Shab e Barat & Fast of 15th Shaban: Reality, Virtues & Few Misconceptions About Night of Mid Shaban, By Mufti Muhammad Taqi Usmani
Compiled By: Mufti Umar Anwar Badakhshani
Night of mid Shaban: Proof of the virtue of Shab e Barat
The month of Sha’ban has begun in which there is a blessed Night, named “Shab e Bara’at”. Some people think that the excellence of this night is not proved from the Qur’an and the Ahadith and it is baseless to keep vigil in this night. They think that worship and devotion in this Night have no special claim to reward. Moreover, they think that it is a Bidah (innovation) to specify this night for some special worship. As such, various questions are arising in the minds of the people about this night. Hence discourse about it.
I must tell you here briefly that I have repeatedly clarified that it is a Bidah (innovation) to count as a part of Deen all those forms of worship which cannot be proved valid from the Holy Qur’an, the Sunnah, the statements and practices of the Noble Companions (R.A) as well as from the acts and practices of the Tabieen (followers of the companions). I have also been telling you from time to time that it is no Deen to invent some practice from one’s own mind and follow it as an item of Deen. On the other hand, Deen is the name of compliance and obedience – compliance with, and obedience to, the Holy Prophet ﷺ, his ﷺ companions (R.A) the Tabieen, and the righteous saints and savants. If it is proved that this Night carries no distinctive feature, then it will be Bidah to invent it with special importance. I have expressed the same opinion about the Night of Ascension that the Qur’an and the Ahadith do not mention any special worship this Night.
It is not right to think that the excellence of this Night is baseless
It is in fact absolutely wrong to say that no excellence of Shab e Bara’at is proved from the Hadith. It is a fact that ten Noble companions (R.A) have narrated that the Holy Prophet ﷺ did mention the excellence of this Night. Some of these Ahadith are indeed weak in authenticity. On this account, some ‘Ulama have declared that the claim of excellence for this Night is baseless. It is, however, the decision of the Muhaddiseen and Doctors of religion that, if a weak Hadith is confirmed by many other Ahadith, its weakness in authenticity disappears. As I have already mentioned, narratives often companions (R.A) are available in support of the excellence of this Night. It is, therefore, not right to declare that the excellence of this Night is baseless. There is a narrative that in this Night Almighty Allah grants salvation to as many men as the number of the hair found on the goats of the Kalb tribe.
Care was taken to benefit from the excellence of this night during the earlier centuries of the Muslim Ummah. The people used to take special care to indulge in worship on this Night. It is, therefore, no right to call it a Bidah (innovation) or baseless. It is quite true that it is a Night of excellence which enjoys special importance. It is a source of reward and divine favor to take to worship and devotion in this Night.
What special act of worship should be done in Shab e Barat?
It is, however, quite correct to say that no specific form of worship has been prescribed for this Night. Some people have invented various ways of praying from their own minds. They suggest, without any proof and authority, that so many Rakats with such and such verses should be offered and so many times. This is all baseless. One may take advantage of this sacred Night by offering Nafl prayers, reciting the Holy Qur’an, remembering Allah, and counting over the beads (Tasbeeh) sacred words and phrases. They may also pass the Night by praying to Allah for His grants and favors. No specific form of worship is proved for this night.
To visit Graveyards in this Night
There is another activity for this night which is proved by a narrative that the Holy Prophet ﷺ once visited the graveyard, named Jannatul Baqi’. The Muslims also began to visit the graveyards in compliance with this narrative. My father Hazrat Mufti Muhammad Shafi’ Sahib (R.A) used to say something very useful about this issue. He said that in the matter of following the Holy Prophet ﷺ we should not try to overstep him #. It is narrated that the Holy Prophet ﷺ visited the graveyard of Janatul-Baqi’ in this Night only once in his ﷺ sacred lifetime. Following this Sunnah, it is all right to visit some graveyard only once in life. It would be overstepping the Holy Prophet ﷺ to visit graveyard regularly as a compulsory duty and to consider this practice as an inseparable part of the Shab-e-Bara’at and consider its omission as an omission of the Shab-e-Bara-‘at itself. If anyone visits a graveyard once in deference to the Prophet’s Sunnah, it is a good act deserving divine reward. This should, however, not be made a regular practice. It is a point of understanding Deen. Take everything concerning Deen at the same degree and level at which it is proved from the Ahadith and does not go beyond the permissible limits. You are free to observe other Nafl (optional) of worship and devotion, as you desire.
Salat al-Tasbeeh and Nafl in congregation on Shab Barat and Shab e Qadr
It has come to my knowledge that some people offer Nafl Prayers in this Night and in the Night of Power in the congregation. Previously people offered Shabina Prayers (Recitation of Qur’an during Ramazan) in the congregation, but now they have begun to pray the Salat al-Tasbeeh (A Nafl Prayer) also in the congregation. Congregation of Salat al-Tasbeeh is not lawful in any way. Note carefully a principle about congregational prayers. It is proved from the Holy Prophet ﷺ that prayers of Taraweeh, Kusoof, and Istisqa may be offered in congregation. It is better than prayers other than these should be offered at home. It is only the Farz (obligatory) Prayers that need to be offered in the congregation in the mosque. Not only is it better to do so, but it is also Sunnah Muakkada (confirmed), nearing in importance a compulsory prayer. The basic rule about Sunnah and Nafl prayers is that a man should offer them at home. When the Fuqaha (Islamic Jurists) saw that sometimes the people omit the Sunnah prayers at home, they also advised that if there was a likelihood for the Sunnah prayers to be ignored at home, then these too may be offered in the mosque. As regards Nafl prayers, there is a consensus of opinion among the Fuqaha that they should better be offered at home. Arranging congregation for Nafl Prayers is strictly unlawful in the opinion of the Hanafites. As such, to offer Nafl Prayers in the congregation will, in their opinion be a sin instead of an act of virtue to deserve any reward.
Obligatory (Fard) prayers in congregation, and Nafl Prayers in solitude
The Farz (obligatory) Prayers are a distinctive rite of Deen. It is imperative to offer them in the mosque in the congregation. It is not lawful to offer Farz Prayers at home. It would not be lawful and right for anyone to think that it would be an act of ostentation to offer prayer in the mosque in a congregation. Farz Prayers must be offered in the mosque in the congregation because praying in this way is a demonstration of a distinctive rite of Islam and Islam’s might and dignity.
which represents a personal relation between the Namazi and his Creator and Nourisher, Allah. This is demonstrated in what happened with Hazrat Siddiq Akbar (R.A). The Holy Prophet ﷺ asked him (R.A) why he recited the Qur’an in such a low voice, He (R.A) replied saying:
أسمعت من ناجیت
I was reciting it to Him Whom I was addressing in my Prayer.
(Abu Dawood, Book of Salat Hadith No: 1329)
In so far as Nafl Prayers are concerned, they are like a secret whisper between the devotee and his Allah. None should intervene between the two. Allah desires that His servants should establish direct contact with Him. That is why congregations and assemblies have been declared disgustful in the matter of optional forms of worship. The servant of Allah has been commanded to approach his Allah alone and in seclusion. What a great prize is this seclusion and privacy! Just reflect on this divine gift and favor.
The moments of loneliness
These Nights of excellence and blessings do not admit hue and hubbub. These are not nights of revelry and festivals. They have been granted to you that sitting all alone you may establish your relationship with Allah when there is none to intervene between you and Allah.
میان عاشق ومعشوق رمزیست
کراما کاتبین را ہم خبر نیست
A Persian couplet means: Between the lover and the beloved there is a secret of which even the twin recording angels are not aware.
“It’s difficult for us to worshiped alone and in solitude”
Some people say, as an excuse, that while praying in loneliness sleep overwhelms the devotee. The attack of sleep is easily resisted when there is a gathering in the mosque full of men and when it is brightly illuminated with extra candles and bulbs. This excuse is not plausible.
If you succeed in getting a few moments for communion with Allah in loneliness and privacy, then these few moments are far better than the entire Night spent in the hue and hubbub of the crowds. The moments spent in loneliness spent according to the Sunnah and the time spent otherwise in crowds is spent against the Sunnah. You must admit the blessings of the moments spent with Allah in loneliness according to the Sunnah.
I have repeatedly mentioned that it is not Deen to work according to your own wisdom, nor is it Deen to satisfy your fancy, Deen consists in obeying Almighty Allah. Do you think that Allah will count the hours which you have spent in the mosque? No, hours are not counted. It is the sincerity that is valued. If you are lucky enough to get only a few moments of communion with Allah, those few moments will take you to the shore of salvation. Hours spent in worship against the Sunnah of the Holy Prophet ﷺ will take you nowhere.
Congregation of women!
What is the injunction about the congregation of female Namazis? It is not desirable for women to pray in a congregation whether the prayer is Farz, Sunnah, or Nafl. Allah has commanded women to worship in loneliness in their homes. So congregation for praying is not desirable for women. As I have mentioned earlier, Deen consists in obeying the injunction of the Shariah and not in the satisfaction of one’s own choice or fancy. In the matter of Deen, one’s personal preference or choice has no place. We should not do things which the Holy Prophet ﷺ has not approved or permitted.
Sweetmeats and Shab e Bara’at
This Shab-e-Bara’at is a sacred Night of excellence. It is good to put in as much worship on this Night as possible. As regards other useless rites and customs invented for this Night, they are too evident to need any detailed exposition. One of these is the preparation of sweetmeats. This has nothing to do with this sacred Night. In fact, it is Satan’s seduction to entangle the Muslims in such frivolities, so that they may remain away from the blessings of this Night. There is a narrative that in this Night Almighty Allah grants salvation to as many men as the number of the hair found on the goats of the Kalb tribe.
Treacherous Satan saw that it would be a great loss to him if so many men received salvation. So he taught the people to prepare sweets on the occasion of the Shab e Barat. It is quite lawful to prepare sweetmeats and enjoy them throughout the year but this has nothing to do with this Night. This custom is proved neither from the Qur’an nor from the Ahadith, nor from the practices and sayings of the Noble Companions (R.A). The people do not pay heed to worship and good deeds as they do in preparing sweetmeats. This is due to the seduction of Satan.
Fasting on the Fifteenth Day of Sha’ban
There is another question asked about fasting on the day following the Shab e Bara’at, viz., the fifteenth of Sha’ban. It should be noted that among the entire collection of the Ahadith, one narrative is a weak one. On this account, some Ulama does not regard it as an act of Sunnah or even a Mustahab (desirable) act to fast on the fifteenth Sha’ban. It is, however, proved that it is an act of excellence to observe fasting during the period from the first to the twenty-seventh of Shaban. The Holy Prophet ﷺ has forbidden to fast on the 28th and 29th days of Sha’ban so that a man may remain well prepared and energetic for fasting in the month of Ramazan. It is, however, meritorious to observe fast on days in the period from the first to the twenty-seventh day of Shaban.
Moreover, this fifteenth day of Sha’ban is one of the three days of Ayyam Beez (the white days), i.e. the 13th, 14th, and 15th of each month. The Holy Prophet ﷺ used to observe fasts frequently on these three days. If a man fasts on the 15th day of Sha’ban because firstly it is a day of the month of Sha’ban and secondly, because this day is one of the three days of Ayyam Beez, he will, God willing, be granted recompense for his fasting. It is, however, not right, in the opinion of some Ulama, to regard fasting on this day as Sunnah, only because it is a day of the month of Sha’ban. While mentioning the Mustahab (desirable) days of fasting, most Ulama has included fasting on the 10th of Muharram and the day of Arafah, but they have not said anything separately about fasting on the 15th of Sha’ban. All that they have said is that it is meritorious to fast on any day in the month of Sha’ban. If anyone observes fast on this day from this angle of vision he will be entitled to reward. Except for this, no other day has any importance.
I have already mentioned that every matter has to be dealt with within its prescribed limits and its approved level. In fact, Deen consists in the protection of the prescribed limits and not in transgressing these limits of one’s own discretion and choice.
Fasting on the 15th of Sha’ban should be regarded as an act of Sunnah, yet if anyone fasts on this day will due regard to the limits, he will be entitled to the divine reward.
Prepare and purify yourself for the month of Ramazan!
At any rate, it is not correct to say that this Night, the Shab e Bara’at, has no basis to be regarded as a Night of virtues. I am inclined to feel that by appointing it two weeks before Ramazan Almighty Allah has made it a happy precursor for the sacred fasting of Ramazan month. It is a rehearsal of, and preparation for, fasting in Ramazan, so as to qualify for the mercy and forgiveness of Allah so generously showered in this month. So get ready for this divine favor.
When a man intends to attend a magnificent court, he makes himself neat and clean and puts on nice clothes. In the same way, when the most Dignified Court of Allah is going to be held in the form of Ramazan, Allah has granted one sacred Night for preparation before attending the divine Court. It is Allah’s desire that by cleaning and purifying himself in body and soul and from sins man may be able to establish a relationship with Him. When this is done man will be able to benefit from the flood of mercies and favors of Ramazan in the true sense. It is for this purpose that Allah has granted us this blessed Night. It should be respected and valued.
May Allah make us welcome this night with due regard and devote ourselves therein to worship. Aameen.
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