Shabe Barā’at: The Night of Emancipation
By Shaykh al-Hadith Hadhrat Maulana Abdul Raheem Sahib Ḥafizahullāh
A significant feature of the month of Sha’ban is “Layla al-Barā’ah” (The Night of Emancipation). This is the night occurring between the 14th and 15th days of Sha’ban.
Does extra worship in it have any basis in the sharī’ah or is it an innovation worthy of being discarded? This article aims to clarify this issue.
There are certain aḥādīth which prove that Layla al-Barā’ah is a meritorious night in which we are blessed with Divine mercy and forgiveness.
1. Umm al-Mu’minīn ‘Āishah (RA) says, “One night I realised that Rasūlullāh ﷺ was not by my side. I began to search for him. My hand fell on his sole while he was in sajdah and I heard him saying: ‘I seek refuge of Your forgiveness from Your punishment, and of Your pleasure from Your wrath, and I seek refuge in You from You. I cannot praise You as You deserve. You are exactly as You have praised Yourself.” When he finished his ṣalāh, he said to me: ‘Āishah, did you think that Allah and His Prophet would be unjust to you?’ [I.e. That I might have gone to another wife in your turn]. I said, ‘No, But I was afraid that your soul had been taken away because your Sajdah was very long.’ He asked me, ‘Do you know which night this is?’ I said, ‘Allah and His Rasūl know best.’ He said, ‘This is the middle night 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 as they were before.’”
2. In another narration, Umm al-Mu’minīn ‘Āishah (RA) reports that Rasūlullāh ﷺ said, “Allah Almighty descends in the middle night of Sha’ban to the earthly heaven and forgives a large number of people more than the number of the fibres on the sheep of the tribe of Kalb.”
Kalb was a large tribe who owned a great number of sheep.
3. In another Hadith, she has reported Rasūlullāh ﷺ, to have said, “This is the middle Night of Sha’ban. Allah frees in it a large number of the people from the Fire, more than the number of hairs growing on the sheep of the tribe of Kalb. But He does not look at a person who associates partners with Allah, or at a person who nourishes malice in his heart, 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 hurts his parents, or at a person who has a habit of drinking wine.”
4. Sayyidunā Mu’adh ibn Jabal (RA) reports that Rasūlullāh ﷺ said: “Allah Almighty looks upon all those created by Him, in the middle Night of Sha’ban and forgives them, except the one who associates partners with Him or the one who has malice in his heart.”
There are many other narrations mentioned in Mishkāt al Maṣābīḥ.
When all these Hadith are combined together, it becomes clear that this night does have some well-founded merits, and observing this night as a sacred night is not a baseless innovation.
In fact, some of these traditions have been held by some scholars of hadith as ṣaḥīḥ and the defects in the chain of some others have been treated as minor technical defects which, according to the science of hadith, are curable by the numerous chains 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.
Ibn-Taymīyyah was asked about the importance of the 15th night of Sha’ban. He replied:
اما ليلة النصف فقد روى فى فضلها أحاديث وآثار ونقل عن طائفة من السلف أنهم كانوا يصلون فيها فصلاة الرجل فيها وحده قد تقدمه فيه سلف وله فيه حجة فلا ينكر مثل هذا – كتب ورسائل وفتاوى ابن تيمية في الفقه ج: 23 ص: 132
“As for the 15th night of Sha’bān, there are many aḥādīth and āthār (quotes from the Sahabah (ra)) regarding its virtue. It has been reported of the Salaf that they prayed in this night. Therefore, praying alone on this night, having precedence in the Salaf, is sufficient evidence and something of this kind surely cannot be denied.”
He also says, “So many Aḥādīth and reports exist regarding the excellence of the fifteenth night of Sha’bān that one is compelled to accept that this night possesses some virtue.”
Shaykh Abdur Rahman Mubārakpūrī states that “The sheer number of Aḥādīth regarding this night serve as proof against those people who refute the excellence of this night.” [Tuḥfa al-Aḥwadhī. Vol. 2: pg. 53].
The Aḥādīth relating to the virtues of this night have been narrated from 10 different Ṣaḥābah. RA.
What Should Be Done On This Night?
In order to observe the Night of Bara’ah, one should try to remain awake in this night as much as one can. If someone has better opportunities, he should spend the whole night in worship. However, if one cannot do so for one reason or another, he can select a portion of the night, preferably of the second half for this purpose, and should perform the following acts of worship:
(a) ṢALĀH: Ṣalāh is the most preferable act. There is no particular number of Rak’ah but preferably it should not be less than eight. It is also advisable that each part of the Salah like qiyām, rukū’ and sajdah should be longer than normal. The longest sūrahs of the Holy Qur’an one remembers by heart should be recited. If someone does not remember the long sūrahs, he can repeat several short sūrahs in one rak’ah.
(b) TILĀWAH: The recitation of the Holy Qur’an is very beneficial. After performing some nafil ṣalāh, one should recite as much of the Holy Qur’an as he can.
(c) DHIKR: One should also perform as much dhikr as possible.
Kalimah Ṭayyibah 100x
Third Kalimah 100x
Durūd Sharīf 100x (Send Ṣalawāt upon Rasūlullāh ﷺ in abundance.)
(d) DUA. The best benefit one can draw from the blessings of this night, is supplications. It is hoped that our duas on this night will be accepted by Allah. Dua in itself is an ‘Ịbādah, and Allah Almighty gives reward on each dua along with the fulfilment of the supplicant’s need. Even if the purpose prayed for is not achieved, one cannot be deprived of the reward of the dua which is sometimes more precious than the mundane benefits one strives for. The prayers and supplications also strengthen one’s connection with Allah Almighty, which is the main purpose of all kinds and forms of worship.
One can pray for whatever purpose he wishes. The best supplications are the ones made by Rasūlullāh ﷺ. They 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.
(e) There are some people who cannot perform any additional ṣalāh or recitation, for any number of reasons such as illness or weakness or being engaged in some other necessary activities. Such people should not deprive themselves completely of the blessings of this night. They should observe the following acts:
Perform the ṣalāh of Maghrib, ‘Eshā’ and Fajr with Jamā’ah in the mosque, or in their homes in case of their being sick.
They should keep reciting the dhikr, particularly the ones mentioned above, in whatever condition they are until they fall asleep.
They should pray to Allah for their own and their family’s forgiveness.
(f) The women who cannot perform ṣalāh or recite Qur’an due to periods, can recite any dhikr, tasbīḥ, durūd sharīf and can pray to Allah for their needs, in whatever language they wish. They can also recite the Arabic prayers mentioned in the Qur’an or in the Ḥadīth with the intention of dua (and not with the intention of tilāwah.)
(g) According to one Hadith, Rasūlullāh ﷺ, went in this night to the graveyard of Baqī’ where he prayed for the deceased. Due to this some jurists say that it is advisable in this night to go to the graveyard, recite some Qur’an, and pray for the dead. But this act is neither obligatory nor should it be performed as regularly as an obligatory act.
One should also try and fast the three illuminated days (13, 14, and 15 of lunar month). If this is difficult, then fast for at least the 15th of Sha’bān.
May Allah give us Tawfīq of worship, and the ability to put into practice whatever we learn! May Allah forgive us and have mercy upon us. May Allah be pleased with us! May Allah help us to get ready for Ramadhān!