FAITH

Friday Sermon: Sha’Aban: A Month Neglected By Many People, By Imam Gusau

In The Name Of Allah, The Most Gracious, The Most Merciful

All thanks and praises are due to Allah, we seek His help and forgiveness. We seek refuge in Allah from the evil within ourselves and the consequences of our evil deeds. Whoever Allah guides will never be led astray, and whoever Allah leads astray will never find guidance. I bear witness that there is no god but Allah, He is alone without any partners, and I bear witness that Muhammad is His Servant and His Messenger.

“O you who believed, fear Allah as He should be feared and do not die except as Muslims in submission to Him.” [Qur’an, 3:102]

“O mankind, fear your Lord, who created you from one soul and created from it its mate and dispersed from both of them many men and women. And fear Allah, through whom you ask one another, and the wombs. Verily, Allah is ever watching over you.” [Qur’an, 4:1]

“O you who believed, fear Allah and speak words of appropriate justice. He will then amend for you your deeds and forgive your sins, and whoever obeys Allah and His Messenger has certainly attained a great attainment.” [Qur’an, 33:70-71]

Verily, the most truthful speech is the Book of Allah, the best guidance is the guidance of Muhammad, and the worst affairs are newly invented matters (in the religion). Every newly invented matter is a religious innovation, and every religious innovation is misguidance, and every misguidance is in the Hellfire.

Dear Servants of Allah! The Islamic lunar calendar comprises of twelve months. Each month of the Islamic calendar has its religious as well as historical significance, however, there are a few months that hold a superior stature compared to other months and because of this they are given more value and respect by the Muslims. One of such months is the month of Sha’aban.

Dear Brothers and Sisters! Sha’aban is the eighth month of the Islamic calendar. It falls between two sacred months, Rajab and Ramadan. Allah’s Messenger (Peace be upon him) used to spend most part of Sha’aban by fasting, Imam Bukhari reports in his Sahih that Aishah (RA) said:

“The Messenger (Peace be upon him) used to fast until we thought he would never break his fast, and he would not fast until we thought he would never fast. I never saw the Messenger of Allah (Peace be upon him) fasting for an entire month except in Ramadan, and I never saw him fast more than he did in Sha’aban.”

Today, some ignorant people however have themselves specified particular nights of the year, when they stay awake all night and worship Allah. It is believed that anyone who worships Allah in these specific nights, it will recompense for his yearly deeds and will be enough for his salvation and entering Jannah. One among these nights is the night of mid Sha’aban (15th Sha’aban), which is popularly known as ‘NISFU SHA’ABAN.’ In Shaa Allah I’ll elaborate further on this issue in a bit.

Imam Ibn Rajab said:

“Fasting in Sha’aban is better than fasting in the sacred months (i.e. Dhul-Qadah, Dhul-Hijjah, Muharram and Rajab – [Surah Tawbah, 9:36], and the best of voluntary fasts are those that are (observed in the months) closest to Ramadan, before or after. The status of these fasts is like that of al-Sunan al-Rawatib, which are done before and after fard (prayers) and which make up for any shortfall in the number of obligatory prayers. The same applies to fasts observed before and after Ramadan. Just as al-Sunan al-Rawatib are better than other kinds of voluntary prayers, so fasts observed (in the months) before and after Ramadan are better than fasts at other times.” [See Lata’if al-Ma’arif fima li Mawasim al-Aam minal-Waza’if, by Ibn Rajab al-Hanbali]

Dear Servants of Allah! When Allah’s Messenger (Peace be upon him) was asked, why he fasted so abundantly in the month of Sha’aban, he (Peace be upon him) said:

“(Sha’aban) is a month to which people do not pay attention, which people neglected, between Rajab and Ramadan, and it is a month in which deeds are lifted up to the Lord of the worlds (Allah). And I like for my deeds to be lifted up when I am fasting.” [An-Nasa’i, See also Sahih al-Targhib wat-Tarhib, page 425]

This and other Ahadith of Allah’s Messenger (Peace be upon him) encourage performing good deeds when people are likely to become negligent of Allah’s remembrance and worship, like remembering Allah in the market place, where people get busy in their dealings and in times of difficulty – Allah’s Messenger (Peace be upon him) said:

“Worship at times of tribulation (fitnah) is like Hijrah (migration) to me.” [Sahih Muslim]

The virtue and superiority of worshiping Allah when people tend to become negligent of Allah’s remembrance is because worship at such times is more difficult than worshiping Allah when everybody is engaged in the worship.

Fasting in Sha’aban serves as training before Ramadan. However, fasting the whole month of Sha’aban is Makruh (dislike) and against the Sunnah and way of Allah’s Messenger (Peace be upon him). Ibn Abbas (RA) said:

“The Messenger of Allah (Peace be upon him) did not fast any entire month apart from Ramadan.” [Sahih al-Bukhari]

It is also prohibited to fast at the end of Sha’aban with the intention of not missing the first days of Ramadan, except for those who have the habit of fasting regularly and the last day of Sha’aban coincides with a day when the person habitually fasts, those who are bound by vows or have to make up some obligatory fasts. It is reported in Sahih al-Bukhari from Abu Hurairah (RA) that the Prophet (Peace be upon him) said:

“Do not preempt Ramadan by one or two days, except for those who have the habit of fasting regularly, in which case they may fast.” [Sahih al-Bukhari]

Fasting at the end of Sha’aban is prohibited to maintain distinction between the obligatory and voluntary fasts – it is also a precaution to prevent the people from falling into the trap of Shaitan (Satan), who persuaded the People of the Book (Ahlul Kitab) to add more fasts to that which Allah had made obligatory for them. For this same reason, it is also prohibited to fast on the ‘day of doubt (Yaumu as-Shak).’ A day of doubt is when people are not sure about the start of Ramadan, because of cloudy weather, or some other reason.

* NISFU SHA’ABAN (15th Sha’aban): Is there any reality?

Respected Servants of Allah! Some ignorant people have themselves specified particular nights of the year, when they stay awake all night and worship Allah. It is believed that anyone who worships Allah in these specific nights, it will recompense for his yearly deeds and will be enough for his salvation and entering Jannah. One among these nights is the night of mid Sha’aban (15th Sha’aban), which is popularly known as ‘NISFU SHA’ABAN’ in the Arabic language.

Specifying particular nights for worshiping Allah is against the Sunnah and way of the Prophet (Peace be upon him). In fact, he (Peace be upon him) has strictly forbade specifying particular nights for worship, he said concerning Friday:

“Do not single out the night (preceding) Friday among the nights for prayer and do not single out Friday among days for fasting but only when anyone among you is accustomed to fast (on dates) which coincide with this day (Friday).” [Sahih Muslim]

Friday is the best day of the week and it is also greatly encouraged to perform good deeds on Friday. If it had been enough to worship Allah during some specific nights, and then become negligent of Him throughout the year, then Allah’s Messenger (Peace be upon him) would have specified the night of Friday for worshiping Allah, but he forbade it. This clearly proves that worshiping Allah only during some particular nights in the whole year does not fulfill the slave’s obligation of worshiping his Lord. The slave is required to worship Allah at all times until his death, because worship is the sole purpose of man’s creation. Allah says:

“Glorify, the praises of your Lord and be of those who prostrate themselves (to Him). And worship your Lord (O Muhammad (Peace be upon him)) until there comes to you death.” [Qur’an, 15:99]

It was the practice of Allah’s Messenger (Peace be upon him) to worship Allah all throughout the year, all his nights and days were spent in the worship of Allah.

The Sunnah of Allah’s Messenger (Peace be upon him) during the month of Sha’aban was to fast and he (Peace be upon him) said concerning the virtue of Sha’aban:

“…it (Sha’aban) is a month in which deeds are lifted up to the Lord of the Worlds. I like for my deeds to be lifted up when I am fasting.’” [An-Nasa’i, See also Sahih al-Targhib wat-Tarhib, page 425]

Apart from this, most narrations that are commonly spread among the people concerning the virtues of the month of Sha’aban or specifically the night of 15th Sha’aban (Nisfu Sha’aban) are weak and fabricated. Scholars like Imams ash-Shawkani, Ibn Jawzi, Ibn Hibban, al-Qurtubi have greatly condemned these narrations. [For details refer to Al-Fawa’id al-Majmu’ah, Maudhu’at al-Kubrah and Tafsir Qurtubi]

From among the fabricated Ahadith are those which mention: “On this day (15th Sha’aban) Allah frees people from the Hellfire in accordance with the number of hair found on the skin of the goats of the tribe of Banu Kalb”, “anyone who prays fourteen Raka’ahs of Salah on the night of 15th Sha’aban will get the reward of accepted fasts and Hajj of twenty years”, etc. Anybody who relates such fabricated Ahadith should be reminded of the authentic Hadith of Allah’s Messenger (Peace be upon him), which says:

“Whosoever narrated a lie on my behalf, let him make his place in Hellfire.” [Sahih al-Bukhari]

Beloved Servants of Allah! The night of 15th Sha’aban has also been given the status and virtues of Lailatul-Qadr by misinterpreting Qur’anic verses. It is claimed that the lailatim-mubarakah (blessed night) mentioned in Surah ad-Dukhan [Qur’an, 44:3], refers to the night of 15th Sha’aban, when Allah forgives the sins of His slaves, increases their ages and provisions. Therefore, people stay awake all night and say innovated (Bid’ah) supplications in loud voices.

Allah says in Surah ad-Dukhan:

“By the manifest Book (this Qur’an) that makes things clear, We sent it (this Qur’an) down on a blessed night (laylatim-mubarakah). Verily, we are ever warning.” [Qur’an, 44:2]

Allah informs us in this verse that He sent down the Qur’an in laylatim-mubarakah (the blessed night). The Qur’an itself identifies laylatim-mubarakah in other verses, it is mentioned in Surah al-Qadr [Qur’an, 97:1]:

“Verily, We have revealed it (the Qur’an) down in the Night of al-Qadr.”

So, according to this verse, laylatim-mubarakah is not the night of 15th Sha’aban but it is the Night of al-Qadr, which comes in Ramadan. Allah says in Surah al-Baqarah [Qur’an, 2:185]:

“The month of Ramadan in which was revealed the Qur’an…”

Another deviant belief related to the night 15th of Sha’aban is that the mention of the descent of Ruh in Surah al-Qadr [Qur’an, 97:4], means that the souls of the dead people return back to the world and meet their wives and relatives. For this reason, widows prepare food liked by their husbands and wait for their arrival. People also visit graves and seek forgiveness for all those people who have died between the last Sha’aban and the present one.

Allah says in Surah al-Qadr:

“Therein (in the Night of Qadr) descend the Angels and the Ruh by Allah’s Permission with all Decrees.” [Qur’an, 97:4]

Firstly, this verse refers to the Night of al-Qadr and not 15th Sha’aban as explained earlier. Secondly, descending of the Ruh in this verse means the descending of Angel Jibrilu with other Angels and not souls of the dead people (See Tafsir Ibn Kathir). Besides, believing that souls of the dead can return back to the world and meet with their relatives is itself an incorrect belief. The teachings of the Qur’an and the Sunnah clearly state that the souls of the dead do not return back to the world. I had explained this subject in details in my previous Sermon. Anyone who wishes to learn more about this subject may refer to it.

As far as visiting the graves is concerned, a weak narration (of Aishah (RA) reported in Sunan at-Tirmidhi (in the book of fasting) is often brought forth to support the visiting of graves on the night of 15th Sha’aban. The Hadith reads as follows:

“One night (i.e. night of mid Sha’aban) I found the Messenger of Allah absent from my apartment. I therefore, went out to search him out and he was in Baqi cemetery raising his head towards the heaven.’ He said, “O Aishah were you afraid that Allah and His Messenger will wrong you?” She said, ‘I replied: I had not such a low opinion about Allah and His Messenger, but I presumed that you had gone to some of your wives for some need.” He said, “Verily, Allah descends in the night of mid-Sha’aban to the heaven of the world and then forgives people more than the number of the hair of the sheep of Banu Kalb.”

A similar Hadith is also found in Sahih Muslim, but it does not mention the night of 15th Sha’aban. However, the Hadith of Sunan at-Tirmidhi is not authentic and thus does not have any proof for visiting graves specifically on the night of Sha’aban.

Allah’s Messenger (Peace be upon him) has permitted the men to visit the graves at any time and make Du’a for the engraved. He (Peace be upon him) said:

“I used to forbid you from visiting graves, but now you should visit them, for surely they are reminders of the next life.” [Sahih Muslim]

And he (Peace be upon him) also taught us the Du’a of visiting graves:

“Peace be upon the Believers and Muslims among the inhabitants of these dwellings. May Allah have mercy on those who have gone ahead of us, and those following us. And we shall, Allah-willing, be joining you.” [Sahih Muslim]

But to specify certain days for visiting graves was neither the practice of Allah’s Messenger (Peace be upon him), nor the Sahabah (RA), therefore, visiting graves specifically on 15th Sha’aban should be avoided, as it falls under the category of innovations (Bid’ahs) and Allah’s Messenger (Peace be upon him) said about innovations:

“… and the worst of affairs are the newly invented matters, every newly invented matter is an innovation and every innovation is misguidance and every misguidance is in the Hellfire.” [An-Nasa’i]

Many people also light candles on graves, which has no basis from the Qur’an and the Sunnah. In fact, lighting candles is an imitation of the fire worshipers (majus), and Ibn Abbas (RA) narrated that:

“Allah’s Messenger (Peace be upon him) cursed the women who visit the graves. He also cursed those who set up Mosques and lights over graves.” [Abu Dawud, Ibn Majah, at-Tirmidhi and an-Nasa’i]

* A Reminder in Sha’aban

Dear Brothers and Sisters! If you still have to make up any missed obligatory fasts of last Ramadan, then hasten to make up them before the next Ramadan arrives. It is not permissible to delay missed fasts until after the following Ramadan, except in cases of necessity (such as a valid excuse that continues between the two Ramadan). Aishah (RA) says:

“It used to be that I had days to make up for Ramadan and I would not be able to do so except in Sha’aban.” [Sahih al-Bukhari]

Anybody who is able to make up the missed fasts before the (second) Ramadan and does not do so has to make them up after the (second) Ramadan and in addition, he should repent and feed one poor person for each day that was missed. [This is the view of Imams Malik, al-Shafi’i and Ahmad]

* Three great innovations (Bid’ahs) in Sha’aban!!!

The three great Bid’ahs (religious innovations) which some people do in the month of Sha’aban, Shaykh Muhammad Ibn Salih al-Uthaymin said:

“I would like to warn against the three things which are done in the middle of Sha’aban: The First issue: Amongst the general mass, there are many people who think that the night of the middle of Sha’aban (i.e. the 15th of Sha’aban) is Lailatul-Qadr (the Night of Decree) and that one (who prays in this night) gets the reward that has been mentioned in the Sunnah (i.e. his previous sins would be forgiven).

But what is known is that Lailatul-Qadr occurs in the month of Ramadan and the evidence for that is the saying of Allah in the Qur’an: “Verily! We have sent it (this Qur’an) down in the night of Al-Qadr.” [al-Qadr, 97:1] And in the saying of Allah: “Ha-Mim. By the manifest Book (this Qur’an) that makes things clear, We sent it (this Qur’an) down on a blessed night. Verily, We are ever warning [mankind that Our Torment will reach those who disbelieve in Our Oneness of Lordship and in Our Oneness of worship]. Therein (that night) is decreed every matter of ordainments.” [al-Dhukhan, 44:1-4]This is the Text which is clear that the Qur’an was sent down on Lailatul-Qadr, in which matters of ordainment are decreed.

Then Allah also says: “The month of Ramadan in which was revealed the Qur’an, a guidance for mankind and clear proofs for the guidance and the criterion (between right and wrong).” [al-Baqarah, 2:185] This is sure, clear and certain proof that Lailatul-Qadr occurs in the month of Ramadan, rather it occurs in the last ten (nights) of Ramadan. The Second issue: Some people specially mark this night (of the middle of Sha’aban) by establishing prayers in the night and Fasting in the day, based upon the Weak Ahadith. Since these Ahadith are not authentic, then specially marking out the middle of Sha’aban for establishing night prayers should not be done. But if a person is in the habit of getting up for night prayers, then he should pray in the night of the middle of Sha’aban like he prays in any other night without marking it as a special occasion.

Similarly, one should not make it a special occasion to Fast only in the middle of Sha’aban because nothing such has been reported from the Prophet (Peace be upon him). But if one Fasts for three days of Ayyam al-Bidh (i.e. the night when the Moon is full) and they are the thirteenth, the fourteenth and the fifteenth day (of the Lunar calendar); so if one Fasts on these three days, then his Fasting will be in accordance with the Sunnah.

But one should not believe that this (Fasting these three days in Sha’aban) is better than Fasting in any other month, even though the Prophet (Peace be upon him) used to Fast much in this month of Sha’aban, more than any other month, sometimes he would Fast for almost the complete month except for a few days. The Third issue: Some people specially prepare food on the 15th of Sha’aban and invite others over it or they distribute it to the neighbours and relatives believing that there is more virtue if one does it specially on this night.

But I say: The matter is not like (how they perceive). Nothing has been legislated that one should mark this night by specially preparing food or inviting people for food or giving out Sadaqah (charity). It is like any other day, one should prepare food on this day like the way he does on any other day of the year. These are the three Bid’ahs which some people have fallen into, which I wanted to warn against.” [See Majmu’ al-Fatawa of Shaykh Ibn Al-Uthaimin, vol. 7 page 279-281]

Dear Servants of Allah! I’m reminding myself and my Muslim brothers and sisters, especially the Nigerian Muslim Ummah that it is only the Amirul Mu’mineen, the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar III has the right to make an announcement for the commencement and finishing the Ramadan fast. It is a great innovation (Bid’ah) in Islam for any Islamic scholar or any leader of any organization, sect or group to do so. We have to fear Allah, we must avoid making contributions in disuniting the Ummah.

Respected Brothers and Sisters! I ask Allah to assist us in living by the Quran and Sunnah. I pray He lets us recognise the truth for what it is and helps us to follow it, and that He lets us see falsehood for what it is and helps us to avoid it.

O Allah! Guide us and protect us from the causes of ignorance and destruction! Save us from the defects of ourselves! Cause the last of our deeds to be the best and most righteous! And forgive all of us.

Dear Brothers and Sisters! Anything good I have said in my today’s Sermon is from Allah the Almighty, and any mistakes are my own and I seek refuge in Allah from giving wrong advice and from all forms of calamities and fitnah. And I ask Allah’s forgiveness if I stepped beyond bounds in anything I said or I do.

May Allah be praised; and may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon His Messenger Muhammad and upon his family and Companions.

With this I conclude my Friday Sermon, and I ask Allah, the Almighty and the Sublime, to forgive all of our sins. So seek his forgiveness, He is all forgiving and Most Merciful.

This Jumu’ah Khutbah (Friday Sermon) was prepared for delivery today, Friday, Sha’aban 10, 1439 AH (April 27, 2018), by Imam Murtadha Muhammad Gusau, the Chief Imam of Nagazi-Uvete Jumu’ah and late Alhaji Abdurrahman Okene’s Mosques, Okene Kogi State, Nigeria. He can be reached via: gusaumurtada@gmail.com or +2348038289761.

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