Alhamdulillah, praise and thanks to Allah for the countless blessings He has blessed us all with. Blessings and salutations to the Prophet Muhammad PBUH, his wives, his family, companions and all those that follow his teachings to the day of judgement. In this section of brief reminders, we would like to discuss the issues related to the month of Sya’ban and several fiqh rulings so that we are able to truly understand it in accordance with the syarak.
In this series of Irsyad Fatwa, we will present the issue The Month of Sya’ban: Its Advantages According to Syarak. Hopefully, we will be given a good understanding in this issue.
The Advantages of Fasting in the Month of Sya’ban
There are numerous evidences stating the encouragement of fasting in the month of Sya’ban for it is among the practice of the Prophet PBUH. Among them are:
First: From Abu Salamah RA, he said, I asked Aisyah R.Anha regarding the Prophet PBUH’s fast. She answered:
كانَ يَصومُ حتَّى نَقولَ قَد صامَ ويُفطِرُ حتَّى نَقولَ قد أفطَرَ ولم أرَهُ صامَ مِن شَهْرٍ قطُّ أَكْثرَ مِن صيامِهِ من شعبانَ كانَ يَصومُ شَعبانَ كُلَّهُ كانَ يَصومُ شعبانَ إلَّا قَليلًا
“He used to fast until we thought he would always fast. And he used to not fast until we thought he would always not fast. I never saw him fast more in any month than in Sha’ban. He used to fast all of Sha’ban; he used to fast all of Sha’ban except a little.”
Sahih Muslim (1156)
Second: Aisyah R.Anha said to Abu Salamah:
لَمْ يَكُنْ النَّبِيُّ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ يَصُومُ شَهْرًا أَكْثَرَ مِنْ شَعْبَانَ فَإِنَّهُ كَانَ يَصُومُ شَعْبَانَ كُلَّهُ
“The Prophet (ﷺ) never fasted in any month more than in the month of Sha'ban. He used to fast all of Sha’ban.”
Sahih al-Bukhari (1834)
Scholars have a differing opinion in understanding this hadith. Some of them state sometimes the Prophet PBUH will fast for the whole month and sometimes the Prophet PBUH would fast the majority of days in Sya’ban. While others are of the opinion that the Prophet PBUH fasts for the majority of Sya’ban but never for the whole month of Sya’ban.
From this difference of opinions, al-Hafiz Ibnu Hajar al-‘Asqalani Rahimahullah strengthened the opinion which states that the Prophet PBUH only fast the majority of days in Sya’ban citing the words of Imam Ibn al-Mubarak:
جائر في كلام العرب إذا صام أكثر الشهر أن يقول صام الشهر كله ويقال قام فلان ليلته أجمع ولعله قد تعشى واشتغل ببعض أمره
“In the context of the Arabic language, when a person fasts for the majority of a certain month, he is said to have fasted a whole month. It is said so and so prayed the whole night while there is a possibility that he also ate and was busy with other matters.” 
This is strengthened with other hadiths as stated above from ‘Aisyah R.Anha of which means:
“I did not know the Messenger PBUH fasted for a whole month except in Ramadhan.”
Sahih al-Bukhari (1833)
It is also an understanding concluded from the words of the Prophet PBUH:
لَا يَتَقَدَّمَنَّ أَحَدُكُمْ رَمَضَانَ بِصَوْمِ يَوْمٍ أَوْ يَوْمَيْنِ إِلَّا أَنْ يَكُونَ رَجُلٌ كَانَ يَصُومُ صَوْمَهُ فَلْيَصُمْ ذَلِكَ الْيَوْمَ
"None of you should fast a day or two before the month of Ramadan unless he has the habit of fasting (Nawafil) (and if his fasting coincides with that day) then he can fast that day."
Sahih al-Bukhari (1781)
Thus, here it can be understood that it is sunnah for us to increase our sunnah fasting in the month of Sya’ban compared to any other months. And it is not encouraged to fast the whole month as stated by a more accurate opinion.
Third: From A’isyah R.Anha, she said:
كَانَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ يَصُومُ حَتَّى نَقُولَ: لاَ يُفْطِرُ، وَيُفْطِرُ حَتَّى نَقُولَ: لاَ يَصُومُ، فَمَا رَأَيْتُ رَسُولَ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ اسْتَكْمَلَ صِيَامَ شَهْرٍ إِلَّا رَمَضَانَ، وَمَا رَأَيْتُهُ أَكْثَرَ صِيَامًا مِنْهُ فِي شَعْبَانَ
“The Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) used to fast until one would say, he never breaks his fast (i.e. he never stops fasting), and he would abandon fasting (at other times) until one would say that he never fasts. And I never saw the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) fast for a complete month except for the month of Ramadan, and I never saw him fast in a month more than he did in the month of Sha’ban.”
Sahih al-Bukhari (1969) and Sahih Muslim (1156)
Among the reasons the Prophet PBUH fasts in Sya’ban is stated by himself in the hadith:
شعبانُ بين رجبَ ورمضانَ يغفلُ الناسُ عنه تُرفعُ فيه أعمالُ العبادِ فأُحِبُّ أن لَا يَرْفَع عَمَلِي إَلَّا وأنَا صَائِمٌ
“The month of Sya’ban is in between the month of Rejab and Ramadhan and most people forsaken it. It is the time the deeds of people are raised and thus, I would like my deeds to be raised while I’m fasting.”
Narrated by al-Nasa’ie in Al-Amali (1/322). Hadith hasan.
Fourth: ‘Usamah Ibn Zaid once asked the Messenger PBUH, “O Messenger of Allah, I never saw you fast as you fast in Sya’ban?” The Messenger PBUH replied:
ذَلِكَ شَهْرٌ يَغْفُلُ النَّاسُ عَنْهُ بَيْنَ رَجَبٍ وَرَمَضَانَ وَهُوَ شَهْرٌ تُرْفَعُ فِيهِ الْأَعْمَالُ إِلَى رَبِّ الْعَالَمِينَ فَأُحِبُّ أَنْ يُرْفَعَ عَمَلِي وَأَنَا صَائِمٌ
“Sya’ban is a month in between the month of Rejab and Ramadhan and is often forgotten by people. It is a month where deeds are raised to the Lord of the universe. Thus, I would prefer my deeds are raised while I am fasting.”
Sunan al-Nasa’i (2357)
The Advantages of the Night of Nisfu Sya’ban
There are several evidences that narrates the advantages of the night of nisfu Sya’ban. Among them are:
First: The Prophet PBUH said:
إنَّ اللهَ لَيَطَّلِعُ في ليلةِ النِّصفِ من شعبانَ، فيَغفِر لجميعِ خلقِه إِلَّا لِمَشْرِكٍ أَوْ مُشَاحنٍ
“Allah looks down on the night of the middle of Sha’ban and forgives all His creation, apart from the idolater and the Mushahin (holds a grudge against each other).”
Narrated by Ibn Hibban, al-Bazzar and others. Al-Albani state the hadith is sahih in Silsilah al-Ahadis al-Sahihah (3/135)
Some hadith scholars evaluated the hadith as sahih, while others contradict its sahih status. This hadith is narrated from the sanad path of several Companions such as Mu’az Ibn Jabal, Abu Tha’labah al-Khusyani, ‘Abdullah Ibn ‘Umar, Abu Musa al-Asyari, Abu Hurairah, Abu Bakar al-Siddiq, ‘Auf Ibn Malik, and ‘Aisyah R.Anhum. This hadith is among the hadith narrated by Ibn Majah, Ibn Abi Syaibah, ‘Abd al-Razzaq, al-Tabarani, al-Bazzar and al-Mundziri.
Generally, among the scholars who state that the hadith is sahih are Ibn Hibban, Ibn Hajar al-Haithami and others. While among the scholars that explained its weakness is Syeikh al-Mubarakfuri in in Tuhfah al-Ahwadzi bi Syarah Jami’ al-Tirmidzi.
If the hadith is sahih, it just explains the advantages of the night of nisfu Sya’ban in general. As stated by Syeikhul Islam Ibnu Taimiyyah, “In this matter, the opinion held by the majority or huge part of scholars whether from our colleagues or others, they state that the night of nisfu Sya’ban is prioritized.”
Since the advantages of the night of nisfu Sya’ban has a very strong basis, the Muslim ummah since the salaf generation enliven the night with various worships, supplications and others.
Here, we present several opinions of scholars regarding the night of nisfu Sya’ban.
First: al-Imam al-Syafie said in his book al-Umm as the following:
بَلَغَنَا أَنَّهُ كان يُقَالُ إنَّ الدُّعَاءَ يُسْتَجَابُ في خَمْسِ لَيَالٍ في لَيْلَةِ الْجُمُعَةِ وَلَيْلَةِ الْأَضْحَى وَلَيْلَةِ الْفِطْرِ وَأَوَّلِ لَيْلَةٍ من رَجَبٍ وَلَيْلَةِ النِّصْفِ من شَعْبَانَ
“It has reached us that the five nights which are said to be the nights of which supplications are granted are Friday night, the night of Eidul Adha, Eidul Fitri, the beginning of Rejab and nisfu Sya’ban.” 
Second: Syeikh al-Islam Ibn Taimiyyah in his fatwa when asked regarding the night of nisfu Sya’ban, he answered:
إِذَا صَلَّى اْلإِنْسَانُ لَيْلَةَ النِّصْفِ وَحْدَهُ أَوْ فِيْ جَمَاعَةٍ خَاصَّةٍ كَمَا كَانَ يَفْعَلُ طَوَائِفُ مِنَ السَّلَفِ فَهُوَ حَسَنٌ. وَقَالَ فِيْ مَوْضِعٍ آخَرَ : وَأَمَّا لَيْلَةُ النِّصْفِ فَقَدْ رُوِيَ فِيْ فَضْلِهَا أَحَادِيْثُ وَآَثاَرٌ وَنُقِلَ عَنْ طَائِفَةٍ مِنَ السَّلَفِ أَنَّهُمْ كَانُوْا يُصَلُّوْنَ فِيْهَا فَصَلاَةُ الرَّجُلِ فِيْهَا وَحْدَهُ قَدْ تَقَدَّمَهُ فِيْهِ سَلَفٌ وَلَهُ فِيْهِ حُجَّةٌ فَلَا يُنْكَرُ مِثْلُ هَذَا.
“When a person prays on the night of nisfu Sya’ban whether he is alone or in a certain congregation, as performed by salaf groups, then it is a good deed. In another place, Ibn Taimiyyah also said: “As for the night of nisfu Sya’ban, there are numerous hadiths and atsar regarding its prioritization collected from a group of salaf of whom prayed on this night. Thus, a prayer by a person alone on this night has been performed by previous salaf and it has an argument for it, thus, matters such as this cannot be disputed.” 
Third: al-Hafiz Ibn Rajab al-Hanbali in his Lathaif al-Ma’arif stated:
وَلَيْلَةُ النِّصْفِ مِنْ شَعْبَانَ كَانَ التَّابِعُوْنَ مِنْ أَهْلِ الشَّامِ يُعَظِّمُوْنَهَا وَيَجْتَهِدُوْنَ فِيْهَا فِي الْعِبَادَةِ، وَكَانَ خَالِدُ بْنِ مَعْدَانَ وَلُقْمَانُ بْنِ عَامِرٍ وَغَيْرُهُمَا مِنْ تَابِعِي الشَّامِ يَقُوْمُوْنَ فِي الْمَسْجِدِ لَيْلَةَ النِّصْفِ، وَوَافَقَهُمُ اْلإِمَامُ إِسْحَاقُ ابْنُ رَاَهَوْيه عَلىَ ذَلِكَ، وَقَالَ فِيْ قِيَامِهَا فِي الْمَسَاجِدِ جَمَاعَةً : لَيْسَ ذَلِكَ بِبِدْعَةٍ .
“The night of nisfu Sya’ban, the tabi’in from Syria honoured it and strive to perform worship on this night. Khalid bin Ma’dan, Luqman bin Amir and others from among the Syrian tabi’in perform prayer in the mosque on the night of nisfu Sya’ban. Their actions are agreed by al-Imam Ishaq Ibnu Rawahaih who commented on congregational sunnah prayer on the night of nisfu Sya’ban in mosques saying: “This matter is not considered as bid’ah.” 
Evidences Which Are Claimed to Be Fake or Maudhu’
There are several evidences which we often hear but are discussed at length by scholars. Among them are:
First: Ali RA said the Prophet PBUH said:
إذا كانَ ليلةُ النِّصفِ من شَعبانَ ، فقوموا ليلَها وصوموا نَهارَها ، فإنَّ اللَّهَ يَنزلُ فيها إلى سماءِ الدُّنيا ، فيقولُ: ألا من مُستَغفرٍ فأغفِرَ لَهُ ، ألا مِن مُسترزقٌ فأرزقَهُ ألا من مُبتلًى فأعافيَهُ ألا كذا ألا كذا ، حتَّى يطلُعَ الفجرُ
“When it is the night of the middle of Sha’ban, spend its night in prayer and observe a fast on that day. For Allah descends at sunset on that night to the lowest heaven and says: ‘Is there no one who will ask Me for forgiveness, that I may forgive him? Is there no one who will ask Me for provision, that I may provide for him? Is there no one who is afflicted by trouble, that I may relieve him?’ And so on, until dawn comes.”
Narrated by Ibn Majah and cited by Ibn Rajab in Lathaif al-Ma’arif
Discussion on This Hadith
This hadith is evaluated as maudhu’ by the author of al-Manar. The reason is in its sanad there is Abu Bakar bin Abdullah bin Muhammad who is famously known as Ibn Abi Sabrah. Imam Ahmad disputed him as a narrator. Yahya bin Ma’in said he lies when narrating hadiths.
Syeikh Muhammad Rasyid Ridha said the hadith is maudhu’ and it is impermissible to ithbat syarak rulings based on it.
Second: Hadith from Aisyah R.Anha where she said, the Prophet PBUH said:
إنَّ اللهَ تعالى يَنْزِلُ ليلةَ النِّصْفِ مِنْ شَعْبَانَ إِلَى سَمَاءِ الدُّنْيَا ، فيَغْفِرُ لِأَكْثَرَ مِنْ عَدَدِ شَعْرِ غَنَمِ كلبٍ
“Allah descends on the night of the middle of Sha’ban to the lowest heaven, and He forgives more than the numbers of hairs on the sheep of Banu Kalb.”
Narrated by Imam Ahmad (2610), Turmizi (739), Ibn Majah (1389). Imam Turmuzi said Imam Bukhari stated the hadith is dhaif (weak), Imam Syaukani said the hadith from Aisyah has weakness and is disconnected.
However, there are some contemporary scholars who evaluated this hadith as sahih because there are numerous paths of its narration. We are inclined towards the opinion of the contemporary scholars on this hadith from Aisyah R.Anha.
Worship in our lives should not be limited to certain days or nights except if there is a sahih or dhaif evidence and not maudhu’ or fake hadith. Regarding what is written by Ibn Rejab in Lathaif al-Ma’arif pg.441 which based the action of the tabi’in and scholars of Syria, there is an opinion which states that they take the opinion athar of Israeliyat where most scholars of Hijaz considered it as bid’ah.
Here, we state several matters, if we want to perform worship in the month of Sya’ban especially on the night of nisfu Sya’ban:
First: Follow the guide of sahih or dhaif hadiths.
Second: Never hold onto maudhu’ hadiths for they are fake.
Third: Don’t believe something which is not supported by syarak evidences.
Fourth: Consider it through ihtiyat so that we will not fall into actions which contradict the syarak. Imam Syaukani once said, “In al-Fawaid al-Mahmuaah pg.15, it is narrated that prayers on this night (nisfu Sya’ban) according to various sources are all false and maudhu’.”
Hopefully, Allah SWT gives us the strength to perform worship in accordance with the syarak. Let us all reflect on ourselves before the arrival of Ramadhan to islah ourselves in attaining mardhatillah. Amin.
 Fathul Bari Syarah Shahih al-Bukhari, 4/214
 Iqtidha’ ash-Shirathal Mustaqim, 1/302
 al-Umm [1/231]).
 Majmu’ Fatawa Ibni Taimiyah [3/131-132].
 Lathaif al-Ma’arif [pg.263]