Celebrating Laylatu Nisf Sha`ban

Question:

Are there any dalils that show it is permissible or recommended to observe the Night of mid-Sha`ban with congregational worship?

Answer:

First: The night of mid-Sha`ban is a blessed night. There are numerous hadiths which strengthen one another (and are [thus] elevated to the degree of being fair and strong) and which establish the merit of this night. Therefore, commemorating this night is, undoubtedly, lawful regardless of the fact that these hadiths may be weak or fabricated.

Hadiths on the virtue of the night of mid-Sha’ban

‘A`isha, the Mother of Believers (may Allah be pleased with her), said: “One night, I did not find the Prophet in his bed, so I went out searching for him and found him at al-Baqi` cemetery with his head raised towards the sky. He said: ‘O ‘A`isha! Were you afraid that Allah and His messenger would treat you unfairly?’ I said, ‘No, I thought you had gone to spend the night with one of your [other] wives’ He said: ‘Allah Almighty descends to the lowest heaven on the night of mid-Sha`ban and forgives more people than the number of hairs on the hides of the sheep of Bani Kalb1 ” [al-Tirmidhi, Ibn Majah, and Ahmed].

Mu`adh Ibn Jabal (may Allah be pleased with him) narrated that the Prophet said: “On the night of mid-Sha`ban, Allah looks at His creation and forgives all of them except for the polytheist and the quarrelsome” [al-Tabarani. Ibn Hibban declared it authentic].

`Ali Ibn Abu Talib (may Allah honor his countenance) narrated that the Prophet said:

“Perform the night vigil prayers on the night of mid-Sha`ban and fast its day [i.e. the day preceding it] for Allah descends to the lowest heaven at sunset of that night and says: ‘Is there no one asking for forgiveness that I may forgive him? Is there no one asking for sustenance that I may grant him sustenance? Is there no one under trial that I may relieve him? Is there not such and such…, is there not such-and-such?’ And so forth until the beak of dawn” [Ibn Majah].

There is no objection to audibly recite Surat Ya Sin three times after Maghrib prayers in congregation because this is considered part of commemorating this night. As for the making dhikr [En. remembrance], the matter is open; it is permissible to designate certain places and times to regularly perform good deeds as long as this is not considered obligatory and thus a sin to neglect them. Abdullah Ibn `Umar (may Allah be pleased with them both) said: “Every Saturday, the Prophet used to go to Quba` Mosque either on foot or riding” [Bukhari and Muslim]. Al-Hafiz Ibn Hajar stated in al-Fath: “In spite of having different chains of transmissions, this hadith proves the permissibility of designating specific days to regularly perform certain good deeds.”

Al-Hafiz Ibn Rajab said in Lata’if al- Ma`arif:

The scholars of Sham differed over the manner of celebrating this night: The first opinion is that it is commendable to celebrate this night by assembling in mosques. Khaled Ibn Ma`dan, Luqman Ibn` Amer, and others used to wear their finest clothes, use incense, and line their eyes with kohl to celebrate this night in the mosque; Ishaq Ibn Rahawiyah approved of this. Concerning commemorating this night in congregation in the mosque, he said: “This is not an innovation.” Al-Karmani cited this opinion in his Masa’il.

The second opinion is that it is offensive to gather in mosques on this night to perform [special] prayers, narrate moral stories, and make supplications. It is not offensive for one to pray individually on this night. This is the opinion of al-Awza`i — the imam, jurist, and scholar of the people of Sham.

Based on this, it is permissible to celebrate the night of mid-Sha`ban in the aforementioned manner; it is neither an innovation nor is it offensive provided that it is not deemed an obligation. However, if it is considered obligatory to the extent of obligating others to observe it and accusing those who do not participate in its commemoration of committing a sin, it is then an innovation because they obligate what neither Allah nor His Messenger have made obligatory. This is the reason why there were some people among the predecessors who maintained the offensiveness of commemorating this night in congregation. Therefore, if this obligation is non-existent, then there is no offensiveness attached to it.

Second: It is commendable to celebrate different religious occasions provided they do not include anything unlawful. The command to remind people to observe ‘the days of Allah’ has been mentioned in the Shari`ah: … and remind them of the Days of God (14:5). It is also included in the magnanimous Sunnah— it has been reported in Muslim’s Sahih that the Prophet used to fast every Monday. He said: “I was born on this day”.

Likewise, it has been mentioned in Muslim’s Sahih and Bukhari’s Sahih that Ibn `Abbas (may Allah be pleased with them both) narrated:

When the Messenger of Allah came to Medinah, he found the Jews fasting on the day of ‘Ashura. So he asked: ” ‘What is [the significance of] this day you are fasting?’ They replied: ‘It is a day of great significance. On this day Allah delivered Musa and his people [from their enemy] and drowned Pharaoh and his army —so Musa fasted this day out of gratitude to Allah. Therefore, we [also] fast on this day.’ The Messenger of Allah then said: ‘We have more right to Musa than you.’ So the Messenger of Allah fasted on this day and commanded [Muslims] to fast it.”

Based on this, it is lawful to celebrate religious occasions in the aforementioned manner — it is neither offensive nor an innovation. Rather, such celebrations are by way of honoring the rites of Allah Almighty: {… those who honor God’s rite show the piety of their hearts} (22:32).

Allah Most High knows best.

Shaykh Ali Gomaa
Former Grand Mufti of Egypt

About Grand Mufti Ali Gomaa

Shaykh Ali Gomaa was born on March 3rd 1952 in Bani Suwaif, Upper Egypt. He was raised in a pious household that respected knowledge. His father, a lawyer specializing in personal status shariah law, transferred his love of books to his son whose private library now boasts over 30,000 titles and is sought out by students and researchers from around the world in need of rare texts. Shaykh Ali began memorizing the Quran at the age of ten and, although he did not go to religious schools, by the time he graduated from high school he had studied the six canonical collections of hadith as well as Maliki jurisprudence. When it came time for him to go to college he had the choice to enter either the faculty engineering or the faculty of commerce. He chose commerce since it was a field that would allow him the spare time to continue his religious studies while he was in school. After graduating from college Shaykh Ali enrolled in al-Azhar University. During his first year in al-Azhar he memorized many of the foundational texts that other students who had gone through the al-Alzhar high school system had already encountered. These included works in jurisprudence, Arabic grammar, Quranic recitation, and hadith methodology. After completing a second bachelor's degree from al-Azhar in 1979, Shaykh Ali enrolled in a master's degree program at the same university's department of shariah and law. He obtained his master's degree in 1985 followed by a PhD from the same department in 1988. In addition to his official studies, Shaykh Ali spent time with many Shaykhs and masters of the shariah sciences and the spiritual path outside of the university setting. The most influential of these Shaykhs was the Moroccan hadith scholar and Sufi Shaykh Abdullah bin Siddiq al-Ghumari who considered Shaykh Ali to be one of his most accomplished students. Other scholars that Shaykh Ali studied with include: Shaykh Abd al-Fattah Abu Ghuda, Shaykh Muhammad Abu Nur Zuhayr, Shaykh Jad al-Rabb Ramadan Goma', Shaykh al-Husayni Yusif al-Shaykh, Shaykh Muhammad Yasin al-Fadani, Shaykh Abd al-Jalil al-Qarnishawi al-Maliki, Shaykh al-Azhar Shaykh Jad al-Haqq Ali Jadd al-Haq, Shaykh Abd al-'Aziz al-Zayat, Shaykh Ahmed Muhammad Mursi al-Naqshibandi, Shaykh Muhammad Zaki Ibrahim, and Shaykh Muhammad Hafidh al-Tijani. Before his appointment as Grand Mufti of Egypt, Shaykh Ali was Professor of Juristic Methodologies at al-Azhar University. In addition to teaching classes on the university campus, in the mid-1990's Shaykh Ali reestablished the tradition of giving lessons in the al-Azhar mosque. For a decade Shaykh Ali could be found in one of the side rooms of the mosque teaching jurisprudence, juristic methodology, hadith and its sciences, theology, and spirituality from the early morning until noon six days a week. These lessons were open to the public and a number of students who had adopted an extremist approach to religion attended regularly. Shaykh Ali engaged these students challenging their understanding of Islam and offering alternative interpretations to extremist views. As a result many of these students renounced extremism and embraced the more moderate vision of Islam that Shaykh Ali taught. A close circle of young religious scholars who had adopted his approach soon formed around Shaykh Ali and now that much of his time is taken up with official duties, this group of scholars continues the tradition of giving informal lessons in the al-Azhar mosque. In 1998 Shaykh Ali began delivering the Friday sermon at Cairo's Sultan Hasan Mosque, one of the city's grandest and most beautiful examples of Mamluk architecture. His sermons drew a crowd of hundreds, many of whom would remain after the prayer to attend his public lesson and question and answer session. In the ten years since he began delivering sermons there Cairenes from all walks of life have been drawn to Sultan Hasan to hear his message that emphasizes mercy, intelligence, and understanding when confronting the difficulties of the contemporary world. In 2003 Shaykh Ali was appointed Grand Mufti of Egypt. Since taking on the position he has revolutionized the process of issuing fatwas in Egypt transforming Dar al-Ifta from a institution that was the extension of one individual (the Grand Mufti) to a modern institution with a fatwa council and a system of checks and balances. Shaykh Ali has also added a technological aspect to the institution by developing a sophisticated website and call center through which people can request fatwas even if they are unable to come to the institution personally. Over the last five years Shaykh Ali has overseen the issuance of many important, and some controversial, fatwas all of which share the common characteristic of striving to show the continued relevance of Islam for people living in the 21st century. The methodology according to which this is carried out can be characterized by a profound respect for the intellectual product of the past accompanied by a realization of its shortcomings, when they exist, and an understanding of the specific needs the times in which we live. Shaykh Ali is a prolific author and writer on Islamic issues and he writes a weekly column in the Egyptian al-Ahram newspaper in which he discusses matters of current interest and religion.
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