QUESTIONS ON FASTING AND VOLUNTARY WORSHIP IN THE MONTHS OF RAJAB AND SHA`BAN 01

QUESTIONS ON FASTING AND VOLUNTARY WORSHIP IN THE MONTHS OF RAJAB AND SHA`BAN

Is the virtue of 15th of Sha’ban proven, or is it a bid’ah (innovation)?

Question

I am a firm believer that 15th of Shabaan is a blessed night. I have come across many people who claim it is nowhere to be found in Hadith and it is a Bidah to claim the night being a blessed night. In the light of Sunnah and Hadith, please discuss this topic. Shukran and Jazakallah,

Answer

According tho the reliable scholars of the Ahlus Sunnah, the fifteenth of Sha’ban, which is commonly referred to as “Laylatul Bara-ah” (refer: Tafsir Razi and Ruhul ma’ani, surah 44. Ayah:3) is indeed one of the significant nights in the Islamic calendar.

Ibnul Haj (rahimahullah) states:

“The salaf (pious predecessors) would sanctify this night and prepare themselves for it in advance”

(Al-Madkhal, vol.1 pg.299)

Imam ‘Ata ibn Yasar (rahimahullah) –the great Tabi’i of Madinah- said:

“After Laylatul-Qadr, there is no other night in the year that is more virtuous than the middle (15th) night of Sha’ban”

(Lataif al-Ma’arif, pg.264 & Sunan Sa’eed ibn Mansur; refer: Husnul Bayan, pg.11)

Some people, due to being ill-informed refute the auspiciousness of this occasion.

I have prepared a detailed article on this which I have posted on my blog (Al-Miftah.com) In this article you will find sufficient information on this issue insha Allah. See it here.

And Allah Ta’ala knows best,

Answered by: Moulana Muhammad Abasoomer

The “Salafis” try to prevent the people from treating the night of isra’ and mi`raj on 27 Rajab and the night of mid-Sha`ban (laylat al-bara’a) as special. They claim that honoring these nights are innovations that must not be allowed. Yet practically all Muslims hold these two nights in high esteem and consider it good, not blameworthy, to celebrate or commemorate them through gathering, feeding the people, reciting Qur’an and Sira, reading hadith, performing supererogatory prayers etc.

“Salafi” literature also abounds with condemnations of those who fast in Rajab. Since many pious Muslims are known to fast the three blessed months of Rajab, Sha`ban, and Ramadan in a row as far back as can be remembered, and like to offer voluntary worship and invocation (du`a) on the nights of 27 Rajab and 15 Sha`ban, I wanted to confirm that these are recommended in the fiqh of Ahl al-Sunna, not blameworthy, and what is the evidence for either position?

FASTING RAJAB, SHA`BAN, AND THE REST OF THE HOLY MONTHS

It is recommended to fast the months of Rajab and Sha`ban as a nafila or supererogatory worship, with the intention of following the Sunna of the Prophet who has established the merit of this fast. As for extra devotions on certain nights of Rajab and Sha`ban there are no grounds for prohibiting them as the “Salafis” try to do, and only those with a deficient understanding or faith would object to increasing remembrance of Allah on such nights as laylat al-isra’ or 15 Sha`ban.

The following paragraph is a translation of `Abd al-Rahman al-Jaziri’s chapter entitled “Fasting Rajab, Sha`ban, and the Rest of the Holy Months” in his book al-Fiqh `ala al-madhahib al-arba`a (Islamic law according to the Four Schools):

Fasting the months of Rajab and Sha`ban is recommended (mandub) as agreed upon by three of the Imams, while the Hanbalis differed in that they said fasting Rajab singly is disliked, except if one breaks the fast during it then it is not disliked. Regarding the holy months — Dhul Qi`da, Dhul Hijja, Muharram, and Rajab — fasting them is recommended according to three of the Imams, while the Hanafis differed in that they said what is recommended in the Holy months is to fast three days from each of them, which are Thursday, Friday and Saturday.[1]

Hadiths on Rajab

1. In Muslim, Abu Dawud, and Ahmad: `Uthman ibn Hakim al-Ansari said: I asked Sa`id ibn Jubayr about fasting in Rajab, and we were then passing through the month of Rajab, whereupon he said:

I heard Ibn `Abbas saying: “The Messenger of Allah used to observe fast so continuously that we thought he would never break it, and at other times he remained without fasting so continuously that we thought he would never fast.”[2]

Imam Nawawi commented on this:

It appears that the meaning inferred by Sa`id ibn Jubayr from Ibn `Abbas’s report is that fasting in Rajab is neither forbidden nor considered praiseworthy in itself, rather, the ruling concerning it is the same as the rest of the months.

This is also the commentary of Qastallani in al-Mawahib al-laduniyya.[3] Nawawi continues:

Neither prohibition nor praiseworthiness has been established for the month of Rajab in itself, however, the principle concerning fasting is that it is praiseworthy in itself, and in the Sunan of Abu Dawud[4] the Prophet has made the fasting of the sacred months praiseworthy, and Rajab is one of them. And Allah knows best.[5]

It is established, on the one hand, that Ibn `Umar fasted during the sacred months,[6] and on the other, that he fasted all year as shown by the following hadith.

2. In Muslim, Ibn Majah, and (partly) Ahmad: `Abd Allah, the freed slave of Asma’ the daughter of Abu Bakr, the maternal uncle of the son of `Ata’, reported:

Asma’ sent me to Abdullah ibn `Umar saying: “The news has reached me that you prohibit the use of three things: the striped robe, saddle cloth made of red silk, and fasting the whole month of Rajab.” Abdullah said to me: “So far as what you say about fasting in the month of Rajab, how about one who observes continuous fasting? And so far as what you say about the striped garment, I heard `Umar ibn al-Khattab say that he had heard from Allah’s Messenger: “He who wears a silk garment, has no share for him (in the Hereafter).” And I am afraid that stripes were part of it. And so far as the red saddle cloth is concerned, here is my saddle cloth and it is red. I went back to Asma’ and informed her, so she said: “Here is the cloak (jubba) of Allah’s Messenger,” and she brought out to me that cloak made of Persian cloth with a hem of (silk) brocade, and its sleeves bordered with (silk) brocade, and said: “This was Allah’s Messenger’s cloak with `A’isha until she died, then I took possession of it. The Apostle of Allah used to wear that, and we washed it for the sick so that they could seek healing with it.”[7]

Nawawi commented on the above:

Ibn `Umar’s reply concerning fasting in Rajab is a denial on his part of what Asma’ had heard with regard to his forbidding it, and it is an affirmation that he fasted Rajab in its entirety as well as fasting permanently, i.e. except the days of `Id and tashriq.[8] This (perpetual fast) is his way and the way of his father `Umar ibn al-Khattab, `A’isha, Abu Talha, and others of the Salaf as well as Shafi`i and other scholars: their position is that perpetual fasting is not disliked (makruh).

Ibn Qudama states something similar in al-Mughni concerning perpetual fasting and adds that the same view is related from Ahmad and Malik, and that after the Prophet’s death Abu Talha fasted permanently for forty years, among other Companions.[9] Ibn Hajar al-Haytami in al-Khayrat al-hisan similarly relates that Abu Hanifa was never seen eating except at night.[10]

Nawawi adds:

In this hadith is a proof that it is recommended to seek blessings through the relics of the righteous and their clothes (wa fi hadha al-hadith dalil `ala istihbab al-tabarruk bi athar al-salihin wa thiyabihim).[11]

3. Bayhaqi relates in Shu`ab al-iman and Abu Nu`aym in al-Targhib:

Abu `Abd Allah al-Hafiz and

Abu Muhammad ibn Abi Hamid al-Muqri said:

from Abu al-`Abbas al-Asamm,

from Ibrahim ibn Sulayman al-Barlisi,

from Abdallah ibn Yusuf,

from `Amir ibn Shibl who said:

I heard Abu Qilaba say: “There is a palace in Paradise for those who fast the month of Rajab.”[12]

Bayhaqi comments:

Even if it is mawquf at Abu Qilaba (i.e. not traced back to the Prophet) who is one of the Successors (d. 104) such as he does not say such a saying except if it were related to him by someone who had heard it from him to whom revelation comes (i.e. the Prophet), and success is from Allah.

Commentaries

Those who object to fasting part or all of Rajab and Sha`ban cite the following:

a) `Umar’s punishment of the mutarajjibun — those who fasted the month of Rajab according to a practice carried over from the Jahiliyya — by striking their hands until they broke their fast.

However, this does not constitute a valid objection as `Umar’s act was solely due to some people’s emphasis of Rajab — which used to be fasted during the Jahiliyya — over Ramadan as the fasting month. This is clearly not feared for present-day Muslims. There was also a sacrifice named rajabiyya performed in that month, a practice carried over from the Jahiliyya. Several hadiths in Abu Dawud and Ahmad show that it became obligatory in Islam until the obligation was abrogated. Certain pre-Islamic remnants were fought even in the time of `Umar, as is shown by the latter’s uprooting of a tree for fear of its veneration by some people.

It must be understood that Umar never said “Don’t fast,” rather, he said: “Break your fast,” i.e. do not complete it as you would be obliged to if it were Ramadan. And no one fasted Rajab and Sha`ban completely, this was reserved for Ramadan. However, if someone makes the intention to fast Rajab and Sha`ban completely, it is permitted in the Shari`a, with the understanding that it is mustahabb to break it shortly before Ramadan begins.

Ibn Qudama states in al-Mughni:

It is disliked that Rajab be singled out for fasting. Ahmad said: “If a man fasts during that month, let him break the fast for one day in it, or several, just so as not to fast it all.”

The reason for this is what Ahmad has narrated with his chains:

• from Kharasha ibn al-Hurr: I saw `Umar striking the hands of the mutarajjibin until they helped themselves to the food, and he would say: “Eat! For it is only a month which the Jahiliyya used to magnify”;

•from `Abd Allah ibn `Umar that he would dislike to see the people make preparations for Rajab and would say: “Fast some of it and break fast some of it”;

• from Ibn `Abbas, something similar;

• from Abu Bakrah: He saw his household preparing new baskets and clay jugs and said: “What is this?” They said: “For Rajab, so that we may fast it.” He said: “Did you change Rajab into Ramadan?” Then he took apart the baskets and broke the jugs.

And Imam Ahmad said: “Whoever fasts all year round may fast all of Rajab. Otherwise, let him not fast all of it but only some of it so that he will not liken it to Ramadan.”[13]

The above makes it clear that:

– Singling out the month of Rajab for fasting is not forbidden, but is at worst disliked;

– It is not even disliked as long as one’s fast is broken to the extent that the similitude with the month of Ramadan is eliminated;

– Even unbroken fast is not disliked if the person fasts all year round.

b) Others cite Sayyid Sabiq’s statement in Fiqh as-Sunnah:

Fasting during Rajab contains no more virtue than during any other month. There is no sound report from the sunnah that states that it has a special reward. All that has been related concerning it is not strong enough to be used as a proof. Ibn Hajar says: “There is no authentic hadith related to its virtues, nor fasting during it or on certain days of it, nor concerning exclusively making night prayers during that month.”[14]

The opinion of Sayyid Sabiq whereby “Fasting during Rajab contains no more virtue than during any other month” etc. is certainly incorrect in view of the fact that Rajab is a sacred month, and the Prophet emphasized the merit of fasting in the sacred months and in Sha`ban. This is established by Nawawi’s commentary of the hadith of Sa`id ibn Jubayr in Muslim cited above, as well as the following hadiths:

1. In Abu Dawud and Bayhaqi: From Mujiba al-Bahiliyya who reported that her father or uncle was told by the Prophet three times: “Fast some and leave some in the sacred months.”[15]

2. In Ahmad: From Usama ibn Zayd: “O Messenger of Allah… I never saw you fast any month (besides Ramadan) as much as you fast during the month of Sha`ban.” He said: “The people become inattentive during that month between Rajab and Ramadan (i.e. between two great months), and it is a month in which actions are raised to the Lord of the worlds, therefore I like that my actions be raised while I am fasting.”[16]

3. In Bukhari and Muslim from `A’isha: “The Prophet used to fast the whole of Sha`ban but for a little.”

4. In Muslim from Abu Hurayra, the Prophet said: “The best month to fast after Ramadan is Muharram.”

As for the hafiz Ibn Hajar’s opinion it only applies to the pure singling out of the month of Rajab at the exclusion of Ramadan, or Sha`ban, or the sacred months, or the rest of the entire year, because there is no basis for singling out these cases. His opinion therefore does not provide a basis for the claim of the objectors that fasting during Rajab is forbidden or that it is an innovation: for neither the Imams of the fours schools, nor Bayhaqi, nor Nawawi, nor Ibn Hajar, nor even Sayyid Sabiq have claimed this! Furthermore, there is also no sound hadith from the Prophet forbidding the fast of Rajab or disavowing its merit.

c) As for those who object by quoting the hadith in Bukhari and Muslim whereby the Prophet emphasized that the one who fasts all his life has not fasted, then their understanding of this hadith is diametrically opposed to that of the Companions and the Salaf, Abu Hanifa, Malik, Shafi`i, and Ahmad, who did not dislike perpetual fasting as long as it did not include the days of `Id and tashriq.

d) As for the narration from Ibn `Abbas whereby the Prophet forbade the fast of Rajab, then only Ibn Majah reports it, with a chain containing Dawud ibn `Ata’ al-Muzani concerning whom Buhakri, Ibn Abi Hatim, and Abu Zur`a said: “His hadith is rejected” (munkar al-hadith), and Nisa’i declared him da`if, and Ahmad said: “He is nothing.” The chain also contains Abu Ayyub Sulayman ibn `Ali al-Hashimi about whom Yahya ibn Sa`id al-Qattan said: “His case is not known,” although Ibn Hibban declared him trustworthy, but Ibn Hibban’s leniency in this is known.

e) As for the hadiths in Tirmidhi, Ahmad, Abu Dawud, and Darimi concerning the Prophet’s injunction to refrain from fasting in the second half of Sha`ban, then as Tirmidhi explained it applies to those who would deliberately intend to fast only then: it should not be done in view of the proximity of the month of Ramadan. As for those who were fasting before, then they may fast in the second half of Sha`ban.

In conclusion, it is at the very least allowed to fast Rajab and Sha`ban in part or in whole, and we say it is recommended, as the clarity of the intention to follow the Sunna and the knowledge that only the fast of Ramadan is obligatory, preclude the reprehensibility of those who used to honor Rajab in rivalry with Ramadan. Sufficient proof of the month of Rajab’s status as a great month lies in the fact that it is the month of the Prophet’s rapture and ascension to his Lord (al-isra’ wa al-mi`raj), and they are blessed who commemorate this month and that night for the sake of Allah’s favor to His Prophet and the Community of His Prophet. And Allah knows best.[17]

 [1]al-Jaziri, al-Fiqh `ala al-madhahib al-arba`a (Beirut: Dar al-fikr) 1:557.                                                                                                      .      [2]Muslim and Abu Dawud relate it in Kitab al-sawm, respectively in the chapter on fasting at times other than Ramadan, and in the chapter of fasting during Rajab, also Ahmad in his Musnad.  [3]Qastallani in al-Mawahib al-laduniyya (Beirut, 1996) 3:301.    [4]Kitab al-siyam, Chapter: “Fasting During the Sacred Months.” Also in Ibn Majah and Ahmad, hadith of the man who repeats: “I can bear more,” and to whom the Prophet finally says: “Fast during the sacred months.”.                                                                                                    [5]Nawawi, Sharh Sahih Muslim, Kitab 13 Bab 34 #17.              [6]Musannaf `Abd al-Razzaq 4:293, Musannaf Ibn Abi Shayba 1:125.    [7]Muslim relates it in the first chapter of Kitab al-libas, and Ibn Majah in the book of Fasting.                                                                               [8]Ayyam al-tashriq are the Days of drying the meat after the sacrifice of `Id al-Adha = 11, 12, and 13 of Dhu al-hijja.                                        [9]Ibn Qudama, al-Mughni (Beirut, 1414/1994 ed.) 3:119.                   [10]al-Haytami, al-Khayrat al-hisan fi manaqib Abi Hanifa al-Nu`man (Cairo: al-Halabi, 1326) p. 40.                                                                 [11]Sharh sahih Muslim Kitab 37 Bab 2 #10.                                  [12]Bayhaqi, Shu`ab al-iman 3:368 #3802; Abu Nu`aym, al-Targhib #1821.                                                                                                                   [13]Ibn Qudama, al-Mughni 3:118-119.                                               [14]Sayyid Sabiq, Fiqh as-sunnah, Alms tax and Fasting, trans. Muhammad Sa`eed Dabas and Jamal al-Din M. Zarabozo (ATP, 1989) p. 127-128.                                                                                                             [15]Abu Dawud, Siyam Chapter 54; Bayhaqi, al-Sunan al-kubra 4:291; Suyuti, al-Durr al-manthur 3:235.                                                    [16]Ahmad, Musnad 5:201.                                                                       [17]There is also a Shi`i scholar by the name of Muhammad ibn `Ali ibn Babawayh al-Qummi (d. 380) who wrote Fadai’l al-ashhur al-thalatha: 1. Shahr Rajab, 2. Shahr Sha`ban, 3. Shahr Ramadan (Najaf: Matba`at al-adab, 1396/1976). Neither this volume nor hafiz al-Kattani’s book on the merits of Rajab were available to us.

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