Ruling on Celebrating the Mid-Sha’ban Night – Detailed fatwa from Sheikh Ibn Baz
Fatwas of Ibn Baz, Volume 1, Warning against Bid’ahs,
Third Treatise: Ruling on celebrating the night before the fifteenth of Sha’ban,
Page No. 186 – 192, alifta.net
Praise be to Allah Who has perfected the religion for us and has completed the favor upon us! Peace and blessings of Allah be upon His Prophet and Messenger Muhammad, the Prophet of repentance and mercy!
To proceed: Allah (Exalted be He) says:
“This day, I have perfected your religion for you, completed My Favour upon you, and have chosen for you Islam as your religion” [al-Maa’idah 5:3]
He (Exalted be He) also says:
“Or have they partners (with Allah — false gods) who have instituted for them a religion which Allah has not ordained?” [al-Shooraa 42:21]
Moreover, it is reported in the two the Sahih (authentic) Books of Hadith (i.e. Al-Bukhari and Muslim) from ‘Aishah (may Allah be pleased with her) from the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) that he said:
“Anyone who introduces anything into this matter of ours (Islam) that is not part of it will have it rejected”.
Furthermore, it is reported in the Sahih of Muslim from Jabir (may Allah be pleased with him) that the Prophet (peace be upon him) used to address people in the Friday Sermon by saying:
“To proceed, the best of speech is the Book of Allah, the best of guidance is the guidance of Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him), the most evil of matters are those which are newly-introduced in religion, and every Bid’ah (innovation in religion) is Dalalah (a deviation from what is right).”
There are many other Qur’anic verses and Hadiths to the same effect.
All these verses and Hadiths clearly indicate that Allah (Glorified and Exalted be He) has perfected for this Ummah (nation based on one creed) its religion and has completed upon it His Favor and did not cause His Prophet (peace be upon him) to die until he had conveyed the clear message, explained to the Ummah all what Allah has legislated for it of sayings and actions and he (peace be upon him) had pointed out that all what the people innovate after him and relate to the religion of Islam of sayings and actions are Bid’ah (innovation in religion) rejected to those who innovate it, even if done with good intention. The Companions of the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) and the scholars of Islam after them had realized this matter, and thus, they denied such innovations in religion and warned against them as mentioned by all the scholars who wrote about the great status of the Sunnah (supererogatory act of worship following the example of the Prophet) and the denial of Bid’ah, such as Ibn Waddah, At-Tartushy, Abu Shamah and others.
From the Bid’ah which have been introduced into the religion by people is the Bid’ah of celebrating the Mid-Sha’ban night and fasting on its day, and there is no reliable evidence for such actions. There are weak Hadiths reported with regard to the virtue of the Mid-Sha’ban night, but it is not allowed to rely on them as evidence. As for what is reported regarding the virtue of praying during the Mid-Sha’ban night, they are all fabricated Hadiths as confirmed by many Muslim scholars, and we will, Insha’a-Allah (if Allah wills), mention some of their comments on that.
Besides, there are some other narrations regarding the virtue of this night reported from the righteous predecessors of the people of Al-Sham (the Levant) and others. What the majority of Muslim scholars agreed upon is that the celebration of this Mid-Sha’ban night is Bid’ah and that the Hadiths reported regarding the virtue of this night are all weak Hadiths and some of them are fabricated Hadiths. From those who drew the attention to the weakness and fabrication of these Hadiths is Al-Hafiz ibn Rajab in his book entitled: (Lata’if Al-Ma’arif) and people other than him. It is to be noted that the weak Hadiths can be applied only in the types of worship, the origin of which have been established by sound and authentic evidence. As for celebrating the Mid-Sha’ban night, there is no sound and authentic evidence supporting it to justify reliance on the weak Hadiths in this regard.
This great rule has been mentioned by Imam: Abul-’Abbas Shaykhul-Islam Ibn Taymiyyah (may Allah have mercy upon him). Dear reader, I will convey for you some of what the people of knowledge say about this issue in order to be on clear evidence regarding it. Moreover, the majority of Muslim scholars (may Allah have mercy upon all of them) said that it is an obligation to refer the issues what the people differ over to the Book of Allah (Exalted be He) and to the Sunnah of the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him), and thus, what both these sources or either of them approve, then it is the legislation which should be followed and what contradicts them should be set aside and what is not mentioned in these two sources of worships, then it is Bid’ah which is not allowed to be practiced, let alone inviting people to it and encouraging it.
Allah (Glorified and Exalted be He) says:
“O you who believe! Obey Allah and obey the Messenger (Muhammad صلى الله عليه وسلم), and those of you (Muslims) who are in authority. (And) if you differ in anything amongst yourselves, refer it to Allah and His Messenger (صلى الله عليه وسلم), if you believe in Allah and in the Last Day. That is better and more suitable for final determination.” [al-Nisaa’ 4:59]
He (Glorified be He) also says:
“And in whatsoever you differ, the decision thereof is with Allah (He is the ruling Judge).” [al-Shooraa 42:10]
Moreover, Allah (Exalted be He) also says:
“Say (O Muhammad صلى الله عليه وسلم to mankind): “If you (really) love Allah then follow me (i.e. accept Islamic Monotheism, follow the Qur’an and the Sunnah), Allah will love you and forgive you your sins.” [Aal ‘Imraan 3:31]
He (Glorified and Exalted be He) also says:
“But no, by your Lord, they can have no Faith, until they make you (O Muhammad صلى الله عليه وسلم) judge in all disputes between them, and find in themselves no resistance against your decisions, and accept (them) with full submission.” [al-Nisaa’ 4:65]
In addition to that, there are many verses supporting this principle and they are clear evidence of the obligation to refer the debatable issues to the Book of Allah and to the Sunnah of His Messenger (peace be upon him) and the obligation to be pleased and satisfied with their rulings, and to know that this is the natural outcome of faith, the best for the slaves during this lifetime and in the Hereafter and the best in result: namely, the end result.
Al-Hafiz ibn Rajab (may Allah have mercy upon him) in his book entitled: “Lata’if Al-Ma’arif” with regard to this issue – after previous similar talk – said in wording:
“Regarding the Mid-Sha’ban night, the followers from the people of Al-Sham; such as Khalid ibn Ma’dan, Makhul, Luqman ibn ‘Amir and others used to exalt it and exert their efforts therein to perform more worships and people followed them with regard to its virtue and exaltation. It is said that some Israelite narrations and traditions have reached them regarding the virtue of this night, and when this became widespread in countries, people differed regarding it, and therefore, some of them accepted it and agreed with them with regard to the magnification of this night such as a group from the worshippers of the people of Basra and others. On the other hand, this act was denied by the majority of Muslim scholars of Al-Hijaz such as: ‘Ata and Ibn Abu Mulaikah, and it was transmitted by ‘Abdul-Rahman ibn Zayd ibn Aslam from the jurists of the people of Madinah, and it is the opinion of the disciples of Imam Malik and others. They said that all these acts are mere Bid’ah. However, the scholars of the people of Al-Sham differed regarding the way of celebrating it into two opinions:
First: It is recommended to celebrate it collectively in the Masajid (Mosques). It is reported that Khalid ibn Ma’dan and Luqman ibn ‘Amir and others used to put on their best clothes, apply incense and kohl (antimony powder eyeliner) and spend the entire night in the Masjid. Their act was approved by Ishaq ibn Rahawyah who said about celebrating it in congregation in the Masjid, that it is not Bid’ah. This is reported by Harb Al-Kirmany in his book titled: “Al-Masa’il” (Religious Issues).
Second: It is reprehensible to gather during that night in the Masjid for prayer, narrating stories and supplication, but is not reprehensible for one to pray individually during that night for himself. This is the opinion of Al-Awza’iy, who was the Imam of the people of Al-Sham, their jurist and their scholar, and this, Insha’a-Allah (if Allah wills), is the closest opinion to the truth, until he said: It is not known if Imam Ahmad said something about the Mid-Sha’ban night. There are two narrations reported from Al-Awza’iy regarding the recommendation to stay up late for prayer during the Mid-Sha’ban night relying on the two narrations reported from Imam Ahmad regarding staying up late for Prayer during the two nights of ‘Eid. In one narration, he did not recommend staying up late in congregational prayer during the two nights of ‘Eid because it was not reported from the Prophet (peace be upon him) or from his Companions that they did that. In another narration he recommended staying up late for Prayer during those nights following the act of ‘Abdul-Rahman ibn Yazid ibn Al-Aswad who was one of the Tabi’un (Followers, the generation after the Companions of the Prophet), in that. By the same token, there is no sound and authentic narration reported from the Prophet (peace be upon him) nor from his Companions regarding staying up late for Prayer during the Mid-Sha’ban night. However, it is reported from a group of the Followers from among the noble jurists of the people of Al-Sham”
This is the end of the statement of Al-Hafiz ibn Rajab (may Allah have mercy upon him), which clearly states that no sound and authentic narration was reported from the Prophet (peace be upon him) nor from his Companions (may Allah be pleased with all of them) regarding the Mid-Sha’ban night.
As for the opinion chosen by Al-Awza’iy (may Allah have mercy upon him) regarding the recommendation of staying up late individually for Prayer during the Mid-Sha’ban night and Al-Hafiz ibn Rajab’s preference of this opinion, it is strange and weak, because if something has not been established by the legal evidence that it is legislation, then it is not allowed for a Muslim to introduce it into the religion of Allah, whether one does it individually or in congregation, and whether one practices it secretly or openly, due to the comprehensiveness of the Prophet’s (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) saying: Anyone who does an action which is not in accordance with this matter of ours (Islam) will have it rejected. and other evidence indicating the rejection of innovations in religion and warning against them.
It is also reported from Imam Abu Bakr Al-Tartushy (may Allah have mercy upon him) in his book entitled: (Al-Hawadith Wal-Bida’) that he said in wording:
“It is reported by Ibn Waddah from Zayd ibn Aslam that he said: ‘We have not found anyone from our Shaykhs or our jurists paying attention to the Mid-Sha’ban night. Moreover, they did not pay attention to that Hadith reported by Mak-hul and they did not consider any special virtue for this night to the exclusion of other nights.’ Moreover, it was said to Ibn Abi Mulaikah : Indeed, Ziyad An-Numairiy says: ‘Verily, the reward of the Mid-Sha’ban night is like the reward of Laylat-ul-Qadr (the Night of Decree)’, then he said: ‘If I hear him saying that and I have a staff in my hand, I will hit him’. It is noteworthy that Ziyad was a narrator of stories.” End of the statement of Abu Bakr Al-Tartushy.
Furthermore, the erudite scholar: Al-Shawkany (may Allah bestow His mercy upon him), in his book entitled: (Al-Fawa’id Al-Majmu’ah), said in wording:
“The Hadith: O ‘Ali, whoever prays a hundred Rak’ah (a unit of the prayer) during the Mid-Sha’ban night and reads in every Rak’ah (unit of Prayer) Al-Fatihah (the Opening Chapter of the Book) and Surah Ikhlas ten times, Allah will fulfil all their needs etc., is afabricated Hadith, and within the words of the Hadith talking about the great reward for the one who performs this Prayer there is something which does not leave any doubt for a sound-minded person to know that it is a fabricated Hadith. Moreover, its narrators are unknown and it has been reported through a second and third narrations, all of which are inserted fabrications and their narrators are unknown. It is also said in “Al-Mukhtasar” (The Concise Book of Hadith) that the Hadith of performing Prayer during the Mid-Sha’ban night is null. and what is reported by Ibn Hibban from the Hadith of ‘Ali : When the Middle Night of Sha’ban comes, observe night vigil prayer during it and fast the following day is a weak Hadith. It is said in (Al-La’ali’, “Perals”) that Praying one hundred Rak’ahs with sincerity during the Mid-Sha’ban night ten times. along with the rest of the details about its virtue, which is reported by Ad-Daylamiy and others, and this is a false Hadith, and all its narrators in the three different narrations are unknown and thier narrators are weak. He said that the Hadith: And twelve Rak’ahs in which Surah Al-Ikhlas is recited thirty times. is a fabricated Hadith, and the Hadith: and fourteen Rak’as. is also a false Hadith.
It is noted that a group of jurists had been deceived by this Hadith, such as the author of the book entitled: (Al-’Ihya’) and others, as well as some Exegetes of the Qur’an. Performing prayer on this night – namely, the Mid-Sha’ban night- has been reported in different ways, all of which are null and fabricated narrations. This does not contradict the narration reported by Al-Tirmidhiy from the Hadith of ‘Aishah regarding his (peace be upon him) going to Al-Baqi’ and the descending of the Lord to the nearest sky during the Mid-Sha’ban night and that He forgives for more than the number of the hairs of the sheep of Banu Kalb, since we are talking about this prayer which has been falsely established in that night. Moreover, the Hadith reported by ‘Aishah has weakness and its chain of transmission is interrupted and the Hadith reported by ‘Ali which has been previously mentioned with regard to staying up late during that night for Prayer does not contradict the ruling that a special Prayer during that night is falsely established, in addition to the weakness in that Hadith according to the what we have mentioned.” End of Al-Shawkany’s comment.
It is reported from Al-Hafiz Al-’Iraqy that he said:
“The Hadith of performing prayer during the Mid-Sha’ban night is falsely related to the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) and is lying about him. Moreover, it is reported by Al-Imam Al-Nawawy that he said in the book entitled: (Al-Majmu’): ‘The Prayer known as Salat-ul-Ragha’ib (Prayer for great bounties or wishes), which is twelve Rak’ahs performed between the Maghrib (Sunset) Prayer and ‘Isha’ (Night) Prayer during the night of the first Friday of the Month of Rajab and the Prayer during the Mid-Sha’ban night, which is a hundred Rak’ahs, are two evil Bid’ahs (innovations in religion) and no one should be deceived by their mentioning in the book entitled: (Qout A-Qulub), the book entitled: (Ihya’ ‘Ulum Ad-Din) nor by the Hadith reported regarding these two nights, since all this is void and no one should be deceived by some of the Imams who got confused about their ruling and wrote some papers regarding the recommended practices during these two nights, because they made a mistake in that”.
On the other hand, Shaykh Imam Abu Muhammad ‘Abdul-Rahman ibn Isma’il Al-Maqdisy wrote a very valuable book regarding the falsification of the special virtues of these two nights and he did a good job in this book. Moreover, people of knowledge talked very much about this issue, and if we trace all what has been said regarding this subject and try to convey it, then we will have a very long explanation, but we hope that what we have mentioned regarding this issue will be sufficient and convincing for the seeker of truth.
From what has been previously mentioned of verses, Hadith and the opinions of Muslim scholars, it becomes clear to the seeker of the truth that celebrating the Mid-Sha’ban night through performing Prayer and other activities and singling out the following day with Fast is an evil Bid’ah according to the opinion of the majority of Muslim scholars. It has no foundation in the purified Islamic Shar’ (law), but it has been newly introduced into Islam after the epoch of the Companions (may Allah be pleased with all of them). It is sufficient for the seeker of truth, about this subject and other subjects, to read Allah’s (may He be Exalted and Sublime) Saying: “This day, I have perfected your religion for you” and to read other Qur’anic verses confirming this meaning, as well as the Prophet’s (peace be upon him) saying: “Anyone who introduces anything into this matter of ours (Islam) that is not part of it will have it rejected”, in addition to what has been reported of the Hadiths confirming this meaning.
Moreover, it is reported in the Sahih of Muslim from Abu Hurayrah (may Allah be pleased with him) who said that the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said:
“Do not single out the night (preceding) Friday among the nights for prayer and do not single out Friday among days for fasting but only when anyone among you is accustomed to fast (on dates) which coincide with this day (Friday).”
If it is allowed to single out a certain night with a special worship, then the night of Friday will be more deserving of this special worship, because its day is the best day on which the sun rises according to the sound and authentic Hadith reported from the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him). Since the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) warned against singling out this night with special Prayer to the exclusion of other nights, then it is evidence that other nights should not be singled out with a certain type of worship unless there is a sound and authentic evidence indicating such specification.
Since it is ordained to stay up late for Prayer during Laylat-ul-Qadr (the Night of Decree) and during other nights of Ramadan, the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) drew the attention to that, encouraged the Ummah to do that and did it himself as reported in the two Two Sahih (authentic) Books of Hadith (i.e. Al-Bukhari and Muslim) from the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) that he said:
“Whoever observes Optional Night Prayer during the month of Ramadan out of sincere Faith and hoping for a reward from Allah, then all his past sins will be forgiven, and whoever stands for prayers in the night of Qadr out of sincere Faith and hoping for a reward from Allah, then all his previous sins will be forgiven.”
Thus, if the Mid-Sha’ban night, the night of the first Friday of Rajab or the night of Isra’ (Night Journey) and Mi’raj (Ascension to Heaven) were singled out with a certain type of worship, then the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) would guide the Ummah to it or would do it himself and if something like this had happened, the Companions (may Allah be pleased with all of them) would have transmitted it to the Ummah and would not conceal it from the following generations since they were the best people and the best in giving advice after the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon all of them) and may Allah be pleased with the Companions of the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) and may they be pleased by Allah. You have already known from the opinions of Muslim scholars that nothing has been established from the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) nor from his Companions (may Allah be pleased with all of them) regarding the virtue of the night of the first Friday of Rajab or of the Mid-Sha’ban night, and therefore, it becomes clear that celebrating both of them is a Bid’ah, newly introduced in the religion. By the same token, singling them out with a special worship is an evil Bid’ah. The same ruling applies to the twenty-seventh night of Rajab, which some people believe is the night of Al-Isra’ and Mi’raj, that it should not be singled out with a certain worship and it is not allowed to celebrate it due to the above-mentioned evidence. This is the ruling if we know when Al-Isra’ and Mi’raj happened, how will it be if this night is unknown, according to the true view of Muslim scholars, and the saying of those who claim that it is the twenty-seventh night of Rajab is a false opinion having no basis within the sound and authentic Hadith. Indeed, he is good in speech the one who says:
The best affairs are those previously established on true guidance
and the worst of them are the newly introduced innovations in religion
He is Allah Whom we ask to guide us and all Muslims to abide by the Sunnah, to be steadfast on it and to be cautious of what contradicts it. Indeed, He is Bounteous and Generous! May Allah send His Peace and Prayers upon His Servant and Messenger, our Prophet Muhammad, his family and all his Companions!
Fatwas of Ibn Baz, Volume 1, Warning against Bid’ahs,
Third Treatise: Ruling on celebrating the night before the fifteenth of Sha’ban, Page No. 186 – 192