Virtue of the 15th Night of Sha‘ban (Laylat al-Nisf min Sha‘ban)
Many scholars have stated that the best night in the year after Laylatul Qadr is the night of the middle of Sha‘ban because it is a night singled out for special Divine Forgiveness8. Hence it is recommended to spend at least part of the night in worship. It is the night of the Full Moon (al-Badr) before Ramadan and hence an ideal opportunity to prepare for the sacred month that is to come after a fortnight.
Very early Hadith books such as the Musannaf of Abdurrazzaq Ibn Humam (126-211 AH)9 and the Musnad of Ahmad b. Hanbal (164-241 AH)10 contain Ahadith relating to the virtues of 15th Sha‘ban. Even within the famous Six Books of Hadith (al-Kutub al-Sittah), Tirmidhi11 and Ibn Majah12 have devoted a special chapter on “The Night of the Middle of Sha‘ban” in their Hadith collections. In fact there are over a dozen Ahadith available which establish the significance of the night of 15th Sha‘ban13. While some of the Ahadith pertaining to the night of 15th Sha‘ban are fabricated (mawdu‘),especially when they mention specific prayers14 or the decree being written on that night15, the vast
majority of these are weak (da‘if)16. This led some scholars such as Ibn Al-‘Arabi17, Ibn Duhya18, Jamaluddin Al-Qasimi19, Yusuf Binnori20 and Abdulaziz Bin Baz21 to mistakenly believe that nothing authentic has been related about the significance of the night of 15th Sha‘ban. However, it is to be noted that not all of the ‘weak’ Ahadith suffer from major weaknesses and in fact the minor weaknesses in some Ahadith are curable and strengthened by other narrations22. When all the numerous weak Ahadith are combined together, they reach a level of acceptability among Hadith
scholars equivalent to being ‘Hasan’ (good)23.
There are at least two or three authentic Ahadith, classified as ‘Sahih’ or ‘Hasan’ by the
Traditionists, which establish the virtue of the night of 15th Sha‘ban24. The Companion Muadh b.Jabal relates that the Prophet Sallallaho Alaihey Wasallam said: “Allah Ta‘ala looks at His creation during the night of the 15th
of Sha‘ban and He forgives all His creation except a polytheist (mushrik) or one intent on hatred (mushahin)”25. Ibn Hibban considered this Hadith to be ‘Sahih’26 and Ibn Hajar Al-Haythami said: “This Hadith is related by Al-Tabarani in Al-Mu‘jam Al-Kabir and Al-Awsat and the narrators of both are trustworthy” (thiqat)27. Shuayb Al-Arna‘ut and Nasiruddin Al-Albani, two prominent contemporary Hadith scholars, have also considered this Hadith as ‘Sahih’28. There is another identical Hadith related from the Companion Abdullah b. ‘Amr which says that the Prophet (Sallallaho Alaihey Wasallam ) said: “Allah looks at His creation during the night of the 15th of Sha‘ban and He
forgives His servants except two- one intent on hatred (mushahin) and a murderer (qatilu nafs)29.
In his edition of Musnad Ahmad, Ahmad Shakir has classified this Hadith as ‘Sahih’ and Nasiruddin Al-Albani classified it as ‘Hasan’30. A well known Hadith related from the Prophet’s Companion Abu Hurairah says that Allah Ta‘ala descends
to the lowest heaven in the last part of every night and He calls out
to His servants to seek His assistance and forgiveness as He is ready
to accept their supplications31. But the night of 15th
different from other ordinary nights because “from the very beginning
of the night, Allah turns with special mercy and attention towards the
creation and forgives those who repent and seek forgiveness”32. While
special Divine Forgiveness is available in the last part of every
night, such forgiveness is available throughout the night of 15th
Sha‘ban (i.e. from sunset to dawn). Concerning the merits of the 15th night of Sha‘ban, Ibn Taymiyyah says: “Some say that there is no difference between this night and other nights of the year. However, it
is the view of many of the people of knowledge and the majority of our
companions and others that it is a night of great merit as it is indicated from the words of Imam Ahmad, from many Ahadith
which are transmitted concerning it and from the words and practices of the early generations of Muslims.”33. Ahmad
Abdurrahman Al-Banna says: “Know that the night of the middle of Sha‘ban is a virtuous night. There are many Ahadith on it which can be accepted without any problems”34. Abdur Rahman Mubarakpuri says: “The sheer number of Ahadith regarding this night serves as a proof against those people who refute the excellence of this night”35.
9 See Musannaf Abdur Razzaq 4/317
10 See Musnad Ahmad 2/176 & 6/238
11 Jami‘ Al-Tirmidhi: Kitab Al-Sawm, Bab “Ma ja’a fi Laylatin Nisfi min Sha‘ban” #739
12 Sunan Ibn Majah: Kitab Al-Iqamah, Bab “Laylatun Nisfi min Sha‘ban” #1388
13 Taqi Usmani: Contemporary Fatawa (1999) p.68
There is a special prayer invented for this night consisting of 100
rak‘at and it is attributed to the Tabi‘ Hasan Al-Basri that he
“Thirty from the Companions of the Prophet said that whoever says this
prayer of 100 rak‘at, Allah will look at him seventy
times and with every look He will send mercy and blessings and remove seventy difficulties from him”. Many scholars such as Ibn
Al-Jawzi [Al-Mawdu‘at 2/127-30], Suyuti [Al-Laali al Masnu‘ah fil Ahadithil Mawdu‘ah 2/57-60] and Al-Shawkani [Al-Fawaid
Al-Majmu‘ah fil Ahadithil Mawdu‘ah pp.50-51] have regarded this and other such Ahadith as fabricated (mawdu‘). According to
Al-Tartushi, this prayer was introduced in Masjid Al-Aqsa in Jerusalem on 15th Sha‘ban 448 AH /1056 CE by a man from Nablus
and from that time onwards, people began to consider it as a Sunnah [Al-Hawadith wal Bida‘ p.121]
There is a Hadith attributed to Aishah which says that Allah decrees
the birth, death and provisions of people on the night of
Sha‘ban [Abu Ya‘la & Bayhaqi in Al-Da‘wat Al-Kabir]. Apart from the
Hadith not being authentic, it contradicts the Qur’an
as Allah Ta‘ala says: “We have sent it down on the Blessed Night- Surely We are ever warning. In it is made distinct every act
of wisdom, as a command from Us” (44:3-4). This Blessed Night is the same as Laylatul Qadr (97:1) which occurs during
16 Ibn Rajab Al-Hanbali: Lataif Al-Ma‘arif p.143
Abu Bakr Ibn Al-‘Arabi says: “There is no authentic Hadith establishing
the basis for the night of 15th Sha‘ban to be a virtuous
night, or that the decrees are written in it” [Ahkamul Qur’an 4/1678].
18 Abdurrauf Al-Manawi: Faydul Qadir Sharh Jami‘ Al-Saghir 2/317
19 Jamaluddin Al-Qasimi: Islah Al-Masajid p.107. Al-Albani says: “As for that which Shaykh Al-Qasimi, may Allah be pleased
him, mentions in his book Islah Al-Masajid that there is not a single
Sahih Hadith on the virtue and merit of the night of 15th
of Sha’ban, it should not be relied upon. Many have made similar statements to this because of their hastiness and lack of
exerting effort in scrutinizing the different ways (that the Hadith has been narrated) based on the method that is between your
hands” [Silsilah Al-Ahadith Al-Sahihah 3/138-9].
20 Yusuf Binnori says: “I have not come across any Sahih, Marfu‘ and Musnad Hadith regarding the excellence of this night”
[Ma‘arifus Sunan 5/419]. However, his teacher and mentor Anwar Shah Kashmiri has agreed that the significance of the night of
15th Sha‘ban is authentically proven [Al-‘Arf Al-Shadiy Sharh Al-Tirmidhi p.156].
Concerning the 15th night of Sha‘ban, Abdulaziz Bin Baz says that
“there are many Ahadith presented to show the virtue of this
but they are weak and it is not permissible to rely on them”. He goes
on to say that “celebrating the night of 15th Sha‘ban
by specifying its night for worship and the day for fasting is the most contemptible type of innovation that has been introduced
the era of the Companions”! He ends by saying that there is no evidence
from the Prophet (SALLALLAHO ALAIHEY WASALLAM ) establishing the virtue
this night [See Fatawa Shaykh Bin Baz 6/134-5, 15/404-5 & 15/430-1].
22 Al-Albani: Silsilah Al-Ahadith Al-Sahihah 3/135
23 Taqi Usmani: Islamic Months: Merits & Precepts p.73 & Fazlur Rahman Azami: Shab-e-Barat (1992) p.13
24 See Al-Albani: Silsilah Al-Ahadith Al-Sahihah 3/135-139
25 Al-Tabarani: Al-Mu‘jam Al-Kabir 20/108-9, Ibn Hibban: Sahih Ibn Hibban 7/470, Al-Bayhaqi: Shu‘bal Iman 2/288,
Abulhasan Al-Qazwini: Al-Amali 4/2, Ibn ‘Asakir: Al-Tarikh 15/302 & Ibn Abi ‘Asim: Al-Sunnah p.512
26 Ibn Rajab: Lataif Al-Ma‘arif p.143
27 Ibn Hajar Al-Haythami: Majma‘ Al-Zawaid 8/65
28 Shuayb Al-Arna‘ut: Al-Ihsan fi Taqrib Sahih Ibn Hibban 12/481 #5665 & Nasiruddin Al-Albani: Silsilah Al-Ahadith Al-
Sahihah 3/135 #1144
29 Musnad Ahmad 2/176 #6642. Al-Bazzar also related this Hadith and he classified it as ‘hasan’.
30 Al-Albani: Silsilah Al-Ahadith Al-Sahihah 3/136
31 Bukhari & Muslim
32 Fazlur Rahman Azami: Shab-e-Barat p.14
33 Ibn Taymiyyah: Iqtida Al-Sirat Al-Mustaqim p.302
34 Ahmad Abdurrahman Al-Banna: Bulughul Amani min Asrar Fathur Rabbani 9/203
35 Abdur Rahman Mubarakpuri: Tuhfatul Ahwadhi Sharh Al-Tirmidhi 2/53
Staying Awake in Worship on the Night of 15th Sha‘ban
We have established that the night of 15th Sha‘ban is a special night of forgiveness. Ibn Rajab says: “It is befitting for a believer to devote some time in the night of 15th Sha‘ban to make remembrance of Allah Ta‘ala and to ask forgiveness from Him. He should also refrain from sins
which will prevent forgiveness and acceptance of the supplication”36.
Since there are no specific acts of worship that are prescribed for
this night, one may engage in voluntary acts of worship of one’s choice
during this night.
The practice of staying awake for the purpose of worship on the 15th night of Sha‘ban can be dated back at least from the second half of the first century after Hijrah. Many well-known Tabi‘un from
Syria such as Makhul, Khalid b. Ma‘dan and Luqman b. Amir and some
ascetics from Basra used to worship publicly on that night in the
mosques37. Such practice was approved by the jurist Ishaq b.Rawaih who said that worship during that night in
public was not an innovation (bid‘ah). But the scholars of Hijaz such as Ata b. Abi Rabah and Ibn Abi Mulaykah, the Fuqaha of Madinah and the companions of Malik rejected this practice as an innovation38. The great Syrian scholar Al-Awza‘I took a middle stance when he stated that it is Makruh (disliked)
to gather collectively in the mosques during that night, but it is
preferable for a person to worship on his own. After narrating this
view, Ibn Rajab Al-Hanbali says: “and this is the closest view to the
truth, if Allah wishes”39. Abu ‘Amr b. Salah said: “As for the night of 15th Sha‘ban, it has great virtue and it is Mustahab (preferable) to stay awake for worship, but it should be done individually and not collectively”40.
36 Ibn Rajab Al-Hanbali: Lataif Al-Ma‘arif- quoted
37 Ibn Rajab: Lataif Al-Ma‘arif p.144 & Ali Mahfuz:
38 The practice of staying awake in worship on the 15th
Syria and Basra only in the early history of Muslims.
describing the practices of the people of Makkah in
Makkah on the Night of 15th Sha‘ban and their Striving
min Sha‘bana wa Ijtihadihim fiha li Fadliha).
39 Ibn Rajab Al-Hanbali: Lataif Al-Ma‘arif- quoted
40 Abu Shama: Al-Ba‘ith ‘ala Inkaril Bida‘ wal Hawadith
great virtue and it is Mustahab to spend part of it
Fatawa on celebrating the night of 15th Sha‘ban, has
night as Mustahab. This is also attributed to Al-Shafi‘
41 Ibn Al-Hajj: Al-Madkhal 1/302-3
42 Abdulhaqq Dehlawi: Ma Thabata bis Sunnah p.215
43 Anwar Shah Kashmiri: Al-‘Arf Al-Shadiy p.156
44 Ashraf Ali Thanvi: Imdadul Fatawa 4/27-8
45 Mahmud Gangohi: Fatawa Mahmudiyyah 6/134-5
46 T.P. Hughes: Outlines of Islam (1875) p.110