The Night of Bara’ah
A significant feature of the month of Sha’ban is that it consists of a night which is termed in Shariah as “Laylatul-Bara’ah” (The night of emancipation). This is the night occurring between the 14th and 15th day of Sha’ban.
Does this night have any basis in the Shariah or is it’s reverence an innovated practice worthy of being discarded? This article aims to clarify this issue.
There are certain Hadith which prove that Laylatul-Bara’ah” is a meritorious night, in which the people of the earth are blessed by special Divine mercy. Some of these traditions are quoted as follows:
1. Ummul-Mu’mineen ‘Aishah, Radi-Allahu anha says, “Once Rasulullah Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam, performed the night Salah (Tahajjud) and made a very long Sajdah until I feared that he had passed away. I searched for him (in the darkness). 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 Yourself. I cannot praise You as fully as You deserve. You are exactly as You have praised Yourself.’
Thereafter, when he finished his salah, he said to me: ‘Aishah, did you think that Allah and His Prophet would be unjust to you?’ I said, ‘No, O Prophet of Allah, but I was afraid that your soul was being taken away because your Sajdah 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 the night of the half 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, (and does not forgive them unless they relieve themselves from malice).’”
2. In another Tradition Sayyidah’ Aishah, Radi-Allahu anha, has reported that Prophet Muhammad, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam, has said, “Allah Almighty descends (in a manner He knows best) in the night occurring in the middle of Sha’ban and forgives a large number of people 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 number of sheep. Therefore, the last sentence of the hadith indicates to the large number 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 Night of Sha’ban. Allah frees in it a large number of the people from the 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 partners with Allah, or at a person who nourishes malice in his heart (against someone), 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 disobeys his parents, or at a person who has a habit of drinking wine.”
4. Sayyiduna Mu’adh ibn Jabal, Radi-Allahu anhu, reports that Prophet Muhammad, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam, has 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 also many other narrations mentioned in Mishkaat ul Masaabeeh page 115.
Although the chain of narrations of some of these traditions suffers with some minor technical defects, yet when all these traditions are combined together, it becomes clear that this night has some well founded merits, and observing this night as a sacred night is not a baseless concoction as envisaged by some modern scholars who, on the basis of these minor defects, have totally rejected to give any special importance to this night. In fact, some of these traditions have been held by some scholars of hadith as authentic and the defects in the chain of some others have been treated by them as minor technical defects which, according to the science of hadith, are curable by the variety of their ways 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.
Imam Ibn-Taimiyyah Rahmatullahi Alayh was asked about the importance of the 15th night of Sha’ban. He replied:
اماليلة 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 Shabaan, there are many narrations and Athar (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.
Allama Ibnu-Taymiyyah is a scholar notorious for refuting such things, however he accepts the virtue of the night of Baraat, he says,
“So many Ahaadith and reports exist regarding the excellence of the fifteenth night of Shabaan that one is compelled to accept that this night possesses some virtue”.
Some of the pious predecessors used to specially devote this night for Salaat. [Faydhul-Qadeer. vol 2., pg 317].
Moulana Abdur Rahman Mubarakpuri, writes in the commentary of Tirmidhi, “The sheer number of Ahaadith regarding this night serve as proof against those people who refute the excellence of this night”. [Tuhfatul-Ahwazi. vol 2. pg 53].
The Ahaadeeth relating to the virtues of this night have been narrated by 10 different Sahaaba. RA.
Al-Albani has classed the Hadith of forgiveness in laylatunnisfi min Sha’abaan as Saheeh.
He has narrated it on the authority of 8 sahabah. Their names are as follows.
Abu Bakr Siddique
Muaaz ibn Jabal
Abu Tha’labah al Khushani
Abdullah ibn Amr
Abu Musa al Ash’ari
Awf ibn Malik
radhiallahu anhum ajmaeen.
After giving references he wrote:
وجملة القول ان الحديث بمجموع هذه الطرق صحيح بلا ريب والصحة تثبت بأقل منها عددا ما دامت سالمة من الضعف الشديد كما هوالشان في هذا الحديث، فما نقله الشيخ القاسمي في إصلاح المساجد ص١٠٧ عن اهل التعديل والتجريح انه ليس في فضل ليلة النصف من شعبان حديث يصح، فليس مما ينبغي الاعتماد عليه. و ان كان احد منهم اطلق مثل هذا القول فإنما اوتي من قبل التسرع و عدم وسع الجهد لتتبع الطرق علي هذا النحو الذي بين يديك (سلسلة الأحاديث الصحيحه ص١٣٨/٣)
“The summary of our research is that this Hadith, with its collective chains, is without doubt saheeh. Whoever classed it as weak did so due to his hastening and his lack of effort in grasping all the chains of narrations, in the manner in which you have seen in the research before you’
(Silsilatul Ahaadeethis Saheehah p138, vol 3).
What Should be Done in this Night?
In order to observe the Night of Bara’ah, one should try to remain awake in this night as much as he can. If someone has better opportunities, he should spend the whole night in worship and prayer. However, if one cannot do so for one reason or another, he can select a considerable portion of the night, preferably of the second half for this purpose, and should perform the following acts of worship:
(a) SALAAH: . Salah is the most preferable act to be performed in this night. There is no particular number of Rak’at but preferably it should not be less than eight. It is also advisable that each part of the Salah like qiyam, rukoo’ and sajdah should be longer than normal. The longest surahs of the Holy Qur’an one remembers by heart should be recited in the Salah of this night. If someone does not remember the long surahs, he can also recite several short surahs in one rak’ah.
(b) Tilawa. The recitation of the Holy Qur’an is another form of worship, very beneficial in this night. After performing Salah, or at any other time, one should recite as much of the Holy Qur’an as he can.
(c) Dhikr. One should also perform as much dhikr as possible.
Kalima Tayyebah 100x
Third kalima 100x
One should also recite Salawaat (durood) on Prophet Muhammad, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam, as many times as he can. Dhikr can also be done whilst walking, lying on bed, and during other hours of work or leisure.
(d) Dua. The best benefit one can draw from the blessings of this night is prayers and supplications. It is hoped that all prayers in this night will be accepted by our Lord, insha-Allah. Prayer itself is an ‘Ibadah, and Allah Almighty gives reward on each prayer along with the fulfillment of the supplicator’s need. Even if the purpose prayed for is not achieved, one cannot be deprived of the reward of the prayer which is sometimes more precious than the mundane benefits one strives for. The prayers and supplications also strengthen one’s relation with Allah Almighty, which is the main purpose of all kinds and forms of worship.
One can pray for whatever purpose he wishes. But the best supplications are the ones made by Prophet Muhammad, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam. These 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. Actually, most of the prophetic prayers are so profound that human imagination can hardly match their greatness.
Several books in various languages are available which provide these prophetic prayers, and one should pray to Allah Almighty in accordance with them, whether by reciting their original Arabic text or by rendering their sense in one’s own language.
(e) There are some people who cannot perform any additional Salah or recitations for any reason, like illness or weakness or being engaged in some other necessary activities. Such people also should not deprive themselves completely of the blessings of this night. They should observe the following acts:
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.
They should keep reciting the dhikr, particularly the one mentioned in para (c) above, in whatever condition they are until they sleep.
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 can they recite the Qur’an, but they can recite any dhikr, tasbeeh, durood sharif and can pray to Allah for whatever purpose they like in whatever language they wish. They can also recite the Arabic prayers mentioned in the Qur’an or in the Hadith with the intention of supplication (and not with the intention of recitation).
(g) According to a Hadith, Prophet Muhammad, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam, went in this night to the graveyard of Baqi’ where he prayed for the Muslims buried there. On this basis, some of the fuqaha hold it as advisable in this night to go to the graveyard of the Muslims and 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 (13,14,15 of lunar month). If this is difficult, then fast for at least the 15th of Sha’baan.
May Allah give us Tawfeeq 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 Ramadhan.