The Night of Bara'ah
Another significant feature of the month of Sha'ban is that it consistsof a night which is termed in Shariah as "Laylatul-bara'ah" (The nightof freedom from Fire). This is the night occurring between 14th and15th day of Sha'ban. There are certain traditions of Prophet Muhammad,Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam, to prove that it is a meritorious nightin which the people of the earth are attended by special Divine mercy.Some of these traditions are quoted as follows:
1. Ummul-Mu'mineen 'Aishah, Radi-Allahu anha, is reported to havesaid,"Once Prophet Muhammad, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam, performedthe Salah of the night (Tahajjud) and made a very long Sajdah until Ifeared 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 thumbmoved, and I returned (to my place). Then I heard him saying in Sajdah:'I seek refuge of Your forgiveness from Your punishment, and I seekrefuge of Your pleasure from Your annoyance, and I seek Your refugefrom Yourself. I cannot praise You as fully as You deserve. You areexactly as You have defined Yourself.' Thereafter, when he raised hishead from Sajdah and finished his salah, he said to me: 'Aishah, didyou think that the Prophet has betrayed you?' I said, 'No, O Prophet ofAllah, but I was afraid that your soul has been taken away because yourSajdah 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 thenight of the half of Sha'ban. Allah Almighty looks upon His
slaves in this night and forgives those who seek forgiveness andbestows His mercy upon those who pray for mercy but keeps those whohave malice (against a Muslim) as they were before, (and does notforgive them unless they relieve themselves from malice).'"
2. In another Tradition Sayyidah' Aishah, Radi-Allahu anha, hasreported that Prophet Muhammad, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam, has said,"Allah Almighty descends (in a manner He best knows it) in the nightoccurring in the middle of Sha'ban and forgives a large number ofpeople 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 numberof sheep.Therefore, the last sentence of the hadith indicates the bignumber of the people who are forgiven in this night by Allah Almighty.
3. In yet another Tradition, she has reported Prophet Muhammad,Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam, to have said, "This is the middle Nightof 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 partnerswith Allah, or at a person who nourishes malice in his heart (againstsomeone), or at a person who cuts off the ties
of kinship, or at a man who leaves his clothes extending beyondhis ankles (as a sign of pride), or at a person who disobeys hisparents, or at a person who has a habit of drinking wine."
4. Sayyidna Mu'adh ibn Jabal, Radi-Allahu anhu, reports thatProphet Muhammad, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam, has said: "AllahAlmighty looks upon all those created by Him in the middle Night ofSha'ban and forgives all those created by Him, except the one whoassociates partners with Him or the one who has malice in his heart(against a Muslim)".
Although the chain of narrators of some of these traditions sufferswith some minor technical defects, yet when all these traditions arecombined together, it becomes clear that this night has some wellfounded merits, and observing this night as a sacred night is not abaseless concoction as envisaged by some modern scholars who, on thebasis of these minor defects, have totally rejected to give any specialimportance to this night. In fact,some of these traditions have beenheld by some scholars of hadith as authentic and the defects in thechain of some others have been treated by
them as minor technical defects which, according to the science ofhadith, are curable by the variety of their ways of narration. That iswhy the elders of the ummah have constantly been observing this nightas a night of special merits and have been spending it in worship andprayers.
What should be done in this night?
In order to observe the Night of Bara'ah, one should remainawakened in this night as much as he can. If someone has betteropportunities, he should spend the whole night in worship and prayer.However, if one cannot do so for one reason or another, he can select aconsiderable portion of the night, preferably of the second half of itfor this purpose, and should perform the following acts of worship:
(a) Salah. Salah is the most preferable act to be performed in thisnight. There is no particular number of Rak'at but preferably it shouldnot be less than eight. It is also advisable that each part of theSalah like qiyam, rukoo' and sajdah should be longer than normal. Thelongest surahs of the Holy Qur'an one remembers by heart should berecited in the Salah of this night. If someone does not remember thelong surahs, he can also recite several short surahs in one rak'ah.
(b) Tilawa. The recitation of the Holy Qur'an is another form ofworship,very beneficent in this night. After performing Salah, or atany 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 ofAllah)in this night. Particularly the following dhikr is very useful:
One should recite Salah (durood) on Prophet Muhammad, Sall-Allahualayhi wa sallam, as many times as he can. The dhikr can also berecited while walking, lying on bed and during other hours of work orleisure.
(d) Dua. The best benefit one can draw from the blessings of thisnight is prayers and supplications. It is hoped that all the prayers inthis night will be accepted by our Lord, insha-Allah. Prayer itself isan 'Ibadah, and Allah Almighty gives reward on each prayer along withthe fulfillment of the supplicator's need. Even if the purpose prayedfor is not achieved, one cannot be deprived of the reward of the prayerwhich is sometimes more precious than the mundane benefits one strivesfor. The prayers and supplications also strengthen one's relation withAllah Almighty, which is
the main purpose of all kinds and forms of worship.
One can pray for whatever purpose he wishes. But the bestsupplications are the ones made by Prophet Muhammad, Sall-Allahu alayhiwa sallam. These are so comprehensive and all-encompassing prayers thatall the human needs, of
this world and the Hereafter, are fully covered in the eloquentexpressions used in them. Actually, most of the prophetic prayers areso profound that human imagination can hardly match their greatness.
Several books in various languages are available which providethese prophetic prayers, and one should pray to Allah Almighty inaccordance with them, whether by reciting their original Arabic text orby rendering their sense in one's own language.
(e) There are some people who cannot perform any additional Salahor recitations for any reason, like illness or weakness or beingengaged in some other necessary activities. Such people also should notdeprive themselves completely of the blessings of this night. Theyshould 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 onementioned in para (c) above, in whatever condition they are until theysleep.
(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 canthey recite the Qur'an, but they can recite any dhikr, tasbeeh, duroodsharif and can pray to Allah for whatever purpose they like in whateverlanguage they wish. They can also recite the Arabic prayers mentionedin the Qur'an or in the hadith with the intention of supplication (andnot with the intention of
(g) According to a hadith, which is relatively less authentic, Prophet
Muhammad, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam, went in this night to thegraveyard of Baqi' where he prayed for the Muslims buried there. Onthis basis, some of the fuqaha hold it as mustahabb (advisable) in thisnight to go to the graveyard of the Muslims and recite Fatihah or anyother part of the Qur'an,and pray for the dead. But this act is neitherobligatory nor should it be performed as regularly as an obligatoryact.
What should not be done in this night
1. As mentioned earlier, the Night of Bara'ah is a night in whichspecial blessings are directed towards the Muslims. Therefore, thisnight should be spent in total submission to Allah Almighty, and oneshould 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 todivine 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, particularlyfrom those mentioned in the Hadith No. 3 quoted earlier in thisarticle, because these sins make one devoid of the blessings of thisnight.
2. In this night some people indulge in some activities which theyregard as necessary for the celebration of the Night of Bara'ah, likecooking some special type of meal, or illuminating houses or mosques,or improvised structures. All such activities are not only baseless andinnovated in the later days by ignorant people, but in some cases theyare pure imitation of some rituals performed by non-Muslim communities.Such imitation in itself is a sin; performing it in a blessed nightlike the Night of Bara'ah makes it worse. Muslims should strictlyabstain from all such activities.
3. Some people spend this night in holding religious meetings anddelivering long speeches. Such activities are also not advisable,because these acts can easily be performed in other nights. This nightrequires one to devote himself for the pure acts of worship only.
4. The acts of worship like Salah, recitation of the Qur'an anddhikr should be performed in this night individually, not collectively.The Nafl Salah should not be performed in Jama'ah, nor should theMuslims arrange gatherings in the mosques in order to celebrate thenight in a collective manner.
On the contrary, this night is meant for worshipping Allah insolitude. It is the time to enjoy the direct contact with the Lord ofthe Universe, and to devote one's attention to Him and Him alone. Theseare the precious hours of the night in which nobody should intervenebetween one and his Lord, and one should turn to Allah with totalconcentration, not disturbed or intermitted by any one else.
That is why Prophet Muhammad, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam,observed the acts of worship in this night in total seclusion, notaccompanied by anyone, not even by his favorite life companion Sayyidah'Aishah, Radi-Allahu anha, and that is why all forms of the optionalworship (Nafl Ibadah), are advised by him to be done in individual, notin collective manner.
Fast of the 15th Sha'ban On the day immediately following the Nightof Bara'ah, i.e. the 15th of Sha'ban, it is mustahabb (advisable) tokeep fast. Prophet Muhammad, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam, is reportedto have recommended this fast emphatically. Although the scholars ofhadith have some doubts in the
authenticity of this report, yet it is mentioned earlier that thefasts of the first half of Sha'ban have special merits and ProphetMuhammad,Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam, used to fast most of the days inSha'ban. Moreover, a large number of the elders (salaf) of the Ummahhave been observing the fast of the 15th of Sha'ban. This constantpractice indicates that they have accepted the relevant hadith asauthentic.
Therefore, it is advisable to fast the 15th of Sha'ban as anoptional (nafl) fast. One can also keep a fast of qada on this day andit is hoped that he can also benefit from the merits of this fast.
Mufti M Taqi Usmani