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The Prophet, ‘alayhi salat wa salam, said:
“Sha’ban is my month, Rajab is Allah’s month, and Ramadan is the month of my ummah. Sha’ban is the expiator, while Ramadan is the purifier.”

He also said:
“The excellence of Rajab over other months is like the excellence of Qur’an over all other speech; while the excellence of Sha’ban over other months is like my excellence over the rest of the Prophets; and the excellence of Ramadan over other months is like the excellence of Allah (exalted is He) over all other creatures.”

Sha’ban is made up of five Arabic letters: sheen, ‘ayn, ba, alif, and nun. Shaykh Abdal Qadir al-Jilani suggests that these stand for the following:

Sharaf (nobility);
‘Uluw (sublimity);
Birr (piety);
Ulfa (harmonious intimacy);
Nur (light).

All of these are gifts to the servants of the Divine, Exalted is He, during this blessed month, and otherwise. It was in Sha’ban, many of our scholars note, that we were blessed with the change of qibla from Jerusalem (may Allah free it and its people), to Makka (having said that, there is also an opinion according to the shaykh of our shaykhs, Sayyid Muhammad b. Alawi al-Maliki, that this was revealed in the night of the Night Journey and Ascension). It is also said this is when the moon was split in two for the Prophet, ‘alayhi salat wa salam. Perhaps one of the greatest gifts of all being connected to the beloved Prophet, Muhammad, ‘alayhi salat wa salam, for it was in this month that the verse of sending salutations among him was revealed:

“Allah and His angels send blessings upon the Prophet;
O you who believe, send blessings upon him, and salute him with a worthy salutation!”

The different blessings upon the Prophet

These blessings are different, according to the scholars. Shaykh Abdal Qadir suggests that the blessing from Allah is raḥma (mercy), from the angels is intercession, as well as a plea for forgiveness; and from the believers, supplication and appreciation. Muhajid considers prosperity and virtue to be the blessing from Allah, help and support from the angels, and compliance as well as respect from the believers.

But there is another that is said, which Shaykh Abdal Qadir narrates to us:

“The blessing of the Lord (Blessed and Exalted is He) upon His Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) is the enhancement of respect. The blessing of the angels upon him (Allah bless him and give him peace) is the display of gracious favor. The blessing of his Community upon him (Allah bless him and give him peace) is the request for intercession.”

Allah the Almighty knows best. But simply this verse alone is to be immensely grateful during the month of Sha’ban, and we should make a special effort during this month to increase and excel in our sending salutations upon the Prophet during this time, in respect to this order – and it is an order – made in the Qur’an.    

Anticipating Ramadan

Yet, there are many other reasons to be aware, thankful, and full of appreciation during this month. This is the month of anticipation; anticipating that beautiful time that is Ramadan. Anticipation of the favour that Allah has bestowed upon the ummah, and preparing for that favour. Doing so entails several different aspects, and we draw lessons from the Prophet, ‘alayhi salat wa salam, in that regard.


It is said that in the second year of the Hijra, during this month, the command to fast (al-siyam), was revealed. It is known, for example, that the Prophet, ‘alayhi salat wa salam, fasted tremendously during the month of Sha’ban, moreso than any other. When asked about this, the Prophet said: “That is a month — between Rajab and Ramadan — that people overlook. It is a month, moreover, wherein deeds go up to the Lord of the Worlds, and I like for my deeds to go up while I am fasting.”

The 15th of Sha’ban is particularly strongly recommended to fast, in addition to the general recommendation of the 13,14,15 days of the month, as the day of the middle of Sha’ban (and we will discuss more about the night of the middle of Sha’ban below).

However, in our Shafi’i school, the enactment of the wider sunna of fasting a lot in Sha’ban comes with some specifics. Generally speaking, our scholars teach us that optional fasting in the second half of Sha’ban (i.e., after the 15th) is not to be done, as per the hadith of the Prophet, that is narrated in the collections of Ibn Majah and al-Tirmidhi. We are taught that the wisdom for this is to give those who are not usually given to fasting the opportunity to conserve their energy for the compulsory fast of Ramadan, rather than expend their limited energy on optional fasts during Sha’ban.

However, our school also mentions that such a restriction does not apply on those whose habit of fasting might fall during Sha’ban anyway (so those who are given to fasting Mondays and Thursdays as a habit); or those who began fasting before the middle of Sha’ban, and are simply continuing (so if they were fasting on the 13th of Sha’ban, for example, and kept on going through to the 20th, for example); or those who are making up compulsory fasts that they missed in the past. Having said that, it is still advisable to leave the last day of Sha’ban without fasting, as many of the scholars were opposed to this, as it might be considered almost like starting Ramadan before it starts.

With regards to the Prophet, ‘alayhi salat wa salam, Ibn Rajab al-Hanbali speculates that he used the month of Sha’ban to make up all the optional fasts that he had not done, which he might have usually done (because he was traveling or for some other reason), during the previous year, so that he would enter the month of Ramadan without any optional fasts missing. And Allah knows best.

(Note: anyone who does have compulsory fasts to make up: make them! Do not delay!)

Prayer and ‘ibada
Our scholars remind us that this month is indeed a month of anticipation and preparation; so one should use it to get into the month of Ramadan in the best possible condition. If we are intending, for example, to newly keep to the confirmed sunna prayers (rawatib) of the compulsory prayers, then it is a good idea to begin them during Sha’ban, so that it is easier to continue in Ramadan and beyond. One should address the state of one’s heart, asking Allah to heal the corruption of one’s own self, through the one whose month this is (the Prophet); such that when one enters Ramadan, we are in a better state, and better prepared to absorb its blessings.

Do not think you can do this later. You may never even reach Ramadan. Our time on this earth is not vouchsafed nor guaranteed; as it is narrated:

“Make the most of five before five: youth before old age; health before sickness; wealth before poverty; ease before busy-ness, and life before death.”

But that sense of anticipation has to be at the forefront of our minds. When an astronomer seeks to behold a great conjunction of celestial elements, he does not wait for the event to happen, and then rushes to set up his equipment. Rather, long before, he arranges his telescope, does everything he can to ensure that it is focused in just the right way, so that when the event actually happens, he is there to take full advantage, so that he does not actually miss anything of the grand occurrence. Nor do we wait until it is time to go the airport for our flight in order to pack our bags; rather, we do so in advance, rather than hastening and perhaps forgetting something that we only realise after we’ve left our homes. Likewise, we must prepare ourselves for the month of Ramadan; not when it enters, but before we are permitted to experience it. Rejoice in this blessing, and in knowing of its existence!  

Practices during the month

  1. Excel in salawat upon the Prophet.
  2. Fasting particularly the day of the middle of Sha’ban (15th). It is narrated via Imam Ali that the Prophet is narrated to have said, “when the night of the middle of Sha’ban arrived, spend it in worship and fast during the day.”
  3. Our scholars strongly recommend the following, during the night of Sha’ban, but really throughout the month:
    [اللَّهُمَّ إِنَّكَ عَفُوٌّ تُحِبُّ الْعَفْوَ فَاعْفُ عَنِّي – اللَّهُمَّ إِنِّي أَسْأَلُكَ العفو والعافية والمعافاة الدائمة في الدين والدنيا والآخرة]

4. There are many practices associated with Nisf al-Sha’ban, which we will go into our next article. The basic reminder is that one should spend time in that night turning to Allah, as it is a time of great blessings: as Imam al-Shafi’i said, “We have been told that it is said that supplication is answered in five nights: Friday night, the night of Eid al-Adha, the night of Eid al-Fitr, the first night of Rajab, and the night of the middle of Sha’ban.” It is narrated in the Sunan of Ibn Majah that the Prophet said: “Verily, Allah looks down in the middle night of Sha’ban, and He forgives all of his creatures, except for an idolator, or one filled with malice.”

  May Allah allow us to benefit from Sha’ban, amin!

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