Dr. Bilal A. Bhat & Intizar Ahmad
Literally, Shab-e-Barat means the night of salvation or the night of freedom from the Fire of Hell. It occurs in Mid-Shaban – between the 14th and 15th day of Shaban, according to Islamic lunar calendar. There are some special occasions in a year when one’s heart gets softened and one naturally feels more inclined to His obedience. The softness of hearts deepens as well. On such occasions, the very environment seems emitting spiritual enjoyment. Shab-e-Barat is one such occasion. This night, known as Shab-e-Barat or Laylat-ul-Baraa, is called Laylatun Nisf min Shaban in Arabic world. The blessed night starts at sunset on the 14th and ends at dawn on the 15th. The Muslims observe Mid-Shaban as a night of worship and salvation. Some spend the whole night awake and some worship half of it. We should not be negligent on this occasion, because people are shown grace on this auspicious night. According to Islamic scholars, the whole of the month of Shaban is meritorious. Its excellent merit is evident from a tradition narrated by Aisha (r.a), the mother of the faithful: “The Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) did not fast in any month more than Shaban.” (Sahih Bukhari) Though fasts were not obligatory on him, the Prophet (pbuh), yet he observed them most of the month. A companion of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), Usama ibn Zaid (r.a), once asked him, Messenger of Allah, I have seen you fasting in the month of Sha’ban so frequently that I have never seen you fasting in any other month. Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) replied: That (Sha’ban) is a month between Rajab and Ramadan which is neglected by many people. And it is a month in which an account of the deeds (of human beings) is presented before the Lord of the universe, so, I wish that my deeds be presented at a time when I am in a state of fasting. The special merit is attached to Shab-e-Barat. Aisha (r.a), the mother of the faithful, also reported: “The Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) said: ‘On the middle night of Shaban (that is, Shab-e-Barat), Allah most high descends to the lowest heaven and remits more sins than the hair of the goats of Banu Kalb.’” (Jami Tirmidhi) A third tradition of Hazrat Aisha (r.a), the truthful, states that the Holy Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) asked: “Do you know what happens this night?” meaning the middle night of Shaban (that is, Shab-e-Barat). She submitted: “O Allah’s Messenger, what happens in it?” He replied: “In it record is made of every human being who will be born, and of every human being who will pass away this year. In it their deeds are taken up to heaven and in it their provisions are sent down.” (Baihaqi) The pious predecessors of the Muslim nation have always observed this night as a night of special blessings and have spent it in divine service. Often, women who missed fasts in Ramadan make them up in this month. Apart from worshipping on this night, fasting the following day is also recommended. It is reported from Hazrat Ali (r.a) that the Holy Prophet (pbuh) said: “When the middle night of Shaban arrives, spend it in worship and fast during the day. On this night, at sunset, Allah descends to the nearest heaven and announces: ‘Is there no one asking forgiveness that I may forgive him? Is there no one asking provision that I may grant him provision? Is there no one afflicted that I may relieve them? Is there not such and such?’ (He keeps announcing) till the dawn comes.”
The special blessings of Almighty descend during the night. According to Muadh ibn Jabal, Allah’s Messenger said: “Allah Almighty looks upon all those created by Him in the middle night of Shaban and forgives all those created by Him. Excepted is the one who associates partners with Him, or the one who has malice in his heart.” Hadrat Ayesha Siddiqa (radi Allahu ta’ala anha) reports: “One night, which was the 15th of Shabaan, I did not find the Beloved Prophet Muhammad (SallAllahu Alaihi wa Sallam) in the house so I went in search of him. After a long search, I found him in Baqiah (the cemetery of Madinah) offering Du’a for the deceased and praying for their forgiveness”. (Baihaqi) A special point must be made to visit the cemetery during this night and pray for the deceased buried therein, as the Most Beloved Prophet Muhammad (SallAllahu Alaihi wa Sallam) is been reported as having visited the cemetery on this night and spending a long time therein, lamenting, reading and praying for the deceased. This night should be spent in worshipping Allah from the depth of heart. It is the time to focus one’s attention to Him alone. It is the time to enjoy the direct contact with Allah, Most Compassionate, Ever-Merciful. Most of all, it is the time for reforming one’s life to come. In most places in the world, people fast on 15th of Shaban, visit graves and commemorate their ancestors on this night. In light of the spread of COVID-19, Muslims especially in this time are in need of guidance. It is important we understand what the Islamic theodicy of understanding epidemic disease is, Divine wisdoms as defined by Islamic theology, the jurisprudence (fiqh) related to epidemics and plague, a brief historical timeline of epidemics in Makkah and Madinah, an analytical breakdown of a plague prophesied by the Prophet Muhammad (peace be on him) that occurred at the time of the companions and how they dealt with it, explaining the notion of Divine Decree in the case of epidemics, examples of notable scholars in dealing with epidemics of their time and their writings, the Prophetic method of handling epidemics: preventative measures, spiritual aspects of overcoming calamities and difficulties, prophetic prayers for epidemics and sickness, and defining our view of how Muslims confront afflictions from the words of Bediuzzaman Said Nursi and Imam Al Ghazali. Islam has prescribed certain guidelines to deal with infectious disease outbreaks that affect a community, or even the entire world.
It is our moral duty as Muslims that we take all steps necessary to safeguard ourselves and others around us from this terrible disease. Let us try to help poor and needy people around us and make dua on this occasion for the welfare of all Humans on this earth who are suffering in one way or the other (Aameen!).
The recent ‘2019 novel coronavirus’ that originated in Wuhan, China is one such case in point. The Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) said, “Do not cause harm, and don’t get harmed [lā ḍarar wa lā ḍirār].” [Muwaṭṭa’ 1435] This statement clarifies a general principle that is used in all aspects of life, and which appropriately applies in situations of outbreaks. A Muslim must avoid harming others if they are affected with a disease that has a likelihood of harming another person/people. Likewise, a Muslim must be careful not to get harmed, and must protect themselves appropriately. It is important to clarify some misconceptions that have arisen among Muslims regarding the usage of medicine and dealing with outbreaks. Some people, during the lifetime of the Prophet, thought that using medicine might be against the concept of relying on Allah [tawakkul]. Those people asked, “Messenger of Allah, should we use medicine?” The Prophet replied, “Yes, you may use medicine. Allah has not created any disease without also creating its cure, except one: old age.” [Abu Dāwūd, 3855, graded ṣaḥīḥ by scholars] The Prophet clarified that it is fine to use medicine, and even encouraged, and this does not violate the concept of trusting in Allah. In fact, it can be derived that the Messenger of Allah has encouraged the discovery of treatments for diseases since he indicated that they exist, and were created by Allah to eventually be discovered. To clarify the issue more, we can look to the story of Caliph ʿUmar during the plague of ʿAmawās in Syria in 18 A.H. ʿUmar was on his way to Syria for the second time when he got news of the outbreak in the region. He sought consultation from his advisors on whether to return to Madīnah, the capital, or continue on. One of them said, “You left for the sake of Allah so this plague should not stop you.” Others advised the opposite. ʿUmar decided to return to Madīnah. Abū ʿUbaydah rebuked him, “Are you fleeing from the decree of Allah?” He responded, “Yes, I am fleeing from the decree of Allah to the decree of Allah. If you had camels and they entered a land with two sides, one fertile and the other barren, and you grazed them in the fertile area, wouldn’t you be doing that by the decree of Allah? And if you let them graze in the barren area, wouldn’t you be doing that also by the decree of Allah.” ʿUmar had also received advice from ʿAbdurraḥmān ibn ʿAwf who told him that the Messenger of Allah said, “If you hear that it (plague) has broken out in a land, do not go to it; but if it breaks out in a land where you are present, do not go out escaping from it.” [Saḥiḥ Al-Bukhārī, 5730, Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim, 2219] This advice is perfectly in line with the underlying objective of the Sharīʿah [Islamic Law] to preserve life. Imam Al-Āmidī [d. 631/1233] wrote: “The rules [in Islam] have only been prescribed for the benefit of His servants. The fact that they have underling purposes and wisdom is grounded in both consensus and reason.” Furthermore, Islam’s emphasis on cleanliness in general, beyond just purifying the body for prayer, is quite well known. Also, the prescription to eat ‘pure’ food avoid the ‘impure’ is a theme mentioned throughout the Qur’an. These Islamic guidelines will help to prevent harming oneself, or others. Muslims prefer group prayers especially on Friday but experts in Islamic law together with Muslim medical experts and the society strongly recommended that congregations take precautions against the pandemic, including immediately suspending congregational prayers. It is concluded that it is our moral duty as Muslims that we take all steps necessary to safeguard ourselves and others around us from this terrible disease. Let us try to help poor and needy people around us and make dua on this occasion for the welfare of all Humans on this earth who are suffering in one way or the other (Aameen!).
( The authors write regularly on Islamic topics for “Kashmir Horizon” exclusively. Views are their own, firstname.lastname@example.org)