[soorah At-Tawbah, v:36]
The month of Sha'baan
Sha'baan is the name of the (eighth) month of the Hijri calendar.
Fasting in Sha'baan
'Aa'ishah (may Allaah be pleased with her) said: "The Messenger (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) used to fast until we thought he would never break his fast, and not fast until we thought he would never fast. I never saw the Messenger of Allaah fasting for an entire month except in Ramadaan, and I never saw him fast more than he did in Sha'baan."(1)
"He used to fast all of Sha'baan, he used to fast all but a little of Sha'baan. (2)
A group of scholars, including Ibn al-Mubaarak and others, thought that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) did not fast all of Sha'baan, but he fasted most of it. This is supported by a report narrated from 'Aa'ishah (may Allaah be pleased with her), who said: "I never knew of him – meaning the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) – fasting for any entire month apart from Ramadaan."(3)
Ibn 'Abbaas said: "The Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) did not fast any entire month apart from Ramadaan."(4)
Usaamah ibn Zayd (may Allaah be pleased with them both) said: "I said, 'O Messenger of Allaah, I do not see you fasting in any other month like you fast in Sha'baan.' He said, 'That is a month to which people do not pay attention, between Rajab and Ramadaan, and it is a month in which deeds are lifted up to the Lord of the Worlds. I like for my deeds to be lifted up when I am fasting.'" (5)
Ibn Rajab (may Allaah have mercy on him) said: "Fasting in Sha'baan is better than fasting in the Sacred Months, and the best of voluntary fasts are those that are (observed in the months) closest to Ramadaan, before or after. The status of these fasts is like that of al-Sunan al-Rawaatib which are done before and after fard (prayers) and which make up for any shortfall in the number of obliagtory prayers. The same applies to fasts observed before and after Ramadaan. Just as al-Sunan al-Rawaatib are better than other kinds of voluntary prayers, so fasts observed (in the months) before and after Ramadaan are better than fasts at other times.
The phrase "Sha'baan is a month to which people do not pay attention, between Rajab and Ramadaan" indicates that because it comes between two important months, the Sacred Month of Rajab and the month of fasting, people are preoccupied with those two months and they do not pay attention to Sha'baan. Many people think that fasting in Rajab is better than fasting in Sha'baan, because Rajab is one of the Sacred Months, but this is not the case.
The scholars differed as to the reasons why the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) fasted so much in Sha'baan. Their various opinions were as follows:
1. That he had been unable to fast three days out of every month because he was travelling or for some other reason, so he made them all up together in Sha'baan. When the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) began to do some naafil action, he would persist in it, and if he missed it, he would make it up later.
2. It was said that his wives used to make up the days that they missed of Ramadaan in Sha'baan, so he used to fast because of that. This is the opposite of what was reported from 'Aa'ishah, that she used to delay making up days that she had missed in Ramadaan until Sha'baan because she was too busy with the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) to fast.
3. It was said that it was because this is a month which people do not pay attention to. This is the most correct view, because of the hadeeth of Usaamah quoted above, in which it says: "That is a month to which people do not pay attention, between Rajab and Ramadaan." (6)
'Aa'ishah used to make the most of this opportunity to make up any obligatory Ramadaan fasts that she had missed because of menstruation; during other months she was too busy with the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) to fast.
We should also note here that anyone who has any missed fasts to make up has to make them up before the next Ramadaan comes. It is not permissible to delay it until after the following Ramadaan except in cases of necessity (such as a valid excuse that continues between the two Ramadaans). Whoever is able to make them up before the (second) Ramadaan and does not do so, has to make them up after the (second) Ramadaan and in addition to that, he has to repent and to feed one poor person for each day that he missed. This is the view of Maalik, al-Shaafa'i and Ahmad.
Another benefit of fasting in Sha'baan is that it is a kind of training for the Ramadaan fast, in case a person finds it difficult to fast when Ramadaan starts; if he fasts in Sha'baan he will have gotten used to fasting and he will feel strong and energetic when Ramadaan comes.
Sha'baan is like an introduction to Ramadaan and it has some things in common with Ramadaan, such as fasting, reciting Qur'aan and giving in charity. Salamah ibn Suhayl used to say: "The month of Sha'baan is the month of reciters (of the Qur'aan)."
Habeeb ibn Abi Thaabit used to say, when Sha'baan came, "This is the month of reciters (of the Qur'aan)." When Sha'baan came, 'Amr ibn Qays al-Malaa'i used to close his store and devote his time to reading the Qur'aan.
Fasting at the end of Sha3baan
It is makrooh to observe a voluntary fast one or two days before Ramadaan for those who do not habitually fast on those days and who have not previously fasted until the end of Sha'baan.
It may be asked: why is it makrooh to fast just before Ramadaan (for those who do not have a prior habit of fasting)? The answer is that there are a number of reasons why this is so, such as:
Firstly: lest extra days be added to the fast of Ramadaan that are not part of it. Fasting on the day of Eid is prohibited for the same reason. For the same reason it is also forbidden to fast on the "day of doubt". 'Ammaar said: whoever fasts on this day has disobeyed Abu'l-Qaasim (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him).
The "day of doubt" is a day when people are not sure whether it is Ramadaan or not, when news of the sighting of the crescent moon comes from one whose word cannot be accepted. As for a cloudy day, some of the 'ulamaa' said that this was also a 'day of doubt' and said that fasting was not allowed on this day. This is the view of the majority.
Secondly: to make a distinction between fard (obligatory) fasts and naafil (supererogatory) fasts, because making a clear distinction between fard actions and naafil actions is prescribed in Islam. Hence it is haraam to fast on the day of Eid, and the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) forbade following an obligatory prayer immediately with another prayer unless they are separated by saying salaam or speaking, especially in the case of the Sunnah prayer performed just before Fajr.
Some ignorant people may think that the reason why we do not fast just before Ramadaan is so that we can make the most of eating and have our fill of our desires before we have to deny ourselves by fasting. This is an ignorant mistake on the part of those who think this. And Allaah knows best.
Lataa'if al-Ma'aarif fimaa li Mawaasim al-'Aam min al-Wazaa'if, by Ibn Rajab al-Hanbali
Al-Ilmaan bi shay'in min Ahkaam al-Siyaam, by 'Abd al-'Azeez al-Raajihi
(1) Narrated by al-Bukhaari,1833; Muslim, 1956.
(2) Report narrated by Muslim (no. 1957).
(3) Saheeh Muslim (no. 1954).
(4) Narrated by al-Bukhaari, no. 1971, and Muslim, no. 1157.
(5) Narrated by al-Nasaa'i, see Saheeh al-Targheeb wa'l-Tarheeb, page 425.
(6) Narrated by al-Nasaa'i, see Saheeh al-Targheeb wa'l-Tarheeb, p. 425
summarized from an E-book "Month of Sha'baan" By Shaykh Salih Munajjid
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