Nisfush-Sha'baan: Is Any Act of Worship Recommended?

All praise is due to Allaah, Lord of all the worlds. Peace and blessings be upon the one sent as mercy to mankind. May the blessings also be upon members of his household and companions.

The month of Sha'ban is, undoubtedly a noble month. It is a month that lies between two great months, Rajab and Ramadhaan, and the Messenger of Allah (sallallaahu 'alayhi wasallam) used to fast a lot in this month. This is a practice adhere to by his companions (may Allaah be pleased with them). It is also a Sunnah observed by our righteous predecessors who follow the Companions until a time came when some ignorant Muslims introduced specific acts of worship for some of the month's days and nights upon which there is no proof from the Prophet's sayings, actions or approvals. They did this in total disregard for (or out of ignorance of) of the Prophet's warning:

"And beware of the introduced things (in matters of religion) for every introduced thing is a bid'ah (innovation) and every innovation is misguidance." (Recorded by Abu Dawud on the authority of Al-'Irbadh ibn Saariyah – radhiyallaahu 'anh)

Don't these people know that introducing any act of worship for which there is no proof from the Qur'an or the Sunnah means their implicit accusation of the Prophet (sallallaahu 'alayhi wasallam) betraying the trust by failing to completely deliver the message he was sent with and their unspoken suggestion that things need to be added to the religion to make it complete?! This is the understanding of the companions and the scholars from among our righteous predecessors, as far as bid'ah is concerned. Abu AbdirRahmaan 'Abdullah ibn Mas'ood (radhiyallaahu 'anh) said:

"Follow and do not innovate. For everything has been explained to you (so you don’t need to make any addition to matters of religion). Every bid'ah is misguidance!" (Recorded by Ad-Darimi)

Imam Maalik ibn Anas (may Allaah have mercy upon him) said,

"Whoever introduces anything into this religion and believes that it is a good innovation, has indeed claimed that Muhammad (sallallaahu 'alayhi wasallam) betrayed in the message (he was sent with). For, Allaah says: This day I have perfected for you your religion and completed My favour upon you and approved for you Islam as religion. [Al-Maaidah 5:3]. Therefore, anything that was not part of the religion could not be part of the religion now!" (Ash-Shatibi, Al-I'tisaam, vol.1, p.64).

Don't the founders and practitioners of those bid'ahs realize that bid'ahs keep a Muslim away from Allaah?! Ayyub As-Sakhtiyyaani said, "The more a perpetrator of bid'ah endeavors in his bid'ah the further he gets from Allaah!" [Abu Nu'aym, Hilyatul-Awliyaa 3/9]

Don't they realize that all innovations are misguidance even if some people accepted them and see them as 'good'? 'Abdullaah ibn 'Umar (may Allaah be pleased with him and his father) said: "Every innovation is misguidance even if people see it as good." (Ibn Al-Battah, Al-Ibaanah, 1/339)

One of the acts heretically introduced in the month of Sha'ban is what is called 'Celebrating the Middle of Sha'ban'. This is a day which some have turned to a day of merrymaking and fun in which candles are lit, special food is prepared, sweets are distributed and children are adorned with beautiful and decorated dresses (as is the case in some Muslim countries).

Among acts of worship specifically observed on this day are fasting during its day hours and performing tahajjud during its night hours. Some perform the night prayer individually while many perform it collectively in mosques during (or after) which kinds of adhkaar are recited.

Proofs of the observers of middle of Sha'ban:

They cite many reports to support their bid'ah. However, none of these is anywhere near being authentic. We will quote the most popular one:

It is report collected by Ibn Maajah that the Prophet (sallallaahu 'alayhi wasallam) said, "When the middle of Sha'ban comes, mark its night with prayers and its day with fasting." This report is not authentic due to the weakness of the chain of its transmitters. The scholars who are erudite in the science of Hadeeth unanimously agree that this report is spurious. Among these scholars are, Ibn Al-Jawzee, in his work, Al-'Ilal Al-Mutanaahiyah [2/561]; Ibn Rajab, in his work, Lataaif al-Ma'aarif [p.143]; and Al-Albaani in his work, As-Silsilah adh-Da'eefah [No. 2132]. In fact, there is a particular narrator in the report's chain, Ibn Abi Sabrah, who was accused of been a fabricator of reports, a trait which classifies whatever he reports as 'mawdoo'!

As for the stands of the scholars on the celebration of the middle of Sha'ban by specifically fasting on the 15th of the month and performing supererogatory prayers in its night, let us mention a few: One: Shaykhul-Islaam Ibn Taymiyyah – may Allaah have mercy upon him – said: "As for singling out the 15th of Sha'ban for fasting, there is no basis for that. It is rather reprehensive to do so. Likewise, taking it as a season for making special food and displaying adornments is one of the introduced bid'ahs that has no basis." [Iqtidhaaus-Siraatil-Mustaqeem, 2/628].

Two: Shaykh Ibn Baz – may Allaah have mercy upon him – said: "And among innovations people introduced is celebration of the middle of Sha'ban and setting aside that day for fasting. There is no evidence supporting that. What the majority of the scholars agreed upon is that such celebration is a bid'ah." [Majmoo' Fataawaa Ibn Baz1/186].

However, there is an authentic Hadeeth that the perpetrators of this heinous bid'ah would quickly cite in an attempt to silence their opposition. The Hadeeth is collected by Ibn Maajah on the authority Abu Musa Al-Ash'aree (radhiyallaahu 'anh) and classified as authentic by Shaykh Al-Albaanee, that the Messenger of Allaah (sallallaahu 'alayhi wasallam) said: "Allaah looks at His servants on the night of the middle of Sha'ban and forgives all His servants except a polytheist or someone who has grudges against (his brother)."

In answer to this claim we say:

1. It is correct that Shaykh Al-Albaanee classified the Hadeeth as authentic but he also is the one who, in his comment on a work, 'As-Siraat al-Mustaqeem' (page 19), said: "The establishment of the authenticity of the merit of the night of the 15th of Sha'ban does not mean that a Muslim can single it out for a special prayer to be performed in a peculiar way, which the Wise Law-Giver did not sanction. All this is innovation that should be avoided; and it is only what the Companions and the righteous predecessors were upon that should be held unto."

2. We do not dispute the fact that the night of Sha'ban 15th is estimable, as the Hadeeth indicates. What we refuse to accept is your claim that specific acts of worship are recommended for either the day or night of the 15th of Sha'ban, something you abysmally failed to use this Hadeeth to establish. Therefore, you are citing a correct evidence, to support a wrong stand!

3. There are many authentic reports in which merits of particular periods or places are mentioned, yet no specific acts of worship are recommended for them.

Some examples in this regard would not be out of place:

A. The Prophet (sallallaahu 'alayhi wasallam) said about the space between his apartment and his pulpit, "Between my apartment and my pulpit is a garden among the gardens of Paradise." Does this mean that a particular act of worship should be performed in the Rawdah or that any prayer performed in the Rawdah is in anyway better than prayers performed elsewhere in his mosque?! The answer is, of course, no.

B. The Prophet's statement about the mountain of 'Uhud, "Uhud is a mountain that loves us and we love." (Al-Bukhaaree and Muslim). Though this Hadeeth clearly shows the merit of the mountain, could anyone rightly claim that specific acts of worship are recommended there?!

C. The merit of the day of Jumu'ah and its night is well-known. Yet, no act of worship should be performed during the day of Jumu'ah except the ones specifically done or recommended by the Prophet (sallallaahu 'alayhi wasallam). As for its night, nothing whatsoever is recommended. Rather, singling out its night for voluntary prayers is explicitly prohibited, as authentically reported by Muslim.

Therefore, if there is anything to be derived from the Hadeeth of Abu Musa on the merit of the night of Sha'ban, it is a warning against shirk and bearing grudges against fellow Muslims. It is an indication that associating partners with Allaah in worship and holding grudges against other Muslims are so serious and grievous that no mushrik or grudge-holder would have any share of that night's free blessing of forgiveness. The Hadeeth is also an exhortation to all Muslims that they should avoid shirk of all forms, and cleanse their hearts from the disease of hatred and malice against their brethren.

Having said this, there is a particular prayer performed during the night of the 15th of Sha'ban. In addition to the fact that no specific act of worship is recommended for that night, the report relied upon by the people of bid'ah on the format of the prayer is disgustingly spurious. The format is as follows: 100 rak'ahs are performed in which, after Sooratul-Faatihah, Soorah Al-Ikhlaas (Qul Huwa Allaahu Ahad) is recited ten times in each rak'ah, meaning Al-Ikhlaas is recited 1000 times in all. (That is why it is called As-Salaatul-Alfiyyah).

This prayer format and its reward are mentioned in reports whose chains of transmitters are filled with unknown and, therefore, untraceable narrators, making the whole lot of them spurious. (See: Al-Mawdoo'aat, by Ibn Jawzee; 2/51)

Here are some of statements of the scholars on this prayer and its format and the spurious reports cited to support it:

Ibn Al-Jawzee: *"We do not have doubts that this report is fabricated. The majority of its narrators are unknown while some others are seriously weak. The contents of the report itself are inconceivable and absurd." [Al-Mawdoo'aat, by Ibn Jawzee; 2/51]

An-Nawawi: "What is called 'salaatur-raghaaib' performed on the first Jumu'ah of Rajab and the celebration night of middle of Sha'ban are two reprehensible bid'ah acts, and the reports cited in their support are spurious." [Ar-Ramli, Nihayatul-Muhtaaj, 2/124]

Ibn Taymiyyah: "As for gathering in the mosques for a particular prayer (performed in a peculiar way) such as congregational observation of 100 rak'ahs in which 'Qul Huwa Allaahu Ahad' is recited 1000 times, this is a bid'ah that none of the leading scholars recommend. Allaah knows best."[(Fataawaa 23/131].

Conclusion

• The 15th day of the month of Sha'ban should not be singled out for fasting or any particular act of worship for lack of evidence supporting that. However, evidences abound that doing a lot of supererogatory fasting in the month of Sha'ban is recommended.

• No special events should be organized or held for that day; neither should events organized for that day be attended under whatever pretense.

• There is no proof on performing any 'special tahajjud prayer' for the night of 15th of Sha'ban.

• Performing the so-called 'as-salaatul alfiyyah' does not only lack any proof of support; its format is also disgustingly absurd.

• The fact that there is an authentic Hadeeth referring to the merit of a particular period or place does not necessarily mean that it is recommended that certain acts of worship should be performed at that place or on that period. Such acts of worship need clear and explicit authentic proofs in form of the Prophet's action, statement, or approval before they can be performed.

Wallaahu A'lam.

May Allaah keep us on the path of the Sunnah and protect us against bid'ah and its people.

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