Some gave objections to the Naqshbandis that:
<< And they pray the salatu sunnat Nisfu Shaaban (mid-Shaaban prayer). [Then they mentioned the saying of the two Imams al-Nawawi and al-Haytami:] “It is an ugly and disgraceful bid‘a.”>>
1. We did not hear anyone say it was a sunnah in the legal sense, rather, it is considered a purely supererogatory act and is lawful in the latter sense since it is part of reviving the night of mid-Sha‘ban which the Prophet (saws) commanded us to do, as narrated in the Sunan of Ibn Majah:
“When the night of mid-Sha`ban comes, spend it in prayer and fast its daytime.”
إِذَا كَانَتْ لَيْلَةُ النِّصْفِ مِنْ شَعْبانَ فَقُومُوا لَيْلَها وَصُومُوا نَهَارَهَا.
This hadith, even if it is weak, nevertheless the hafiz al-Mundhiri included it in al-Targhib wal-Tarhib and there are many other reports that establish the sunnah character of praying more during the night of mid-Sha`ban.
2. There is no doubt that the legal status (hukm) of spending the night of mid-Sha`ban in prayer in unqualified terms is an emphasized sunna for Imam al-Shafi‘i and the vast majority of the Salaf as asserted by Ibn Rajab in the chapters on Sha`ban of his book Lata’if al-Ma`arif, in which he cited many quotations and proofs. May Allah reward him for that. As for whether it is prayed in congregation or alone, and how many rak‘ats, and what is recited inside them etc.: all this falls under what we have already resolved when discussing Salat Tarawih, Duha, Haja, Shukr and Najat.
3. The Prophet (saws) used to make his (non-fard) prayer very long that night, as narrated from ‘A’isha (ra), and he would also make his du‘a very long.
كان رسول الله ﷺ يطيل الصلاة فيها جداً كما ورد في حديث إطالة سجوده ودعائه.
4. Many Sahaba were famous for praying all night, among them ‘Umar, his son ‘Abd Allah bin ‘Umar, ‘Uthman bin ‘Affan, ‘Abd Allah bin ‘Amr bin al-‘As, Shaddad bin Aws and others (ra). Also among the Tabi‘in who prayed hundreds of rak‘ats at night were Masruq, Abu Muslim al-Khawlani, Bilal bin Sa‘d al-Ash‘ari, ‘Amir bin ‘Abd Allah (1,000 rak‘ats), Sa‘id bin Jubayr, ‘Umayr bin Hani’ (1,000 rak‘ats), al-Aswad bin Yazid (700 rak‘ats), Sa‘id bin al-Musayyib, ‘Ali Zayn al-‘Abidin, Qatada and many more (ra).
5. Also among the great Shafi‘i Fuqaha’ (jurisprudents) who rejected very strenuously the fatwa that the Salatu Nisfu Sha‘ban was a bid‘a was Imam Ibn al-Salah al-Shahrazuri al-Dimashqi the author of the famous Muqaddima fi ‘Ulum al-Hadith, Adab al-Mufti wal-Mustafti, the Fatawa Ibn al-Salah and others and the teacher of Imam al-Nawawi, and he considered it lawful and an excellent ‘ibada. He based his reasoning on the generality of the Quranic verses and authentic hadiths encouraging prayer, such as:
“Salat is a light.”
“Know that the best of your deeds is Salat.”
اِعْلَمُوا أَنَّ خَيْرَ أَعْمَالِكُمْ الصَّلَاةُ.
“Salat is a great good made available; so whoever can pray much, let him
do so, and whoever wishes may pray less.”
الصَّلَاةُ خيرٌ موضوعٌ فَمَنِ اسْتَطَاعَ أَنْ يَسْتَكْثِرَ فَلْيَسْتَكْثِرْ وَمَنْ شَاءَ اسْتَقَلَّ.
6. The debate Ibn al-Salah had with al-‘Izz Ibn ‘Abd al-Salam over this issue is well-known and can be consulted. Also among the major jurists who supported the same position—that it is excellent to pray Salatu Nisfu Sha‘ban—is the Hanafi student of Imam Ibn Hajar al-Haytami, Mulla ‘Ali bin Sultan al-Qari al-Harawi al-Makki, in his treatise entitled Fath al-Rahman bi-Fada’il Sha‘ban. THEREFORE it is among the issues over which there is a difference of opinion and not a matter of consensus, and it is incorrect for anyone to condemn it. And Allah knows best.
Hajj Gibril Haddad