Celebrating the night of mid-Sha'ban and other religious occasions
We have reviewed request no. 2335 for the year 2005 which includes the following questions:
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 Prayers (Sunset Prayer). Afterwards, we recite Surat Ya Sin three times, make supplications from the Quran, and pray to God for the sake of Islam and Muslims after each recitation. In the past, we used to make the supplications usually made on the night of mid-Sha'ban audibly and in a congregation; however, we have since replaced these with supplications from the noble Quran. 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 (En. the Night of Glory), Laylat al-Isra` wa al-Mi'raj (En. Night of the Night Journey and Ascension), the noble birth of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him), and so forth by gathering a group of sheikhs and scholars to deliver some religious lectures on these occasions. We also hold some religious competitions and litanies, fix loudspeakers both inside and outside the mosque, and hang lights outside the mosque for decoration. Sometimes, we videotape the celebration; seat the scholars behind a table facing the audience in the mosque; offer some drinks and sweets; and honor those who have memorized the noble Quran, 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 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 God be pleased with her), said, "One night, I did not find the Prophet ( peace and blessings be upon him) 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 God 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: ‘God 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 God be pleased with him) narrated that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said, "On the night of mid-Sha'ban, God 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 God honor his countenance) narrated that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said, "Perform the night vigil prayers on the night of mid-Sha'ban and fast its day [i.e. the day preceding it] for God 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 God 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 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 then becomes an innovation because they obligate what neither God 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 God’ 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 God be pleased with them both) narrated,
When the Messenger of God 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 God delivered Musa and his people [from their enemy] and drowned Pharaoh and his army — so Musa fasted this day out of gratitude to God. Therefore, we [also] fast on this day.' The Messenger of God then said, 'We have more right to Musa than you.' So the Messenger of God 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 God Almighty: “… those who honor God's rite show the piety of their hearts” (22:32).
God Most High knows best.
1. Bani Kalb had more sheep than any other tribe.