It is well known within our sacred scriptures that God has ordained some months to be more sacred than others. The Islamic tradition is filled with sacred times and sacred places. For example, the house of God – the Ka’aba – is one of the most sacred places in the world. Madina is the place of the Prophet’s migration – no other. There also exist sacred times like the hour on the day of Friday in which supplications are said to be answered without condition. (We include at the end of this article some supplications and practices from the sunna and the righteous).
One of these sacred and beautiful times is the blessed month of Rajab. God (Glory be to Him) tells us, “Indeed, the number of months with God is twelve [lunar] months in the register of God [from] the day He created the heavens and the earth; of these, four are sacred. That is the correct religion, so do not wrong yourselves during them. And fight against the disbelievers collectively as they fight against you collectively. And know that God is with the righteous [who fear Him]” (Quran 9:36). The Prophet Muhammad (God’s peace and blessings be upon him) identifies which of these twelve months are to be considered sacred when he said, “Time has come back to its original state which it had when God created the Heavens and the Earth; the year is twelve months, four of which are sacred. Three of them are in succession; Dhul-Qa’da, Dhul-Hijja and Al-Muharram, and (the fourth being) Rajab Mudar (named after the tribe of Mudar as they used to respect this month) which stands between Jumad (ath-thani) and Sha’ban” (Bukhari).
Ibn Abbas (r.a) states, “Allah has selected and chosen four months then made them sacred and made their virtues to be the greatest. Sins committed in them would be greater than other times. He also made righteous good actions to be the greatest in them.”
This is a month of immense blessings and merit, so much so that the Prophet Muhammad (God’s peace and blessings upon him) would make it a point of fasting frequently in this month, and advised others to do so as well. Abu Bakr Ahmad ibn Hussein Al Bayhaqi (God raise his rank) in his book, The Virtuous Times, speaks on the virtues of the month of Rajab. In it he says, “The people of the days of Ignorance (Jahalliyah) were known for showing reverence in these sacred months, and they would extol the month of Rajab more than others. In this month they would forbid upon themselves any fighting (against the other tribes)”.
In another hadith, collected by Imam al-Daylami, it is said that in every hour, Allah liberates people from the fire. It is a month of forgiveness, and we should take full advantage of it as such.
It is narrated also that the Prophet, ‘alayhi salat wa salam, said: “Rajab is the month of Allah; Sha’ban is the month of the Prophet; and Ramadan is the month of the Ummah”. One of our teachers taught us, “the month of Rajab is the light of la ilāha ilAllah – and the month of Sha’aban is the light of Muhammadur RasulAllah”.
It was also called the month of silence because in it you would not hear the sounds of swords being sheathed or meeting each other in battle. The point here is that even prior to the coming of Islamic Sharia, this month was known for its benefits and celestial benefits.
In highlighting the beauty of this month there is a hadith that is classified as weak, however, due to it speaking on the benefits of this month we will mention it here. Weak narrations with no legal rulings attached to them are permissible to quote. Ibn Jawzi pens in his work which is comprised of weak narrations that the Prophet Muhammad (God’s peace and blessings upon him) is said to have said, “In Paradise there is a river called Rajab, it’s water is whiter than milk and sweeter than honey. Whoever fasts a single day from this month, God will have him drink from this river.”
The need to highlight the above hadith is to indicate to you, the reader, the importance of taking part in this month. There are times that many take for granted, and spend very little time seeking God’s pleasure within. Months such as Rajab should not be among those months where we display our heedlessness, but instead they should be months that prepare us for the mercy of the Divine. Anas ibn Malik (May God be pleased with him) states that whenever the Prophet Muhammad (God’s peace and blessings upon him) would enter the month of Rajab he would pray, “Oh God bless us in Rajab, and Sha’ban, and allow us to reach the month of Ramadan” (narrated by Tabarani, Al-Bayhaqi, and Imam Ahmad).
In this blessed month we are aware that our good deeds are more virtuous in the eyes of God, and our sins are deemed worse than in any other month. It is in this month whereby the submitter to the Divine should strive to cultivate God-consciousness (taqwa) in all of their actions, in an effort to prepare themselves for the greatest month, and gift bestowed upon mankind, that of Ramadan. Many scholars liken Rajab to a month where we plant the seeds of good actions and God-consciousness in an effort to benefit from the harvest which takes place in the blessed month of Ramadan. Part of keeping one’s heart alive is to be aware of the times of spiritual benefit; this blessed month of Rajab is said to be the month when the Prophet (God’s peace and blessings upon him) ascended to the heavens, a night that is revered and commemorated on the 27th night of Rajab. When one’s heart is aware of the marvelous blessings to be found in this month, that knowledge becomes a means of awakening it to the Bestower of those blessings. When one’s limbs begin to act on the inclinations of this now informed heart, they incline towards good, towards righteousness, towards Paradise in which they aim to find refuge and rest within. We ask God to grant us this informed heart, a heart that calls our limbs to good actions, and ultimately, into the Paradise that He has created for His devoted servants.
– It is narrated that as Rajab drew close, the Prophet, ‘alayhi salat wa salam, would begin reading often, and would continue until Ramadan arrived: Allahumma barik lana fi Rajab wa Sha’aban wa balighna Ramadan.
– Our teachers recommended performing 20 rak’at of nawafil (in pairs, with 10 salams) in between Maghrib and Isha’, with the niyya for protection in Rajab. (The practice of praying such sunan between Maghrib and Isha’ is well established, as the famous tawabin prayer). One may make the intention of nafl mutlaq to escape from any ikhtilaf that exists about this prayer.
– Shaykh Abdal Hamid Quds relates in his work Kanz al-Najah that the Prophet, ‘alayhi salat wa salam, spoke of 5 nights where supplications are not rejected: and the first night of Rajab is one of them. We have already noted how the month itself is one where forgiveness and liberation from the fire is often.
– One practice that is narrated from Shaykh Abdal Qadir al-Jilani is the reading of this du’a on the first night of Rajab:
It should be noted – there is no specific du’a that is narrated for that night, and one should feel free to read others.
– Moreover, our own teachers at Azzawia reminded us to recite the following 70 times every day in Rajab in the morning after fajr, and every day in Rajab in the evening after maghrib: اللهم اغفرلي وارحمني وتب عليا or رب اغْفِرْ لِيْ وَارْحَمْنِيْ وَتُبْ عَلَيَّ .
– Shaykh Abdal Qadir cites the middle of Rajab (i.e., the 15th night) as a night where it is particularly recommended to ‘enliven the night’ (i.e., in ‘ibada), comparing it to other nights like the night of ‘Arafa’, the night before Eid, and other such auspicious occasions.
– It is customary among many of our scholars today that on the 27th of Rajab, one reads the work on the Night Journey and Ascension by the shaykh of our shaykhs, al-Sayyid Muhammad b. Alawi al-Maliki, as his work is an excellent teaching tool and reminder about this night.
– We were also taught by Azzawia that on the last Friday of Rajab, at the time when the khatib mounts the minbar at any masjid, one should recite 35 times the following: Ahmad RasulAllah, Muhammad RasulAllah. [Separately, the author was taught that the best time to read it is when the khatib is sitting in between the two sermons. If one does not finish the 35 times during that time, then they should continue reading silently in their hearts during the second khutba. One of the benefits of this practise was said to be that “the dirham will not fall from one’s hand” for the coming year – i.e., that one’s rizq would be protected. Wa Allahu ‘alam.]
Now, we turn to more details about Rajab itself.
There are different conclusions by the linguists about what the word ‘Rajab’ emanates from; the triconsonantal root is ‘r’-‘j’-‘b’, which denotes the idea of veneration and honour (such as rajjabtu, or,‘I have venerated’) . Some argue that the word refers to that which is ‘propped up’ (murajjab), which also relates to honouring something, as one might ‘prop’ something up in the sense of revering it, or honouring it. Others would note the notion that tarjib means to ‘get oneself ready and make preparations’, which is sound as well, due to the hadith of the Prophet where he, alayhi salat wa salam, says, “in the month (of Rajab), one has an excellent opportunity to prepare (yurajjib) for Sha’aban.” Others still consider that tarjib means “constant repetition of the remembrance and glorification of Allah”, as Shaykh Abdal Qadir al-Jilani reminds us, because the angels raise (yurajjibuna) their voices in it.
If we stay with Shaykh Abdal Qadir for a moment, we see that his tafsir of the name indicates that it is R for Rahma (mercy), J for Jud (noble generosity) of Allah, and B for Birr (Beneficient Kindness) of Allah. Allah knows best, but in this month, via this comment, these three gifts are available to the servant; the mercy of God without any hint of punishment, the generosity of God without any hint of keeping back, and the kindness of God without any hint of sternness. Indeed, one of the names of the month is al-Asabb, the bountiful – for the Divine Mercy comes pouring down during this month.
Rajab is often mentioned in conjunction with Sha’ban and Ramadan, with the following narrated from the righteous, as Sultan al-Awliya’ has passed on to us:
“Rajab is for giving up crude behavior [jafa’], Sha’ban is for good work and redemption [wafa’], and Ramadan is for honesty and candor [safa’].”
“Rajab is the month of repentance [tawba], Sha’ban is the month of loving affection [mahabba], and Ramadan is the month of nearness [qurba].”
“Rajab is the month of sanctity [hurma], Sha’ban is the month of service [khidma], and Ramadan is the month of blessed grace [ni’ma].”
“Rajab is the month of worship [‘ibada], Sha’ban is the month of abstinence [zahada], and Ramadan is the month of enhancement [ziyada].”
“Rajab is the month in which Allåh multiplies good deeds [hasanaat], Sha’ban is the month in which atonement is made for bad deeds [sayyi’at], and Ramadan is the month in which gifts of grace [karamat] can be expected.”
“Rajab is the month of those who race ahead [sabiqin], Sha’ban is the month of those who practice moderation [muqtasidin], and Ramadan is the month of disobedient sinners [‘asin].”
It was Dhu al-Nun al-Misri (may Allah bestow His mercy upon him) who said: “Rajab is for giving up things that cause harm [‘afat], Sha’ban is for the active practice of worshipful obedience [ta’at], and Ramadan is for the expectation of gifts of grace [karamat]. So, if a person fails to abstain from things that are harmful, if he does not engage in the active practice of worshipful obedience, and if he does not wait expectantly for the gifts of grace, he must be one of those folk who are only interested in trivial pursuits [ahl al-turrahat].”
On the Night Journey and the Ascension
As mentioned above, Sayyid Muhammad b. Alawi al-Maliki has compiled an excellent work on the Night Journey and the Ascension. We advise people to read that, but we include something of a summary here that is almost entirely based on that work. It is a text we are honoured to be connected to via the ijaza of our teachers, particularly al-marhum Shaykh Seraj Hasan Hendricks, one of the khalīfas of Sayyid Muhammad, who was our own shaykh.
As the Prophet was in al-Hijr at the House, the angels Gibril, Mika’il, and one other came to him. They carried him until they had brought him to the spring of Zamzam, where they asked him to lie on his back and Gibril took him over from the other two.
Sayyidina Gibril split the Prophet’s chest upon, and told Sayyidina Mika’il, “Bring me a fast of water from Zamzam, so that I may purify his heart and expand his breast.” Sayyidina Mika’il did so, three times, and three times Sayyidina Gibril washed the Prophet’s heart, removing a small black dot that had been on his heart.
Our teachers narrate two different views about this black dot; one is that it represents the potential (though not the necessity) of Shaytan’s whisperings on any and every human being. However, many of our teachers rejected this idea, saying that when Sayyidina Umar walks down one road, Shaytan goes down another – ergo, how could there even be the potential of whispering of Shaytan on the Prophet? Perhaps that is a correct objection, perhaps not – but our teachers narrated another explanation for the black dot, which is that as the primordial and overwhelming nature of the Prophet is one of mercy, he (alayhi salat wa salam) would have instinctively tried to be merciful to even Shaytan on Yaum al-Qiyama, the Day of Rising! And that this black dot represents that. Wa Allahu ‘alam.
Then Sayyidina Gibril brought him a golden vessel filled with wisdom and belief which he emptied into his chest. He filled his chest with hilm, knowledge, certainty, and submission; then he closed it up. He sealed it between his shoulders with the seal of Prophethood.
It is then narrated that the Prophet prayed the evening prayer, and then Gibril came to him with a white steed, resembling a small mule: the animal was Buraq (the Arabic word for ‘lightning’), and this is one of the denizens of Paradise.
The Prophet then mounted Buraq at Gibril’s beckoning, and in a twinkling of an eye, their first journey ended – they were in a land filled with palm trees, far away. The Prophet prayed two cycles of prayer, and then Gibril informed him of where they were: Yathrib, which had yet to become Madina. He mounted Buraq again, and they almost immediately arrived to a mountain, in a land of deserts. The Prophet prayed two cycles of prayer again, and Gibril informed him of where they were: Sinai, where Sayyidina Musa had received revelation. He mounted Buraq again, and these experiences continued with him visiting the Seven Wells near Hebron, where the Prophets Ibrahim and Ishaq and resided, to Bethlehem where the Messiah Jesus was born, and eventually he reached Jerusalem.
In Jerusalem, the Prophet went to the domain of al-Aqsa, and tied his steed to the walls of al-Aqsa. He entered the area of al-Aqsa, and he prayed two rak’at; before too long, a large number of people gathered. It is also related that the angels descended from the heavens. The Prophet recognised all the Prophets, who were gathered – and then the adhan was made, following which the iqama was made.
They formed their lines, and then waited for the imam – Gibril took the hand of the Prophet Muhammad, ‘alayhi salat wa salam, to the front, and the Prophet led the Prophets, and the angels, in prayer. After the prayer, and the Prophet left, Sayyidina Gibril told the Prophet that behind him prayed, “Every single Prophet whom Allah has ever sent.”
Sayyidina Ibrahim is then reported to have said: “Praise be to Allah, Who has taken me as His intimate friend, Who has given me an immense kingdom, Who has made me a prayerful Community and one by whom prayer is led, Who has rescued me from the fire and made it cool and safe for me!”
Sayyidina Musa is then reported to have said: “Praise be to Allah, Who has spoken to me directly, Who has brought to pass the destruction of Fir‘awn and the salvation of the Children of Israel at my hands, and Who has made from among my Community a people who guide others through truth and establish justice upon it!”
Sayyidina Dawud is then reported to have said: “Praise be to Allah, Who has brought me an immense kingdom, Who has softened iron for my hands and subjected to me the mountains and the birds which laud Him, and has given me wisdom and unmistakable judgment in my speech!”
Sayyidina Sulayman is then reported to have said: “Praise be to Allah, Who has subjected the winds to my command as well as the devils, so that they did as I wished and constructed for me elevated sanctuaries, images, large bowls the size of ponds, and vessels fixed in their spot [due to their size]! Who has taught me the language of birds and has brought me a portion of every good thing! Who has subjected to me the armies of the devils and the birds and has preferred me over many of His believing servants! Who has brought me an immense kingdom which no one after me may possess! And Who has made my kingdom a goodly one wherein there is no reckoning nor punishment!”
Sayyidina Isa is then reported to have said: “Praise be to Allah, Who has made me His Word! Who has fashioned me after Adam’s likeness whom He created out of earth then said to him: Be! and he was. Who has taught me the Book and the Wisdom and the Torah and the Evangel! Who has caused me to heal the blind and the leper and to raise the dead by Allah’s permission! Who has raised me and cleansed me and granted me and my mother protection against the cursed devil, so that the devil had no path by which to harm us!.”
Every Prophet then glorified his Lord in the best language and the Prophet said: “All of you have glorified their Lord and I am going to glorify Him also: Praise to Allah Who has sent me As a mercy to the worlds sent to all without exception, A bearer of glad tidings and a warner! Who has caused to descend upon me the Qur’an In which there is a perfect exposition of all things! Who has made my Community the best Community Ever brought out for the benefit of mankind! Who has made my Community a median and a middle! Who has made my Community, in truth, the first [in Paradise] and the last [in creation] of all Communities! Who has expanded my breast, and relieved me of my burden! Who has exalted my name, and made me the Opener and the Sealer!”
(Upon hearing this Sayyidina Ibrahim said: “In this has Muhammad (saw) bested you!”)
At this point, the Prophet begins a journey that no other had made before, and no other has made since. He stood upon a rock which is now surrounded by the mosque of the ‘Dome of the Rock’ in the Aqsa compound, and mounted the ‘angels’ stairway’, called ‘Al-Mirqat’, which he took to reach the gates of the nearest heaven with Gibril.
continue reading to the next part of this article, “The Mi’raj”
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