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Shabaan: The Night of Bara’ah

Jul 16, 2011
A 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 14th and 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:

قالت عائشة  قال رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم يا عائشة تأذنين لي في قيام هذه الليلة ؟فقلت : نعم بأبي وأمي  فقام فسجد ليلا طويلا حتى ظننت أنه قبض فقمت ألتمسه  ووضعت يدي على باطن قدميه فتحرك ففرحت وسمعته يقول في سجوده أعوذ بعفوك من عقابك  وأعوذ برضاك من سخطك  وأعوذ بك منك ، جل وجهك ، لا أحصي ثناء عليك أنت كما أثنيت على نفسك

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:

أعوذ بعفوك من عقابك  وأعوذ برضاك من سخطك  وأعوذ بك منك ، جل وجهك ، لا أحصي ثناء عليك أنت كما أثنيت على نفسك

‘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).'”

عن عائشة قالت قال رسول الله إن الله تبارك وتعالى ينزل إلى السماء الدنيا ليلة النصف من شعبان ، فيغفر لأكثر من عدد شعر غنم كلب

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.

عَنْ عَائِشَةَ قَالَتْ فَقَدْتُ رَسُولَ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ لَيْلَةً فَخَرَجْتُ فَإِذَا هُوَ بِالْبَقِيعِ فَقَالَ أَكُنْتِ تَخَافِينَ أَنْ يَحِيفَ اللَّهُ عَلَيْكِ وَرَسُولُهُ قُلْتُ يَا رَسُولَ اللَّهِ إِنِّي ظَنَنْتُ أَنَّكَ أَتَيْتَ بَعْضَ نِسَائِكَ فَقَالَ إِنَّ اللَّهَ عَزَّ وَجَلَّ يَنْزِلُ لَيْلَةَ النِّصْفِ مِنْ شَعْبَانَ إِلَى السَّمَاءِ الدُّنْيَا فَيَغْفِرُ لِأَكْثَرَ مِنْ عَدَدِ شَعْرِ غَنَمِ كَلْبٍ

Hadhrut Aishah [radhiallaahu anhu], relates that I once did not know the whereabouts of Rasoeloul-laah [sallallaahu alayhi wasallam]. Iwent to look for him,I saw that he was at Jannatoel Baqie. Rasoeloul-laah asked me: What, do you fear that Allah and his Rasool will forsake you? Hazrat Aishah [radhiallaahu anhu] replied: `I thought you went to some other lady from amongst your wives’. Rasoeloullaah [sallallaahu alayhi wasallam] said: `Indeed Allaah Ta-aalaa descends to the nearest sky on the middle night of Sha-baan. Then He certainly forgives more persons than the count of fibres upon the sheep of the Kalb tribe’. (Tirmidy, Mieshkaat)

قالت عائشة  قال رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم هذه الليلة ليلة النصف من شعبان ولله فيها عتقاء من النار بعدد شعور غنم كلب  لا ينظر الله فيها إلى مشرك  ولا إلى مشاحن ولا إلى قاطع رحم  ولا إلى مسبل ولا إلى عاق لوالديه ، ولا إلى مدمن خمر

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.”

عَنْ مُعَاذِ بن جَبَلٍ، عَن ِالنَّبِيِّ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ، قَالَ:”يَطَّلِعُ اللَّهُ عَزَّ وَجَلَّ عَلَى خَلْقِهِ لَيْلَةَ النِّصْفِ مِنْ شَعْبَانَ فَيَغْفِرُ لِجَمِيعِ خَلْقِهِ إِلا لِمُشْرِكٍ أَوْ مُشَاحِنٍ”

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 Muslim)”.

عَنْ عَلِيِّ بْنِ أَبِي طَالِبٍ قَالَ قَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ إِذَا كَانَتْ لَيْلَةُ النِّصْفِ مِنْ شَعْبَانَ فَقُومُوا لَيْلَهَا وَصُومُوا نَهَارَهَا فَإِنَّ اللَّهَ يَنْزِلُ فِيهَا لِغُرُوبِ الشَّمْسِ إِلَى سَمَاءِ الدُّنْيَا فَيَقُولُ أَلَا مِنْ مُسْتَغْفِرٍ لِي فَأَغْفِرَ لَهُ أَلَا مُسْتَرْزِقٌ فَأَرْزُقَهُ أَلَا مُبْتَلًى فَأُعَافِيَهُ أَلَا كَذَا أَلَا كَذَا حَتَّى يَطْلُعَ الْفَجْرُ

5- Hadhrut Aliy [radhiallaahu anhu] relates that Rasoeloullaah [sallallaahu alayhi wasallam] said: `When it is the fifteenth night of Sha-baan then remain busy in Iebaadah during the night and fast for the day, for indeed Allaah descends to the nether sky at the setting of the sun and He proclaims: Is there anyone seeking my forgiveness so that I may pardon him; is there anyone who seeks livelihood from me, so I may sustain him; is there anyone who is in distress that I may bless him with relief and safety; is there someone in this condition; is there someone in that state? and so this continues until the break of dawn’. (Ibn Maajah, also Mieshkaat)

Although the chain of narrators of some of these traditions suffers with some minor technical defects (they are weak), 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.

This fifteenth night of Sha-baan is also known as;

1.    LAYLATOEL MUBAARAKAH (The blessed night which is full of unseen benefits).

2.    LAYLATOEL BARAA-AH (The night in which people are observed and pronounced clear of sin).

3.    LAYLATOER RAH-MAH (The night of mercy and grace).

4.    LAYLATOES SAKK (The night on which matters are determined for the year).

There are a number of malpractices which deprive a person of Allah’s compassion, mercy, grace and forgiveness on this night. These are;

SHI-RK (To ascribe partners to Allaah).

SHAH-NAA’ (To harbour malice and hatred).

QATLOEN NAFS (To commit suicide or shed another’s blood without the Shariah right to do so).

QAT-OER – RAHIM (To sever relationship without a Shar-iy cause).

ISBALOEL IZAAR (To wear ones trouser hanging below the ankles).

UQOOQOEL WAALIDAIYN (To be disobedient to ones parents (or guardians). (Note: Care must be taken and one shall be prudent in conduct and behavior. This is because by the principles and teachings of Shari-ah in Islam there is no commitment to parents for such adherence which is contrary to the teachings of our beloved Nabi [sallallaahu alayhi wasallam] harmful to the upliftment of Islam or even detrimental to Muslim welfare).

MOEDMINOEL KHAMR (To be an alcoholic, habitual drunkard, or one who takes other things which despair the human mental state).

(N.B. By sincere, unreserved repentance one could be saved from such misfortune and degeneration).

THE NIGHT OF BARA’AT AND THE QURAAN

some Ulamaa’ have explained the tafseer of the Aayah mentioned in Surah Doukhaan:

إِنَّا أَنزلْنَاهُ فِي لَيْلَةٍ مُبَارَكَةٍ إِنَّا كُنَّا مُنْذِرِينَ فِيهَا يُفْرَقُ كُلُّ أَمْرٍ حَكِيمٍ

We sent it down during a blessed night, for We wish to warn against evil. In that (night) is made distinct every affair of wisdom. As a command by Our presence; for We (shall ever) send (revelations) as a mercy from thy Sustainer, for He is All – Hearing, All – Knowing’. (Surah Doukhaan, Aayaat 4,5,&6)

In this Aayah, the Ulama’ suggest that ‘Laylatoel Baraa-ah’ is the night meant therein. Hazrat Iqramah has also explained this aspect in this particular way. Ibn Jareer and others have narrated this. Whereas, the mainstream majority of Ulama’ explain that the words `Laylatoel Moebaarakah’ and `Fiy-haa Yoefraq’ point towards Laylatoel Qadr. This is since Laylatoel Qadr is in Ramadan, and also that the revelation of the Qur’an was in Ramadan etc., therefore this Aayah of Surah Doukhaan is not in relation to a day in Sha-baan.

Moulana Fazlur-Rahman writes answering the question:
Is the night of Bara’at been mentioned in the Quran? The most correct opinion is that the night of Bara’at has not been mentioned in the Quraan.

Allah Ta’ala says in Surah Dukhan: “By the oath of the clear Book (the Holy Quran). Verily We revealed it (Holy Quran) in a blessed night. Verily We are the Warner’s. On this night the decision of every matter of wisdom is passed and established.” – Verses 2-5.

The words “blessed night” in the above verse refers to Laylatul Qadr which occurs in the last ten days of Ramadan. Laylatul Qadr has been called “a blessed night” because unlimited Divine blessings descend upon the creation on this night. As mentioned in Surah Qadr, the Quran was revealed in this night. Similarly, it is mentioned in Surah Baqarah (Verse 23) that the Quran was revealed from the Lawhe-Mahfuz (a protected tablet in the Heavens) to the lowest Heaven, in the month of Ramadan.

The meaning of the above-mentioned verse from Surah Dukhan would therefore mean that on the night of “Qadr” the details of all those who will die or receive sustenance, etc. during the forth-coming year are transmitted from the LawheMahfuz to the Angels. ( Ibnu-Katheer). This is the opinion of most commentators of the Quran such as Ibn-Abbas, Qatadah, Mujahid, Hasan Basri, etc. Scholars such as Imam Nawawi have also accepted the authenticity of this opinion. Hafiz Ibnu-Katheer writes that those like lkramah, who have explained the “blessed night” in the above verse as the night of Bara’at are very distant from the correct interpretation. The reason being that the aayat refers to the night of the revelation of the Holy Quran, which has already been proven to be Laylatul Qadr.

( IbnuKatheer in the Tafseer of Surah Dukhan, Ma ‘arfus-Sunan Page 420 V5, Ma ‘artful Quraan Page 757 V7.)

Ibnu-Katheer writes further that there is a Hadith attributed to Uthmaan bin Muhammad that Rasulullah (S.A.W.) said: “The ages of people (i.e. whether they live further) are decided from Sha’baan to Sha’baan. A person marries and is even blessed with a child, yet his name is amongst those who are to die (and he is completely unaware).”

This Hadith is however Mursal and cannot be given credit when its subject matter directly contradicts that which has been established from the Quran. (I.e. that these decisions are passed to the Angels on Laylatul Qadr and not on the night of Bara’at). Qazi Abu Bakr bin Arabi writes that there is no reliable Hadith regarding the fifteenth of Sha’baan from which it may be understood that sustenance, life and death are decided on this night. He has even gone so far as to say that there isn’t any reliable narration concerning this night being a blessed one. (Ma ‘arfui Quraan Page 757 V7.)

Since the significance of the night of Bara’at has been mentioned in a number of weak narrations, and the narrations are not in conflict with any verse of the Quraan or any authentic narration, we do accept its significance. However, the opinion that sustenance, death, etc. are determined on this night is in conflict with the Quraan and is therefore unacceptable. It is on this account that the research scholars have always rejected this opinion. A Hadith that is attributed to lbnu-Abbas (R.A.) states that sustenance, life and death are decided on the night of Bara’at and this information is transmitted to the Angels on the night of Qadr. (Ruhul-Ma ‘ani.) However, this Hadith is unreliable since its chain of narrators are unknown.

There is a Hadith of Aisha (R.A.) mentioned in Mishkaat (Page 115) on the authority of Baihaqi’s Da’waatul-Kabeer. This Hadith discusses that decisions are passed on this night regarding those that will be born, those that will die, the actions of man are placed in front of Allah and sustenance is revealed. The condition of this Hadith is unknown and it is possible that the scholars of Tafseer and Hadith do not consider it reliable.

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 worship.

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 language.

(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 acts:

(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 his bed.

(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 Night?

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 anyone 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 manner.

By Mufti Taqi Usmani (D.B)

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