For ascertaining the virtue of the night of 15th Sha’ban, there is no need to traverse beyond the confines of what the Fuqaha have transmitted from the Four Madh-habs. The rulings which the early Fuqaha of each Madh-hab transmitted, orally at the beginning, and later through the means of writings, represent the practice (Amal) of the Salaf-us-Saliheen (Khairul Quroon) – a practice that encapsulated the whole of Islam in its most pure and pristine form, centuries before the era in which later Muhadditheen such as Imam Bukhari had even begun their compilation of the Ahadith.
The Four Imams and other Imams of the Khairul Quroon – the Most Superior of Generations as attested to explicitly by Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) – were in fact far superior Fuqaha, Muhadditheen, Zuhhaad (ascetics) than any of the later Muhadditheen such as Imam Bukhari and Imam Muslim. Allah (azza wa jal) had sent such Imams of the Khairul Quroon to perform the sacred task of recording, preserving and codifying every aspect of the pure Deen which was already being practised in its most pure and pristine form throughout the whole Islamic Empire during their blessed era. Nothing of this pure Deen was ever lost.
Testifying to the superiority of the first three generations, Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) states:
“The Most Superior of my Ummah is my generation (i.e. the Sahabah), then those who follow them (the Tabi’een), then those who follow them (the Tab-e-Tabi’een).” (Bukhari, Muslim)
The superiority mentioned in the Hadeeth above is Mutlaq – it is absolute. It pertains to knowledge, piety, sincerity, and all other praiseworthy qualities. Imam Bukhari, Imam Muslim and the other Muhadditheen whose compilations are famous today belonged to the 4th and 5th generation of Muslims.
For the edification of any person whose ears may have been dinned by the Salafi propaganda of only “Bukhari and Muslim” to such an extent that he or she too might have acquired the irrational Salafi belief that no greater Muhadditheen than these two had appeared amongst the Most Superior of Generations, it suffices only to quote the rank of Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal in the eyes of Imam Ali ibn al-Madeeni, the teacher of Bukhari in front of whom Imam Bukhari would feel insignificant. Imam Bukhari stated regarding Imam Ali ibn al-Madeeni:
“I never thought little of myself in the presence of anyone except when I was in the presence of Ali ibn al-Madeeni.” [Tadhkirat ul-Huffaaz]
Now, Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal’s superiority to the later Muhadditheen can be understood from the following testimony of Imam Ali bin al-Madeeni:
“There is none among our companions who is a greater Haafiz [expert in Hadeeth] than Abu Abdullah Ahmad bin Hanbal.” [Al-Jarh wat Ta’deel]
“Ahmed bin Hanbal is our leader” [Taareekh Baghdaad]
Another great Muhaddith of that era, Imam Abu Zu’rah gives the following testimony regarding this absolute Master of Hadeeth and Fiqh:
“Ahmad bin Hanbal had memorized one million Ahadeeth.”
The above statement has been corroborated by the testimony of many other contemporaries of Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal. Committing to memory such a huge number of Ahadeeth was not something completely out of the ordinary during that blessed era, and even during the subsequent eras when the likes of Imam Bukhari, Imam Muslim and others appeared. Imam Bukhari himself stated that he possessed the extraordinary number of 600,000 Ahadeeth – though perhaps such an amount may seem paltry in comparison to what Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal possessed.
And, as explicitly indicated by Rasulullah’s (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) statement, the Aimmah-e-Mujtahideen – the Leaders in the field of Knowledge – of the earlier generations such as the Sahabah (radhiyallahu anhum) and the Tabi’een were even more superior to those who appeared during the era of Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal.
Thus, when someone of the stature of Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal or his greatest teacher, Imam Shafi’i, authenticates the Ahadeeth pertaining to the virtue of the night of 15th Sha’baan through their actual Aqeedah (belief) and Amal (practice), as shall be demonstrated below, then there is no need for any further Daleel.
Just as people should be prepared to blindly accept (Taqleed) any Hadeeth that Imam Bukhari deems to be authentic, despite not knowing anything whatsoever of the chain of narration (sanad) or the Jarh (criticism) of any narrators in the chain or any other factors, so too to a far greater extent should people be ready to blindly accept any Ahadeeth that Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal or Imam Shafi’i deem to be authentic – even more so if such Ahadeeth had been accepted as authentic and implemented by virtually the whole Ummah for the past 1400 years.
When Masters of Hadeeth and Fiqh such as Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal or Imam Shafi’i deem the Night of the 15th Sha’baan to be a night of virtue, along with the Aqeedah (belief) that Allah descends to the lowest heaven right from the beginning of this auspicious night – a belief that can only be based on Saheeh Hadeeth – then it is an exercise of great stupidity and futility to attempt an infantile re-analysis of Asaaneed (chains of narration) such as the type al-Albani, the greatest Salafi Hadeeth “expert” of this age, was in the habit of carrying out, and who incidentally was constrained to admit the following indisputable fact, which the Ummah had known all along for the past 1400 years, regarding the night of the 15th of Sha’baan after having painstakingly carried out one such laborious exercise in great stupidity and futility (i.e. a detailed and lengthy re-analysis of the Asaaneed):
“In summary, the Hadeeth [pertaining to the virtue of the night of 15th Sha’baan] with all its supporting strands is authentic without any doubt. Authenticity could be established with a much smaller number than this, so long as they are free of any severe weaknesses, as is the case with this narration.” [al-Albani’s conclusion after a lengthy exercise in stupidity and futility]
Hence, much of the analysis of Ahadeeth being carried out today by self-appointed ‘Mujtahids’ who are barely able to hold more than a smattering of Ahadith in their amnesiac braincells, are exercises in even greater stupidity and futility. Every Tom, Dick, Harry appears to have conferred him or herself, along with his or her fledgling students, the right to make a personal hobby out of analysing the authenticity of Ahadeeth – a hobby with which deviants of all breeds are currently using to select at will which parts of the Deen of the Salaf-us-Saliheen to adopt, and which parts of the Deen to expunge.
The wildly fluctuating conclusions arrived by such self-appointed ‘Mujtahids’ after a thorough analysis of the Ahadeeth pertaining to the 15th of Sha’ban, vividly demonstrate the extremely subjective nature of this satanically misused hobby – one which has encouraged and prized open the door further, to a level never seen before, for each and every other fledgling “student of knowledge” to try their hand at this precarious exercise, and which is directly responsible for the disturbingly rapid increase in the number of Muslims today who have even begun to question or reject the authenticity of Ahadeeth found in previously unassailable collections such as Bukhari and Muslim.
Thus, this article will avoid contributing to the glut of analyses, arriving at wildly differing conclusions, already being propagated widely, and instead suffice with the authentication of the likes of Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal and Imam Shafi’i, along with a number of quotes from the Fuqaha which provide crystal-clear objectivity and clarity on this issue, and which accurately represent the ruling of all Four Madh-habs pertaining to the auspicious occasion of the night of 15th Sha’ban,
THE “DALEEL” THAT IS SUFFICIENT FOR ALL SANE MUSLIMS
Qadi Abu Ya’la narrates with an authentic chain, Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal’s (rahmatullah alayh) explicit statement affirming the fact that the night of Sha’baan is singled out specifically by al-athar (i.e. hadith narration) as one in which Allah descends to the lowest heaven:
“Aḥmad bin al-Hasan bin Ḥassan said: It was said to Abu Abdullah (i.e. Imam Aḥmad): “Does Allah the Most High descend to the lowest heaven every night [i.e. in the final third]?” He replied: ‘Yes’. He was [then] asked: ‘And in Sha’baan as we find it in the narration (al-athar)?’ He said: ‘Yes'” [‘Ibtaal ut-Ta’weelaat li akhbaar uṣ-Ṣifaat’]
It is obvious that the narration (al-athar) referred to above pertains to the numerous Ahadeeth that state that Allah descends to the lowest heaven on the night of the 15th of Sha’ban. Since such an Aqeedah (belief) that Allah descends to the lowest heaven on a particular night can only be based on Qur’an or on undeniably Saheeh Ahadith, this is clear proof that Imam Ahmad bin Hanbal believed that the narrations pertaining to the 15th of Sha’ban are authentic.
Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal also narrates in his own Musnad a narration regarding another virtue of the night of 15th Sha’ban:
“Allah bestows His special attention to His creation on the fifteenth night of Sha’bān and forgives all His servants except two categories of people: the person who harbours enmity and a murderer.” [Musnad Ahmad]
Ibn Taymiyyah confirms that Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal believed in the virtue of this night:
“However, that which many of the Ahlul Ilm [i.e. Aimmah-e-Mujtahideen, Fuqaha and Muhadditheen] or the majority of them, are upon, from amongst our Ashaab [i.e. the scholars of the Hanbali Madh-hab] and other than them, is the virtue of it. An explicit statement of Ahmad [ibn Hanbal] demonstrates this [opinion], due to the great number of Ahadeeth transmitted regarding it, and [due to] that which confirms this from the words and deeds transmitted from the Salaf [the pious predecessors]. Some of its merits have been narrated in Musnads and Sunans [two categories of compilations of Ahadeeth]. even though other things may have been fabricated regarding it.” [‘Iqtidaa as-Siraaṭ ul-Mustaqeem’]
Another explicit statement from one of the great Imams of the Salaf-us-Saaliheen confirming the virtue of this night is found in Kitaab ul-Umm of Imam Shafi’i (rahmatullah alayh), in which he mentions the night of 15th Sha’baan alongside other auspicious nights of the year:
“It has reached us that it is said that prayers and du’as are answered on five nights: the night of Jumu’ah, the night of Adha and the night of Fitr (i.e. the Eid nights), the first night of Rajab, and the night of the middle of Sha’baan.”
Imam Shafi’i continues:
“I consider it mustahab (astaHabbu) to do all that is related in these nights, without it being [regarded as] an obligation” [al-Umm]
The books of all Four Madh-habs are replete with statements confirming the virtue of this night. To give a glimpse of the acceptance of the virtue of this night by the Ummah – minus a few anomalous opinions – a few such quotes are cited here.
The authoritative Ḥanbali scholar, Allamah Al-Buhuti, states in ‘ar-Rawḍ al-Murbi’:
“Standing up for the night [in prayer] is Sunnah, its beginning being with two Raka’ts of light recitation, and its timing being from the evening to the beginning of dawn. And, one should not stand for the whole night except for the night of Eid, and one should pay special attention to the Night of the 15th of Sha’baan.”
The Hanafi Faqeeh, Allamah Ibn Nujaym, mentions the night of 15th Sha’ban amongst the other auspicious nights:
“Among the Mandoobaat [the recommended acts] is to stay up the last 10 nights of Ramadan, the night of the Two Eids, the 10 nights of Thul Hijjah, and the night of the Middle of Sha’baan, as is transmitted in the Ahadeeth and mentioned in detail in the Targheeb and Tarheeb. What is meant by staying up the night is apparently the whole night, and it could be most of it.” [al-Bahr ur-Raiq]
Allamah Ibnul Hajj, an authoritative Faqeeh of the Maliki madh-hab, narrates the attitude of the Salaf-us-Saliheen towards this auspicious occasion:
“The Salaf (pious predecessors) would sanctify this night and prepare themselves for it in advance” [Al-Madkhal]
Allama Shirbini, a Shafi’i authority, whilst describing the actions to be performed on the nights of Eid, mentions the Mustahab status of staying up on the night of 15th Sha’ban, and sources this ruling from Imam Nawawi’s authoritative Kitaab:
“Staying up the night is done by staying up the whole night such as in Mina, and some said part of the night, even an hour of it. On the authority of Ibn Abbas radiya’Allahu anhu, praying Isha in congregation and intending to pray Fajr in congregation, as well. Prayers and Du’a in them (the night of the two Eids), and in the night of Jumu’a, the first of Rajab, and the Middle of Sha’baan are answered, so it is Mustahab as mentioned in the Rawdah (of Imam Nawawi).” [Mughni al-Muhtaj]
Allamah al-Suyuti, a Shafi’i authority, quotes the 5th century authority, Allamah Ibn Salah, in support of the merit of the night of Nisf Shaban:
‘The middle night of Sha’ban does have merit. To spend its night in acts of worship is recommended (mustahabb); but on an individual basis, not collectively.’ [ al-Amr bi’l-Ittiba’ wa’l-Nahy ‘an’l-Ibtida]
Note that Allamah Ibn al-Salah explicitly mentions that the acts of worship should be performed individually, not collectively as done by deviant sects today who deceptively and falsely claim to be strict adherents to one of the Four Madh-habs, but who – not unlike the Salafis – suddenly resort to “Qur’an and Sunnah” or “minority opinions” whenever they encounter a ruling of their Madh-hab which does not fully accord with their taste-buds.
To end this section, we shall mention Hazrat Umar ibn Abdul Aziz’s (rahmatullahi alayh) firm exhortation to one of his contemporaries regarding the night of 15th Sha’ban:
“Al Khateeb narrated in Ghunyat-ul-Multamis with an isnaad to Umar bin Abdul Aziz that he wrote to Adai bin Arta’a saying: “Upon you (alayka) are four nights in the year, for Allah showers His Mercy in them; the first night of Rajab, the night of Nisf-Sha’baan, the night of Eidul Fitr, and the night of Eidul Adha.” [al-Talkhees of Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani]
PROHIBITION OF GATHERING IN THE MOSQUES
Along with the commendability of devoting the night of 15th Sha’ban to personal Ibadah, the Fuqaha of all Madh-habs emphasize the prohibition of gathering in the mosques for collective activity – a prohibition that exposes the deceptive claims to following the Madh-hab made by part-time followers of the Madh-habs who have a satanic tendency to scavenge for isolated and anomalous opinions in support of their deviant stances.
The Hanafi authority, Ash-Shurunbulali explicitly affirms the prohibition of gathering in the Masjids to commemorate the night of 15th Sha’ban and other auspicious nights:
“And it is Makrooh (Tahreemi) to gather in the masjid to commemorate these nights…since it was not done by the Messenger of Allāh (ṣallallāhu `alayhi wa-sallam) and also it was rejected by the scholars of Hijaaz” [‘Maraaqi ul-Falaaḥ’]
The above statement also indicates that the alleged rejection of the virtue of this night by some scholars of Hijaaz may have been directed specifically towards gathering in the Masjid.
Similarly, Allamah Ibn Nujaym narrates the same categorical prohibition of gathering in the Masjid:
“It is Makrooh (Tahreemi) to gather (in groups) to stay up a night from these nights [including the night of Nisf Sha’ban] at the Masjid. As it was said in Al Hawi Al Qudsi; no non-obligatory prayer other than Taraweeh should be prayed in congregation, and what was narrated about prayers in auspicious occasions such as the Night of Qadr, the Night of the Middle of Sha’baan, the Night of the two Eids, Arafah, Jumu’a, and others, should be prayed individually.” [al-Bahr ur-Raiq]
The Maliki authority, Imam Al-Hattaab, mentions that there is no difference of opinion in the Madh-hab with regards to the prohibition of gathering in the Masjids:
“There is no dispute in the Madhab on the reprehensibility (i.e. Makrooh Tahreemi) of gathering up in the night of 15th Sha’baan, and the Night of Aashoora. The A’immah Must forbid from it” [Mawaahib ul-Jaleel]
Hafiz Ibn Rajab al-Hanbali narrates this prohibition from one of the Imams of the Salaf-us-Saaliheen, Imam al-Awzā’ī, who states:
“It is Makrooh (Tahreemi) to get together and perform Salah or Du’a in the masjid, but it is not Makrooh for a person to perform it individually.” [‘Laṭaa-if ul-Ma-aarif’]
Similarly, the Shafi’i authority, Allamah Ibn ul-Salah, also narrates the prohibition of performing acts not reported from the Salaf:
“However, people taking this night, and the night of Ragha’ib as a festival (mawsim) and a distinguishing mark (Shi’ar) is a reprehensible bid’ah. And what they add to the night, going beyond customary need, such as lighting candles and the like, contravenes the Shariah”
Hafiz al-Munawi, another Shafi’i authority, approvingly quotes the same prohibition from al-Majd bin Taymiyyah, an authority of the Hanbali Madh-hab and grandfather of Ibn Taymiyyah:
“Likewise, marking it out for festivities by preparing different foods and sweet dishes, and putting up decorations comes under the category of celebrations which are newly innovated for which there is no basis.” [Faydhul Qadeer]
Allamah al-Buhuti states in the authoritative Hanbali book, Kashshaf ul-Qina, that gathering in the Masjid is a Bid’ah:
“As for the night of Nisf Sha’baan (15th Sha’baan), in it is virtue, and from the Salaf were those who would pray during it. However, gathering together in order to stay up [for the night] in the Masaajid is a Bid’ah.”
We shall now conclude with Hafiz Ibn Rajab al-Hanbali’s befitting advice that he proffered at the end of a lengthy analysis he conducted on the issue of the virtue of the night of 15th Sha’ban:
‘Thus it befits a believer to devote himself in this night to Zikrullah (remembrance of Allah), exalted is He, and to asking Him to pardon one’s sins, conceal one’s faults and relieve his hardships. This should be preceded by offering sincere repentance. For Allah, exalted is He, relents towards those who turn to Him in repentance.’ [Lataa-if ul-Ma-aarif ]