Confusions over Shab-e-Barat

Date: 29th May 2015; 10th Shaban 1436

Personal Note before starting the Khutbah: The specialty of Shab-e-Barat has been argued by scholars throughout century. Some scholars regard it to bear no specialty and say that all the Hadiths relating to Shab-e-Barat are fabricated while others, especially those residing in the Indian subcontinent, believe it to be a Night filled with blessings. I have researched a lot over this matter and honestly, the views of the scholars varies significantly. The Imam at my Masjid favors the specialty of Shab-e-Barat and so this Khutbah is as usual quoted according to his speech and to the best of my knowledge and I have quoted the all the notes and references regarding the strength of the narration of the Hadith appearing on behalf of Shab-e-Barat. For the sake of respecting everyone’s consent I am taking a neutral view in writing this Khutbah and also have quoted the views and opinions of few scholars.

The month of Shaban is running and we all know that the blessed month of Ramadan is right at our doors. The Prophet (Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam) took this month so seriously that he used to prepare for it two months prior to the month of Ramadan. Hadith records one of his duas for his preparation before Ramadan:

Anas Ibn Malik (Radi Allahu Anhu) reports that Rasulullah (Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam) would recite the following supplication when the Month of Rajab would commence:

“Allahumma baarik lana fi Rajaba wa Sha’bana wa balligh-na Ramadan”

Translation: Oh Allah! Grant us Barakah (Blessing) during (the months of) Rajab and Sha’ban, and allow us to reach Ramadan.

References:  Shu’abul-Iman, Hadith: 3534, Ibnu Sunni, Hadith: 660, Mukhtasar Zawaid Bazzar, Hadith: 662, also see Al-Azhkar, Hadith: 549

The month of Shaban is one of the meritorious months for which we find particular instructions in the Sunnah of Prophet Muhammad (Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam). It is reported in authentic ahadith that Prophet Muhammad (Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam), used to fast most of the month in Shaban. These fasts are supererogatory (nafl) and well deserving of reward, for Shaban is the month immediately preceding the month of Ramadan.

Narrated that Abu Salamah said: “I asked ‘Aa’ishah (Radi Allahu Anha) about the fasting of the Messenger of Allah (Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam), and she said: ‘He used to fast until we thought that he would always fast, then he would not fast until we thought that he would always not fast, but I never saw him fast in any month more than he fasted in Sha’ban. He used to fast all of Sha’ban, and he used to fast all of Sha’ban apart from a few days.’”

Reference: Sahih Muslim, Hadith 1156

However, it was discouraged by the Prophet (Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam) to fast after the passing of the 15th day of Shaban. It was proven by a Hadith.

The Prophet (Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam) said: “When Sha’ban is halfway through, do not fast.”

References: Sunan Abu Dawood, Hadith 3237;Ibn Hibban, Hadith 1651. Classed as Sahih by Imam al-Albani (Rahmatullah Allaih) in Saheeh al-Tirmidhi.

There are some exceptions from this prohibition, as follows:

  1. One who has a habit of fasting, such as a man who habitually fasts on Mondays and Thursdays, which he may do even after halfway through Sha’ban. The evidence for that is the words of the Prophet (Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam), Hadith states:

Prophet (Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam) said “Do not anticipate Ramadan by fasting one or two days before it, except a man who fasts regularly, who should observe his usual fast.”

References: Sahih al-Bukhari, Hadith 1914; Sahih Muslim, Hadith 1082.

  1. A person who started fasting before halfway through Shaban, and connects what comes after the halfway point to what came before. This is not included in the prohibition either. The evidence for that is the following Hadith:

A’ishah (Radi Allahu Anha) said: “The Messenger of Allah (Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam) used to fast all of Shaban and fast all of Shaban except a little.”

References: Sahih al-Bukhari, Hadith 1970; Sahih Muslim, Hadith 1165.

Another Hadith states:

Ibn ‘Abbas (Radi Allahu Anhu) said: “The Messenger of Allah (Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam) did not fast any entire month apart from Ramadan.” Ibn ‘Abbas regarded it as Makrooh to fast any entire month apart from Ramadan.

References: Sahih Bukhari and Sahih Muslim

Imam Al-Nawawi (Rahmatullah Allaih) said: “He used to fast all of Sha’ban and fast all of Sha’ban except a little.” The second phrase is an explanation of the first, pointing out that by “all” what is meant is “most”.

This Hadith indicates that it is permissible to fast after halfway through Sha’ban, but only for one who joins that to what came before the halfway point.

  1. An exception from this prohibition is also made for one who is making up missed Ramadaan fasts.

Imam Al-Nawawi (Rahmatullah Allaih) said in al-Majmoo’ (6/399):

Our companions said: it is not correct to fast on the “day of doubt” just before Ramadan, and there is no difference of scholarly opinion on this point … But if a person fasts it to make up a missed day or to fulfil a vow, or as an expiation, that is acceptable, because if it is permissible to observe a voluntary fast on that day, it is more likely to be permissible to observe an obligatory fast… and if a person has to make up a day from Ramadan, then he has to fast it, because the time left for him to make it up has become very short.

The “day of doubt” is the thirtieth of Sha’baan if it has not been possible to sight the moon of the thirtieth because of cloud, fog, etc. It is called the “day of doubt” because there is some doubt concerning it – is it the last day of Sha’ban or the first day of Ramadan…

In conclusion:

There is nothing wrong with making up a missed Ramadan fast in the last half of Sha’baan. This is not included in the prohibition of the Prophet (Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam) on fasting after halfway through Sha’ban.

Now for the most highlighted event of this month which is the Shab-e-Barat. “Shab-e-Barat” is in fact a Persian word which simply means “a night with freedom”. The month of Sha’ban is the eighth month of the Islamic lunar calendar. The fifteenth night of this month is known from the Hadiths as Laylatul Bara’ah or Laylatun Nisfe min Sha’ban in the Arab world. Literally, Shab-e-Barat means the night of salvation or the night of freedom from the Fire of Hell, this can be depicted as the night where Allah (Subḥānahu Wa Ta’Ala) provides freedom to his servants to save themselves from Hellfire. Allah asks us to make dua to Him in order to save ourselves from illness, poverty and sin. A lot of bidahs have been introduced in Shab-e-Barat about enjoying the night with fireworks, decorating houses with lights and also making sweets and eating them with ruti. However all of these are innovations.

A lot of broad discussion have been made regarding the existence of Shab-e-Barat and below are the arguments for and against Shab-e-Barat.

There are around 12 Hadiths regarding Shab-e-Barat coming from 8 renowned Sahabahs at the time of the Prophet Muhammad (Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam) who have indicated Hadiths regarding the existence of this blessed night.

They are as follows:

  • Abu Bakr Siddique (Radi Allahu Anhu)
  • Muaaz Ibn Jabal (Radi Allahu Anhu)
  • Abu Tha’labah al Khushani (Radi Allahu Anhu)
  • Abdullah Ibn Amr (Radi Allahu Anhu)
  • Abu Musa al Ash’ari (Radi Allahu Anhu)
  • Abu Hurairah (Radi Allahu Anhu)
  • Awf Ibn Malik (Radi Allahu Anhu)
  • Aisha bint Abu Bakr (Radi Allahu ‘anha)

The reason the Hadiths got weak is not because of the Prophet Muhammad (Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam) or the Sahabahs (Radi Allahu Anhum). Its because of the misinterpretations of the narrators. The compilers of the Hadiths have always been careful and they did their best in recording all the Hadiths. The Hadiths got fabricated when the chain through which the Hadiths got transmitted got weak. At the time of the Prophet Muhammad (Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam), no one thought of writing down these Hadiths. Roughly around two hundred and fifty years after the death of Prophet Muhammad (Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam), the Islamic scholars thought that they needed to record the Hadiths as the Sunnahs of the Prophet Muhammad (Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam) was getting lost. The compilers recorded with the utmost carefulness and we should respect even when we discover that there is weakness in the transmission of their recorded Hadiths. One time a classic Islamic scholar travelled two hundreds just to receive one Hadith from a man. When he got to the village where the transmitter was residing he witnessed that the transmitter was kicking and cursing a puppy. Realizing that a man with such an attitude could never be trusted, the compiler returned.

Moulana Fazlur Rahman Aazami mentioned in his book, Shab-e-Barat:

Allah (Subḥānahu Wa Ta’Ala) has endowed certain individuals with exemplary abilities in this field and they have expended tremendous efforts in the classification of Hadith with regards to their strengths. We should accept their rulings and abide by its application. One such principle should he noted, in the case where there exists several narrations concerning a particular virtue or benefit despite most of them being weak, the virtue or benefit will still be accepted due to the conjunction of the narrations (i.e. the sheer number of narrations, despite their weakness, lend credence to the authenticity of their subject matter). This is the general consensus of the scholars of this field.

Many fabricated and baseless ideas regarding Laylatul Bara’at have found place in certain books and have been blindly accepted by the masses. The foundation of the Shari’ah is the Quran, Sunnah and lives of the Sahabah (Radi Allahu Anhum). Whatever is proven from these sources should be implemented, and that which is not proven from the above should be abandoned. The research of the scholars of Tafseer and Hadith is present to us. Benefit should be derived from these works and in turn conveyed to the masses as well.

SOME HADITHS CONCERNING SHAB-E-BARAT

On the authority of Hazrat Mu‘adh ibn Jabal (Radi Allahu Anhu) from the Prophet (Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam) who said “Allah looks at all of His creation on the middle night of the month of Sha‘ban and forgives everyone except for the mushrik (polytheist) and grudge bearer.”

Reference: Reported by Tabarani in his Kabir wa Awsat. Ibn Hibban in his Sahih and Baihaqi – Targhib-wat-Tarhib Page 118 V2, Page 459 V3

It is narrated from Hazrat Abdullah bin Amr (Radi Allahu Anhu) that Prophet Muhammad (Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam) said: “Allah looks with special attention towards His creation on the fifteenth night of Sha’ban and forgives all his servants except two categories of people; the person who harbours enmity and a murderer.”

References: Imam Ahmad reports this Hadith with a slightly weak chain of narrators – Targhib-wat-Tarhib Page 461 V3

It is a Hadith from Makhool who narrates from Kathir bin Murrah (Radi Allahu Anhu) that Nabi (Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam) said: ‘On the fifteenth night of Sha’ban Allah forgives all the inhabitants of the earth except an idolater and one who harbours hatred for others.”

References: Baihaqi has narrated this Hadith and says that it is an acceptable “Mursal” Targhib-wat-Tarhib, Page 461 V3.

Abu Bakr Siddiq (Radi Allahu Anhu) narrated that Rasulallah (Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam) said: ‘On the fifteenth Night of Shaban, Allah Ta’ala’ descends to the lowest heaven. He thereafter forgives everyone, besides an idolater and one in whose heart there is hatred for others.

References: Durre Manthur Lis Suyuti Page 26 V6. Hafiz Mundhiri says that both Bazzaar and Baihaqi have narrated this Hadith of Abu Bakr (Radi Allahu Anhu) with an unacceptable chain of narrators. The riwayat would thus be unacceptable. Targhib-war-Tarhib Page 459 V3. However, the strength is not such as to render it free from criticism.

It is narrated from Hazrat Ali (Radi Allahu Anhu) that Rasulullah (Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam) said: “When the fifteenth night of Sha’baan comes, then spend this night in Qiyaam (salaab) and the day in fasting, for verily Allah descends during this night to the nearest heavens. This descending commences from sunset, Allah then announces: Is there anyone who seeks forgiveness so that he may be forgiven? Is there anyone who seeks sustenance that he may be provided with sustenance? Is there any person who has been stricken with misfortune so that I may relieve him? Many other similar proclamations are made. This continues until dawn.’

Reference: Ibn Majah p.99; Baihaqi has also narrated the above Hadith in Shu’abul-lmaan, Durre Manthur Lis-Suyuti’ Page 26 v6. This Hadith is however very weak.’ Some scholars have declared it to be Mawdhu (i.e. a fabrication).

Some consider that visiting the graves on the 15th of Shaban is a Sunnah based on narrations by Aisha (Radi Allahu Anha). One of such Hadith is as follows:

Aisha (Radi Allahu Anha) said: “The Prophet (Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam) was absent from his bed one night. I went out looking for him and found that he was at the graveyard of Jannat ul-Baqi’.

His head was raised towards the sky and he said, ‘Did you fear that you had been abandoned by Allah and His Messenger?’ I said in reply, ‘I thought that you had gone to visit one of your wives.’

He said in reply, ‘Indeed Allah, Blessed and Exalted, comes down the lowest sky on 15th of Shaban and forgives more people than there are hairs on the sheep looked after by the dogs of shepherds.’ ”

References: Imam Tirmidhi (Rahmatullah Allaih) said at Imam Bukhari (Rahmatullah Allaih) regarded this narration as da’eef (weak).’ This narration also appears in lbn-Majah with the same chain of narrators as well. (Page 99). Razeen has also narrated this Hadith. The narration in Razeen contains the sentence: “Allah forgives more people than the hair on the goats of Banu-Kalb and the forgiven ones were such sinners that they were from those that were destined for Jahannam.’ – Mishkaat Page 115.

The Muhaddith, Ibn-Dihya, has also agreed that neither has anything authentic been narrated regarding the fifteenth night of Shaban nor has any specific Salah have been narrated for this night via reliable narrators. – Faydhul-Qadeer – Sharhul Jaamius-Sagheer Page 317 V2.

An overview of the various narrations regarding this night lends credence to the acceptability of the virtue of this night. The reason being that although these narrations are weak, they are numerous and narrated by a number of Sahabahs. Some are such that not much criticism has been levelled at their Sanad (chain of narrators). Ibn-Hibban has included some of these narrations in his ‘Sahih” and Hafiz Mundhiri has remarked regarding the Sanad of some that ‘LA BA’SA BIHI’ (it is acceptable). Therefore, according to the principal of the Muhadditheen, the excellence of the night of Barat is proven from the conjunction of all these narrations. This is the general consensus of the Muhadditheen and Fuqaha. and this is. correct.

Evm Ibn-Taymiyyah (Rahmatullah Allaih), a scholar notorious for refuting such things, accepted the virtue of the night of Barat. He says: ‘So many Hadiths and reports exist regarding the excellence of the fifteenth night of Shaban that one is compelled to accept that this night does possess some virtue.’ Some of the pious predecessors used to specially devote this night for the fifteenth of Shaban. Faydhul-Qadeer – Sharhul Jaamius-Sagheer Page 317 V2.

Moulana Abdur Rahman Mubarakpuri writes in his commentary of Tirmidhi: “The sheer number of Ahadith regarding this night saves u proof against those people who refute the excellence of this night. Tuhfatul-Ahwazi Page 53 V2.

Anwar Shah Kashmiri (Rahmatullah Allaih) has agreed that the significance of the light of Bara’at is proven. There is however no proof for those weak and unacceptable narrations mentioned in certain books. – Alarfus-Shazi Page 156.

Yusuf Binnouri (Rahmatullah Allaih) writes in Ma’arifus-Sunan that Abu Talib Makki recorded these narrations in his book Qutul-Quloob. Imam Ghazali (Rahmatullah Allaih). following Abu Talib Makki, did the same and Shaykh Abdul Qadir Jilani (Rahmatullah Allaih) has followed them in his book Ghunyat-ut-Taliheen. They mention a narration of Ali (Radi Allahu Anhu) that discusses a Salah of one hundred rakahs. However, Ibn Jawzi (Rahmatullah Allaih) and others  declared this narration lo be a fabrication (Mowdhu’) – Page 419 V5. Dhahabi, Ibn-Arraq. Suyuti. Mullah Ali Qari and other scholars of Hadith have vehemently refuted such Salahs.

For those who are in the side of refuting Shab-e-Barat.

Shaykh Ibn Jibreen said: There is no Sahih marfoo’ report that speaks of the virtue of the middle of Sha’ban that may be followed, not even  in the chapters on al-Fadaa’il (chapters on virtues in books of hadeeth etc.). Some maqtoo’ reports (reports whose isnaads do not go back further than the Taabi’een) have been narrated from some of the Taabi’een, and there are some Ahadith, the best of which are mawdoo’ (fabricated) or da’eef jiddan (very weak). These reports became very well known in some countries which were overwhelmed by ignorance; these reports suggest that people’s lifespans are written on that day or that it is decided on that day who is to die in the coming year. On this basis, it is not prescribed to spend this night in prayer or to fast on this day, or to single it out for certain acts of worship. One should not be deceived by the large numbers of ignorant people who do these things. And Allaah knows best.

Ibn Rajab al-Hanbali said: Concerning the virtue of the night of the fifteenth of Sha’baan there are numerous ahaadeeth, concerning which the scholars differed, but most of them classed them as da’eef, and Ibn Hibban classed some of them as Sahih.

Reference: Lataa’if al-Ma’aazif, 261.

Allah’s descending to the first heaven does not only happen on the night of the fifteenth of Sha’baan, rather it is proven in al-Saheehayn and elsewhere that Allaah descends to the first heaven every night, in the last third of the night. The night of the fifteenth of Sha’baan is included in this general meaning.

Hence, when ‘Abd-Allaah ibn al-Mubaarak was asked about the descent of Allaah on the night of the fifteenth of Sha’baan, he said to the one who asked him: “O weak one! The night of the fifteenth?! He descends every night!”

Reference: Abu ‘Uthmaan al-Saabooni in I’tiqaad Ahl al-Sunnah, no. 92.

Al-‘Aqeeli (Rahmatullah Allaih) said: With regard to Allaah’s descending on the night of the fifteenth of Sha’baan there are Ahadiths which are weak, but the reports that He descends every night are proven and Sahih, so the night of the fifteenth of Shaban is included in that, In sha Allah.

Reference: Al-Du’afa’, 3/29.

Regarding the Hadith that Allah descends every night. It is reported:

Narrated Abu Hurayrah (Radi Allahu Anhu), that the Prophet (Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam) said: “The Lord descends every night to the lowest heaven when one-third of the night remains and says: ‘Who will call upon Me, that I may answer Him? Who will ask of Me, that I may give him? Who will seek My forgiveness, that I may forgive him?’”

References: Sahih al-Bukhari, Hadith 1145 & Sahih Muslim, Hadith 1261

Allah is prepared to forgive anyone who repents and a Mu’min does not necessarily have to wait till Shab-e-Barat to be forgiven.

Regarding the fasting on the day after Shab-e-Barat is regarding as a Sunnah following the interpretation from this Hadith:

Imran bin Husayn (Radi Allahu Anhu) reported Allah’s Messenger (Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam) having said to him or to someone else: Did you fast in the “Middle of Sha’ban?” He said: No. Thereupon he (the Holy Prophet) said: If you did not observe fast, then you should observe fast for two days.

Reference: Sahih al-Muslim, Hadith 2607

In this Hadith The Prophet (Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam) was not actually implying the fasting for the occasion of Shab-e-Barat but rather implying the fasting for the Ayaam al-Beed, which are the nights on which the moon is full, namely the 13th, 14th and 15th of each lunar month. Hadith says:

Narrated from Jareer ibn ‘Abd-Allah (Radi Allahu Anhu) that the Prophet (Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam) said: “Fasting three days of each month is fasting for a lifetime, and Ayaam al-Beed are the thirteenth, fourteenth and fifteenth.”

Reference: Sunan an-Nasa’i, Hadith 2420. Classed as Sahih by Imam al-Albani (Rahmatullah Allaih) in Saheeh al-Targheeb, 1040.

The Hadiths recorded on the fasting on the day of Shab-e-Barat has been classed as extremely weak by most scholars. So those who want to fast they must make sure that the fasting on the 13th, 14th and 15th day of the month of Shaban bears the intention of Ayaam al-Beed and it is a Nafl fasting, not a Sunnah.

Shab-e-Barat was never mentioned in the Quran. Some believe that the verse mentioning Shab-e-Barat is this one:

Indeed, We sent it down during a blessed night. Indeed, We were to warn [mankind].

Surah Ad-Dukhan, Ayah 3 (44:3) Translation: Sahih International

However, this is in fact the ayah which mentions Laylatul Qadr, the Night of Qadr or better known as: Shab-e-Qadr. We must realize that Islam was meant to be easy on us and if we act on innovations, we won’t go forward on the Straight Path. So it is best if we all keep things simple and practice the most authentic Sunnah of our Prophet (Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam).

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