Sha’bān is the eight month of the Islamic lunar calendar; the month that precedes Ramadan. The literal meaning of the word Shaban is something that is successively developing or uninterruptedly increasing. This is a month in which the Prophet incessantly fasted.
Many are Oblivious of the Value of this month
‘A’ishah, the wife of the Prophet (pbuh) said, “I never saw the Prophet fasting (voluntary) fast more in any other month than that of Shaban. He used to fast throughout the month.” [Al-Bukhāri]When the Prophet was asked why fasted so much in Sha’bān; the Prophet replied; “There is a month between Rajab and Ramadān of which many people are neglectful; it is the month in which deeds are raised (for evaluation) to the Lord of the universe, and I love to be in a state of fasting when my deeds are taken up for evaluation.” [an-Nisā’i]
From this hadith we learn that …
- the Prophet fasted consistently in Shaban. The reason for that fast being that deeds are elevated for evaluation,
- and the best condition to have one’s deeds evaluated in in a state of fasting.
Here we keep in mind the words of the Prophet pertaining to the special nature of the ‘ibādah of siyām/fasting; “Every deed of a human being is for himself except fasting; it is for me and I will personally reward that”. [al-Bukhāri]
We also made to realize the importance of recognizing our accountability for our deeds.. Each of us need to reflect on the verse;”O You who proclaim Faith! Be sincerely dutiful to Allah, and carefully consider what you have sent forth for the morrow. Be sincerely conscious of Allah, for surely Allah is well-informed of all your deeds. [Qur’ān 59:18]
Historical Events on the 15th of Sha’bān:
1. The Qiblah or direction for salāh was changed from masjid-ul Aqsa (in Jerusalem) to the "Ka'bah" at Masjid-ul-Harām (in Makkah) two years after hijrah on the 15th of Shaban.
2. There is tradition/hadith documented in the Sunan of ibn Majah and the Musnad of Imam Ahmed bin Hanbal, which is not of the highest degree of authenticity; in which an incident occurred on the 15th night of Shaban in the Prophet’s time while he was in Madinah. The Prophet’s wife, ‘Aishah narrates that she woke up in the middle of the night and found the Prophet away from home. She looked for him and found him at the graveyard and upon being questioned by her, he said that this the night that Allah forgives; hence the name Layla-tul Barā'ah (Night of Forgiveness). Though this incident is reported in a weak tradition; there are undoubtedly authentic ahādith that testify to the significance of Nisf Sha'bān.
Reference to Nisf Sha’bān in authentic narrations
Let us reflect on one such authentic hadith regarding Nisf Sha'bān and consider the lessons we learn from it.
خرَّجه الطبراني في الكبير والأوسط، وصححه الألباني في السلسة الصحيحة، قال فيه نبي الله صلى الله عليه وسلم: «يَطَّلِعُ الله عَزَّ وَجَلَّ عَلَى خَلْقِهِ لَيْلَةَ النِّصْفِ مِنْ شَعْبَانَ، فَيَغْفِرُ لِجَمِيعِ خَلْقِهِ، إِلا لِمُشْرِكٍ أَوْ مُشَاحِنٍ».
The companion Mu‘āth ibn Jabal narrated that the Prophet, (pbuh) said: “On the night of mid-Shaban, Allah looks at His creation and forgives all of them except for the polytheist and the quarrelsome or hateful person." [At-Tabrāni] [Classed as sahih by foremost Salafi hadith scholar, Shaykh Nasiruddin Albani in his Silsilah Al-Sahīhah]
Three things we gather from authentic hadīth regarding Nisf Shaban
1. There is definitely a significance to the night as the Prophet particularly mentioned it. Little wonder that among the many great scholars who have emphasized the significance of Nisf Shaban include Imām al-Shāfi’, Imām al-Awzā’i, Imām Suyuti, Imām ibn Taymiyah (in his Majmoo’ al-Fatāwa ibn Taymiyah and Iqtidā' al-sirāt al-mustaqim ) and Imām Nawawi.
2. The second point to note is the forgiveness of Allah. We acknowledge the words of the Prophet, “All human beings commit wrong and the best of those who sin are those who repent. [Tirmidhi]. We are thus reminded in the Qur’an…” Ask your Lord to forgive you your sins, and turn towards Him in repentance, for surely, my Lord is a Dispenser of Grace, Most Loving.” [Q 11:88-90]
Therefore, let us all heed the promise and the invitation of the Divine... "O my Servants who have transgressed against their souls! Despair not of the Mercy of Allah, for Allah forgives all sins: for He is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful. [Q 39:53] Besides asking forgiveness, let us also be forgiving; “If you pardon, reconcile and forgive; surely Allah is Most Forgiving, Most Merciful.” [Qur’an 64:14]
3. The third point referred to in the hadith is the warning to neither be mushrik nor mushāHin.
Shirk: We are reminded in surah Luqmān, that “shirk is indeed a tremendous wrong” [Q 31:13] and we are further warned in surah an-Nisā’ that “Allah forgives all sins except shirk, for shirk is a most sinful forgery.” [Q 4:48]
There are basically two categories of shirk:
1. Shirk-ul-Akbar /major shirk, which entails associating or equating anything in any way to Allah.
2. Shirk-ul-Asghar /minor shirk. The Prophet (pbuh) said; “Of the fear I have the most fearful is that you will engage in shirk-ul-asghar.” He was asked what is shirk-ul-asghar, he replied “doing things for show”.[Musnad Ahmed]
Ikhlās/sincerity is thus essential for any action. As the Prophet said “Actions are judged by intentions”. Sincere intention thus supersedes any action, because there could be ostentation or ulterior motives in an outward action. The Prophet thus reminded us that, “Allah does not judge you by your physicality or your appearances; He rather looks at (the sincerity of) your heart and (the goodness of) your deeds. [Muslim] The Prophet also said; “Successful indeed are those who are sincere in faith, whose hearts are pure, whose tongues are truthful, who have inner contentment and whose character is upright.”[Musnad Ahmed]
MushāHin: We are also warned in the hadith not to be of the mushāHin; that is, those who are excessively argumentative and hateful. Allah says in the Qur’an . “Among people there are those whose talks about affairs of the world may impress you, and they call Allah to witness what is in their hearts, yet they are severely argumentative. [Qur’an 2:204]. Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) thus warned, The most disliked of people on the estimation of Allah are those most argumentative. [Bukhari].
Reflect a Culture of Kind Consideration
So let us avoid argumentation, harbor no hate and rather be more loving. Wise ones have said; “imbue yourselves with the qualities of Allah”. The qualities of the Divine and those characteristics pleasing to the Divine are indeed the best qualities to imbibe and to nurture. Allah is al-Wadūd /Most Loving and a believer should imbibe these qualities and manifest it at a human level. It is in this spirit that our beloved Prophet (pbuh) advised; The Prophet said, The peak of reasoning after accepting faith in the Divine is being affectionate towards people, and doing good to others, irrespective of their being pious or sinful. [Bayhaqi]
Take heed of the lessons of Shaban
Our learned admonish us;
قد مضى شهر رجب، ودخل شعبان، وفاز من فاز بالتقرب والاستعداد في رجب لرمضان، ودخل شعبان والناس عنه غافلة
Rajab has passed and Shaban has entered; successful are those who successfully prepared themselves with proximity to Allah in Rajab for Ramadān; but now that Shaban has entered, people are heedless/neglectful.
On the night of Nisf Shaban, leading to the special month of Ramadan; let us acknowledge that the right thing to do is always the best thing to do. Let us do all forms of good with the best of intentions; and avoid any form of evil in all of its dimensions. Realize that our deeds are evaluated and that we will be held accountable. Let us not be argumentative and hateful, let us rather be loving and compassionate. In keeping with the name of Shaban, the ever increasing, May Allah increase us in goodness and heed the Prophetic advice (as documented by Tibrani); “Do not engage in any act unless it is good; do not say anything unless it is beneficial.”