by Mufti Taqi Usmani
Sha'ban is one of the meritorious months for which we find some particular instructions in the Sunnah of Prophet Muhammad (saw). It is reported in the authentic ahadith that Prophet Muhammad (saw) used to fast most of the month in Sha'ban. These fasts were not obligatory on him but Sha'ban is the month immediately preceding the month of Ramadan. Therefore, some preparatory measures are suggested by Prophet Muhammad (saw). Some of these are given below:
But it should be kept in mind that the fasts of Sha'ban are for those persons only who are capable of keeping them without causing deficiency in the obligatory fasts of Ramadan. Therefore, if one fears that after fasting in Sha'ban, he will lose strength or freshness for the fasts of Ramadan and will not be able to fast in it with freshness, he should not fast in Sha'ban, because the fasts of Ramadan, being obligatory, are more important than the optional fasts of Sha'ban. That is why Prophet Muhammad (saw) himself has forbidden the Muslims from fasting one or two days immediately before the commencement of Ramadan. The blessed Companion Abu Hurairah (ra) reports Prophet Muhammad (saw) to have said, "Do not fast after the first half of the month of Sha'ban is gone."
According to another report Prophet Muhammad (saw) has said: "Do not precede the month of Ramadan with one or two fasts."
The essence of the above-quoted ahadith is that Prophet Muhammad (saw) himself used to fast most of the month of Sha'ban, because he had no fear of developing weakness or weariness before the commencement of Ramadan. As for others, he ordered them not to fast after the 15th of Sha'ban for the fear that they would lose their strength and freshness before Ramadan starts, and would not be able to welcome the month of Ramadan with enthusiasm.
The Night of Bara'ah
Another significant feature of the month of Sha'ban is that it consists of a night which is termed in Shariah as "Laylatul-bara'ah" (The night of freedom from Fire). This is the night occurring between 14th and 15th day of Sha'ban. There are certain traditions of Prophet Muhammad (saw) to prove that it is a meritorious night in which the people of the earth are attended by special Divine mercy. Some of these traditions are quoted as follows:
What Should be Done in this Night?
In order to observe the Night of Bara'ah, one should remain awakened in this night as much as he can. If someone has better opportunities, he should spend the whole night in worship and prayer. However, if one cannot do so for one reason or another, he can select a considerable portion of the night, preferably of the second half of it for this purpose, and should perform the following acts of worship:
That is why Prophet Muhammad (saw) observed the acts of worship in this night in total seclusion, not accompanied by anyone, not even by his favorite life companion Sayyidah 'Aishah (ra) and that is why all forms of the optional worship (Nafl Ibadah), are advised by him to be done in individual, not in collective manner.
Fast of the 15th Sha'ban
On the day immediately following the Night of Bara'ah, i.e. the 15th of Sha'ban, it is mustahabb (advisable) to keep fast. Prophet Muhammad (saw) is reported to have recommended this fast emphatically. Although the scholars of hadith have some doubts in the authenticity of this report, yet it is mentioned earlier that the fasts of the first half of Sha'ban have special merits and Prophet Muhammad (saw) used to fast most of the days in Sha'ban. Moreover, a large number of the elders (salaf) of the Ummah have been observing the fast of the 15th of Sha'ban. This constant practice indicates that they have accepted the relevant hadith as authentic.
Therefore, it is advisable to fast the 15th of Sha'ban as an optional (nafl) fast. One can also keep a fast of qada on this day and it is hoped that he can also benefit from the merits of this fast.
[Courtesy of al-balagh.net]