The scholars say that the linguistic root of the word Sha`bān is a branch, because the month of Sha`ban “branches off” and leads on to many good things. It acts as a bridge between the two blessed months of Rajab and Ramaḍān. In spite of this, it is often neglected. The Messenger of Allāh (may Allāh bless him and grant him peace) alerted us to this fact when he was asked why he was fasting so much in Sha`bān. He replied: “It is a month that people neglect, between Rajab and Ramaḍān. It is a month in which actions are raised to the Lord of the Worlds and I love for my actions to be raised while I am fasting.”1
What is meant by “actions being raised”? The scholars say it is a symbolic displaying of our actions to Allāh. Of course Allāh is All-Seeing, All-Knowing and does not need for our actions to be displayed to Him as He is constantly aware of them. However if the slave is not aware of Allāh’s constant vigilance then he should at least strive to do good actions at times when his actions are displayed to Allāh. If he is able to gain Allāh’s pleasure at these times then he hopes that Allah will overlook his wrongdoings and shortcomings at other times. There is a daily display after Fajr and `Aṣr, and a weekly display on Monday and Thursday, and a yearly display, which takes place in the month of Sha`bān. The Messenger of Allāh (may Allāh bless him and grant him peace) was keen to do good works at all these times and was keen for his Ummah to do the same.
One of the greatest works we can perform in Sha`bān is fasting, and this is what the Prophet (may Allāh bless him and grant him peace) loved to be doing when his actions were raised, on Monday and Thursday and also during Sha`bān. Sayyidah `Ā’ishah said of the Prophet (may Allāh bless him and grant him peace): “I did not see him fasting in any month more than Sha`bān.”2 She also said: “The month which he loved to fast the most was Sha`bān.”3 Both hadith of course refer to voluntary fasting outside of Ramaḍān. Some hadith suggest that he would fast the whole of Sha`bān, although there is perhaps more evidence to suggest that he would fast most of the month and leave a few days. In another hadith he said (may Allāh bless him and grant him peace), in response once again to a question about his fasting in Sha`bān: “In this month those who are destined to die are recorded for the Angel of Death. I love for my name to be recorded when I am fasting.”4
One of the wisdoms behind the Messenger of Allāh (may Allāh bless him and grant him peace) fasting abundantly in Sha`bān is mentioned by Sayyidah `Ā’ishah, who said that in Sha`ban he would make up any voluntary fasts that he had missed during the course of the year.5 At this time she would fast with him to make up any of the fasts that she had missed in Ramaḍān.6 From this we learn the necessity of making up any days of Ramaḍān which we have missed before Ramaḍān comes round again and also the importance of making up supererogatory actions which we are accustomed to performing. The scholars also mention that fasting in Sha`bān before Ramaḍān resembles praying the supererogatory prayers which come before the obligatory prayer, while fasting in Shawwāl after Ramaḍān resembles praying the supererogatory prayers which come after the obligatory prayer. Performing supererogatory actions makes up for any deficiencies in the obligatory actions that we have performed.
In spite of all this the Prophet (may Allāh bless him and grant him peace) also said: “When the first half of Sha`bān is finished do not fast.”7 The scholars of the Shāfi`ī school understood that this hadith prohibits voluntary fasting in the second half of Sha’bān, except in certain circumstances.8 The other schools, however, say that there is no prohibition on fasting in the second half of the month but say that it is disliked to fast a day or two before Ramaḍān.
We have mentioned much detail on fasting and this is due to the sheer number of narrations on the subject. Even if we can just fast the “White Days”9 or any three days this would have a great effect. In general we should do any action, inward or outward, great or small, that we would love to be raised to Allah.
Other than fasting, it is recommended to bestow abundant blessings and peace upon the Beloved of Allah (may Allah bless him and grant him peace). It was in this month that Allah revealed:
﴿إِنَّ ٱللَّهَ وَمَلاَئِكَـتَهُ يُصَلُّونَ عَلَى ٱلنَّبِيِّ يٰأَيُّهَا ٱلَّذِينَ آمَنُواْ صَلُّواْ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلِّمُواْتَسْلِيماً﴾
Allah and His angels bestow their blessings upon the Prophet. O you who believe bestow blessings and peace upon him in abundance!10
Perhaps this is why the Prophet called Sha`bān “my month,” when he said in the hadith: “Rajab is the month of Allah, Sha`bān is my month, and Ramaḍān is the month of my Ummah.”11 Bestowing blessings upon him is one of the greatest means of strengthening our connection to him in this life and also the next, as he informed us (may Allāh bless him and grant him peace): “The closest people to me on the Day of Rising will be those who bestow the most blessings upon me.”12
It was also the habit of some of the early Muslims to recite the Qur’ān in abundance during Sha`bān. This along with fasting gives us the best preparation for Ramaḍān, as it takes time for the soul (nafs) to become accustomed to doing these things in abundance. If we are already accustomed to doing them before Ramaḍān it will enable us to do more when the month begins. Perhaps this is why Imām Abū Bakr al-Warrāq said: “in Rajab you sow the seeds, in Sha`bān you irrigate them and in Ramaḍān you reap the harvest.”
Two momentous events occurred in Sha`bān. The scholars of Sīrah say that it was the month in which the moon was split in half for the Messenger of Allāh (may Allāh bless him and grant him peace). It was also the month in which the Qiblah (direction of prayer) was changed from Bayt al-Maqdis in Jerusalem to the Ka`bah in Makkah. While these events have now passed there is one momentous event which comes around every year, and that is the Fifteenth Night of Sha`bān, one of the greatest nights of the year. We intend to deal with it in detail closer to the time.
We end by asking, as the Prophet (may Allāh bless him and grant him peace) asked:
اللَّهُمَّ بَارِكْ لَنَا في رَجَبٍ وَ شَعْبَانَ وَ بَلِّغْنا رَمَضَانَ
“O Allah bless us in Rajab and Sha`bān and enable us to reach Ramaḍān!”1
1 Narrated by Aḥmad and al-Nasā’ī
2 Narrated by al-Bukhārī and Muslim
3 Narrated by al-Nasā’ī
4 Narrated by al-Haythamī
5 Such as fasting Monday and Thursday and three days in every month, which he may have been unable to perform due to expeditions and illness
6 Narrated by al-Ṭabarānī
7 Narrated by al-Tirmidhī, Ibn Mājah, al-Ḥākim and Ibn Ḥibbān
8 Such as if someone begins fasting in the first half of the month and continues his fast into the second half or if someone regularly fasted on a Monday throughout the year. In these situations it is permissible to fast in the second half of the month. A make up fast (qaḍā’) is of course permissible, as this discussion only revolves around voluntary fasting.
9 The “White Days” are the days which follow nights in which the moon is full, namely the 13th, 14th and 15th days of each lunar month. The Messenger of Allah (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) encouraged his Companions to fast three days in every month and to fast these days specifically. The 15th day is regarded as being in the first half of the month and thus there is no prohibition in the Shāfi`ī school on fasting it in Sha`bān.
10 Al-Aḥzāb, 33:56
11 Narrated by al-Suyūṭī
12 Narrated by al-Tirmidhī and Ibn Ḥibbān
13 Narrated by Aḥmad