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Published On: Thu, Jun 12th, 2014

Sha’aban the gate to Ramadan

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Islam Explained By Husain Zakariyya Yawale

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Usamah ibn Shuraik narrated: “… Allah says:

“I ndeed, the number of months with Allah is twelve [lunar] months in the register of Allah [from] the day He created the heavens and the earth; of these, four are sacred. That is the correct religion, so do not wrong yourselves during them. And fight against the disbelievers collectively as they fight against you collectively. And know that Allah is with the righteous [who fear Him].”[at-Tauba: 36]

In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful. All Praise is due to Allah! We praise Him and we seek help from Him. We ask forgiveness from Him. We repent to Him; and we seek refuge in Him from our evils and bad deeds. Anyone who is guided by Allah is indeed guided; and anyone who has been left astray, will find no one to guide him. I bear witness that there is no deity worthy of worship but Allah, the Only One without any partner; and I bear witness that Muhammad is His servant and final messenger to mankind. May the peace and blessing of Allah be upon His last and final Apostle, his Household, his companions and all his followers till the end of time.

Last month I wrote on the ‘Fabrication surrounding the month of Rajab’. Today being the second Friday of Sha’aban, I want discuss on the importance of the month. Although it is an important month in Islam, to many people it passes by unnoticed, apart from the perennial befuddlement of the sighting of the new moon of Ramadan. True to this, the Messenger of Allah said about the general attitude of Muslims during the month of Sha’aban. Usamah bin Zaid said: “I said: ‘O Messenger of Allah, I do not see you fasting any month as much as Shaban.’ He said: ‘‘That is a month to which people do not pay much attention, between Rajab and Ramadan. It is a month in which the deeds are taken up to the Lord of the worlds, and I like that my deeds be taken up when I am fasting.”’[ Nisa’: Book 22, Hadith 268]

It is thus, my prayers that this article will wake us up from the abyss of obliviousness not only in this month but throughout our sojourn here. That is to say, every moment is important to us, as such we should strive to utilize any opportunity at our disposal, notwithstanding what occupies us. Here in Nigeria, and particularly the northern part, majority of Muslims regard the Sha’aban as a month of feast and celebration, which means fast free month. They usually refer it as ‘watansallartsofaffi’. Meaning,the Eid of the aged! Whereas the Prophet used to fast in it more than any other month except the Ramadan.

In fact, Sha’ban is one of the blessed months in which Allah showersHis mercy, compassion and kindnessupon His servants. It is the eighth month of the Islamic lunar calendar. The name was used to describe the perennial activities of the Arabs before the advent of Islam. The Arabs used to scatter around in different directions in search for water, in war time or because it appears between Rajab and Ramadan.This trend became repeated phenomena year after year, hence the name, Sha’aban.

Narrated ‘Aishah, wife of Prophet (pbuh): The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) used to fast to such an extent that we thought that he would never break his fast, and he would go without fasting to such an extent that we thought he would never fast. I never saw the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) fast a complete month except in Ramadan, and I never saw his fast more in any month than in Sha’ban.”[Abu Dawud: Book 13, Hadith 2428]

In another Hadith reported by Bukhari and Muslim, ‘A’isha (RAA) narrated, ‘The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) used to fast until one would say, he never breaks his fast (i.e. he never stops fasting), and he would abandon fasting (at other times) until one would say that he never fasts. And I never saw the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) fast for a complete month except for the month of Ramadan, and I never saw him fast in a month more than he did in the month of Sha’ban.” Agreed upon and the wording is from Muslim.”[ Book 5, Hadith 703, Book 5, Hadith 683]

The Messenger of Allahused to honourSha’aban by fasting in it more than any other month apart from the month of Ramadan.            A’ishah (RA) also narrated “Sha’aban was the most beloved month to Allah’s Prophet to fast in it till the beginning of Ramadan” [Declared Authentic by Al-Albani]

 The voluntary fasting in this month is like a training prior to the coming of the obligatory fasting in Ramadan. It also removes any anticipated hardship that may be experienced in the beginning of Ramadan as a result of the fangs of thirst and starvation from food.

 Narrated Abu Hurira-may Allah be pleased with him- the Prophet -peace and blessings be upon him- said “none of you should fast a day or two before the month of Ramadan unless he has the habit of fasting (voluntary) (and if his fasting coincides with that day) then he can fast that day” [Declared Authentic by Albani & Tirmizi]

Consequently, there are also some fictitious and fictive types of ibadats that are associated with it. The one that is very popular is theLailat al-NisfSha’abanor the night of the 15th of Sha’ban. Many stories and tales on the significance of this month have been reported and are in wide circulation. But the fact remains that they are either classified as weak Hadiths, outright fabrications or mere fables. Infact, that night (NisfSha’aban) is like any other night, because there is no sound report from the Prophet to indicate that on this night the sins of believers, their fates or destiniesare being decided.

Sheikh Abdul-Aziz son of Baz(RA) was asked about the 15th night of Sha’aban and if it has a special prayer? He answered: ‘there is no sound hadith indicating the virtue of this night and all the reported a hadith in its virtue are weak or fabricated. It’s an ordinary night and has no special recitation, prayer or meeting and the saying of its specialty is a weak opinion.’

The following authentic hadith serves as clear and decisive bill to put all misconceptions concerning certain nights are more important than others or not. That means, specifying specific nights for worshiping Allah is against the Sunnah of the Prophet (pbuh). 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).” [Muslim, no. 2546]

However, fasting the whole month of Sha’aban is Makruh (dislike) and against the Sunnah of Allah’s Messenger pbuh). Ibn Abbas (RA) said: “The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) did not fast any entire month apart from Ramadan.” [al-Bukhari]

It was narrated from Abu Hurairah that the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) said: ‘When it is the middle of Sha’ban, do not fast until Ramadan comes.”[IbnMaja: Vol. 1, Book 7, Hadith 1651]

 The following hadiths are very popular but they are either weak (da’if) or fabricated (Maudu’), and so strongly advised to keep off from using them as authorities to worship Allah with them in defiance to the authentic ones!:

1.            It was narrated that ‘Aishah said: “I missed the Prophet (pbuh) one night, so I went out looking for him. I found him at Al-Baqi’ raising his   head towards the sky. He said: ‘O ‘A’ishah, were you afraid that Allah and His Messenger would wrong you?’” She said: “I said: ‘No, it is not that, but I thought that you had gone to one of your other wives.’ He said: ‘Allah descends on the night of the middle of Sha’ban to the lowest heaven, and He forgives more than the numbers of hairs on the sheep of Banu Kalb.’’[at-Tirmizi: Book 8, Hadith 58]

2.            Aishah narrated: “I could not find the Messenger of Allah one night. So I left and found him at Al-Baqi. He said: ‘Did you fear that you had been wronged by Allah and His Messenger?’ I said: ‘O Messenger of Allah! I thought that you had gone to one of your wives.’ So he said: ‘Indeed Allah, Mighty and Sublime is He, descends to the lowest Heavens during the night of the middle of Sha’ban, to grant forgiveness to more than the number of hairs on the sheep of (Banu) Kalb.’[Vol. 2, Book 3, Hadith 739, Jami` at-Tirmidhi 739]

3.            It was narrated that ‘Ali bin Abu Talib said:“The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) said: ‘When it is the night of the middle of Sha’ban, spend its night in prayer and observe a fast onthat day. For Allah descends at sunset on that night to the lowest heaven and says: ‘Is there no one who will ask Me for forgiveness, that I may forgive him? Is there no one who will ask Me for provision, that I may provide for him? Is there no one who is afflicted by trouble, that I may relieve him?’ And so on, until dawn comes.’”[IbnMajah. Book 5, Hadith 1451, Vol. 1, Book 5, Hadith 1388]

4.            It was narrated from Abu Musa Al-Ash’ari that the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) said:“Allah looks down on the night of the middle of Sha’ban and forgives all His creation, apart from the idolater and the Mushahin.”[ Book 5, Hadith 1453]

However, it was reliably narrated that Umm Salamah said: “The Messenger of Allah used to join Shaban to Ramadan.”[Sunan an-Nasa’i 2176, Book 22, Hadith 87] that means He (pbuh) used extend his devotions of Sha’aban into Ramadan. By so doing he considered Sha’aban as the gate to the city of Holy Ramadan.

It is also prohibited to fast at the end of Sha’aban with the intention of not missing the first days of Ramadan, except for those who have the habit of fasting regularly and the last day of Sha’aban 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 Sahih al-Bukhari from Abu Hurairah (RA) that the Prophet (pbuh) said: “Do not pre-pre-empt Ramadan by one or two days, except for those who have the habit of fasting regularly, in which case they may fast.” [al-Bukhari, no. 1983]

The general law is that Fasting at the end of Sha’aban 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 Shaitan, who influenced the Ahlulkitab 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 Ramadan, because of cloudy weather, or some other reasons beyond their resolution.

Finally,  If anyone still have some missing days of a previous obligatory fast to make up, then such a person should hasten to make them up before the commencement of the next Ramadan. It is very essential to know that it is not tolerated to delay any missed fast to spill overto the following Ramadan, excludingvalid cases of sudden incapacitation and long curable sickness.

In fact it is not a sin to delay any make up to Sha’aban provided they will be redeemed before the forthcoming Ramadan. A’ishah (RD) said, ‘It used to be that I had days to make up for Ramadan, and I would not be able to do so except in Sha’aban.” [IbnMaja: Vol. 1, Book 7, Hadith 1669]

I ask Allah to spare us more time to witness the next Ramadan, and many more Ramadan, in good health and spirit of devotion!

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