The Night of the Middle of Sha’bān: Its significance according to the Qur’ān and Sunnah; and the position of Muslim scholars regarding it.

This present article is a summary of a much larger work I have done on the significance of the 15th of Sha’bān. Since many readers may not have the time to read the detailed study, I have prepared this short version for their benefit.

The merit of this night is greatly debated among Muslims. Some celebrating the night and fasting the following day, whilst others declaring it an innovation.

If this night is truly a blessed night then to dismiss it, is a great loss. However, if it does not hold any significance then to glorify it is no doubt an innovation and a deviation from the path of the Messenger of Allāh (ṣallallāhu `alayhi wa-sallam).

As the Messenger of Allāh (ṣallallāhu `alayhi wa-sallam) said:

“Anyone who introduces something into this matter of ours (i.e. Islam), which is not from it, will have it rejected” (Bukhārī and Muslim)

Some aḥadīth concerning the excellence of the night of the middle of Sha’bān

1. `Ā’isha (raḍiyallāhu anha) reported that: I could not find the Messenger of Allāh (ṣallallāhu `alayhi wa-sallam) on one of the nights, so I went out and found him in (the cemetery of) Baqī. The Messenger of Allāh (ṣallallāhu `alayhi wa-sallam) said: “Did you fear that Allāh and His Messenger will do injustice to you?” So I said: O Messenger of Allāh, I thought you might have gone to the house of some of the wives. The Messenger of Allāh (ṣallallāhu `alayhi wa-sallam) replied: “Verily, Allāh descends on the night of the middle of Sha’bān to the first heaven and forgives the sins of the people, even if they were equivalent to the hairs of the goats of Banī Qalb. (Reported by Aḥmad (6/238), At-Tirmidhī (2/121), Ibn Mājah (1/444) and others). Al-Bukhārī, At-Tirmidhī and Ad-Dāraqutnī graded the ḥadīth weak)

2. Abū Mūsa al-Ash’ari (radiyallāhu anhu) narrates: The Messenger of Allāh (ṣallallāhu `alayhi wa-sallam) said: “Our Lord descends to the lowest heaven on the night of the middle of Sha’bān and forgives the occupants of the Earth except the one who associates partners with Allāh and one who harbors enmity.” (Reported by Ibn Mājah (1/455), Ad-Daraqutnī in an-Nuzūl (94), Ibn Abī Āṣim in as-Sunnah (510) and others.) Al-Būṣayrī and Ibn al-Jawzī graded the ḥadīth weak. Al-Mundhurī also stated that the chain of transmission was interrupted.

3. Mu’ādh ibn Jabal (raḍiyallāhu anhu) narrated that the Messenger of Allah (ṣallallāhu `alayhi wa-sallam) said: “Allah the Blessed and Most High looks (draws close and descends) to His creation on the night of the middle of Sha’bān and forgives all of His creation except for the one who ascribes partners to Him and the one who shows enmity.” (Reported by Ibn Ḥibbān in his Ṣaḥīḥ (5636), Aṭ-Ṭabarānī in al-Mu`jam al-Kabīr (20/107) and others). Ad-Dāraqutnī in his Illal graded the ḥadīth weak.

4. Alī (raḍiyallāhu anhu) narrated that the Messenger of Allah (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wa-sallam) stated; “ When it is the night of the middle of Sha’ban, do Qiyām in the night, and fast in the morning, for Verily Allāh descends during the night (from sunset) to the nearest heavens. Allāh then announces: “Is there anyone who is asking for forgiveness so that I can forgive them, is there anyone who needs sustenance (rizq) that I may give it to him, who is in distress that I may relieve his distress”, many other similar proclamations are made, and this continues till fajr.” (Reported by Ibn Mājah (1/144) and others) Al-Būṣayrī, Al-Irāqī and others graded the ḥadīth as a fabrication. One of the narrators (Ibn Abī Sabirah) was judged as a fabricator by Aḥmad, Ibn Ma`īn, Al-`Uqaylī and others. Al-Bukhārī said he is munkar in ḥadīth.

5. Ali (raḍiyallāhu anhu) who said, that the Messenger of Allah (ṣallallāhu `alayhi wa-sallam) said: “O Ali, whoever prays a hundred rakāts on the night of the middle of Sha’bān, and recites al-Fātiḥa in every rakāh and “Qul Huwa Allāhu Aḥad” (Surah al-Ikhlās) ten times, O `Alī, there is none from my servants who prays this ṣalāh, except that Allah fulfils all the needs he asks for that night….” (Reported by Ibn al-Jawẓī in Al-Mawdū’āt (2/127)) Ibn al-Jawẓī, Adh-Dhahabī, Ad-Daraqutnī, Ash-Shawkāni, as-Suyūtī and others graded the ḥadīth as a fabrication. Ibn al-Jawẓī comments on the ḥadīth: “This ḥadīth without a doubt is fabricated. The majority of its narrators via the three channels are unknown. Furthermore there are weak narrators in the chain. (Al-Mawdū’āt 2/129)

Ibn al-Qayyim writes: “It is amazing that one who smells the fragrance of the knowledge of the Sunnah would then be deceived by this irrational nonsense and pray it?! This ṣalāh was an innovation introduced into Islam after four hundred years, and began in Jerusalem. (Al-Manār al-Munīf pg. 66-67)

Most of the ahādith concerning the 15th of Sha’bān are either fabricated or extremely weak. There are some other ahadīth which are disputed among the hadith scholars, some grading them weak, whilst others graded them as very weak. A few scholars (e.g. Ibn Ḥibbān, Al-Haythamī, Al-Mundhurī and others) have even graded some of the individual narrations as authentic. Although this latter view, seems to be an extremely lenient one.

The scholars who have graded some of these ahadīth as weak, also argue that since the narrations only have slight weaknesses, they can collectively support each other making the overall status of these narrations as Hasan (Fair), and therefore acceptable.

Among the contemporary ḥadīth scholars Al-Albānī (Silsilah al-Aḥādīth aṣ-Ṣaḥīḥah (3/135)), Al-Arna`ūt (Ṣahīh Ibn Ḥibbān (5665)) and Al-Lakhnawī (Al-Athār al-Marfū’ah pg 71) have defended this view.

Al-Albānī concludes after his detailed study of the different chains: “In summary the hadīth with all its supporting strands is authentic without any doubt. In fact, authenticity could be established with a much smaller number (of narrations), as long as they are free from severe weaknesses, as is the case with this narration.”

Others have argued that each narration has severe weaknesses and therefore cannot support each other to reach the level of acceptability.

Al-`Uqaylī writes: “As for Allaḥ descending on the night of the middle of Sha’bān, there is weakness (in the narrations), whilst the narrations of (Allāh) descending every night are authentic and the night of the middle of Sha’ban is included in them.” (Ad-Du`afā al-Kabir 3/29).

Abū Ḥatim ar-Razī graded the ḥadīth as Munkar. (`Illal al-ḥadīth 2/173)

Ad-Dāraqutnī said: “The ḥadīth has been reported by Mu`ādh and `Ā’isha…but the ḥadīth is not established.”

Abū Bakr Ibn al-`Arabī writes: “There is no dependable ḥadīth for the night of the middle of Sha’bān.” (Aḥkām al-Qur’ān 4/117)

This is also the view held by the majority of contemporary scholars in Saudi Arabia.

Is sustenance, life and death determined on the night of the middle of Sha’bān?

It is narrated of Ikrimah that he explained the āyah in the Qur’ān:

{Truly, We revealed it in a blessed night. Truly, We have ever been warning. Therein (i.e. on that night) are decided all matters of wisdom}
[Surah ad-Dukhān 3-4]

“It is the night of the middle of Sha’bān, and in it the affairs of the year are approved, the living and the dead are transcribed and the (names of the) pilgrims are written, and not one is added on to it or taken off from it.”

In response, Ibn Kathīr writes in his Tafṣīr: “As for those who say it is the night of the middle of Sha’bān – as is reported of Ikrimah- (they) have gone further from the truth. The Qurā’nic text clearly stipulates that it is in Ramadhān. (Tafsīr Qur’ān al-Adhīm (7/246))

Ash-Shankītī argues:

“The claim that it is the night of the middle of Sha’bān, as has been reported of Ikrimah, is without a doubt a false claim; since it contradicts a clear Qurā’nic text, and no doubt whatever contradicts truth is falsehood. (Aḍwā al-Bayān (7/319)

Position of Muslim Scholars regarding the excellence of the night of Sha’bān.

(A) Those scholars who believe in the excellence of the night. 

1. Imām ash-Shāfi’ī writes: “It has reached us that it used to be said: The supplications are answered on five nights: the night of Friday, The night of al-Aḍḥā, the night of al-Fiṭr, the first night of Rajab and the night of the middle of of Sha’bān…and I prefer everything that has been reported about these nights without it being compulsory.” (Al-Umm)

2. Aḥmad ibn al-Hasan ibn Hassan said: It was said to Abū `Abd Allāh (Imām Aḥmad): “Does Allah the Most High descend to the lowest heaven every night? He said: Yes. He was asked: And in Sha’bān as we find it in the narration? He said: Yes” (Abu Ya’la, Ibtāl at-Ta’wīlāt li akhbār as-Sifāt (1/260)

3. Ibn Taymiyyah writes:

“And under this chapter (is) the night of the middle of Sha’bān. Some marfū aḥādīth and āthār regarding its merit have been narrated which shows that it is a chosen night. Moreover, some of pious predecessors (salaf) used to dedicate it with ṣalāh and fasting in the month of Sha’bān, as has been related in authentic narrations.

He continues: “And from the salaf, from the people of Madināh, and those who came later, (they) rejected its merit and criticized the narrations mentioned regarding it…But the opinion of many of the scholars or the majority, from our companions and others, is of the merit of this night. This is indicated in the saying of Aḥmad, since there are many aḥādīth mentioned regarding it. This is (further) confirmed by the statements of the pious predecessors.” (Iqtidā as-Sirāt al-Mustaqīm, pg. 137)

He further states in his Fatāwa:

“If a person prays that night alone, or in a select congregation, as many groups of the Early Muslims (salaf) used to do, it is very good.” (Majmu’ Al-Fatāwā, 23/131)

4. Ibn Rajab states: “It is required for a believer to free himself on that night for remembering Allah, and supplicating to him for forgiveness, (asking Allah) to veil ones sins and remove distress. And to precede that with repentance, for Allāh forgives in it (night of the middle of of Sha’bān) the one who repents” (Latāif al-Ma’ārif, pg 264)

5. Ibn aṣ-Ṣalāḥ remarks:

“As for the night of the middle of Sha’bān it has some merit and to spend it in worship is preferable….” (Taslīh ash-Shaja’ān, pg 80)

(B) Those scholars who reject the excellence of the night.

1. Ibn Rajab writes: “Most of the scholars from Hijāẓ rejected it (the merit of the night of the middle of Sha’bān). From them are `Atā (ibn Rabāh) and Ibn Mulaykah. It is also similarly reported by `Abd ar-Raḥmān b. Zayd b. Aslam from the Jurist of Madinah, and this is the opinion of the companions of Mālik and others. They said: All of that is an innovation” (Latā’if al-Ma’ārif, pg. 263)

2. Al-Ḥāfidh ibn Dahīyah argues:

“The scholars of “Jarḥ wa Ta’dīl” say: There is no authentic narration regarding the night of the middle of Sha’bān….” (Taslīh ash-Shaja’ān, pg. 88)

3. Abū Sha’ma writes in his book “al-Bā’ith `alā inkār al-bida’h wa al-ḥawādith”:

“Abū Bakr al-Tartūsī said: it was reported by Ibn Wad’ah from Zayd ibn Aslam who said: We did not meet any of our teachers nor our jurists who paid any attention to the night of the middle of of Sha’bān, nor do they pay attention to the ḥadīth of Makhūl, nor do they believe it has some merit over other nights. He then said: It was said to Ibn Abī Mulaykah that Ziyad an-Namirī says: the reward of the night of the middle of of Sha’bān is like the night of Power. So he replied: If I heard it and there was a stick in my hand I would have hit him….”

4. Imām ash-Shāṭibī comments in his book al-I’tisām whilst discussing different types of Bid’ah (innovations):

“And from it (innovations), is to do a specific worship at a specific time without any specification in the Sharī’ah, like fasting on the middle of Sha’bān and worshipping during its night.” (Al-I’tisām, pg 28)

5. Ibn Bāz writes:

“Among the innovations that have been invented by some people is the celebrating of the middle of Sha’bān, and singling out that day for fasting. There is no reliable evidence for that. Some weak aḥādīth have been narrated concerning its virtues, but we cannot regard them as reliable. The reports which have been narrated concerning the virtues of prayer on this occasion are all fabricated, as has been pointed out by many of the scholars. (Hukm Ihtifāl bil-Laylat an-Nisf min Sha’bān)

Fasting on the 15th of Sha’bān

To prove the desirability and reward for fasting on the 15th of Sha’bān the aḥādīth of `Alī (raḍiyallāhu anhu) have been advanced.

It is clear from the discussion above that the aḥādīth are a fabrication and cannot be used as supportive evidence.

Ibn Taymiyyah writes:

“As for fasting on the middle night of Sha’bān alone, it has no evidence, rather to single out that day is makrūh.” (Iqtida as-Sirāt al-Mustaqīm, pg 138)

In conclusion we can say that fasting only on the 15th of Sha’bān and to think that one will receive extra reward for it is incorrect since the day of the 15th of Sha’bān has not been assigned any excellence.

Aḥadīth mentioning specific prescribed ṣalāh to be performed on the night of the middle of Sha’bān.

There is no authentic ḥadīth specifying any particular type of prayer on this night. There are some aḥādīth which describe what is known as “Aṣ-Ṣalāt al-Alfiyāh” but all aḥādīth regarding it are fabrications.

Imām al-`Aynī writes in al-Bināyah:

“As for specific prayers in the night of the middle of Sha’bān, Abū al-Khattāb Majd ad-Dīn said: “There is no authentic narration from the Messenger of Allāh (ṣallallāhu `alayhi wa-sallam).” (Al-Bināyah fī Sharḥ al Hidayāh, (3/623)

Gathering in the Masjid to commemorated the night

Imām al-Sharanbulāli states in Marāqī al-Falāḥ:

“And it is makrūh to gather in the masjid to commemorate these nights…since it was not done by the Messenger of Allāh (ṣallallāhu `alayhi wa-sallam) and also it was rejected by the scholars of Hijāz…” (Marāqī al-Falāh, pg 158)

Taqi Uthmani though accepting the merit of the night writes: “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.”

Some innovations done on the night of Sha’bān

Taqi Uthmani remarks: “In this night some people indulge in some activities which they regard as necessary for the celebration of the night, 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 the middle of Sha’bān makes it worse. Muslims should strictly abstain from all such activities.”

Ibn Rajab agreeing with Imām al-Awzā’ī writes: “It is makruh to get together and perform ṣalāh or du’ā in the masjid, but it is not disliked for a person to perform in it individually. (Latāif al-Ma’ārif, pg 161)

Conclusion

In Summary the following conclusions can be drawn:

1. Sha’bān is a blessed month and the Messenger of Allāh (ṣallallāhu `alayhi wa-sallam) would observe fast throughout this month.

2. There is no Qur’ānic evidence for the excellence of the 15th of Sha’bān.

3. The opinion that sustenance, death etc is determined on the night of the 15th of Sha’bān is false.

4. Most aḥadīth on the merit of the 15th of Sha’bān are either very weak or fabricated. However, there is a narration which has been argued by some scholars (when supported collectively) reaches the level of acceptability. The ḥadīth states that Allāh descends to the lowest heaven and forgives the sins of everyone except one who associates partners with Allāh and one who harbors enmity on that night.

5. The scholars have differed on the excellence of this night, with the scholars of Hijāz denying it any merit. Other scholars have agreed on its excellence.

6. Fasting specifically on the 15th of Sha’bān is not a sunnah nor was it practiced by the early scholars rather to fast on this day only is makrūh.

7. All aḥadīth which describe specific prayers to be done on this night are fabrications and innovations.

8. There is nothing specifically mentioned from the Messenger of Allāh (ṣallallāhu `alayhi wa-sallam) on what should be done on this night.

9. Burning lanterns, preparing special foods, sweet dishes, and to believe that souls visit the families are all false and wretched innovations (Bid’ah).

And Allāh knows best.

May the Peace and blessings be upon our Prophet Muḥammad, his family and companions.

  • ARaqeedah

    Amazing stuff, ustadh imitaz! What i enjoyed about this article is that it discussed all the different acts of worship, individually. Other articles just say celebrating sha’ban is bid’ah without going into detail. Alhamdulillaah!!!

  • http://facebook.com/DiscoMaulvi Aly Balagamwala | DiscoMaulvi

    JazakAllahu Khairin Ustaadh for this detailed article on this matter. May Allah (SWT) accept it from you and help people understand this matter better.