book (this Qur’aan) that makes things clear, We sent it (this Qur’aan) down on a blessed night (laylatim-mubarakah). Verily, we are ever warning.” [Soorah ad-Dukhan (44): 2] Allah informs us in this verse that He sent down the Qur’aan in laylatim-mubarakah (the blessed night). The Qur’aan itself identifies laylatimmubarakah in other verses, it is mentioned in Soorah al-Qadr (97): 1, “Verily, We have revealed it (the Qur’aan) down in the Night of al-Qadr.” So, according to this verse, laylatim-mubarakah is not the night of 15th Shabaan but it is the Night of al-Qadr, which comes in Ramadaan. Allah says in Soorah al-Baqarah (2): 185, “The month of Ramadaan in which was revealed the Qur’aan…”
Another deviant belief related to the night 15th of Shabaan is that the mention of the descent of Ruh in Soorah al-Qadr (97): 4, means that the souls of the dead people return back to the world and meet their wives and relatives. For this reason, widows prepare food liked by their husbands and wait for their arrival. People also visit graves and seek forgiveness for all those people who have died between the last Shabaan and the present one.
Allah says in Soorah al-Qadr, “Therein (in the Night of Qadr) descend the Angels and the Ruh by Allah’s Permission with all Decrees.” [Soorah al-Qadr (97): 4] Firstly, this verse refers to the Night of al-Qadr and not 15th Shabaan as explained earlier. Secondly, descending of the Ruh in this verse means the descending of Angel Jibreel u with other Angels and not souls of the dead people (see Tafseer Ibn Katheer). Besides, believing that souls of the dead can return back to the world and meet with their relatives is itself an incorrect belief. The teachings of the Qur’aan and the Sunnah clearly state that the souls of the dead do not return back to the world. We had explained this subject in details in the last issue of As-Sunnah (no. 13) under the title. ‘Do Souls of the Dead Return Back to the World?’ Anyone who wishes to learn more about this subject may refer to this article.
As far as visiting the graves is concerned, a weak narration (of Aaishah (radhi allahu anha) reported in Sunan at-Tirmidhee (in the book of fasting) is often brought forth to support the visiting of graves on the night of 15th Shabaan. The Hadeeth reads as follows, One night (i.e. night of mid Sh’abaan) I found the Messenger of Allah absent from my apartment. I therefore, went out to search him out and he was in Baqi raising his head towards the heaven.’ He said, “O Aa’ishah were you afraid that Allah and His Messenger will wrong with you?” She said, ‘I replied: I had not such a low opinion about Allah and His Messenger, but I presumed that you had gone to some of your wives for some need.” He said, “Verily, Allah descends in the night of mid-Shabaan to the heaven of the world and then forgives people more than the number of the hair of the sheep of Banu Kalb.” A similar Hadeeth is also found in Saheeh Muslim, but it does not mention the night of 15th Shabaan. However, the Hadeeth of Sunan at-Tirmidhee is not authentic and thus does not have any proof for visiting graves specifically on the night of Shabaan.
Allah’s Messenger (sallallahu alaihi wa sallam) has permitted the men to visit the graves at any time and make Du’aa for the engraved. He () said, “I used to forbid you from visiting graves, but now you should visit them, for surely they are reminders of the next life.” [Saheeh Muslim (2131)] And he () also taught us the Du’aa of visiting graves, “Peace be upon the Believers and Muslims among the inhabitants of these dwellings. May Allah have mercy on those who have gone ahead of us, and those following us. And we shall, Allah-willing, be joining you.” [Saheeh Muslim (2127)] But to specify certain days for visiting graves was neither the practice of Allah’s Messenger (), nor the Sahabah (radhi allahu anhu) therefore, visiting graves specifically on 15th Shabaan should be avoided, as it falls under the category of innovations and Allah’s Messenger (sallallahu alaihi wa sallam) said about innovations, “…the worst of affairs are the newly invented matters, every newly invented matter is an innovation and every innovation is misguidance and every misguidance is in the Hell-Fire.” [An-Nasa’ee]
Many people also light candles on graves, which has no basis from the Qur’aan and the Sunnah. In fact, lighting candles is an imitation of the fire-worshipers and Ibn Abbas (radhi allahu anhu) na that Allah’s Messenger (sallallahu alaihi wa sallam) cursed the women who
visit the graves. He also cursed those who set up mosques and lights over graves.
[(Hasan) Abu Dawood, Ibn Majah, at-Tirmidhee and an-Nas’aee]
A Reminder in Shabaan
If you still have to make up any missed obligatory fasts of last Ramadaan, then hasten to make up them before the next Ramadaan arrives. It is not permissible to delay missed fasts until after the following Ramadaan, except in cases of necessity (such as a valid excuse that continues between the two Ramadaan). Aa’ishah (radhi allahu anha) says,”‘It used to be that I had days to make up for Ramadaan and I would not be able to do so except in Shabaan.”
Anybody who is able to make up the missed fasts before the (second) Ramadaan and does not do so has to make them up after the (second) Ramadaan and in addition, he should repent and feed one poor person for each day that was missed.
[This is the view of Malik, al-Shafi’ee and Ahmad]