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15th of Sha’bān: Sunnah or Bid’ah?

 The Significance of the Night of the Middle of Sha’bān 

The merit of the night of the middle of Sha’bān is strongly debated among Muslims. Some celebrating the night and fasting the following day, whilst others declaring it an innovation.

If this night is truly a blessed night then to dismiss it, is a great loss. However, if it does not hold any significance then to glorify it is an innovation and a deviation from the sunnah of the Messenger of Allāh (ṣallallāhu `alayhi wa-sallam). The Messenger of Allāh (ṣallallāhu `alayhi wa-sallam) said: “Anyone who introduces something into this matter of ours, which is not from it, will have it rejected.” (Bukhārī and Muslim)

Some aḥādīth concerning the merit of the night of the middle of Sha’bān  

1. `Ā’īshah (raḍiyallāhu anhā) reported that, I could not find the Messenger of Allāh (ṣallallāhu `alayhi wa-sallam) on one of the nights, so I went out and found him in (the cemetery of) Baqī. The Messenger of Allāh (ṣallallāhu `alayhi wa-sallam) said: “Did you fear that Allāh and His Messenger will do injustice to you?” I said: O Messenger of Allāh, I thought you might have gone to the house of some of the wives. The Messenger of Allāh (ṣallallāhu `alayhi wa-sallam) replied: “Verily, Allāh descends on the night of the middle of Sha’bān to the first heaven and forgives the sins of the people, even if they were equivalent to the hairs of the goats of Banī Qalb.  [Reported by Aḥmad (6/238), At-Tirmidhī (2/121), Ibn Mājah (1/444) and others]. Al-Bukhārī, At-Tirmidhī and Ad-Dāraquṭnī graded the ḥadīth weak.]

2. Abū Mūsa al-Ash’arī (raḍiyallāhu anhu) narrates: The Messenger of Allāh (ṣallallāhu `alayhi wa-sallam) said: “Our Lord descends to the lowest heaven on the night of the middle of Sha’bān and forgives the occupants of the Earth except the one who associates partners with Allāh and one who harbors enmity.”   [Reported by Ibn Mājah (1/455), Ad-Daraquṭnī in an-Nuzūl (94), Ibn Abī Āṣim in ‘as-Sunnah’ (510) and others.] Al-Būṣayrī and Ibn al-Jawzī graded the ḥadīth weak. Al-Mundhirī also stated that the chain of transmission was interrupted.]

3. Mu’ādh b. Jabal (raḍiyallāhu anhu) narrated that the Messenger of Allāh (ṣallallāhu `alayhi wa-sallam) said: “Allāh the Blessed and Most High looks (draws close and descends) to His creation on the night of the middle of Sha’bān and forgives all of His creation except for the one who ascribes partners to Him and the one who shows enmity.”   [Reported by Ibn Ḥibbān in his Ṣaḥīḥ (5636), Aṭ-Ṭabarānī in ‘al-Mu`jam al-Kabīr’ (20/107) and others]. Ad-Dāraquṭnī in his ‘Illal’ graded the ḥadīth weak.]

4. Abū Bakr (raḍiyallāhu anhu) narrated: The Messenger of Allāh (ṣallallāhu `alayhi wa-sallam) said: “Allāh the Most High, descends on the night of the middle of Sha’bān to the lowest heaven and forgives everyone except a person who in his heart harbours enmity or a person who associates partners with Allāh.” [Reported by Abū Bakr al-Marwazī in ‘Musnad Abū Bakr aṣ-Ṣiddīq’ (104), ad-Dārimī in ‘ar-Radd `alā al-Jahmiyyah’ (136), Ibn Abī Āṣim in ‘as-Sunnah’ (509), Al-Bazzār in his ‘Musnad’ (1/151) and others] Ibn al-Jawzi states: “This ḥadīth is not authentic and not proven.]

5. Ā’īshāh (raḍiyallāhu anhā) reports that the Messenger of Allāh (ṣallallāhu `alayhi wa-sallam) entered my room. He then removed his outer garment (and lied down). Having barely rested, he got up, dressed himself (and left the room). I was overwhelmed with jealousy and thought that perhaps he has gone to some of his other wives. Therefore, I followed him and found him at Baqī (graveyard) asking forgiveness for the believing men, women and martyrs. So I said (to myself): May my Father and Mother be sacrificed for you, you are engaged in the matter of your Lord and I am engaged in a worldly matter. So I left (hurriedly) and entered my room and was thus quite out of breath. The Messenger of Allāh (ṣallallāhu `alayhi wa-sallam) soon returned and said: “Why are you breathing so heavily Ā’īshah?” I replied: “May my Father and Mother be sacrificed for you. You came to me and removed your garment, then having barely rested, you got up, dressed and left. So I was overwhelmed with jealousy and thought that perhaps you had gone to the other wives, until I saw you in Baqī doing what you did. So the Messenger of Allāh (ṣallallāhu `alayhi wa-sallam) said: “O Ā’īshah did you fear that Allāh and His Messenger would deal unjustly with you! Jibra`īl came to me and said: “This is the night of the middle of Sha’bān, Allāh emancipates (during this night) from the fire multitudes of people equivalent to the amount of hair on the goats of the tribe of Kalb. However, Allāh does not look on this night at an idolator, a person who harbours enmity in his heart, one who severs family relations, a person who wears his trousers below his ankles, a person who disobeys his parents and one who is addicted to liquor.” Then the Messenger of Allāh removed his outer garment and asked: “O Ā’īshah! Do you give me permission to spend the night in worship? I replied: May my Father and Mother be sacrificed for you! (indicating permission). The Messenger of Allāh (ṣallallāhu `alayhi wa-sallam) thereafter got up and performed a lengthy prostration, so much so that I feared that he had passed away. I got up and touched him and placed my hands on the sole of his feet due to which he moved. I became pleased and heard him say in his prostration:

“O Allāh, through (the agency of) your forgiveness, I seek protection from your punishment. I seek protection from your anger by means of your pleasure. I seek protection in You from You. I cannot truly praise you as you deserve to be praised. You are as you praised yourself.”

In the morning, I mentioned it (the prayer) to him. He said: “O Ā’īshāh! Have you learnt these words?” I said: “Yes.” He replied: “Learn these words and teach them to others. Jibra’īl had taught them to me and commanded me to repeat them during the prostration”  [Reported by al-Bayhaqī in ‘ash-Shu’ab’ (3/383/3836). Al-Albānī graded it ‘extremely weak’ in ‘at-Targhīb wa at-Tarhīb’ (3/1027)]

6. `Alī (raḍiyallāhu anhu) narrated that the Messenger of Allāh (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wa-sallam) stated; “When it is the night of the middle of Sha’bān, do Qiyām in the night, and fast in the morning, for Verily Allāh descends during the night (from sunset) to the nearest heavens. Allāh then announces: “Is there anyone who is asking for forgiveness so that I can forgive them, is there anyone who needs sustenance (rizq) that I may give it to him, who is in distress that I may relieve his distress. Many other similar proclamations are made, and this continues till fajr.”   [Reported by Ibn Mājah (1/144) and others] Al-Būṣayrī, Al-Irāqī and others graded the ḥadīth as a fabrication. One of the narrators (Ibn Abī Sabirah) was judged as a fabricator by Aḥmad, Ibn Ma`īn, Al-`Uqaylī and others. Al-Bukhārī said he is munkar in ḥadīth.]

7. `Alī (raḍiyallāhu anhu) said, that the Messenger of Allāh (ṣallallāhu `alayhi wa-sallam) said: “O `Alī, whoever prays a hundred rak`āts (units of prayer) on the night of the middle of Sha’bān, and recites ‘al-Fātiḥa’ in every rak`āh and ‘Qul Huwa Allāhu Aḥad” (Surah al-Ikhlās) ten times, O `Alī, there is none from my servants who prays this ṣalāh, except that Allāh fulfils all the needs he asks for that night….”  [Reported by Ibn al-Jawẓī in ‘Al-Mawdū’āt’ (2/127)] Ibn al-Jawẓī, Adh-Dhahabī, Ad-Dāraquṭnī, Ash-Shawkāni, as-Suyūṭī and others graded the ḥadīth as a fabrication. Ibn al-Jawẓī comments on the ḥadīth: “This ḥadīth without a doubt is fabricated. The majority of its narrators via the three channels are unknown. Furthermore, there are weak narrators in the chain. [Al Mawdū’āt 2/129]]

Ibn al-Qayyim writes: “It is amazing that one who smells the fragrance of the knowledge of the Sunnah would then be deceived by this irrational nonsense and pray it?! This ṣalāh was an innovation introduced into Islam after four hundred years, and began in Jerusalem.    [‘Al-Manār al-Munīf’ pg. 66-67]

8. Muādh b. Jabal (raḍiyallāhu anhu) that the Messenger of Allāh (ṣallallāhu `alayhi wa-sallam) said: “Whosoever spends (in worship) the (following) five nights, paradise becomes compulsory for him: The night of Tarāwīh, the night of `Arafah, the night of an-Nahr, the night of (`Eīd) al-Fiṭr and the night of the middle of Sha’bān.”  [Reported by al-Asbahānī in his ‘Targhīb’ (1/248)] Ibn al-Jawzi said: “The ḥadīth is not authentic. Al-Albānī graded it as a fabrication.]

9. Ibn `Umar (raḍiyallāhu anhu) said: The Messenger of Allāh (ṣallallāhu `alayhi wa-sallam) said: “Whosoever reads on the night of the middle of Sha’bān, Surah Ikhlās a thousand times in one hundred rak’āts (units) he will not leave this world but that Allāh will send a thousand angels in his sleep giving him glad tidings of Paradise, thirty giving him security from the Fire, thirty protecting him from making mistakes and ten plotting against his enemies.”   [Reported by Ibn al-Jawzī in ‘al-Mawdū’āt’] This ḥadīth is fabricated and most of its narrators are unknown.]

10. `Alī (raḍiyallāhu anhu) said: “I saw the Messenger of Allāh (ṣallallāhu `alayhi wa-sallam) on the night of the middle of Sha’bān praying fourteen raka’āhs and then sat down after completing it and prayed ‘Surah al-Fātiḥa’ fourteen times, ‘Surah al-Ikhlās’ fourteen times, ‘Surah al-Falaq’ fourteen times, ‘Surah an-Nās’ fourteen times and the ‘verse of the throne’ and the verse “and has come to you a Messenger from amongst you” once. After completing his prayer, I asked him about what I saw him do, to which he said: “Whoever does what you saw will get the reward of twenty accepted Ḥajj, and (the reward for) twenty years of accepted fast. If he wakes up fasting that day he will get the reward of fasting two years, the past year and the coming year.”    [Reported by al-Bayhaqi (3841) in ‘Shu`ab al-Imān’ and Ibn al-Jawzi in ‘al-Mawdū’āt’ (2/444)] Al-Bayhaqi writes: “Imām Aḥmad said: This ḥadīth appears to be a fabrication and it is ‘Munkar’. In the narration there are unknown individuals the likes of `Uthmān b. Sa`īd.]

Most of the ahādith concerning the 15th of Sha’bān are either fabricated or extremely weak. There are some other aḥādīth which are disputed among the ḥadīth scholars, some grading them weak, whilst others graded them as very weak. A few scholars (e.g. Ibn Ḥibbān, Al-Haythamī, Al-Mundhirī and others) have even graded some of the individual narrations as authentic. Although this latter view, seems to be an extremely lenient one.

Some of the scholars who have graded some of these aḥādīth as weak, also argue that since the narrations only have slight weaknesses, they can collectively support each other making the overall status of these narrations as Ḥasan (Fair), and therefore acceptable.

Among the contemporary ḥadīth scholars Al-Albānī,(‘Silsilah al-Aḥādīth aṣ-Ṣaḥīḥah’ (3/135))] Al-Arna`ūt  (‘Ṣahīh Ibn Ḥibbān’ (5665))] and Al-Lakhnawī (Al-Athār al-Marfū’ah (pg 71))] have defended this view.

Al-Albānī concludes after his detailed study of the different chains: “In summary the ḥadīth with all its supporting strands is authentic without any doubt. In fact, authenticity could be established with a much smaller number (of narrations), as long as they are free from severe weaknesses, as is the case with this narration.”

Others have argued that each narration has severe weaknesses and therefore cannot support each other to reach the level of acceptability.

Al-`Uqaylī writes: “As for Allāh descending on the night of the middle of Sha’bān, there is weakness (in the narrations), whilst the narrations of (Allāh) descending every night are authentic and the night of the middle of Sha’bān is included in them.”   [Aḍ-Ḍu`afā al-Kabīr (3/29)]

Abū Ḥatim ar-Razī graded the ḥadīth as Munkar. [ `Illal al-Ḥadīth’ (2/173)]

Ad-Dāraqutnī said: “The ḥadīth has been reported by Mu`ādh and `Ā’īshah…but the ḥadīth is not established.

Abū Bakr Ibn al-`Arabī writes: “There is no dependable ḥadīth for the night of the middle of Sha’bān.”  [Aḥkām al-Qur’ān (4/117)]

Is Sustenance, Life and Death Determined on the Night of the Middle of Sha’bān?

It is narrated of Ikrimah that he explained the āyah in the Qur’ān: {Truly, We revealed it in a blessed night. Truly, We have ever been warning. Therein (i.e. on that night) are decided all matters of wisdom}    [Surah ad-Dukhān: 3-4]

“It is the night of the middle of Sha’bān, and in it the affairs of the year are approved, the living and the dead are transcribed and the (names of the) pilgrims are written, and no one is added on to it or taken off from it.”

In response, Ibn Kathīr writes in his Tafṣīr: “As for those who say it is the night of the middle of Sha’bān – as is reported of Ikrimah- (they) have gone further from the truth. The Qurā’nic text clearly stipulates that it is in Ramaḍān.[Tafsīr Qur’ān al-Aẓīm (7/246)]

Ash-Shanqītī argues: “The claim that it is the night of the middle of Sha’bān, as has been reported of Ikrimah, is without a doubt a false claim; since it contradicts a clear Qurā’nic text, and no doubt whatever contradicts truth is falsehood.   [Aḍwā al-Bayān (7/319)]

Position of Muslim Scholars Regarding the Merit of the Night of the Middle of Sha’bān

(A) Those scholars who believe in the excellence of the night.

1. Imām ash-Shāfi’ī writes: “It has reached us that it used to be said: The supplications are answered on five nights: the night of Friday, The night of al-Aḍḥā, the night of al-Fiṭr, the first night of Rajab and the night of the middle of of Sha’bān…and I prefer everything that has been reported about these nights without it being compulsory.” [Al Umm]

2. Aḥmad b. al-Hasan b. Ḥassan said: It was said to Abū `Abd Allāh (Imām Aḥmad): “Does Allāh the Most High descend to the lowest heaven every night? He said: Yes. He was asked: And in Sha’bān as we find it in the narration? He said: Yes”   [Abu Ya’la, ‘Ibtāl at-Ta’wīlāt li akhbār aṣ-Ṣifāt’ (1/260)]

3. Ibn Taymiyyah writes: “And under this chapter (is) the night of the middle of Sha’bān. Some marfū aḥādīth and āthār regarding its merit have been narrated which shows that it is a chosen night. Moreover, some of the pious predecessors (salaf) used to dedicate it with ṣalāh and fasting in the month of Sha’bān, as has been related in authentic narrations. He continues: “And from the salaf, from the people of Madinah, and those who came later, (they) rejected its merit and criticized the narrations mentioned regarding it…But the opinion of many of the scholars or the majority, from our companions and others, is of the merit of this night. This is indicated in the saying of Aḥmad, since there are many aḥādīth mentioned regarding it. This is (further) confirmed by the statements of the pious predecessors.”[‘Iqtidā as-Sirāṭ al-Mustaqīm’, (pg. 137)]

He further states in his Faṭāwā: “If a person prays that night alone, or in a select congregation, as many groups of the Early Muslims (salaf) used to do, it is excellent.”     [Majmu’ Al-Faṭāwā’, (23/131)]

4. Ibn Rajab states: “It is required for a believer to free himself on that night for remembering Allāh, and supplicating to him for forgiveness, (asking Allāh) to veil his sins and remove distress. (It is better) to precede that with repentance, since Allāh forgives in it the one who repents.”    [‘Laṭāif al-Ma’ārif’, (pg 263)]

5. `Aṭā’ b. Yāsir is quoted by Ibn Rajab as saying:”There is no night after the Night of Power better than the night of the middle of Sha’bān. Allāh descends to the lowest heaven and forgives all His servants…”  [Laṭāif al-Ma’ārif’, (pg 264)]

6. Ibn aṣ-Ṣalāḥ remarks: “As for the night of the middle of Sha’bān it has some merit and to spend it in worship is preferable….”   [Taslīh ash-Shaja’ān’, (pg. 80)]

7. Ḥaskafī writes in ‘Durr al-Mukhtār’: “Among the recommended [prayers] are on. . . . the nights of the two `Eīds, the night of the (middle) of Sha’bān, the last ten nights of Ramaḍān, and the first [ten] of Dhul-Ḥijjah.”   [Ibn `Ābidīn, ‘Radd al-Muḥtār’ (2/469)]

8. The Ḥanbalī scholar Al-Buhūtī writes in ‘ar-Rawḍ al-Murbi’:”It is sunnah to offer qiyām al-layl and it should begin with two light units of prayer. It’s time (begins) from maghrib to fajr and one should not stand in prayer the entire night except on the night of `Eīd and the night of the middle of Sha’bān…”    [ar-Rawḍ al-Murbi (1/112)]

(B) Those scholars who reject the excellence of the night.

1. Ibn Rajab writes: “Most the scholars from Hijāẓ rejected it (the merit of the night of the middle of Sha’bān). From them are `Atā’ (b. Rabāh) and Ibn Mulaykah. It is also similarly reported by `Abd ar-Raḥmān b. Zayd b. Aslam from the Jurist of Madinah, and this is the opinion of the companions of Mālik and others. They said: All of that is an innovation.”    [Laṭā’if al-Ma’ārif’, pg. 263)]

2. Al-Ḥāfiẓ Ibn Dahīyah argues:”The scholars of ‘Jarḥ wa Ta’dīl” say: “There is no authentic narration regarding the night of the middle of Sha’bān….”      [Taslīh ash-Shaja’ān’, pg. 88)]

3. Abu Sha’mā writes in his book ‘al-Bā’ith `alā Inkār al-bid’ah wa al-Ḥawadith‘:”Abū Bakr at-Tartūsī said: It was reported by Ibn Wad’ah from Zayd b. Aslam who said: “We did not meet any of our teachers nor our jurists who paid any attention to the night of the middle of Sha’bān, nor did they pay attention to the ḥadīth of Makhūl, nor did they believe it has some merit over other nights.” He then said: “It was said to Ibn Abī Mulaykah that Ziyad an-Namirī says: “The reward of the night of the middle of Sha’bān is like the night of Power”. So he responded: “If I heard it and there was a stick in my hand I would have hit him….”       [(al-Bā’ith `alā Inkār al-bid’ah wa al-Ḥawadith pg. 89)]

4. Imām ash-Shāṭibī comments in his book al-I’tisām whilst discussing different types of Bid’ah (innovations): ”And from it (innovations), is to do a specific worship at a specific time without any specification in the Sharī`ah, like fasting on the middle of Sha’bān and worshipping during its night.”   [‘Al-I’tisām’, (pg. 28)]

5. Ibn Bāz writes:  ”Among the innovations that have been invented by some people is the celebrating of the middle of Sha’bān, and singling out that day for fasting. There is no reliable evidence for that. Some weak aḥādīth have been narrated concerning its virtues, but we cannot regard them as reliable. The reports which have been narrated concerning the virtues of prayer on this occasion are all fabricated, as has been pointed out by many of the scholars.[Hukm Iḥtifāl bil-Laylat an-Nisf min Sha’bān’, (pg. 8)]

6. Ṣaliḥ b. Al-Fowzān responds to a question asking him about the significance of the night by saying: ” Nothing firm and reliable has been established on the authority of the Prophet (ṣallallāhu `alayhi wa-sallam) that he stood in prayer in the night and fasted during the day of the 15th of Sha’bān. So the night of the 15th of Sha’bān is like any other night, and if someone is a regular worshipper during other nights, then he may stand the night in prayer without assuming anything special. This is because specifying a time for any act of worship requires an authentic proof, and if there is no authentic proof then the act is regarded as an innovation and all innovations are misguidance….”     [Nūrun `alā ad-Darb’, (1/87)]

7. Ibn Jibrīn answered one of the enquirers by saying:”There is no authentic marfū’ report that speaks of the virtue of the middle of Sha’bān that may be followed, not even in the chapters on al-Faḍā’il. Some broken reports have been narrated from some of the successors, and there are some aḥadīth, the best of which are extremely weak or fabricated.”

8. Ibn al-‘Uthaymīn commented:   ” That which is correct, is that, fasting the 15th of Sha’bān or specifying it with reciting (the Qur’ān) or making (particular) supplications has no basis. The day of the 15th of Sha’bān is like any other 15th day of other months.”     [‘Fatāwā Ibn al-‘Uthaymīn’ (393)]]

Fasting on the 15th of Sha’bān

To prove the desirability and reward for fasting on the 15th of Sha’bān the aḥādīth of `Alī (raḍiyallāhu anhu) have been advanced. It is clear from the discussion above that the aḥādīth are fabricated and cannot be used as supportive evidence.

Ibn Taymiyyah writes:”As for fasting on the middle night of Sha’bān alone, it has no evidence, rather to single out that day is makrūh.”[Iqtida as-Sirāṭ al-Mustaqīm’, (pg. 138)]

In conclusion we can say that fasting only on the 15th of Sha’bān and to think that one will receive extra reward for it is incorrect since the day of the 15th of Sha’bān has not been assigned any significance.

Aḥādīth Mentioning Specific Prescribed Ṣalāh to be Performed on the Night of the Middle of Sha’bān

There is no authentic ḥadīth specifying any particular type of prayer on this night. There are some aḥādīth which describe what is known as “Aṣ-Ṣalāt al-Alfiyāh” but all aḥādīth regarding it are fabrications.

Imām al-`Aynī writes in ‘al-Bināyah’:”As for specific prayers in the night of the middle of Sha’bān, Abū al-Khattāb Majd ad-Dīn said: “There is no authentic narration from the Messenger of Allāh (ṣallallāhu `alayhi wa-sallam).”   [‘Al-Bināyah fī Sharḥ al-Hidayāh’, (3/623)]

Ibn Taymiyyah states:  ”As for that which has been innovated in the night of the middle of Sha’bān, with the people gathering for aṣ-Ṣalāh al-Alfiyyah…this gathering for a specific supererogatory prayer at a specific time with a specific recitation is not authorized and is despised. The narrations mentioned regarding aṣ-Ṣalāh al-Alfiyyah are fabricated as has been agreed upon by the scholars of ḥadīth…”  [‘Al-Iqtidā’, (pg. 138)]

Ibn aṣ-Ṣalāh although agreeing to the excellence of the night writes:”As for the ‘al-Alfiyyah‘ which is prayed on the night of the middle of Sha’bān, it has no evidence…and it is strange how the people are so keen to do these innovations on these two nights (i.e. the 15th of Sha’bān and Rajab) and yet they neglect the Sunnah established from the Messenger of Allāh…”    [Taslīḥ ash-Shaj’ān’, (pg. 80)]

Al-Ḥāfiẓ al-‘Irāqī writes: “The ḥadīth about the prayer during the night of the middle of Sha’bān is fabricated and is falsely attributed to the Messenger of Allāh (ṣallallāhu `alayhi wa-sallam).”

An-Nawawī writes in ‘al-Majmū’: “The prayer that is known as ‘Ṣalāt ar-Raghā’ib‘, which is twelve rak’āhs between Maghrib and `Ishā’ on the night of the first Friday in Rajab, and the prayer on the night of the middle of Sha’bān, of one hundred rak’āhs – these two prayers are reprehensible innovations. No one should be deceived by the fact that they are mentioned in the books ‘Qūt al-Qulūb‘ and ‘Iḥyā’ ‘Ulūm ad-Dīn‘,… all of that is false. Nor should they be deceived by the fact that some of the scholars were confused about this matter and wrote a few pages stating that these prayers are desirable, for they were mistaken in that.”  [(al-Majmū pg. 84)]

Gathering in the Masjid to Commemorate the Night

Those who believe in the excellence of this night have two views on how the night is to be commemorated.

The first view is that it is preferable to gather in the masjid to commemorate this night. Khālid b. Ma’dān, Luqmān b. Āmir and others used to wear their best clothes and put on perfume and khol and spend the night in masjid praying. Ishāq b. Rāhūyeh agreed with them and said gathering in the masjid in prayer is not an innovation. [‘Laṭā’if al-Ma’ārif’, (pg. 262)]

The second view is that it is Makrūḥ to gather in the masjid for ṣalah, lectures and dua’. Rather one should engage in worship and supplications on his own. This is the view of al-Awzāī’, Ibn Taymiyyah, Ibn Rajab, Ibn aṣ-Ṣalāḥ and others.

ibn aṣ-Ṣalāḥ in response to a question writes:”As for the night of the middle of Sha’bān, it has merit and to commemorate it with worship is preferable but alone and not in congregation…”      [‘Taslīḥ ash-Shaj’ān’, (pg. 80)]

Ash-Sharanbulāli states in ‘Marāqī al-Falāḥ‘:”And it is makrūḥ to gather in the masjid to commemorate these nights…since it was not done by the Messenger of Allāh (ṣallallāhu `alayhi wa-sallam) and also it was rejected by the scholars of Hijāz…”   [‘Marāqī al-Falāḥ’, (pg. 158)]

The fact that the merit of this night was not accepted by the people of Madīnah, gives further proof that even if the narration is authentic, it was not something practiced in the open in large congregations, otherwise they would have been familiar with it and practiced it.

`Uthmānī though accepting the merit of the night argues: “Some people spend this night in holding religious meetings and delivering long speeches. Such activities are also not advisable, because these acts can easily be performed in other nights. This night requires one to devote himself for the pure acts of worship only.”

Some Innovations done on the Night of the Middle of Sha’bān

Sadly, there will always be some who will not be satisfied with what Allāh and His Messenger have prescribed and will introduce new innovations. Some will insist on following their own cultural practices even if it opposed the prophetic teachings.

Allāh says: “When it is said to them, follow what Allāh has revealed, they say, No, we shall follow the way of our forefathers. What! Even though their forefathers were void of wisdom and guidance?” [Surah al-Baqarah: 170]

The Messenger of Allāh (ṣallallāhu `alayhi wa-sallam) said: “Whoever does an action that we have not commanded then that action will be rejected.” [Bukhārī and Muslim]

Al-Ḥasan al-Baṣrī said: “The people claimed they loved Allāh, so He tested them with this ayah, ” Say if you truly Love Allāh, then follow me. Allāh will love you and forgive your sins, for Allāh is oft forgiving, Most Merciful”.     [Surah Āl-Imrān: 31]

Ash-Shaṭibī defined bid’ah as: “A newly invented way in the religion in imitation of the Shar`īah, by which nearness is sought without being supported by any authentic proof, neither the action nor the way it is performed.”

Uthmānī remarks: “In this night some people indulge in some activities which they regard as necessary for the celebration of the night, like cooking some special type of meal, or illuminating houses or mosques, or improvised structures. All such activities are not only baseless and innovated in the later days by ignorant people, but in some cases they are pure imitation of some rituals performed by non-Muslim communities. Such imitation in itself is a sin; performing it in a blessed night like the Night of the middle of Sha’bān makes it worse. Muslims should strictly abstain from all such activities.”

Azmi writes: “Some people firmly believe that on the al-Barā’ah the souls visit the families homes and see whether any food has been prepared in their honour…these are baseless ideologies that clearly contradict the (authentic) aḥādīth.”

Ibn Rajab agreeing with Imām al-Awzā’ī writes: “It is makruḥ to get together and perform ṣalāh or du’ā in the masjid, but it is not disliked for a person to perform it individually.”   [‘Laṭāif al-Ma’ārif’, (pg. 161)]

Conclusion

In Summary the following conclusions can be drawn:

1. Sha’bān is a blessed month and the Messenger of Allāh (ṣallallāhu `alayhi wa-sallam) would observe fast throughout this month.

2. There is no Qur’ānic evidence for the excellence of the 15th of Sha’bān.

3. The opinion that sustenance, death etc is determined on the night of the 15th of Sha’bān is false.

4. Most aḥādīth on the merit of the 15th of Sha’bān are either very weak or fabricated. However, there is a narration which has been argued by some scholars (when supported collectively) reaches the level of acceptability. The ḥadīth states that Allāh descends to the lowest heaven and forgives the sins of everyone except one who associates partners with Allāh and one who harbors enmity on that night.

5. The scholars have differed on the excellence of this night, with the scholars of Hijāz denying it any merit. Other scholars have agreed on its excellence.

6. Fasting specifically on the 15th of Sha’bān is not a sunnah nor was it practiced by the early scholars rather to fast specifically on this day, with the belief that it is meritorious is makrūḥ.

7.  All aḥādīth which describe specific prayers to be done on this night are fabrications and innovations.

8. There is nothing specifically mentioned from the Messenger of Allāh (ṣallallāhu `alayhi wa-sallam) on what should be done on this night.

9. Burning lanterns, preparing special foods, sweet dishes, and to believe that souls visit the families are all false and wretched innovations (Bid’ah).

And Allāh knows best.

May the Peace and blessings be upon our Prophet Muḥammad, his family and companions.

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