Praise be to Allah, prayer and peace be upon the Master of Messengers, our Prophet Muhammad, his family and companions.
The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) has favoured some days and months for fasting over others, such as the month of Sha'ban, which is a great act of worship. There are many hadeeth which confirm this act of the Messenger in the month of Sha'ban :
- Usaamah ibn Zayd said: “I said, ‘O Messenger of Allah, I do not see you fasting more in any other month than in Sha’ban.’ He said, ‘That is a month concerning which many people are heedless, between Rajab and Ramadan. It is the month in which people’s deeds are taken up to the Lord of the Worlds, and I would like my deeds to be taken up whilst I am fasting." al-Nasaa’i, and enshrined in a series of Albani as saheeh by 1889.
- Anas ibn Maalik, (may Allah be pleased with him) said: "The Messenger of Allah use to fast without breaking it until we said, 'The Messenger of Allah will not break his fast this year', and then he use to stop the fast until we said, 'The Messenger of Allah will not fast this year', the best fasting for him used to be in Sha'ban." [Reported by Imam Ahmad].
- In Saheehayn (Bukhari & Muslim) and others, Aa'isha (may Allah be pleased with her) said: "The Messenger of Allah used to fast until we said he wouldn't stop fasting, and stop fasting until we said he would never fast, and I never saw this more in any other month than in Sha'baan."
- Ahmad, Abu Dawood, al-Nasaa’i and Ibn Maajah narrated that Umm Salamah (may Allah be pleased with her) said: “I never saw the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) fast two consecutive months except for Sha’ban and Ramadaan.” Al-Tirmidhi narrated that Ibn al-Mubaarak said: "It is possible in the language of the Arabs, if a person fasts most of a month, it is said that he fasts the entire month…" Ibn Hajar (May Allah have mercy on him) said: "He use to voluntarily fast in Sha'ban more than in the other months, and he used to fast most of Sha'baan."
Some of the Virtues of Fasting in this Month:
Some scholars have said that fasting during Sha'ban is better than fasting during any other month, including Muharram, in which fasting comes second best to Ramadan. This is because the best voluntary fast comes either before or after the Fardh (obligatory) fast of Ramadan. Fasting during Sha'ban is similar to the Sunnah prayer before the obligatory one. In the same way, the six fasts of Shawal after Ramadan, are similar to the Sunnah prayer after the obligatory one. Likewise, emphasised Sunnah actions are better than completely voluntary Sunnah actions. Fasting follows the same pattern.
Imam Ibn Rajab, may Allah have mercy with him said: "Fasting in Sha'ban is a practice, so that there will be no shock when entering into the fast of Ramadan. Make it a habit, then you will find the fast of Sha'ban to be sweet and enjoyable."
Sha'ban is like an introduction to Ramadan, so what is prescribed in Ramadan is also prescribed in Sha'ban, like fasting, reciting the Qur'an and so on. This is preparation for receiving Ramadan with a pure soul. So, in order to become more obedient to Allah, the Prophet (peace be upon him) used to fast a lot in this blessed month. Many people are careless, yet this was the condition of the messenger of Allah (peace be upon him), who has been completely forgiven. So, what about us ???
The Prophet (peace be upon him) had two wise reasons for fasting more in Sha'ban:
- The first can be understood from one of his sayings: ‘That is a month concerning which many people are heedless, between Rajab and Ramadan. It is the month in which people’s deeds are taken up to the Lord of the Worlds, and I would like my deeds to be taken up whilst I am fasting." During the month of Sha'ban, there are two kinds of people who are heedless in worship. There are those who, due to bid'ah and prevailing myths, take more care during Rajab than Sha'ban. There are also those who do not practise any form or worship at all, except during Ramadan. It is known that the reward of worship increases when many people are heedless, because it is difficult for the soul. Also, the best act of worship is that which troubles the nafs.
- The second reason concerns the deeds presented to Allah during this month, and the most accepted deed for Him is fasting. Fasting increases the humility of the heart. This voluntary act helps the year's good deeds gain acceptance.
Some people are lazy during the first half of Sha'ban, then wait until the second half of the month before they begin fasting. This is incorrect. The Prophet (peace be upon him) forbade Muslims to fast after the first half of Sha'ban. This is stated in the following hadith: "If Sha'ban is half over don't fast" (labelled as Saheeh by Al Albaani in Saheeh Sunan Abi Dawood). The reason for this prohibition - and Allah knows best, is because it might be too late for the slave to have a chance to have his deeds accepted. If the fasting person's deeds are accepted in the first half of the month, then all he has to do in the second half, is prepare for Ramadan.
And Allah knows best.
May Allah accept us and help us to do good deeds constantly. May He also help us to take advantage of time as it pleases Him.
Mohsen Shaker Bayoumy
Imam of Osaka Mosque
Re-published article - Accepted to be published by author