Preparing for Ramadan in Sha’baan: ibn Rajab al-Hanbali

al-Haafidh ibn Rajab al-Hanbali concluded his discussion of fasting during the month of Sha’baan (the eight month of the Islamic calendar, immediately preceding Ramadan) with the following notes:

وقد قيل: في صوم شعبان معنى آخر: أن صيامه كالتمرين على صيام رمضان لئلا يدخل في صوم رمضان على مشقة وكلفة بل قد تمرن على. الصيام واعتاده ووجد بصيام شعبان قبله حلاوة الصيام ولذته فيدخل في صيام رمضان بقوة ونشاط. ـ

Some have said that one of the effects of fasting during Sha’baan is that it acts like a training for the fast of Ramadan, in order that one can enter into Ramadan in good shape, being prepared for it and accustomed to fasting. And through fasting during Sha’baan, one will find and savor the sweetness of the fast, and so he will enter into Ramadan with vigor and determination.

ولما كان شعبان كالمقدمة لرمضان شرع فيه ما يشرع في رمضان من الصيام وقراءة القرآن ليحصل التأهب لتلقي رمضان وترتاض النفوس بذلك على طاعة الرحمن ـ

Sha’baan is like a precursor to Ramadan. The things which are legislated in Ramadan – such as fasting and reciting the Qur’an – are also legislated in Sha’baan so that one can be prepared to meet Ramadan and accustom himself to obeying al-Rahman. Continue reading

The Blessed Night is Laylah al-Qadr, not the Middle of Sha’baan

Allah opens surah al-Dukkhaan (44) by mentioning “a blessed night” during which He sent down the Qur’an. The majority of the salaf and prominent interpreters of the Qur’an have indicated that this blessed night is Laylah al-Qadr, while a minority have claimed that it is referring to the night of the middle of the month of Sha’baan. What follows are three detailed clarifications of why the first position is correct and the second opinion is not supported by the textual evidences.

○ Sheikh Muhammad al-Ameen al-Shinqitee wrote the following clarification at the beginning of his tafsir of surah al-Dhukhaan. al-Shinqitee’s tafsir was focused on the theme of explaining the Qur’an first and foremost by means of the Qur’an itself, and he follows this approach in this explanation as well:

قوله – تعالى – : إنا أنزلناه في ليلة مباركة . ـ

Allah’s statement:

إِنَّا أَنزَلْنَاهُ فِي لَيْلَةٍ مُّبَارَكَةٍ

Indeed, We sent it [the Qur’an] down during a blessed night [44:3]

أبهم – تعالى – هذه الليلة المباركة هنا ، ولكنه بين أنها هي ليلة القدر في قوله – تعالى – : إنا أنزلناه في ليلة القدر [ 97 \ 1 ] وبين كونها ( مباركة ) المذكورة هنا في قوله – تعالى – : ليلة القدر خير من ألف شهر [ 97 \ 3 ] إلى آخر السورة . ـ

Allah left this blessed night ambiguous here, however He made it clear that it refers to Laylah al-Qadr elsewhere in His statement:

إِنَّا أَنزَلْنَاهُ فِي لَيْلَةِ الْقَدْرِ

Indeed, We sent it down during Laylah al-Qadr [97:1]

And He clarified its aforementioned quality of “blessedness” in His statement: Continue reading

Three reasons why it is disliked to fast one or two days before Ramadan: Ibn Rajab

As it comes in both Saheeh al-Bukhari and Saheeh Muslim, Abu Hurayrah narrated that the Messenger of Allah said:

لاَ يَتَقَدَّمَنَّ أَحَدُكُمْ رَمَضَانَ بِصَوْمِ يَوْمٍ أَوْ يَوْمَيْنِ، إِلَّا أَنْ يَكُونَ رَجُلٌ كَانَ يَصُومُ صَوْمَهُ، فَلْيَصُمْ ذَلِكَ اليَوْمَ

None of you should fast a day or two before the month of Ramadan unless he has the habit of (optional) fasting, then in that case he can fast that day.

[al-Bukhari #1983, Muslim #1082, Abu Dawood #2335, al-Tirmidhi #684]

In his chapter on the month of Sha’baan, Ibn Rajab al-Hanbali offers a long and beneficial discussion regarding the different rulings of fasting during the second half of this month leading up to Ramadan. After providing some of the different cases and rulings pertaining to the issue, he summarized and clarified the issue by writing:

وفي الجملة فحديث أبي هريرة هو المعمول به في هذا الباب عند كثير من العلماء ، وأنه يكره التقدم قبل رمضان بالتطوع بالصيام بيوم أو يومين لمن ليس له به عادة ولا سبق منه صيام قبل ذلك في شعبان متصلا بآخره. ـ

So in sum, the hadeeth of Abu Hurayrah is acted upon by many of the scholars regarding this subject, and they disliked the practice of preceding Ramadan with one or two days of voluntary fasting for those for whom [voluntary fasting] was not their regular practice and who had also not done any fasting prior to that in the month of Sha’baan by which to connect that to fasting during its last part.

ولكراهة التقدم ثلاثة معان: ـ

And this aforementioned dislike is for three reasons: Continue reading

Avoid the sins which prevent forgiveness and the acceptance of du’a: Ibn Rajab al-Hanbali

In his chapter on the month of Sha’baan in Lataa’if al-Ma’aarif, Ibn Rajab al-Hanbali devotes some space to a discussion of the night of the Middle of Sha’baan, the authenticity of various ahaadeeth which mention it, and the appropriate actions to be taken during it. All of this can be read here.

Continuing on that topic, Ibn Rajab gives a discussion of some of the actions mentioned in the ahaadeeth about the middle of Sha’baan which prevent one from receiving the forgiveness of Allah therein. While his writing on the topic is in the context of the night of the Middle of Sha’baan, the benefits are general as these are actions which should be avoided at all times. Below is his discussion:

ويتعيّن على المسلم أن يجتنب الذنوب التي تمنع من المغفرة وقبول الدعاء في تلك اليلة. وقد وري أنّه : الشرك ، وقتل النفس ، والزنا ؛ وهذه الثلاثة أعظم الذنوب عند الله عز وجل ، كما في حديث ابن مسعود المتفق على صحتة ، أنه سأل النبي ﷺ : أي الذنب أعظم؟ قال : أن تجعل الله ندّا وهو خلقك . قال : ثمّ أي؟ قال : أن تقتل ولدك خشية أن يطعم معك . قال : ثمّ أي؟ قال : أن تزاني حليلة جارك . فأنزل الله تعالى تصديق ذلك : وَالَّذِينَ لَا يَدْعُونَ مَعَ اللَّـهِ إِلَـٰهًا آخَرَ‌ وَلَا يَقْتُلُونَ النَّفْسَ الَّتِي حَرَّ‌مَ اللَّـهُ إِلَّا بِالْحَقِّ وَلَا يَزْنُونَ ، الآية .

It behooves the Muslim to avoid the sins which prevent one from forgiveness and from the acceptance of one’s supplications during that night [i.e. the night of the middle of Sha’baan]. And it has been narrated that they are: al-Shirk, killing someone, and al-zina, and these are the three greatest sins in the sight of Allah ‘azza wa jall, as is mentioned in the hadeeth of Ibn Mas’ood – and al-Bukhari and Muslim concurred on its authenticity – that he asked the Prophet (ﷺ),

“Which sin is greatest?” He replied, “That you would make partners with Allah while it is He who created you.” He said, “Then what?” He replied, “That you would kill your child out of fear that it would eat with you.” He said, “Then what?” He replied, “That you would commit zina with your neighbor’s wife.” And Allah revealed something attesting to that: “And those who do not invoke with Allah another deity or kill the soul which Allah has forbidden [to be killed], except by right, and do not commit unlawful sexual intercourse. And whoever should do that will meet a penalty.” (25:68) [al-Bukhari #6001] Continue reading

The night of the middle of Sha’baan: Ibn Rajab al-Hanbali

Ibn Rajab al-Hanbali, in his discussion of the merits of the month of Sha’baan, writes the following concerning the magnification that some give to the night of the 15th of Sha’baan and performing extra special acts of worship therein:

وفي فضل ليلة نصف شعبان أحاديث أخر متعددة ، وقد اختلف فيها ، فضعّفها الأكثرون ، وصحّح ابن حبان بعضها وخرّجه في صحيحه

There are many hadeeth concerning the virtue of the night of the middle of Sha’baan, and there has been differing about them. The majority [of the muhaddithoon] have graded them as weak, but Ibn Hibbaan authenticated some of them and reported them in his Saheeh collection.

ومن أمثلها حديث عائشة ، قالت : فَقَدْتُ رَسُولَ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم 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 لأَكْثَرَ مِنْ عَدَدِ شَعْرِ غَنَمِ كَلْبٍ . خرّجه الإمام أحمد والترمذي وابن ماجه ، وذكر الترمذي عن البخاري أنه ضعّفه.

An example of those is the hadeeth of ‘Aa’ishah, where she said, “I could not find the Messenger of Allah one night. So I left and found him at Al-Baqi. He said: ‘Did you fear that you had been wronged by Allah and His Messenger?’ I said: ‘O Messenger of Allah! I thought that you had gone to one of your wives.’ So he said: ‘Indeed Allah – The Mighty and Sublime – descends to the lowest Heavens during the night of the middle of Sha’baan, to grant forgiveness to more than the number of hairs on the sheep of (Banu) Kalb.'” It was recorded by Imam Ahmad, al-Tirmidhi, and ibn Maajah, and al-Tirmidhi mentioned that al-Bukhari had graded it as weak. Continue reading