Sha'baan: Between the Sunnah & Bid'ah (Innovation)
The reason for calling this month Sha’baan:
Ibn Hajar (may Allah be merciful with him) said: “Sha’baan is the name of the (eighth) month, and it is so called because in this month the Arabs used to disperse (tasha’-‘aba) in search of water, or it was said that they dispersed to carry out raids and forays. It was also said that it is so called because it sha’aba (branches out or emerges) i.e., it appears between the months of Rajab and Ramadaan.” [Fath al-Bari 4/251]. The plural forms of the word Sha’baan are Sha’baanaat and Sha’aabeen.
What the Prophet (ﷺ) used to do in the month of Sha’baan?
Narrated Usamah bin Zaid (رضي الله عنه): I said, “O Messenger of Allah (ﷺ), I do not see you fasting in any other month like you fast in Sha’baan.” The Prophet (ﷺ) said, “That is a month to which the people do not pay attention (or neglect it or forget it), between Rajab and Ramadan. It is a month in which the deeds are raised up to the Lord of Aalamin (Mankind and jinn and all that exits). I love that my deeds be raised up while I am observing fast.” [An-Nasaa’i, Hadith Hasan]
Narrated Aisha (رضي الله عنه): “I never saw Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) fast a complete month except in Ramadan, and I never saw him fast more in any month than he did in Sha’baan.” [Al-Bukhari and Muslim]
Ibn Hajar (may Allah have mercy on him) said: “He (ﷺ) observed more voluntary fasts in Sha’baan than in any other month, and he used to fast most of Sha’baan.” Aisha (رضي الله عنه) also narrated, “The month that was beloved to the Prophet (ﷺ) to fast in was the month of Sha’baan.” [Sahih al-Nassa’i]
It is enough for us to know that “Whoever fasts one day for Allah’s sake, Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) will keep his face away from Hell-Fire a distance of seventy years for that day.” [Agreed upon]
The scholars are at variance with regards to which is the most meritorious, observing fast in the month of Muharram or in the month of Sha’baan?
Ibn Rajab (may Allah have mercy on him) said: “Fasting in Sha’baan is better than fasting in the Sacred Months (i.e., the 1″, the 7th, the 11″ and the 12th months of the Islamic calendar), and the best of voluntary fasts are those that are (observed in the months) closest to Ramadan, before or after. The status of these fasts is like that of al-Sunan al-Rawaatib prayers which are done before and after Fard (obligatory) prayers. These make up for any shortfall in the number of obligatory prayers. The same applies to fasts observed before and after Ramadan. Just as al-Sunan al Rawaatib are better than other kinds of voluntary prayers, so fasts observed (in the months) before and after Ramadan are better than fasts at other times.”
The phrase “Sha’baan is a month to which people do not pay attention, between Rajab and Ramadan” indicates that because it comes between two important months, the Sacred Month of Rajab and the month of fasting, people are preoccupied with those two months and they do not pay attention to Sha’baan. Many people think that fasting in Rajab is better than fasting in Sha’baan, because Rajab is one of the Sacred Months, but this is not the case.
In the narration quoted above, there is an indication that it is Mustahabb (a liked act) to make good use of the times when people tend to be negligent, by doing acts of worship. A group of the Salaf used to fill the time between Maghrib and ‘Isha’ with prayer, saying that it was a time when many people were negligent. Another example is the remembrance of Allah (Dhikr) in the marketplace because this means one is remembering Him in a place where people tend to be negligent and among people who are negligent.
Doing righteous deeds at times when people are distracted and negligent is more difficult. One of the indications of how virtuous a deed is, is how difficult it is: if everyone is doing a certain action, it is easy, but if most people are negligent, this makes it more difficult for those who do remember Allah. Ma’qil ibn Yassaar (رضي الله عنه) narrated that the Prophet (ﷺ) said, “Worship at times of Harj (tribulation and Fitnah) is like Hijrah (an emigration) to me.” [Muslim].
The phrase “worship at times of tribulation” refers to times of afflictions and trials, when people follow their own desires, and those who adhere to Islam are doing something difficult.
Fasting after the middle of Sha’baan or at its end:
Narrated Abu Hurairah (رضي الله عنه) that the Prophet (ﷺ) said, “None of you should observe the fast on one or two days just before the month of Ramadan except in the case of a person who is accustomed to fasting on these days, so he may fast on that day.” [Al- Bukhari and Muslim]
According to the majority of scholars, it is Makrooh (disliked act) to observe a voluntary fast one or two days before Ramadan for those who do not habitually fast on those days. However, those who have not previously fasted their credit days until the end of Sha’baan or have not fulfilled their vows, may fast. It may be asked: “Why is it Makrooh to fast just before Ramadan (for those who do not have a prior habit of fasting)?” There are a number of reasons why this is the case, for example:
- Firstly: Extra days would be added to the fasts of Ramadan, which are not part of it. Fasting on the day of Eid is prohibited for the same reason, lest we should fall into the same trap as the People of the Book as regards to fasting, because they added to their fasts according to their own whims and desires.
For the same reason it is also forbidden to fast on the “day of doubt”. ‘Ammaar (رضي الله عنه) said: “He who observes the fast on a doubtful day, has in fact disobeyed Abu’l Qaasim (ie., Allah’s Messenger ﷺ).” [Abu Dawoud and at-Tirmidhi graded it as Hasan Sahih]
The “day of doubt” here signifies the day of 30th of Sha’baan. In other words, if the moon is not sighted on 29th of Sha’baan because of clouds and a person observes Saum (fast), he will be in doubt whether it is the 30 of Sha’baan or the 1st of Ramadan. Thus, fasting is not allowed on this day, and one should complete thirty days of the month of Sha’baan.
- Secondly: To make a distinction between Fard (obligatory) fasts and Nafil (supererogatory) fasts, because making a clear distinction between Fard actions and Nafil actions is prescribed in Islam. Hence it is Haraam (prohibited) to fast on the day of Eid, and the Prophet (ﷺ) forbade following an obligatory prayer immediately with another prayer unless they are separated by greeting (saying Salam) or speaking or moving from the first place of prayer, especially in the case of the Sunnah prayer performed just before Fajr. It is prescribed to make a clear separation between this prayer and the obligatory prayer. Hence it is prescribed to pray it at home and to lie down afterwards.
- Thirdly: In order to have the strength for fasting in Ramadan, because the continuity of fasting may weaken the person from observing the Fard fast.
The commonly spread Bid’ahs (innovations) in the month of Sha’baan
Narrated Aisha (رضي الله عنه) that the Prophet (ﷺ) said, “He who does a thing which is not warranted by our Deen (religion), it shall be rejected.” [Al-Bukhari and Muslim].
Narrated Jabir bin Abdullah (رضي الله عنه) that the Prophet (ﷺ) said, “As to what follows, the best of speech is the Book of Allah, and the best of guidance is the guidance shown by Muhammad (ﷺ) and the most evil of affairs are the innovated ones, and every Bid’ah is a means of deviation.” [Muslim]
These narrations indicate clearly that Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) had perfected for this nation its religion and completed His Favour upon it. The Prophet (ﷺ) did not stop except after he had conveyed clearly the message and showed his nation all that Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) has legislated for it of statements and actions. He (ﷺ) affirmed that all what the people will introduce in the religion after him and attribute it to him (ﷺ), of statements and actions, are considered Bid’ah, rejected from whoever invents it, even if he did it with a good intention. Therefore, the Companions of the Prophet (ﷺ) knew this matter and the Muslim scholars after them, denied the Bid’ahs and warned the people against them.
Examples of Bidl’ahs practiced in the month of Sha’baan:
- Al-Baraa ‘ah prayer: To particularize the night of mid Sha’baan with a special prayer which consists of 100 Rak’ah, in every Rak’ah one recites (after Surat al Fatiha) Surat al-Ikhlas (Chapter 112) 11 times; and if one wishes, he may offer ten Rak’ah prayer; and recite in every Rak’ah (after al-Fatiha) Surat al-Ikhlas (Chapter 112), 100 times. This prayer is also called Salat al-Khair.
- Offering six Rak’ah Nafil: Offering six voluntary prayer with the intention of driving away the afflictions, having long life and having dispensation with people.
- Celebrating the night of mid Sha’baan: and particularizing its day with fasting, though there is no reliable evidence indicating the permissibility of doing that. All what has been quoted about the virtues of offering the prayer in this night, are fabricated, as has been affirmed by many scholars. The narration which is reported by At-Tabarani and Ibn Hibban in his Sahih, that Mu’adh bin Jabal (رضي الله عنه) narrated that Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) said, “On the night of 15th Sha’baan, Allah, the Exalted, looks upon all His slaves, and forgives everybody except a disbeliever and he who holds a malice for anybody,” does not indicate the permissibility of specifying this night with a particular act of worship.
- Reciting Surat Ya-Seen (Chapter 36) and supplicating with a special Du’aa (invocation): thinking that the middle of Sha’baan given the status and the virtues of Laylatul-Qadr by incorrectly interpreting the following verse: “We sent it (this Qur’an) down on a blessed Night.” (Ad-Dukhan 44:3). On claiming that the blessed night is the night of Sha’baan, Al-Shaqiri said: “This is Baatil (falsehood) with the consensus of all the people of Hadith who verified it, because Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) said: “The month of Ramadan in which was revealed the Qur’an.” (Al-Baqarah 2:185). Also, Allah’s statement: “Verily! We have sent it (this Qur’an) down in the Night of Al-Qadr” (Al-Qadr 97:1), and the night of Al-Qadr is in the month of Ramadan, not in Sha’baan.”
Know, may Allah have mercy upon you, that what made the people practice this ugly Bid’ah is their reliance on the following Ahadith:
- Narrated Ali bin Abi Talib (رضي الله عنه) that the Prophet (ﷺ) said, “Establish the night of mid Sha’baan with Qiyam and observe fasting in its day (mid Sha’baan). Verily! Allah, the Exalted, descends to us to the nearest heaven at sunset and says, ‘Is there anyone asking forgiveness so that I forgive him, or anyone asking for a provision such that I provide him, or anyone who is afflicted so that I relieve him, till the rise of dawn.” [Ibn Majah in al-Sunan 1388 – it is a fabricated Hadith]
- The Prophet (ﷺ) said, “Truly! Allah, the Exalted, descends in the night of 15th Sha’baan to the nearest heaven and forgives people for more than the number of the sheep of Bani Kalb (tribe).” [Ibn Majah in al-Sunan 1389 it is a weak Hadith]
- Offering Salat al-Khair is based on the following fabricated Hadith: Al-Hasan narrated, “Thirty Companions of the Prophet (ﷺ) told me that whoever offer this prayer (i.e. Salat al-Khair), Allah will look at him 70 times and with every look (sight) Allah will fulfill 70 of his needs, the least of them is forgiveness.”
The verdict of celebrating the night of mid Sha’baan:
Shaikh Bin Baaz (may Allah be merciful with him) was asked about the night of mid Sha’baan, and if there is any specific prayer to be offered in that night. He answered: “There is no correct Hadith (narration) regarding the significance of the night of the middle of Sha’baan. All the narrations quoted regarding this night are fabricated, Da’ief (weak) and baseless. It is a night which has no special significance, there is no special recitation or prayer or congregation. What some scholars have said about its superiority, are weak statements. It is not permissible to specify it with anything. This is the correct opinion and with Allah is the success.”
Al-Qarish or Al-Tanhis:
Some people think that they should take the advantage of the last days of Sha’baan by eating (profusely) before it is prevented from them by fasting. This is why they say these are days of farewell for eating. It is called Tanhis and it is derived from Ayyam Nahisat (i.e. days of evil omen). It is said that this custom has been taken from the Christians and what they were doing before the fasting days.
May Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) guide us to hold fast to the Sunnah and keep us firm on the Right Path. Ameen!
Lataa ‘if al-Ma ‘aarif fimaa li Mawaasim al- ‘Aam min al-Wazaa’if, by Ibn Rajab al-Hanbali
Al-Ilmaan bi shay’in min Ahkaam al-Siyaam, by Abd al-‘Azeez al-Raajihi
Arabic publication by the Women Committee at Qurtuba
As-Sunnah Newsletter, issue 14, Rajab-Sha’baan 1422