The fast of 15th Sha’ban
What is the status of the fasting on the day of the 15th of Sha’ban. I have read conflicting rulings regarding this. Could you kindly shed some light and clarify this in the light of Hadith?
Although it’s not a proven sunnah, one may observe this nafl (optional) fast in light of the following 10 points:
1. To observe nafl (voluntary) fasts throughout the year is extremely rewarding.
General fast in Sha’ban
2. Sha’ban is a month in which we have been specifically encouraged to observe additional nafl (voluntary) fasts.
Hafiz Ibn Rajab (rahimahullah) says: ‘Since Sha’ban is a prelude to Ramadan, the recital of Quran and the observance of fasts in Sha’ban have been endorsed, just like we do in Ramadan.
(Lataiful Ma’arif, pg.258)
3. Rasulullah (sallallahu’alayhi wasallam) would fast excessively in this month; more than in other months.
(Sahih Bukhari, hadith: 1970 & Sahih Muslim)
4. ‘Aishah (radiyallahu’anha) says: The month in which Rasulullah (sallallahu’alayhi wasallam) enjoyed fasting most [outside Ramadan] was Sha’ban. (Sunan Nasai, hadith: 2922 & Sunan Abi Dawud, hadith: 2423)
5. When asked about the reason for this, Rasulullah (sallallahu’alayhi wasallam) said:
a) ‘That is a month in which people become neglectful as it occurs between [2 sacred months] Rajab and Ramadan.’(Nasai, hadith: 2678 with a sound chain.)
b) In a narration of Abu Ya’la, Rasulullah (sallallahu’alayhi wasallam) said: ‘Allah Ta’ala [orders the angles to] write [copy from the lawh mahfuz] all those souls that will die in the coming year. I like to have my death [written] while I am fasting’(Musnad Abu Ya’la, hadith: 4911 declared sound (hasan) by ‘Allamah Mundhiri in Targhib, vol.2 pg.117 & slightly weak by others.)
c) In the sound (hasan) narration of Nasai quoted above, (hadith: 2678) Rasulullah (sallallahu’alayhi wasallam) also said: ‘It is a month in which the deeds [of man] are raised up to Allah. I love that my deeds be raised while I am fasting’
6. ‘Allamah Munawi (rahimahullah) has specified that the deeds are lifted on the 15th night. (At Taysir; Also see: Su’udul Aqwal wa Raf’ul A’mal of Shaykh ‘Abdullah Sirajuddin, pg.70)
A unique angle:
7. Ibn Rajab (rahimahullah) writes: ‘The best optional fasts are those that are observed close to the month of Ramadan; whether before or after (i.e, in Sha’ban or Shawwal). This is just like the optional (what we commonly refer to as sunnah) salats before and after the fard salats. Their virtue is similar to the fard itself. These [salats and fasts] will mend our shortcomings in the fard [salats and fasts]’(Lataiful Ma’arif, pg.249)
Fasting on the 13th, 14th & 15th of every month
8. We have been encouraged in many a Hadith to observe optional fasts on the 13th, 14th & 15th of every lunar month. These days are labelled as: ‘Ayyamul bid’ (the white days) (see Targhib, vol.2 pgs.123-124)
9. In addition to this, the following Hadith adds support for fasting on these days specifically in Sha’ban.
Sayyiduna ‘Imran ibn Husayn (radiyallahu’anhu) reports that Rasulullah (sallallahu’alayhi wasallam) asked him: ‘Have you observed the fast of the middle of Sha’ban?’
When he replied in the negative, Rasulullah (sallallahu’alayhi wasallam) instructed him to make up for it after Ramadan.
(Sahih Muslim, hadith: 2737)
The word used in this particular version of the narration is: surrah – سرة – which translates as middle.
Imam Muslim (rahimahullah) has quoted this version of the above Hadith together with the Hadiths that discuss observing fasts on ayyamul bid (the 13th, 14th & 15th).
(For more, see: Sharh Nawawi, hadith: 2737 & Fathul Bari, hadith: 1983)
Some scholars state that this is further supported by the general encouragement of fasting in the middle of every month.
(See Fathul Bari, hadith:1983 & Majma’u Biharil Anwar, vol.3 pg.59-60)
10. When discussing the fast of the 15th of Sha’ban, Ibn Rajab (rahimahullah) writes: ‘We have not been prohibited from observing the fast on the middle day (15th) of Sha’ban. It is in fact part of the ayyamul bid (the 13th, 14th & 15th) which is encouraged every month…’ (Lataiful Ma’arif, pg.261)
In light of the above Hadiths, the ideal would be to fast on the 13th, 14th and 15th of this month (and every other month). This is an ideal time to at least make an intention of observing these 3 fasts every lunar month. If one observes the fast of the 15th of Sha’ban only, he should not be stopped. At the same time, the Hadiths on this topic are broad, and not sufficient to label the specific fast of the 15th as sunnah.
1. One should avoid fasting after the 15th of Sha’ban to keep his strength for Ramadan. (Sunan Nasai, hadith: 2923)
2. This year (2014), in our country (South Africa) the 15th of Sha’ban will be on a Saturday. Some people misquote a Hadith that prohibits fasting (nafl) on Saturdays. See here for my response to this.
Although my response in the link is about fasting on ‘Ashura Saturday, it applies to this issue too.
And Allah Ta’ala Knows best,
Answered by: Moulana Muhammad Abasoomar
The Significance of the 15th of Sha’ban
The fifteenth of Sha’ban, which is commonly referred to as “Laylatul Bara-ah” (refer: Tafseer Razi and Ruhul ma’ani, surah 44. Ayah:3) is 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)
Some people, due to being ill-informed actually refute the auspiciousness of this occasion. The following paragraphs serve to correct that false notion.
Ahadith on the virtue of the night
There are several ahadith (plural of hadith) in which the merit of the 15th of Sha’ban has been discussed.
1) Amongst them is the narration of Sayyiduna Mu’azh ibn Jabal (radiallahuánhu) that Rasulullah (sallallahuálaihi wasallam) said: “Allah Ta’ala pays special attention to his entire creation on the fifteenth night of Sha’ban and forgives all of them except one who ascribes partners to Him and one who harbors enmity in his heart.”
(Al- Mu’jam al-Awsat hadith: 6776 and Al-Mu’jam al-Kabir vol.20 pg.108-109)
Reliability of this narration
Imam Ibn Hibban (rahimahullah) has classified this narration as sahih (authentic) and has included it in his book – Al-Sahih. (Sahih ibn Hibban vol.12 pg.482; hadith:5665). Hafiz Al-Haythami (rahimahullah) has mentioned that all the narrators of this hadith are reliable. (Majma’ al-Zawa’id vol.8 pg.65)
2) Sayyiduna Abu Bakr (radiyallahu’anhu) reports that Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) said: “On the middle night of Sha’ban Allah Ta’ala’s mercy come to the first sky and He forgives all besides the polytheists and those who harbour enmity for their brethren” (Musnad Bazzar & Shu’abul Iman of Baihaqi, hadith:3546)
Reliability of this one
Hafiz al-Mundhuri (rahimahullah) has classified this as sound (لا بأس به) in his Al-Targhib (vol.3 pg.459).
Al-Haithami (rahimahullah) says: “Abdul Malik hasn’t been declared weak by Ibn Abi Hatim, and the rest of the narrators are reliable” (Majma’uz Zawaid, vol.8 pg.65)
In fact, Hafiz Ibn Hajar (rahimahullah) has also classified one of its possible chains as hasan (sound). (al-Amali al-mutlaqah pgs.119-1222)
Besides the above two narrations, there are many other Sahabah (radiallahuánhum) that narrated ahadith regarding the merit of this night. Among them are the following:
3) Sayyiduna Abu Hurayrah (radiallahuánhu) (Musnad al-Bazzar hadith: 3551 and Amali of Ibn Sam’un.
Hafiz Sakhawi (rahimahullah) has said: “There are no narrators in this chain that have been declared unreliable.” Al-Ajwibat ul-Mardiyyah vol.1 pgs.325)
4) Sayyidatuna Aishah (radiyallahu’anha) (Sunan Tirmidhi, hadith: 739, Musnad Ahmad, hadith: 26018 & Shu’abul Iman, hadith: 3545)
5) Sayyiduna Abu Tha’labah (radiallahuánhu) (Shu’abul-Iman, hadith:3551)
6) Sayyiduna Awf ibn Malik (radiallahuánhu) (Musnad al-Bazzar, hadith: 2048, see Majma’uz Zawaid, vol.8 pg.65
7) Sayyiduna ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Amr ibn al-‘As (radiallahuánhu) (Musnad Ahmad hadith 6642, classified as “layyin” i.e, slightly weak by Mundhiri and Haithami rahimahumallah, Targheeb, vol.3 pg.460 & Majma’uz Zawaid, vol.8 pg.65)
8) Sayyiduna Abu Musa al-Ash’ari (radiallahuánhu) (Ibn Majah hadith 1390; Shu’abul -Iman hadith 3552)
9) Sayyiduna ‘Ali ibn Abi Talib (radiallahuánhu) (Ibn Majah hadith: 1388; Shu’abul -Iman hadith: 3542)
10) Sayyiduna ‘Uthman ibn Abil-‘As (radiallahuánhu) (Shu’abul-Iman hadith 3555)
11) The Tabi’i, Kathir Ibn Murrah (rahimahullah). (Shu’abul -Iman hadith: 3550) (see Ajwibat al-Mardiyyah vol.1 pgs.325-332)
12) The Tabi’i,Yahya ibn Abi Katheer (rahimahullah). (Shu’abul Iman, hadith:3544)
The collective strength of these (twelve) narrations cannot be refuted.
After quoting some of the above narrations, Imam Baihaqi (rahimahullah) says:
“…when they are combined they acquire some strength”
(Da’watul Kabeer; see: Is’aful Khullan, bima warada fi laylatin nisf min Sha’ban, of Shaykh Hammad Al-Ansari (rahimahullah) pg.19)
Ibn Taymiyyah (rahimahullah) has also accepted the collective strength of these narrations. (Majmu’ Fatawa. See below)
The Grand Mufassir, ‘Allamah Alusi (rahimahullah) has termed those who refute the virtues of the night entirely as “rash” and “reckless”. (Tafseer Ruhul Ma’ani, surah:44, Ayah:3)
Shaykh ‘Abdullah Siddeeq Al-Ghumari (rahimahullah) (a recent Moroccan Faqih and Muhaddith) has also termed this as an exaggeration. (Husnul Bayan fi laylati nisf min Sha’ban, pg.7)
Statements of the Scholars
The general virtue of this night has been accepted by many great ‘Ulama of the past.
Amongst those many great scholars who have attested to the virtue of this night are:
Verdicts of the Tabi’un
1) 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)
2) Khalifah ‘Umar ibn ‘Abdul Aziz (rahimahullah) wrote to his governor in Basrah: “Allah Ta’ala pours his mercy in abundance on four nights of the year, so ensure that you benefit there from. One of them being the middle (15th) night of Sha’ban” (Lataiful Ma’arif, pg.263. After quoting this, Ibn Rajab has expressed his reservation on the attribution of this statement to ‘Khalifah ‘Umar.)
3) & 4) There exists a narration from Sayyiduna ‘Ali (radiyallahu’anhu) and from Sayyiduna ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Umar (radiyallahu’anhuma) in which they two attest to the virtue of this night. (Lataiful Ma’arif, pg. 262 & Musannaf ‘Abdur Razzaq, hadith:7927) However, the authenticity of this unverified.
Those after the Tabi’un
5) Imam Shafi’i (rahimahullah) mentioned that duas are accepted by Almighty Allah on the 15th of Sha’ban. (ibid, pg. 264 & Sunan Baihaqi; refer: Husnul bayan,pg.7)
6) Imam Awza’i (rahimahullah) was of the view that people should engage in individual worship on this night. (ibid, pg.263)
7) Imam Is-haq ibn Rahuyah (rahimahullah) also approved of spending this night in worship/in the masjid. (ibid, pg.263)
8) Imam al-Majd ibn Taymiyyah (rahimahullah) (Faidhul Qadeer, vol.2 pg. 317)
9) Hafiz Ibn Taymiyyah has said, ‘As for the middle night of Sha’ban, there are various narrations that have been narrated regarding its significance and it has been reported from a group of the Salaf (predecessors) that they performed salat in it individually. Hence, such a deed cannot be disputed.’ (Majmu’ al-Fatawa ibn Taymiyyah vol.23 pg.132)
10) Ibn Rajab al-Hambali (rahimahullah) writes: “Every Muslim is recommended to avail himself for ‘ibadah on this night” (Lataif, pg.265)
11) Hafiz Zaynuddeen al-‘Iraqi (rahmatullahi’alaih) (Faidhul Qadeer, vol.2 pg.317)
12) Ibnul Haj –Demise: 737- (rahimahullah) states: “ This night has great virtue and abundant good” (Al-Madkhal, vol.1 pg.299)
Scholars who would personally engage in ‘ibadah (worship) on this night
Hafiz Ibn Rajab (rahimahullah) has cited that the following (and other) Tabi’un would engage in ‘ibadah (worship) on the fifteenth night of Sha’ban;
1) Makhool (rahimahullah)
2) Khalid ibn Ma’dan (rahimahullah)
3) Luqman ibn ‘Amir (rahimahullah) and others…
Those after the Tabi’un
4) Hafiz Ibn ‘Asakir –Demise:571- (rahimahullah) the author of the volumous “Tareekh Dimashq” (in 70 volumes) would also engage in ‘ibadah on this night. (Siyar A’lamin Nubala, vol.20 pg.562)
5) Ibnul Haj –Demise: 737- (rahimahullah) states: “The salaf (pious predecessors) would sanctify this night and prepare themselves for it in advance” (Al-Madkhal, vol.1 pg.299)
From the above paragraphs it is clear that:
The virtue of the night is reported by more than ten Sahabah (radiyallahu’anhum) and Tabi’un (rahimahumullah)
There are verdicts of over ten ‘Ulama (from the Tabi’un onwards) that support this.
To engage in worship on this night (in addition to other occasions) has been the practice of numerous ‘Ulama.
That those who totally refute the merit of this night have been labelled as reckless and exaggerate.
That this night is actually considered as:
“The second most auspicious night of the Islamic calendar”!
All of the above sufficiently confirm the significance of the 15th night of Sha’ban.
Books on this topic
This discussion is further supported by the fact that several ‘Ulama have even written dedicated booklets on the virtue of the night. Among them are:
1) Hafiz Ibn ‘Asakir (rahimahullah) entitled: “Fadhlu laylati nisf min Sha’ban” – see: Al-Ajwibatul-Mardiyyah, vol.1 pgs.328.
2) Imam Ibnul Akhdar (Rahimahullah) entitled: “Fadhlu Sha’ban”- see:Al- Ajwibatul-Mardiyyah vol.1 pg.328.
3) ‘Allamah ibn Hajar Al-Haitami (rahimahullah) entitled: “Al-Idah wal bayan…”. I have a copy of the manuscript in my possession.
4) Al-Ajhuri (Maliki) rahimahullah. See Husnul bayan, pg.5
5) ‘Allamah Sakhawi (rahimahullah)- see: Is’aful Khullan, pg.1- (Shaykh Hammad Al-Ansari has cited this as a booklet on the virtues of the fifteenth of Sha’ban. Although it seems like Sakhawi’s (rahimahullah) main discussion in it is the issue of fasting after the 15th of Sha’ban, it is possible he discussed the virtue of the night too, like he has done in his: “Ajwibat al-Mardiyyah” vol.1 pgs.325-332. Wa Allahu A’lam)
6) Ibn Dihyah (rahimahullah)- see Is’aful khullan.
7) Ibn Rajab (rahimahullah) has a detailed section on the virtue of this night in his acclaimed book: “Lataiful Ma’arif”
8) Shaykh ‘Abdullah Siddiq Al-Ghumari -Morocco- (rahimahullah) entitled: “Husnul Bayan fi laylati nisf min Sha’ban”
9) Shaykh Hammad ibn Muhammad Al-Ansari -Madinah Munawwarah- (rahimahullah) entitled: “Is’aful Khullan, bima warada fi laylatin nisf min Sha’ban”
10) My Honourable Teacher, Al-Muhaddith Shaykh Fadlur Rahman Al-A’zami (may Allah protect him)
Final Cautionary Note
In addition to du’a and istighfar (seeking forgiveness from Allah Ta’ala), on this night one should engage in any act of worship that one feels comfortable with. (see here for some ideas)
There are no specific types of Salah etc. that are prescribed for the 15th night of Sha’ban. (Lataiful Ma’arif, pg.168, Islamic Months by Mufti Taqi Uthmani, pgs.63 & 79)
The Sahabah (radiyallahu ‘anum) and the Tab’un (rahimahumullah) would increase their Quranic recital during these months (especially in Sha’ban), i.e. in preparation for Ramadhan. (Lataiful Ma’arif, pg. 192)
Some people engage in acts of bid’ah (innovation) on this night. The ‘Ulama of the past and present have always refuted these innovations.
Some contemporaries use the statements of these Scholars to refute the significance of the night itself. This is incorrect and irrational. The negation of certain innovated practices on this night does not necessitate the denial of the virtue of the night itself!
May Allah Ta’ala guide us all, and may He allow us to maximise our benefit from the auspiciousness of this night.
And Allah Ta’ala Knows Best.