The Spiritual Season: Part 1: Rajab | Part 2: Sha'ban | Part 3: Ramadan
Sha’ban is the meritorious month that precedes the much anticipated month of Ramadan. It is the eighth month of the Islamic lunar calendar and is defined as ‘branches out or emerges’1; it emerges between the months of Rajab and Ramadan. In spite of this, it is often overlooked. The Prophet ﷺ said, "Sha'ban is a month between Rajab and Ramadan which is neglected by many people. 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.”2 With the month often disregarded, the instructions found in the Sunnah of recommended virtuous acts of worship for Sha’ban are often forgotten.
If we look at this in another context, imagine yourself set to run a full marathon in a few days. Unless you're in great shape or have trained for it, that probably seems pretty difficult or next to impossible, right? How then can we go into the blessed month of Ramadan without having done any ‘training’? Let us use this opportunity and strive to revive the Sunnah this month by engaging in the recommended Prophetic ‘training’ to successfully reap the harvest in the month of divine grace (Ramadan).
The Sha'ban Training Program
A’isha (may Allah be pleased with her) said of the Prophet ﷺ: “I did not see him fasting in any month more than Sha`ban.”3 The reason for this is that this is the month our deeds from the past year ascend to Allah (swt) and our beloved Prophet ﷺ wished for his deeds to ascend while in a state of fasting. Ibn Rajab (may Allah have mercy on him) said: "Fasting in Sha'ban is better than fasting in the Sacred Months, and the best of voluntary fasts are those that are (observed in the months) closest to Ramadan, before and after.”4 The status of these fasts is like that of the Sunnah prayers, which are done before and after obligatory prayers and which make up for any shortfalls in our obligatory prayers. The same applies to fasts observed before (Sha’ban) and after Ramadan (Shawwal). Just as the Sunnah prayers are better than other kinds of voluntary prayers, so are fasts observed in the months before and after Ramadan versus fasts at other times.
The recommended days for fasting are Monday and Thursday —Abu Hurairah reported that the Prophet ﷺ would fast Monday and Thursday. He was asked about this and he said: “The deeds of people are presented to Allah (swt) every Monday and Thursday."5 It is also recommended to fast the white days (13, 14 & 15th)—the Prophet ﷺ said "If you fast three days of every month, then fast the 13th, the 14th and the 15th." 6
It is recommended we begin by fasting on these days (though we are urged to fast as many days as possible) to prepare for the fasting of Ramadan and even after Ramadan we should make the intention to continue to fast as it will intercede for us on the Day of Judgment. The Prophet ﷺ said: "Fasting and the Qur’an will intercede for the slave on the Day of Resurrection. Fasting will say: “O My Rabb! I prevented him from food and desires, so accept my intercession for him.” And the Qur’an will say: “I prevented him from sleep during the night, so accept my intercession for him.” He ﷺ said: “and they will be allowed to intercede.”7
Since Sha’ban is the month of the Prophet ﷺ it is definitely a must to send peace and blessings upon him in abundance. A recommended prayer to say often:
اللَّهُمَّ صَلِّ وسَلِّمْ على سَيِّدِنا مُحَمّدٍ و على آلِ سَيِّدِنا مُحَمّدٍ ، صَلاةً نَكونُ بِها
مَحْبُوبِينَ لَكَ و مَحْبُوبِينَ لَه فِي عَافِيَة
Allahumma salli wa sallim `ala sayyidina Muḥammad wa`ala ali sayyidina Muhammad salatan nakunu biha mahbubīna laka wa mahbūbīna lahu fī `afiyah.
O Allah, bestow Your prayers and peace upon our Master Muhammad and upon the family of our Master Muhammad, and by these prayers make us beloved to You and beloved to him in a state of wellbeing.
Seeking forgiveness helps us to refrain from all forms of sins. Regularly saying this reminds us that Allah is everywhere. Ibn Abbas (may Allah be pleased with him) narrates that the Prophet ﷺ said:
“If anyone constantly seeks pardon (from Allah), Allah will appoint for him a way out of every distress, and relief from every anxiety, and will provide sustenance for him from where he expects not.”8 A recommended prayer:
لا إِلَهَ إِلَّا أَنْتَ سُبْحَانَكَ إِنِّي كُنْتُ مِنْ الْظَّالِمِين
La ilaha illa anta subhanaka innī kuntu min az-zalimīn
There is no deity other than You. Transcendent are You, truly I am one of the wrongdoers.
Develop Your Relationship With the Qur'an
Recite the Qur’an as much as you can in Sha’ban as it will better transition you into the month of Ramadan. `Abdullah ibn `Abbas (may Allah be pleased with him) narrated that the Prophet ﷺ said: "A person who has nothing of the Qur'an in his heart is like a ruined house."9 It takes time for us to become accustomed to doing something as routine and reciting the Qur’an isn’t any different. Our nafs (lower self) often directs us away from performing good deeds, so use this month to purify your intention and build a constant and consistent relationship with the Qur’an. This will make the transition into Ramadan smooth and one where you will be able to reap the harvest of your efforts.
Remember that reciting a little each day is better than reciting a larger amount once in a while. Regardless of your schedule or skill level, set a daily-allocated time to build a close relationship with the Qur’an, which in fact is actually building a close relationship with Allah (swt). The Prophet ﷺ taught us, “The companions of the Qur’an are the people of Allah (swt), and His (swt) favored people”. 10 The Prophet ﷺ highlighted how the Qur’an can immensely contribute to our good deed ‘bank account’: “Whoever reads a letter from the Book of Allah (swt) will receive a hasanah (good deed) from it (i.e. his recitation), and the hasanah is multiplied by ten. I do not say that Alif-Laam-Meem is (considered as) a letter, rather Alif is a letter, Laam is a letter, and Meem is a letter.”11 So not only will cultivating a relationship with the Qur’an benefit you in this world but the ultimate accolade will be on the day of resurrection when, as narrated by `Abdullah ibn `Amr ibn Al-`Aas (may Allah be pleased with him), the Prophet ﷺ said: "The one who was devoted to the Qur'an will be told to recite [the Qur'an] and ascend [in ranks] as you used to recite when you were in the world. Your rank will be at the last verse you recite."12
The Prophet ﷺ used to ask: “O Allah bless us in Rajab and Sha`ban and enable us to reach Ramadan!” May you all have a blessed Sha’ban.
2. Narrated by Ahmad; Al- Nasā’ī
3. Narrated by al-Bukhaari; Muslim
4. Narrated by Ibn-Rajab
5. Narrated by al-Tirmidhi
6. Ahmad, an-Nasaa'I; At-Tirmidhi; Sahih
7. Ahmad, at-Tabarani; Al-Hakim; Sahih
8. Narrated by Abu Dawud
9. Narrated by At-Tirmidhi
10. Narrated by al-Nasā’ī
11. Narrated by Al-Tirmidhi; Ad-Darimi
12. Narrated by Abu Dawud; Al-Tirmidhi
By Selma Chaudhry , 04 Jun 2014