“Shaban” the eighth month of the Islamic lunar calendar, is a month between Rajab and Ramadhan. The significance of this month is that the deeds of the slaves of Allah SWT are taken up to the Lord of the worlds – Allah SWT. This month is also an eye opener, pointing us towards the blessed month ahead. Ramadhan is considered as the month of harvest whereas; Shaban is the preparation for the month of harvest.
Usaamah Ibn Zayd said: I said: O Messenger of Allah, I do not see you fasting in any month as you fast in Shaban? He said: “That is a month that people neglect between Rajab and Ramadhan, but it is a MONTH in which people’s deeds are taken up to the Lord of the Worlds and I would like my deeds to be taken up when I am fasting. [Nasaa’i (2357); classed as Hasan by al-Albaani in Saheeh al-Nasaa’i.]
The above mentioned tradition of Prophet PBUH explain the wisdom behind fasting in Shaban, as it is a month in which deeds are presented to Allah SWT. Some scholars are of the opinion that this fasting is like Sunnah prayers offered before the obligatory prayers, they prepare the soul for performing the obligatory action, and the same may be said of fasting in Shaban before Ramadhan.
In many parts of the world in general and the subcontinent in particular, many people transgress in defining the virtues of this month. It is common to observe many people celebrating the 15th night of Shaban by wearing new clothes and preparing a variety of dishes as done on the occasion of Eid. People also make special prayers during this night and make it a point to visit graveyards.
Scholars say that singling out the 15th night as auspicious and fasting the following day is an innovation (bid’ah). The following hadith is often quoted in support of celebrating 15th Shaban: Narrated Aisha RA: “I missed Allah’s Messenger PBUH during the night and found him in al-Baqi’. He said: Were you afraid that Allah and His Messenger would deal unjustly with you? I said: Allah’s Messenger, I thought that you had gone to some of your other wives. He (the prophet) said: Verily Allah, the Exalted and Glorious, comes down to the heaven of the world in the middle night of Sha’ban and forgives sins even more abundant than the hair of the goats of Kalb,” (Tirmidhi, Sunan Ibn-I-Majah, Ahmad).
According to Imam Bukhari and Tirmidhi, the above mentioned Hadith has a broken chain of narrators in two places, and therefore it is weak. Noted scholar Ibnul Arabi (543H), in his commentary of Sunan -At-Tirmidhi, titled narrator of this tradition ‘Hajjaj Ibn Artaat’ is not reliable.’
The act of Aisha RA following the Prophet PBUH to the graveyard and that too during the night seems very strange and does not befit her tradition.
Furthermore, some people often quote the following verse of Sura Dukhan in favor of the virtues of 15th Shaban. “Indeed, We sent it down during a blessed night. Indeed, We were to warn [mankind],” [Ad Dukhan 44:3]. The night implies the same night which has been called lailat-ul-qadr in Surah Al-Qadr (Chapter 97). The Quran itself has told that it was a night of the month of Ramadan: “The month of Ramadhan [is that] in which was revealed the Qur’an,” [Al-Baqarah 2:185].
Distinguished commentator of Quran, Ibn Kathir says, “The traditions that Imam Zuhri has related from ‘Uthman bin Muhammad that destinies are decided from one Sha`ban to the next Sha`ban is an indirect tradition and such traditions cannot be cited as against the clear texts of the Qur’an.” Qadi Abu Bakr Ibn al-`Arabi says: “No Hadith in respect of the 15th of Sha’ban is reliable, either in respect of its merit, or about this that decisions with regard to the destinies are taken in it; therefore, they do not merit attention.
Moreover the reports denoting the prayers in this night are all fabricated. Al-Haafiz al-Iraaqi said: “The hadith about the prayer during the night of the middle of Shaban is fabricated and is falsely attributed to Prophet PBUH.”
Al-Haafiz Ibn Rajab (may ALLAH have mercy on him) said in his book Lataa’if al-Ma’aarif concerning the 15th night of Shaban, it was established by the Taabi’een among the people of Al-Shaam, such as Khaalid ibn Mi’daan, Makhool, Luqmaan Ibn ‘Aamir and others, who used to strive to worship on this night. The people inferred the idea of virtue of this night and venerated it. Most of the scholars of the Hijaaz (Makkah, Madinah and surrounding areas) denounced that, including ‘Ataa’ and Ibn Abi Maleekah. ‘Abd al-Rahmaan ibn Zayd ibn Aslam narrated that view from the fuqahaa’ of Madinah, and this was the view of the companions of Imam Maalik and others. They said: “this is all bid’ah”. No comment from Imaam Ahmad concerning the 15th night of Shaban is known.
It was said to Ibn Abi Maleekah that Ziyaad al-Numayri was saying that the reward of Laylat al-Nusf min Shaban (night of 15th Shaban) was like the reward of Laylat al-Qadr. Therefore Ibn Abi Maleekah said, if I heard him say that and I had a stick in my hand, I would hit him. Ziyaad was a story-teller.
One of the contemporary Islamic scholars Shaikh Ibn Jibreen said: There is no saheeh marfoo report (a hadith which is traced back to Prophet PBUH directly) that speaks on the virtue of the 15th day of Shaban that may be followed, not even in the chapters on al-Fadaa‟il (chapters on virtues in books of hadith etc.). Some maqtoo‟ reports (reports whose chain do not go back further than the Taabi‟een) have been narrated from some of the Taabi‟een, and there are some ahadith, the best of which are mawdoo‟ (fabricated) or da‟eef jiddan (very weak). These reports became very well known in some societies which were overwhelmed by ignorance; these reports suggest that peoples’ life spans are written on that day and on this day is decided that who is to die in the coming year. On this basis, it is not prescribed to spend this night in prayer or to fast on this day, or to single it out for certain acts of worship. And Allah SWT knows best.