After the sacred month of Rajab comes the month of Sha'ban. It sits just before the highly anticipated holy month of Ramadan. While many are giving their attention to the latter, this article intends to offer insights into why we shouldn't neglect Sha'ban, but welcome it as a blessed month by itself.
What are its significances? and how can we best reap its benefits?
Here are 3 virtues of Sha’ban that you may not know:
Our Prophet Muhammad s.a.w said:
ذَلِكَ شَهْرٌ يَغْفُلُ النَّاسُ عَنْهُ بَيْنَ رَجَبٍ وَرَمَضَانَ وَهُوَ شَهْرٌ تُرْفَعُ فِيهِ الْأَعْمَالُ إِلَى رَبِّ الْعَالَمِينَ فَأُحِبُّ أَنْ يُرْفَعَ عَمَلِي وَأَنَا صَائِم
“It is a month where people tend to neglect, between the months of Rajab and Ramadan. It is a month in which the deeds are raised to the Lord of the worlds, and I like my deeds to be raised while I am fasting.”
The Prophet s.a.w. increased his acts of worship by fasting more compared to other months (other than Ramadan).
As cited by Imam Al-Qastallani and Abu Dzar Al-Harawi, it is in the month of Sha'ban when verse 56 from Surah Al-Ahzab was revealed to the Prophet s.a.w. Scholars, therefore, have constantly reminded us to further increase in sending selawat (prayers) and salutations upon our Prophet s.a.w in light of the verse:
إِنَّ ٱللَّهَ وَمَلاَئِكَـتَهُ يُصَلُّونَ عَلَى ٱلنَّبِيِّ يٰأَيُّهَا ٱلَّذِينَ آمَنُواْ صَلُّواْ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلِّمُواْ تَسْلِيماً
Indeed Allah and His angels bestow their prayers upon the Prophet. O you who believe, bestow prayers and peace upon him in abundance.
(Surah Al-Ahzab, 33:56)
In addition, Al-Imam Ibn Kathir in Al-Bidayah Wan-Nihayah, mentioned the majority of scholars are inclined to the view that the 15th of Sha'ban is also the date when the changing of the Qiblah (direction of prayer) took place.
The Qiblah for Muslims in the earlier period of the Prophet’s time was initially facing the Baitul-Maqdis, the holy city where Masjid Al-Aqsa is located until Allah s.w.t. later revealed to His beloved Prophet s.a.w about 2 months after the Hijrah:
قَدْ نَرَىٰ تَقَلُّبَ وَجْهِكَ فِي السَّمَاءِ ۖ فَلَنُوَلِّيَنَّكَ قِبْلَةً تَرْضَاهَا ۚ فَوَلِّ وَجْهَكَ شَطْرَ الْمَسْجِدِ الْحَرَامِ ۚ وَحَيْثُ مَا كُنتُمْ فَوَلُّوا وُجُوهَكُمْ شَطْرَهُ
“ We have certainly seen the turning of your face, (O Muhammad), toward the heaven, and We will surely turn you to a qiblah with which you will be pleased. So turn your face toward al-Masjid al-Haram. And wherever you (believers) are, turn your faces toward it (in prayer).”
(Surah Al-Baqarah, 2:144)
All these blessed significance and events that took place in the month of Sha'ban are also considered as forms of encouragement for us to increase performing good deeds, such as waking up for the night vigil prayers (qiyamul lail), fasting, acts of remembrance (zikir) or as simple as reciting our supplications (dua).
Moreover, it also tells us that the highly anticipated holy month of Ramadan is just around the corner!
Here are 3 benefits to look forward to in the month of Sha'ban:
Although most of the narrations on the virtues of Nisfu-Sha'ban are considered weak in their ‘chain of narration’ (sanad), there are so many that these narrations strengthen one another. Scholars of hadith such as Imam At-Tirmizi, Imam Ahmad bin Hanbal, Imam Ibn Majah and Imam At-Tabrani have narrated hadiths regarding this blessed night.
The likes of Imam Taqiyuddin As-Subki, the prominent Shafiee scholar, have mentioned various names to signify this blessed night. These names are Laylatul Mubarakah (The Blessed Night) - Laylatu Takfeer Zunub (The Night of Expiating Sins) - Laylatul Bara’ah (The Night of Freedom from Hellfire) - and Laylatul Ghufran (The Night of Forgiveness). Our beloved Prophet Muhammad s.a.w. said:
إِنَّ اللَّهَ لَيَطَّلِعُ فِي لَيْلَةِ النِّصْفِ مِنْ شَعْبَانَ فَيَغْفِرُ لِجَمِيعِ خَلْقِهِ إِلاَّ لِمُشْرِكٍ أَوْ مُشَاحِنٍ
“Verily, Allah gazes at His creation on the middle of Sha'ban and forgives all His creations except for those who attribute partners to Allah (shirk) and those who have rancour in their hearts towards others.”
(Sahih Ibn Hibban)
Surely this is a glad tiding to those seeking for His forgiveness. Imagine that our shortcomings or acts that we are ashamed of are being forgiven. It is also important to note that forgiveness is only given to those who clear their hearts of attributing partners to Allah (shirk) and to those who do not have rancour or strong hatred for others.
If one finds it hard to clear his or her heart from rancour, then we are advised to try to forgive others, the best we can. Scholars would remind us to forgive others by making prayers for the other person. May Allah grant us a clear and calm heart.
Some of the names that are also mentioned to describe this blessed night are Laylatul Ijabah (The night of Fulfillment) and Laylatul Rahmah (The night of Mercy). Ibn Umar, the companion and scholar r.a. said:
خمس ليال لا يرد فيهن الدعاء: ليلة الجمعة، وأول ليلة من رجب، وليلة النصف من شعبان، وليلتا العيد - ليلة الفط، وليلة النحر
Five nights where prayers are not rejected therein: The Night of Friday (Thursday night), The First Night of Rejab, The Night of Nisfu Sha'ban, The two Nights of Eid - The First Nights of Hari Raya Aidilfitri and Aidiladha.
(narrated by Imam Al-Bayhaqi)
In another narration, the Prophet s.a.w. has also mentioned how Allah s.w.t. extends His ever limitless and vast mercy on this night to those in dire need:
إذا كانت لَيْلَةُُ النِّصْفِ من شَعْبَانَ فَقُومُوا لَيْلَهَا وَصُومُوا نَهَارَهَا فإن اللَّهَ يَنْزِلُ فيها لِغُرُوبِ الشَّمْسِ إلى سَمَاءِ الدُّنْيَا فيقول: ألا من مُسْتَغْفِرٍ لي فَأَغْفِرَ له، ألا مُسْتَرْزِقٌ فَأَرْزُقَهُ، ألا مبتلى فَأُعَافِيَهُ، ألا كَذَا ألا كَذَا حتى يَطْلُعَ الْفَجْرُ
“On the 15th of Sha'ban, wake up to observe the vigil-prayer in the night and fast during the day, for Allah descends to the nearest heavens from dusk to ask: Is there anyone seeking forgiveness so that I may forgive him? Is there anyone seeking provisions so that I may provide him? Is there anyone facing tribulations so that I may protect him? (and it goes on) Is there anyone this and that’ until the sun rises at dawn”
(Narrated by Imam Ibn Majah)
Our current conditions are such that we are in dire need of relief and glad tidings for this world and the next. Prayers or supplications are essentials that express the language and attitude of a humble servant to his Lord.
In a hadith, the Prophet s.a.w. taught and encouraged us to always strive for Allah’s acceptance and love. In the prophetic tradition, there are best days or times to seek His mercy:
إِنَّ لِرَبِّكُمْ فِي أَيَّامِ دَهْرِكُمْ نَفَحَاتٌ فَتَعَرَّضُوا لَهُ، لَعَلَّهُ أَنْ يُصِيبَكُمْ نَفْحَةٌ مِنْهَا فَلَا تَشْقَوْنَ بَعْدَهَا أَبَدًا
Indeed, your Lord bestows gifts that are preserved in your days, and so seek it. It may be that one of you will fate upon it and will, therefore, never again be in misery.
(narrated by Imam At-Tabrani)
These ‘times’ include the month of Ramadan, the day of Arafah, the last third of every night and the blessed time of fulfilment (Waqt al-Istijabah) on a Friday. In this case, it is the month of Sha'ban, where our deeds are raised to Allah s.w.t. and particularly on the 15th of Sha'ban as mentioned above.
As we look into this Hadith, we will find that there are many blessed days or times and they don’t just come annually; some are even on a daily basis. Bearing in mind our countless shortcomings, indeed, the mercy of Allah is too vast to comprehend.
What is important for us is to never give up on His mercy. Pray to be granted with strength, pay attention to the words of wisdom from the people around us and ask Allah to grant us assistance in observing our obligations.
Our scholars have reminded us to increase our acts of worship such as repentance in this month of Sha'ban, as shown beautifully by our beloved Prophet s.a.w, in hopes that we are able to maximise our acts of worship in the month of Ramadan.
Even if this Ramadan does not allow us the broad opportunities to perform our acts of worship like in previous years, there is still hope and other opportunities for us to focus on. Let us not wait for Ramadan to start striving for His mercy.
This is a reminder for me and others, and Allah knows best.
Watch Muslim.Sg's Online Kuliah: Syaaban: Preparing For Ramadan by Ustaz Fadhlullah Daud below: