Hadiths on Nisf Shaban

The Night of Mid-Sha‘ban[1]

(laylah nisf min shaban)[2]

ليلة نصف من شعبان

By S. Z. Chowdhury

Summer 2003.

1. – al-Imam Abu Bakr Ahmad b. ‘Amru ibn Abi al-‘Asim narrates in his book al-Sunna,[3] the following hadith:

Hisham b. Khalid[4] related to us, Abu Khulayd ‘Utbah b. Hammad[5] from al-Awza‘i[6] and ibn Thawban[7] from Makhul[8] from Malik b. Yukhamir from Mu‘adh b. Jabal[9] from the Prophet (SAW) who said:

‘Allah descends (talaa) to His creation on the Night of the Middle of Sha‘ban and forgives all of His creation (fa-yaghfiru li-jami khalqihi) except the polytheists (mushrik) and the quarrelsome (mashahin).’[10]

2. – Imam ibn Majah cites in his Sunan, the following narration with a slight variation which is one of three in the section:

Rashid b. Sa‘id b. Rashid al-Ramly related to us who said: al-Walid related to us from ibn Lahi‘ah[11] from al-Dahhak b. Ayman from al-Dahhak b. ‘Abd al-Rahman b. ‘Arzab from Abu Musa al-Ash‘ari from the Prophet (SAW) who said:

‘Verily Allah inspects [his creation] in the Night of Sha‘ban and so forgives all of His creation except the polytheist and the one bent on hatred.’[12]

3. – Imam ibn Ishaq al-Rahuyah the famous muhaddith and contemporary of Ahmad b. Hanbal relates in his Musnad, the following narration:

Abu Malik al-Janabi[13] reported to us, Hajjaj (who is ibn Artah)[14] reported to us from Yahya b. Abi Kathir[15] from ‘Urwah from ‘Aishah (RA) who said:

‘I missed the Prophet (SAW) one night so I went out to look for him [and found him] in al-Baqi‘ raising his hands to the sky supplicating (yad‘u). Then the Messenger of Allah said: O daughter of Abu Bakr! What has brought you out here? [‘A’ishah] replied: I was anxious and feared you might have went out to [see] your other wives. He [SAW] then said: Allah Glorious and Exalted descends to the nearest heaven on the night of mid-Sha‘ban and He forgives more people than the number of hairs on the hides of the sheep belonging to the tribes of Kalb.’ [16]

4. – There are narrations expounding the virtues of the night of mid-Sha‘ban one of which is related in the Musannaf of ‘Abd al-Razzaq from ibn ‘Umar that:

‘Indeed the supplication is not returned from five nights: the night of Jum‘ah, the night of the of ‘Id al-Adha, the night of the ‘Id al-Fitr, the first night of Rajab and the night of mid-Sha‘ban.

inna ’l-dua’ yustajabu fi khams layalin: fi laylah al-jumah, laylah al-adha, laylah al-fitr,[17] awwal laylah min rajab wa laylah nisf min shaban.[18]

And Allah knows best.

[1] There is a grave misunderstanding amongst many regarding on the one hand the night of mid-Sha‘ban and on the other the prayer specifically associated with that night called the ‘Salah al-Khayr’. It is the latter the majority of the ‘Ulama’ deem to have no asl (legal basis or origin) in the shariah due to the fact that there are no admissible texts (nusus) pertaining to it in order to establish an act of worship and so any specified intention (tayin al-niyyah) for performing such a prayer in that night would be invalid; see al-Nawawi’s al-MajmuSharh al-Muhadhdhab, 4/56-61 where he considers it makruh by characterising it as a “bidah qabihah”; al-Mallibari’s Irshad al-Ibad ila Sabil al-Rashad where he states that the performance of the salah al-khayr is “haram” (unlawful) &  al-Bakri in the Hashiyat Ianah al-Talibin, 1/270. For the forged narrations regarding the prayer in the night of mid-Sha‘ban, see Mulla ‘Ali al-Qari’s, Asrar al-Marfuah, pp.439-440.

[2] Although a great proportion of the narrations related to this night are either weak in their chains or in mursal form, nevertheless the ‘Ulama’ have generally agreed upon its positive devotional value (fada’il) neither declaring it innovated nor excessively encouraging it but a matter left to an individual’s choice. Regarding the Night of mid-Sha‘ban, ibn Taymiyyah comments that it is a night of “superior merit” (laylah mufaddalah) which he says is the statement of the people of knowledge as well as the majority of the Hanabli school and that its merits are attested to in multiple reports of the Early Community (al-athar al-salafiyyah), Iqtida’ al-Sirat al-Mustaqim, p.274. See also, Mulla ‘Ali al-Qari’s, Asrar al-Marfuah, pp.439-440; al-Mawduat of ibn al-Jawzi, 2/128; al-La’ali’ al-Masnuah of al-Suyuti, 2/57; Tuhfah al-Dhakirin of al-Shawkani, pp.292-293 as well as his Fawa’id al-Majmuah, p.50; Lata’if al-Maarif of ibn Rajab al-Hanbali, p.144; al-Hawadith  wa ’l-Bid‘ of al-Turtushi, p.112; al-Nawawi’s al-Majmu‘, 4/56 for his opinion & al-Maqdisi, Tadhkirah al-Mawduat, p.45.

[3] See ibn Abi ‘Asim, al-Sunnah (#524). This chain (isnad) is considered to be rigorously authenticated (sahih) as confirmed by Shaykh Shu‘ayb al-Arna’ut in his edition of Ibn Hibban’s Sahih, 12/481 (#5665). It is also said to be cited by ibn Khuzaymah in his Sahih although I have as yet not found it; al-Tabarani in his Mujam al-Kabir, 20/108 (#215, 590 & 593) as well as his Mujam al-Awsat, 7/36 (6776) & by al-Bayhaqi in his Musnad al-Shamiyyin, 1/128 (#203, 205 & 3570) & Kitab Fada’il al-Awqat, p.18 (#22). al-Albani also grades it sahih in his Silsilah Ahadith al-Sahihah (#) and his Takhrij of ibn Abi ‘Asim’s alSunnah, p.235 (#512)!

[4] He is Hisham b. Khalid b. Yazid b. Marwan al-Azraq (d.249): ibn Hajar al-‘Asqalani says he is truthful (saduq) in Taqrib al-Tahdhib, 2/323; Abu Hatim al-Razi grades him likewise in al-Jarh wa ’l-Tadil, 9/57 and ibn Hibban lists him in his book of upright narrators entitled al-Thiqat, 9/233.

[5] ‘Utbah b. Hammad b. Khulayd, Abu Khulayd al-Dimashqi: Imam of the Mosque; ibn Hajar considers him truthful (suduq) whereas Abu Hatim simply says he is an acceptable transmitter (shaykh) but quotes al-Khatib al-Baghdadi as saying he is trustworthy (thiqah) in al-Jarh wa ’l-Tadil, 6/370 and see ibn Hibban in his Thiqat, 8/508.

[6] He is the famous tabii, jurist, mujtahid and Imam.

[7] He is Muhammad b. Thawban al-‘Amiry al-Madani: ibn Hajar considers him thiqqah, Taqrib al-Tahdhib, 2/192 so does ibn Sa‘d in his Tabaqat, 5/283 as well as al-Nasa’i, Abu Zur‘ah, Abu Hatim al-Razi in al-Jarh wa ’l-Tadil, 7/312 and ibn Hibban, al-Thiqat, 5/369.

[8] Makhul al-Shami, Abu ‘Abd Allah (d.110): jurist (faqih), of the first generation of successors (tabii), famous, narrated profusely although committed excessive irsal (attributing narrations directly to the Prophet without making the link to the companion). Considered trustworthy by all the muhaddithun, al-‘Asqalani, Taqrib al-Tahdhib, 2/278; al-‘Ijly, Tarikh al-Thiqat, p.438; ibn Hibban, al-Thiqat, 5/446; Juzajani, Ahwal al-Rijal, p.349 & Tarikh al-Dawri, 3/584.

[9] One of the most famous of the Companions and by consensus (ijma‘) is properly admitted as trustworthy as are all of the Companions (may Allah be pleased with them all!)

[10] According to ibn Ishaq al-Rahuyah, Imam al-Awza‘i interpreted the those who are “mushahin” to mean “that heretic who attempts to divide the people” (al-mubtadialladhi yufariqu ummah), al-Musnad, 2/326 (#850).

[11] ‘Abd Allah b. Lahi‘ah ibn ‘Uqbah al-Hadrami, Abu ‘Abd al-Rahman al-Masri, al-Qadi: truthful (saduq) as per al-‘Asqalani in Taqrib al-Tahdhib, p.337-338; ibn al-Junayd, p.153 says “he is nothing” (laysa bi-shay’); al-Juzajani, Ahwal al-Rijal, p.274 where he says “it is not necessary to depend upon him” (la yanbaghi an yahtaja bihi); Abu Zur‘ah al-Dimashqi says he was not precise, Tarikh, p.176 & al-Hakim rather strongly said he is one who is dismissed in his narrations (dhahib al-hadith). See also, Wali al-Din Abu Zur‘ah al-‘Iraqi, Tuhfah al-Tahsil, p.263; al-Mizzi, Tahdhib al-Kamal, 15/487; al-Bukhari, Tarikh al-Kabir, 5/182; al-Dhahabi, Siyar Alam al-Nubala’, 8/10; ibn Hibban, al-Majruhin, 2/11; al-‘Ala’i, Jamial-Tahsil, p.215 & the Marasil of Abu Hatim al-Razi, p.114. Abu Dawud, al-Nasa’i and Tirmidhi all included him in their compilations.

[12] ibn Majah in his Sunan (#1390) where al-Albani also considers it hasan; see also his edition of Mishkat al-Masabih (#1306-1307); Zilal al-Jannah fi Takhrij Ahadith Kitab al-Sunnah of ibn Abi Asim (#510), Sahih Abi Dawud (#1144 & 1523) & al-Radd ala Izz al-Din Baliq (#92). Cf also the fair (hasan) narration cited by Imam Ahmad from ‘Abd Allah ibn ‘Amru in his Musnad, 2/176 (#6642 & 26060). It was also cited by: ibn Hajar al-Haythami in his Mawarid al-Zaman (#198o) as well as his Majmaal-Zawa’id, 8/65 where he comments that the sub-narrators in the chain are all men of the trustworthy degree (thiqat); Misbah al-Zujajah, of al-Kinani, 1/446-447 (#1288-1389); the Musannaf of ‘Abd al-Razzaq, 4/316 (#7293); al-Bazzar in his Musnad (#2754); al-Tabarani, Mujam al-Awsat (#2124) & al-Bayhaqi in his Musnad al-Shamiyyin (#203). Cf. also the slightly different wording in the hadith where Allah descends (yanzilu) in this night seeking anyone from His creation eager for forgiveness, see ibn Abi Shaybah, al-Musannaf, 6/108 (#29859); the Musnad of ‘Abd b. Humayd 1/437 (#1509) & ibn Qutaybah, Ta’wil Mukhtalif al-Hadith.

[13] He is listed as ‘Amru b. Hashim al-Banyaruti considered “truthful” (saduq) by ibn Hajar but commits errors (yakhti’), Taqrib al-Tahdhib, 2/86. Hafiz ibn ‘Ady comments that little narrations have come from him in al-Kamil fi ’l-Duafa’, 5/134 whereas Abu Hatim says there are no faults with him (la ba’sa bihi), al-Jarh wa ’l-Tadil, 6/268.

[14] Imam ibn Hajar has him written as Hajjaj b. Artah ibn Thawr b. Habirah al-Nakha‘i, Abu Artah al-Kufi: truthful but committed many errors and carried out ‘concealment’ (tadlis), Taqrib al-Tahdhib, 1/155. al-‘Ijly says that he was a jurist (faqih) in Tarikh al-Thiqat, p.107; Imam Ahmad said “he was one of the Huffaz” (kana min al-huffaz) in al-Ilal wa Marifah al-Rijal, 1/51; Abu Hatim said he was truthful but practiced tadlis, al-Jarh wa ’l-Tadil, 3/154; ibn Ma‘in said he was truthful but not strong (laysa bi ’l-qawiyy); Abu Zur‘ah said he was truthful but practiced concealment in his Tarikh, p.557 as was echoed by al-Bazzar & al-Daraqutni said he was not to be depended upon (la yahtajju bihi), al-Ilal, 2/29 & his al-Duafa’ wa ’l-Matrukin, p.131.

[15] Yahya b. Abi Kathir al-Ta’i: categorised as thiqqah by ibn Hajar in Taqrib al-Tahdhib, 2/364; al-‘Ijly in his Tarikh al-Thiqqat, p.475 and ibn Hibban, al-Thiqat, 7/591 both consider him thus.

[16] See ibn Ishaq al-Rahuyah, Musnad, 2/326 (#850, 1055, 1700 & 1702). The narration with identical chains are cited by ibn Abi Shaybah in the Musannaf, 6/108 (#29858-29859) and likewise by ‘Abd b. Humayd in his Musnad with the chain containing: Yazid b. Harun from Hajjaj b. Artah from Yahya b. Abi Kathir from ‘Urwah from ‘Aishah, 1/437 (#1509). Cf. also, Mishkat al-Masabih (#1299). al-Tirmidhi (#739) comments that: “I heard that Muhammad [b. Isma‘il al-Bukhari] weakened (yuda‘‘ifu) this narration and said: Yahya b. Abi Kathir did not hear from ‘Urwah and al-Hajjaj b. Artah did not hear from Yahya b. Abi Kathir.” Also, ibn Majah relates it with slightly different wording in his Sunan (#1389) as does Ahmad in his Musnad, (#26020). It was also graded weak by al-Albani. Finally, see the narrations in al-Bayhaqi’s Sunan al-Kubra, 2/173 (#2911) and Kitab Fada’il al-Awqat, pp.19-22 (#23-29); the Musnad of al-Harith (with the Majmaal-Zawa’id of al-Haythami), 1/423 (#338) & the Kanz al-‘Ummal of al-Muttaqi al-Hindi (#7451-7452, 7461-7465, 35174-35179 & 35180-35184).

[17] That is the night of Eid al-Fitr which marks the close of the Month of Ramadan.

[18] See ‘Abd al-Razzaq, Musannaf, 4/317 (#7927-7928) & al-Bayhaqi, Sunan al-Kubra, 3/319 (#6087).

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