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Sunday, July 3, 2011

Sha’ban By Mufti Taqi Usmani

Sha’ban is one of the meritorious months for which we find some particular instructions in the Sunnah of Prophet Muhammad, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam. It is reported in the authentic ahadith that Prophet Muhammad, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam, used to fast most of the month in Sha’ban. These fasts were not obligatory on him but Sha’ban is the month immediately preceding the month of Ramadan. Therefore, some preparatory measures are suggested by Prophet Muhammad, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam. Some of these are given below:

1. The blessed companion Anas, Radi-Allahu anhu, reports that Prophet Muhammad, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam, was asked, “Which fast is the most meritorious after the fasts of Ramadan?” He replied, “Fasts of Shaban in honor of Ramadan.”

2. The blessed companion Usama ibn Zaid, Radi-Allahu anhu, reports that he asked Prophet Muhammad, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam: “Messenger of Allah, I have seen you fasting in the month of Sha’ban so frequently that I have never seen you fasting in any other month.” Prophet Muhammad, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam, replied: “That (Sha’ban) is a month between Rajab and Ramadan which is neglected by many people. And it is a month in which an account of the deeds (of human beings) is presented before the Lord of the universe, so, I wish that my deeds be presented at a time when I am in a state of fasting.”

3. Ummul Mu’mineen ‘Aishah, Radi-Allahu anha, says, “Prophet Muhammad, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam, used to fast the whole of Sha’ban. I said to him, ‘Messenger of Allah, is Sha’ban your most favorite month for fasting?’ He said, ‘In this month Allah prescribes the list of the persons dying this year. Therefore, I like that my death comes when I am in a state of fasting.”

4. In another Tradition she says, “Prophet Muhammad, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam, would sometimes begin to fast continuously until we thought he would not stop fasting, and sometimes he used to stop fasting until we thought he would never fast. I never saw the Messenger of Allah, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam, fasting a complete month, except the month of Ramadan, and I have never seen him fasting in a month more frequently than he did in Sha’ban.”

5. In another report she says, “I never saw the Messenger of Allah, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam, fasting in a month so profusely as he did in the month of Sha’ban. He used to fast in that month leaving only a few days, rather, he used to fast almost the whole of the month.”

6. Ummul-Mu’mineen Umm Salamah, Radi-Allahu anha, says: “I have never seen the Messenger of Allah fasting for two months continuously except in the months of Sha’ban and Ramadan.”

These reports indicate that fasting in the month of Sha’ban, though not obligatory, is so meritorious that Prophet Muhammad, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam, did not like to miss it.

But it should be kept in mind that the fasts of Sha’ban are for those persons only who are capable of keeping them without causing deficiency in the obligatory fasts of Ramadan. Therefore, if one fears that after fasting in Sha’ban, he will lose strength or freshness for the fasts of Ramadan and will not be able to fast in it with freshness, he should not fast in Sha’ban, because the fasts of Ramadan, being obligatory, are more important than the optional fasts of Sha’ban. That is why Prophet Muhammad, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam, himself has forbidden the Muslims from fasting one or two days immediately before the commencement of Ramadan. The blessed Companion Abu Hurairah, Radi-Allahu anhu, reports Prophet Muhammad, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam, to have said, “Do not fast after the first half of the month of Sha’ban is gone.”

According to another report Prophet Muhammad, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam has said: “Do not precede the month of Ramadan with one or two fasts.”

The essence of the above-quoted ahadith is that Prophet Muhammad, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam, himself used to fast most of the month of Sha’ban, because he had no fear of developing weakness or weariness before the commencement of Ramadan. As for others, he ordered them not to fast after the 15th of Sha’ban for the fear that they would lose their strength and freshness before Ramadan starts, and would not be able to welcome the month of Ramadan with enthusiasm.


All praise is for Allah. We praise Him and seek His help and His forgiveness and we believe in Him and rely on Him. We seek refuge with Allah from the evils of ourselves and the vices of our deeds. there is no one to misguide whom Allah guides and there is no one to guide whom Allah lets go astray. I bear witness that there is no god but Allah Alone. He has no partner. I also bear witness that our authority, our Prophet and our Master, Muhammad is His servant and His Messenger. May Allah have mercy on him, his household and on his Companions and bless them and send peace on them in great abundance.

The month of Ramadan is a great blessing from Allah, the Exalted. We cannot realise the gravity of its blessings because we are occupied in worldly affairs all the time. We are engrossed in materialism day in and day out so we cannot comprehend the significance of the month. But, those whom Allah has blessed with His favours recognise the blessings and glow which Allah showers during the month and they truly value the month. When the Prophet (saws) sighted the moon heralding Rajab, he would say:

"O Allah bless us during Rajab and Sha'ban and cause us to see Ramadan "

He meant to say,” Prolong our lives that we may live through Ramadan" We must observe two months before the month of Ramadan, he began his watch for it, and showed eagerness who recognises the value of the month will make this supplication and wait for it.

This Hadith confirms that a man may pray to Allah to give him a long life if his intention is to spend it in a way that pleases Allah, so he may accumulate pious deeds for the next world .He may pray, "O Allah! Increase my life that I may live to seek Your pleasure and come to You as one entitled to receive Your pleasure ". However, some people pray to Allah to take them away from this world. The Prophet (saws) has forbidden us to make such a supplication and he has said that we must not yearn to death. Some people pray for death hoping that they would be relieved from the problems the face in this world but, do they examine themselves and see what they have amassed for the next world? Have they ensured that they would find peace there? Rather, we must pray for security and for ability to spend the rest of or lives in a way that pleases Allah. Aameen

The prophet (saws) used to make this supplication:

"O Allah! Let me live as long as life is a blessing for me and cause me to die when death is good for me".

The fore - going prayer of the Prophet (saws) automatically asks that we may live until Ramadan.

The question arises why was the Prophet (saws) anxious to live till Ramadan ? The answer is that Allah has said about this month that Ramadan is His month. We are however, short - sighted and we only see the superficial that we will fast and offer taraweeh prayers during this month. The fact is whether we fast or offer taraweeh, or worship Allah in any other way, Allah has called it His month. He allows opportunity to those who have been slack in religion for eleven months of the year to gain nearness to Him in this month. It is as if He tells them," you have strayed far away from Me . You were immersed in worldly pursuits and were lost in negligence, We give you this one month. Come to Us . Spend it in the right way and you will receive nearness to Us"

Allah has created mankind that they should worship Him. He has said in the Qura'n.:

And I have not created the Jin and Mankind But to worship Me. (Az-Zariyat 51:56)

That is they are created for only one purpose to worship Allah and that is why mankind was sent to earth.

Some minds might wonder why should another species be created to worship Allah when the angels were there already, the truth is that the angles are created solely for that purpose and they have no choice but to worship Allah. Their nature is moulded in that manner and they have no inclination to sin or disobey. Man is created with to sin and disobedience, and he is commanded to worship Allah. It is easy for the angels to worship Allah but man is commanded to save himself from disobedience and sin, and control himself, and worship Allah.

We must stop here and understand two things because failure to comprehend them leads many to the wrong path. We are told that whatever a believer does is worship if his intention is sincere and he lives according to sunnah. In that case, every act of his is worship including eating and drinking, meeting others engaging in business and living with wife and children. Then, when he offers prayer that also is worship. Then, how to distinguish between two forms of worship. It is imperative that we understand the difference else we may stay on the wrong path.

The difference lies in the fact that the worship of one kind is a direct worship whose objective is nothing more than obeying Allah. Examples are, prayer, Fasting, zakah remembrance of Allah (zikr), recital of Quran, charity, Hajj and Umrah. All these things are done exclusively for Allah and they are direct forms of worship.

In contrast, there are some deeds which are personal or worldly needs but Allah has assured the believer that if he does them sincerely with an honest intention observing the limits of Allah and the sunnah of the Prophet (saws) then Allah will reward the believer in like manner to the first kind . This kind of worship is not a direct kind but an indirect worship.

If anyone earns livelihood to meet the rights of his wife and children and observes the limits of shariah with the intention of making a lawful living then Allah regards the effort as a worship. In its essence the effort is not worship; hence, this worship is of the second kind, an indirect worship.

Obviously, direct worship is superior to indirect worship, thus when Allah has said that he created the jin and men to worship Him, He refers to the first kind of worship the direct one. He does not mean to include the second kind.

A lady once told him about her husband who is a physician. She said," My husband runs a clinic where he attends to the patients . But he does not offer prayers at their proper time when he is in the clinic. When he returns home at night, he offers the missed prayers of three times all together. I advise him to offer them at their proper times when he is the clinic but he argues that there he attends to his patients and that is service to humanity while the prayers are his individual concern; so he prefers the former over the latter." The woman asked me how she may convince him to offer prayers at the right time.

The fact is that her husband did not distinguish between the two kinds of worship. Prayer is a direct form of worship. Allah has said that the warriors in a battle are not exempt from observing prayer even if the enemy is before them. It is another thing that the procedure is some what easier, but the obligation is not set aside. Allah has said:

Surely the salah is prescribed for the believers at appointed times. (An-Nisa, 4:103)

We know that there is no deed superior to jihad but the command is to observe prayer even during Jihad.

A patient who is unable to do anything is also not excused from offering prayer. He is commanded to pray even though he is allowed to sit down if he cannot stand or lie down if he cannot sit or simply pray through gestures. If he cannot perform ablution, he may perform tayammum (dry ablution.) Prayer is not forgiven, anyway, because it is a direct form of worship. The treatment that
the said doctor metes out to his patients is , of course, service to humanity is a great kind of worship but it is of the second type and not direct worship. Hence, if anyone faces a choice between the two kinds, he must prefer the direct kind. The physician had not recognised the difference so he had misunderstood his option.

The physician must realise that if he has to, he leaves his patients for some time, like when he has to go to the toilet, or when he has to eat, so, he can also get up for prayers and it will not harm the patients much, for prayer is more important than those other tasks. Of course, everything a believer does is worship if he has a pious intention but it is of the second type and second level . The first ranking worship includes prayer, fasting , Hajj, zakah remembrance of Allah and so on. These are the direct kind Man has been created for this kind of worship.

Allah has created man for worship and he examines him by giving him emotions of desires, potential of doing right and wrong and an inclination to sin. He is examined to see whether he shuns those tendencies and turns to Allah or follows them to distract him.

Once we know that man was created to worship, we must realise that Allah could have commanded us to worship him all day and do nothing else. He may have allowed us a short interval to attend to urgent needs food in the afternoon and at nightfall. If that was the command, it would not have been cruel on us, because we are created for that purpose.

He has created us to worship him and he has also said: Surely Allah has bought from the believers their lives and riches for theirs shall be the garden (in return). At-tawbah 9:11

Thus our lives and possessions have been bought and the buyer has quoted a high price for them, Paradise. The width of that place is equal to the heaven and earth. Now, the buyer has a right to restrict us to worship alone allow us only a limited time to eat and drink enough to keep us alive. However this buyer has bought us and paid a high price yet returned our lives to us . He has allowed us to reap advantage from our lives as long as we live, we may eat, do business, work and attend to our needs and desires. The only demand is that we present ourselves before him five time a day, and there is a small other demand there are certain do's and dont's.

Allah, on his part, has allowed man to engage in business, labour, cultivation and so on . But, man, in his turn, lost himself in these pursuits to such an extent that he frogot why he was created. What was the purpose behind his erection?

Who has bought him? He is so engrossed in these occupations that he makes a lot of money and is occupied day and night in these things . Suppose if anyone does think of offering prayers, he goes to the mosque but his mind is elsewhere and hurries through the exercise. He hastens back to his occupation. Some times, he does not even go to the mosque, but offers his prayers at home. At other times, he misses the prayers altogether. The pursuits of the world overwhelm him.

The peculiarity of worship is that it joins man with Allah in a relationship. It grows a link between them that man may draw near to Allah.

The peculiarity of worldly affairs is that even if one stays within proper limits he gradually becomes disobedient and move away from spiritualism. When man is busy with worldly tasks for eleven months he is so conditioned with materialism, that the relationship that should have been established with Allah remains weak. He cannot attain the nearness.

Allah , of course, knew that man will forget Him once he occupies himself in the affairs of the world . He will not pay as much attention to worship as he will be immersed in his worldly pursuits. So, he said to man, "We will give you one more opportunity. Every year you will get one month . You will spend eleven months running after the material things and We will give you one month of mercy. If you come us in this one month, you will regain the lost spiritual blessings and you will again come near Us. We guide you in this months that the rust that has come over your heart you may remove and may you come out of negligence. You may take up Our remembrance." To obtain these things fasting is very important. The other forms of worship prescribed in this month are also helpful in achieving nearness to Allah. The aim of Allah is that those who have gone far away may regain nearness to Him.

Allah has said, "O you who believe! Fasting is prescribed for you as was prescribed for those before you that you may be God fearing. (al-Baqarah, 2:183)
It is as though Allah says: The eleven months that you have been spending away from Us have weakened your taqwa (fear of Allah) You can regain that by fasting this month." So, it is not enough that we fast and offer taraweeh prayers but we must regain what we have lost in that past eleven months. We can do that by keeping ourselves attached to worship as much as possible right from the first day of Ramadan because we can do other things in the remaining eleven months. In the month of Ramadan, we must bring down the other tasks as much as we can. Let us keep this month aside for worship.

My respected father Mawlana Mufti Muhammad Shafi (rah) used to say that the way to welcome Ramadan is to review beforehand what work, or part of it , may be held in that task and devote oneself to worship in the time available.

The annual vacations in our religious institutions, known as Madrasah (pl. Madaris), commence from 15 th shaban and continue upto 15th shawwal when the new academic year begins. This has been the practice since a very long time and our elders have begun it. Some people object to this and say that our ulama teach students to remain idle in the month of Ramadan while the companions (ra) took part in Jihad and other work during Ramadan. They must know that if the need arises they may participate in jihad during Ramadan. In fact, the battle of Badr was fought in Ramadan and Makkah was taken over in Ramadan. But when there is to be a time for vacation then why not in Ramadan so that more time may be devoted to worship.

Nevertheless, whatever is done in these Madaris all over the year is also religious, the Quran and Hadith are taught. Fiqh or Juristic science is taught. But that is all indirect worship and Allah wishes that in Ramadan. Muslims engage in direct worship. That is why our elders had set aside Ramadan for direct worship. Instead of summer vacations they set aside the month of Ramadan for vacations.

So, those who can take vacations in Ramadan may seize the opportunity but if they cannot then they may devote as much time as they can to worship. That is the aim of Ramadan.

My respected father, Mulana Mufti Muhammad Shafi (rah) once pointed out to the following verses of the Quran.

So when you are free (from your public duties) exert in worship, and let toward your Lord be your entire quest. (al - inshirah.94.7,8)

What worship? Offering prayers, standing before Allah prostrating before him. My respected father used ask us to consider who was addressed in these words. The Holy Prophet (saws) He was asked to exert himself after he Was free! Was he busy in the affairs of the world? No! Rather, whatever he did was worship , He was engaged in teaching, preaching, training or purifying his people, or Jihad against the enemy. He had no other work but serving the religion of Allah. In spite of that, he is told that when he finishes with them, he must stand before Allah and exert himself. So, in obedience to this command, the Messenger of Allah used to stand all night in prayer and his feet would swell because of that. This shows that the tasks in which he was busy were indirect and he was called upon by these verses to engage himself in direct worship.

My respected father used to tell us that the devil misguided the ulama in a scholarly way. He tells them that it is the common man who is reminded that they are engaged in worldly pursuits for eleven months of the year (and they may devote themselves to Allah for the month of Ramadan). The devil continues telling the religious scholars, "but you are occupied those eleven month in religious duty. You teach, preach religion and deliver sermons. You write and issue verdicts. These are religious duties." In truth ,this is a temptation of the deceiving devil because the eleven months the scholars are occupied in indirect worship while Ramadan is the month of direct worship. May Allah inspire us to occupy ourselves in the month of Ramadan in worship of the direct kind.

Let us now chalk out a program or a time table for this month. Let us see what work we can postpone. We have to fast and offer the taraweeh prayers. Mawlana doctor Abdul Hayy (rah) used to say a very interesting thing about taraweeh. He would day, "It is a marvelous thing. Through it, Allah allows man to attain nearness to Him through forty more opportunities. There are twenty raka'at in taraweeh comprising of forty prostrations each of which is an opportunity of the best kind to gain nearness to Allah the forehead rests on the floor and the tongue repeats, Glory be to my Lord, the High.)

This opportunity was brought to us by the Prophet (saws) from the Mi'raj. When he was given the high honour, he wondered what gift he should give to his people and Allah said to him that he should present them the prostration, each of which will be a believer's mi'raj.

The Prophet said: Prayer is the ascension of the believer.

He will attain nearness to Allah when he rests his forehead on the earth.

The surah al- Iqra tells us

Prostrate yourself and draw nigh(to Allah) (alalaq96..19) [ This verse calls for prostration so we must prostrate ourselves on reading it.]

It means that every prostration draws us near to Allah and we have forty More) opportunities in Ramadan, every one of us has that, every day! It was given because we were involved in worldly pursuits for eleven months which kept us away from Allah and these forty opportunities are available to us in Ramadan, to regain the lost time and draw near to Allah. So, we must not take the taraweeh lightly. Some people offer only eight raka'at taraweeh, not twenty, which means that though Allah offers them forty opportunities they consider sixteen as enough for them . They have not understood the significance of these opportunities and have thus lost them.

As we have said, we have to observe fasting and offer taraweeh in the month of Ramadan and whatever time we have, we must spend in worship of Allah, for instance, we must pay particular attention to reciting the Quran because the month has a special relationship with the Quran. Imam Abu Hanifah (rah) used to recite the whole Quran during the day time in Ramadan and again once in the night, and yet again in the taraweeh prayers over the month which means that he recited the Quran from cover to cover sixty one times in Ramadan. Allamah Shami (rah) recited the Quran in its entirety once every day and night .Recital of Quran is part of the run time of our religious elders. So, we must also increase the recital of the Quran in Ramadan compared to our normal recital during other days.

We must try to offer those supererogatory prayers which we do not observe in other days. For instance, the tahajjud. We may also offer the ishraq ,chast and awwabeen.{ Respectively, post sunrise optional prayer, midmorning optional prayer, and post Maghrib optional prayer.}

A part from Zakah, we must give voluntary charity as much as we can in the month of Ramadan. A Hadith tells us that the Prophet (saws) was known to give away charity very generously at all times but in Ramadan he was extra-ordinarily generous. He gave to whoever came to him.

Apart from that, we must mention Allah all the time, whether we are sitting, or walking about. Our hands may be busy but our tongue must be occupied in remembering Allah: We may also invoke blessings on the Messenger of Allah (saws) frequently and seek forgiveness of Allah often.

In the month of Ramadan, we must pay particular attention to keep away from sin. Let us resolve to keep our eyes in check in the Holy month so that they do not rest on wrong places. We must control our tongue and not speak anything wrong, neither tell a lie nor backbite anyone. We must not hunt anyone with our behaviour that while we refrain in the Holy month from the permitted eatables but do not stop eating carrion because the Quran has said that to backbite anyone is to eat a dead brother's flesh. We must avoid falsehood and keep away from unnecessary talk, unnecessary gatherings and any unnecessary work.

In addition to that, we must make supplications to Allah frequently. The doors of mercy are wide open. Mercy is being showered in plenty. Allah is looking for excuses to forgive. A crier cries out," is there any supplicant that I may grant him," we must beg, beseech and implore in the morning evening or night at all times. Allah says," you ask Me at the time of iftar, I will give you ask at night, I will grant, ask while you are fasting, I will bestow, ask in the last part of night and I will give." Allah has let us know that the doors are open , so ask at all times! Maulana Doctor Abdul Hayy (rah)used to say that Ramadan is the month to ask. He used to restrict himself in the mosque between Asr and Maghrib prayers during Ramadan. During this time, he recited from the Quran, recanted tasbeeh (rosary), supplicated from the Munajat maqbool and them presented his petition, his supplication to Allah upto the time of iftar (breaking of fast). We must also make plenty of supplications, for ourselves, our country and people, all the muslims. Allah will surely approve that.

May Allah cause us to follow what we have read and respect the month of Ramadan and spend its hours correctly. Aameen.

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