by Dr. `Ali Gom`a Mohammed | Translated by Suhaib Webb
1. For a long time now, we have been accustomed to celebrating the night of mid-Sha’ban by gathering the residents of the village — old and young, women and children — in the mosque for Maghrib prayer. Afterward, we recite Surat Ya-Sin three times, make supplications from the Qur’an, and pray to Allah for Islam and Muslims after each recitation. In the past, we used to make the supplications on the night of mid-Sha’ban audibly and in a congregation; however, we have since replaced these with supplications from the noble Qur’an. What is the opinion of religion regarding celebrating the night of mid-Sha’ban in this manner?
2. We celebrate different religious occasions, such as Laylat al-Qadr [the Night of Glory], Laylat al-Isra` wa al-Mi’raj [the Night of the Night Journey and Ascension], the noble birth of the Prophet ﷺ, and so forth by gathering a group of shayukh and scholars to deliver religious lectures on these occasions. We also hold religious competitions and litanies, have loudspeakers both inside and outside the mosque, and hang lights outside the mosque for decoration. Sometimes, we videotape the celebration, seating the scholars behind a table facing the audience in the mosque, offer drinks and sweets, and honor those who have memorized the noble Qur’an, their teachers, and the hardworking mosque workers. What is the opinion of religion concerning this manner of celebration?
First: The night of mid-Sha’ban is a blessed night. There are numerous ahadith 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.
Ahadith on the Virtue of the Night of mid-Sha’ban
‘A`isha, the Mother of the Believers (radi Allahu `anha – 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 ﷺ 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 ﷺ 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 Kalb.” [al-Tirmidhi, Ibn Majah, and Ahmed]
Mu’adh ibn Jabal (ra) narrated that the Prophet ﷺ 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.” [at-Tabarani, declared authentic by Ibn Hibban]
`Ali ibn Abu Talib (may Allah honor his countenance) narrated that the Prophet ﷺ 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 reciting Surat Ya-Sin three times after Maghrib prayer in congregation because this is considered part of commemorating this night. As for making dhikr [the remembrance of Allah], 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 ﷺ 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 narrated:
When the Messenger of Allah ﷺ 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 ﷺ then said: ‘We have more right to Musa than you.’ So the Messenger of Allah ﷺ 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.