In the name of Allah, the Beneficient,the Merciful
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Sha'ban: Merits, Do's, and Dont's
Sha'ban is one of the meritorious
months for which we find some particular instructions in the
Sunnah of Prophet Muhammad, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam. It
is reported in the authentic ahadith that Prophet
Muhammad, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam, 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, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam. Some of these
are given below:
1. The blessed companion Anas, Radi-Allahu anhu, reports
that Prophet Muhammad, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam, was
asked, "Which fast is the most meritorious after the fasts of
Ramadan?" He replied, "Fasts of Shaban in honor of Ramadan."
2. The blessed companion Usama ibn Zaid, Radi-Allahu anhu,
reports that he asked Prophet Muhammad, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa
sallam: "Messenger of Allah, I have seen you fasting in
the month of Sha'ban so frequently that I have never seen you
fasting in any other month." Prophet Muhammad, Sall-Allahu
alayhi wa sallam, replied: "That (Sha'ban) is a month between
Rajab and Ramadan which is neglected by many people. And it is
a month in which an account of the deeds (of human beings) is
presented before the Lord of the universe, so, I wish that my
deeds be presented at a time when I am in a state of fasting."
3. Ummul Mu'mineen 'Aishah, Radi-Allahu anha, says,
"Prophet Muhammad, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam, used to fast
the whole of Sha'ban. I said to him, 'Messenger of Allah, is
Sha'ban your most favorite month for fasting?' He said, 'In
this month Allah prescribes the list of the persons dying this
year. Therefore, I like that my death comes when I am in a
state of fasting."
4. In another Tradition she says, "Prophet Muhammad,
Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam, would sometimes begin to fast
continuously until we thought he would not stop fasting, and
sometimes he used to stop fasting until we thought he would
never fast. I never saw the Messenger of Allah, Sall-Allahu
alayhi wa sallam, fasting a complete month, except the
month of Ramadan, and I have never seen him fasting in a month
more frequently than he did in Sha'ban."
5. In another report she says, "I never saw the Messenger
of Allah, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam, fasting in a month so
profusely as he did in the month of Sha'ban. He used to fast
in that month leaving only a few days, rather, he used to fast
almost the whole of the month."
6. Ummul-Mu'mineen Umm Salamah, Radi-Allahu anha, says: "I
have never seen the Messenger of Allah fasting for two months
continuously except in the months of Sha'ban and Ramadan."
These reports indicate that fasting in the month of
Sha'ban, though not obligatory, is so meritorious that Prophet
Muhammad, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam, did not like to miss
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, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam, himself
has forbidden the Muslims from fasting one or two days
immediately before the commencement of Ramadan. The blessed
Companion Abu Hurairah, Radi-Allahu anhu, reports Prophet
Muhammad, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam, to have said, "Do
not fast after the first half of the month of Sha'ban is
According to another report Prophet Muhammad, Sall-Allahu
alayhi wa sallam 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, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam, 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
15th day of Sha'ban.
There are certain traditions of Prophet Muhammad, Sall-Allahu
alayhi wa sallam, 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:
1. Ummul-Mu'mineen 'Aishah, Radi-Allahu anha, is
reported to have said, "Once Prophet Muhammad, Sall-Allahu
alayhi wa sallam, performed the Salah of the night (Tahajjud)
and made a very long Sajdah until I feared that he had passed
away. When I saw this, I rose (from my bed) and moved his
thumb (to ascertain whether he is alive). The thumb moved, and
I returned (to my place). Then I heard him saying in Sajdah:
'I seek refuge of Your forgiveness from Your punishment, and I
seek refuge of Your pleasure from Your annoyance, and I seek
Your refuge from Yourself. I cannot praise You as fully as You
deserve. You are exactly as You have defined Yourself.'
Thereafter, when he raised his head from Sajdah and
finished his salah, he said to me: 'Aishah, did you
think that the Prophet has betrayed you?' I said, 'No, O
Prophet of Allah, but I was afraid that your soul has been
taken away because your Sajdah was very long.' He asked
me, 'Do you know which night is this?' I said, 'Allah and His
Messenger know best.' He said, 'This is the night of the half
of Sha'ban. Allah Almighty looks upon His slaves in this night
and forgives those who seek forgiveness and bestows His mercy
upon those who pray for mercy but keeps those who have malice
(against a Muslim) as they were before, (and does not forgive
them unless they relieve themselves from malice).'"
2. In another Tradition Sayyidah' Aishah, Radi-Allahu anha,
has reported that Prophet Muhammad, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa
sallam, has said, "Allah Almighty descends (in a manner He
best knows it) in the night occurring in the middle of Sha'ban
and forgives a large number of people more than the number of
the fibers on the sheep of the tribe, Kalb."
Kalb was a big tribe the members of which had a very large
number of sheep. Therefore, the last sentence of the hadith
indicates the big number of the people who are forgiven in
this night by Allah Almighty.
3. In yet another Tradition, she has reported Prophet
Muhammad, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam, to have said, "This is
the middle Night of Sha'ban. Allah frees in it a large number
of the people from Fire, more than the number of the hair
growing on the sheep of the tribe, Kalb. But He does not even
look at a person who associates partners with Allah, or at a
person who nourishes malice in his heart (against someone), or
at a person who cuts off the ties of kinship, or at a man who
leaves his clothes extending beyond his ankles (as a sign of
pride), or at a person who disobeys his parents, or at a
person who has a habit of drinking wine."
4. Sayyidna Mu'adh ibn Jabal, Radi-Allahu anhu,
reports that Prophet Muhammad, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa
sallam, has said: "Allah Almighty looks upon all those created
by Him in the middle Night of Sha'ban and forgives all those
created by Him, except the one who associates partners with
Him or the one who has malice in his heart (against a
Although the chain of narrators of some of these traditions
suffers with some minor technical defects, yet when all these
traditions are combined together, it becomes clear that this
night has some well founded merits, and observing this night
as a sacred night is not a baseless concoction as envisaged by
some modern scholars who, on the basis of these minor defects,
have totally rejected to give any special importance to this
night. In fact, some of these traditions have been held by
some scholars of hadith as authentic and the defects in
the chain of some others have been treated by them as minor
technical defects which, according to the science of
hadith, are curable by the variety of their ways of
narration. That is why the elders of the ummah have
constantly been observing this night as a night of special
merits and have been spending it in worship and prayers.
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:
(a) Salah. Salah is the most preferable act
to be performed in this night. There is no particular number
of Rak'at but preferably it should not be less than
eight. It is also advisable that each part of the Salah
like qiyam, rukoo' and sajdah should be
longer than normal. The longest surahs of the Holy Qur'an one
remembers by heart should be recited in the Salah of
this night. If someone does not remember the long surahs, he
can also recite several short surahs in one rak'ah.
(b) Tilawa. The recitation of the Holy Qur'an is
another form of worship, very beneficent in this night. After
performing Salah, or at any other time, one should
recite as much of the Holy Qur'an as he can.
(c) Dhikr. One should also perform dhikr
(recitation of the name of Allah) in this night.
Particularly the following dhikr is very useful:
One should recite Salah (durood) on Prophet
Muhammad, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam, as many times as he
can. The dhikr can also be recited while walking, lying
on bed and during other hours of work or leisure.
(d) Dua. The best benefit one can draw from the
blessings of this night is prayers and supplications. It is
hoped that all the prayers in this night will be accepted by
our Lord, insha-Allah. Prayer itself is an 'Ibadah,
and Allah Almighty gives reward on each prayer along with
the fulfillment of the supplicator's need. Even if the purpose
prayed for is not achieved, one cannot be deprived of the
reward of the prayer which is sometimes more precious than the
mundane benefits one strives for. The prayers and
supplications also strengthen one's relation with Allah
Almighty, which is the main purpose of all kinds and forms of
One can pray for whatever purpose he wishes. But the best
supplications are the ones made by Prophet Muhammad,
Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam. These are so comprehensive and
all-encompassing prayers that all the human needs, of this
world and the Hereafter, are fully covered in the eloquent
expressions used in them. Actually, most of the prophetic
prayers are so profound that human imagination can hardly
match their greatness.
Several books in various languages are available which
provide these prophetic prayers, and one should pray to Allah
Almighty in accordance with them, whether by reciting their
original Arabic text or by rendering their sense in one's own
(e) There are some people who cannot perform any additional
Salah or recitations for any reason, like illness or
weakness or being engaged in some other necessary activities.
Such people also should not deprive themselves completely of
the blessings of this night. They should observe the following
(i) To perform the Salah of Maghrib, 'Isha' and
Fajr with Jama'ah in the mosque, or in their homes
in case of their being sick.
(ii) They should keep reciting the dhikr,
particularly the one mentioned in para (c) above, in
whatever condition they are until they sleep.
(iii) They should pray to Allah for their forgiveness and
for their other objectives. One can do so even when he is in
(f) The women during their periods cannot perform salah,
nor can they recite the Qur'an, but they can recite any
dhikr, tasbeeh, durood sharif and can pray to Allah for
whatever purpose they like in whatever language they wish.
They can also recite the Arabic prayers mentioned in the
Qur'an or in the hadith with the intention of
supplication (and not with the intention of recitation).
(g) According to a hadith, which is relatively less
authentic, Prophet Muhammad, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam,
went in this night to the graveyard of Baqi' where he
prayed for the Muslims buried there. On this basis, some of
the fuqaha hold it as mustahabb (advisable) in
this night to go to the graveyard of the Muslims and recite
Fatihah or any other part of the Qur'an, and pray for
the dead. But this act is neither obligatory nor should it be
performed as regularly as an obligatory act.
What should not be done in this
1. As mentioned earlier, the
Night of Bara'ah is a night in which special blessings
are directed towards the Muslims. Therefore, this night should
be spent in total submission to Allah Almighty, and one should
refrain from all those activities, which may displease Allah.
Although it is always incumbent upon every Muslim to abstain
from sins, yet this abstinence becomes all the more necessary
in such nights, because committing sins in this night will
amount to responding to divine blessings with disobedience and
felony. Such an arrogant attitude can invite nothing but the
wrath of Allah. Therefore, one should strictly abstain from
all the sins, particularly from those mentioned in the Hadith
No. 3 quoted earlier in this article, because these sins make
one devoid of the blessings of this night.
2. In this night some people indulge in some activities
which they regard as necessary for the celebration of the
Night of Bara'ah, 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 Bara'ah makes it worse. Muslims should
strictly abstain from all such activities.
3. 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.
4. The acts of worship like Salah, recitation of the
Qur'an and dhikr should be performed in this night
individually, not collectively. The Nafl Salah should
not be performed in Jama'ah, nor should the Muslims
arrange gatherings in the mosques in order to celebrate the
night in a collective manner.
On the contrary, this night is meant for worshipping Allah
in solitude. It is the time to enjoy the direct contact with
the Lord of the Universe, and to devote one's attention to Him
and Him alone. These are the precious hours of the night in
which nobody should intervene between one and his Lord, and
one should turn to Allah with total concentration, not
disturbed or intermitted by any one else.
That is why Prophet Muhammad, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam,
observed the acts of worship in this night in total seclusion,
not accompanied by anyone, not even by his favorite life
companion Sayyidah 'Aishah, Radi-Allahu anha, and that is why
all forms of the optional worship (Nafl Ibadah), are
advised by him to be done in individual, not in collective
Fast of the 15th
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, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam, 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, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam, 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.
Mufti M Taqi
Source: Jamiatul Ulama (Kwazulu-Natal)