Khutbas by Imam Habib
Nisf Sha'ban Talk (6th August 2009)
أعوذ بالله من الشيطان الرجيم، بِسْمِ اللَّهِ الرَّحْمَنِ الرَّحِيمِ، وصلى الله على سيدنا ومولانا محمد وعَلَى آلِهِ وأَصْحابِهِ أجمعين ولا حول و لا قوة إلا بالله العلي العظيم. سبحانك اللهم لا علم لنا إلا ما علمتنا إنك أنت العليم الحكيم.
قال الله عز وجل في كتابه الكريم: حم وَالْكِتَابِ الْمُبِينِ إِنَّا أَنْزَلْنَاهُ فِي لَيْلَةٍ مُبَارَكَةٍ إِنَّا كُنَّا مُنْذِرِينَ فِيهَا يُفْرَقُ كُلُّ أَمْرٍ حَكِيمٍ أَمْرًا مِنْ عِنْدِنَا إِنَّا كُنَّا مُرْسِلِينَ رَحْمَةً مِنْ رَبِّكَ إِنَّهُ هُوَ السَّمِيعُ الْعَلِيمُ رَبِّ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضِ وَمَا بَيْنَهُمَا إِنْ كُنْتُمْ مُوقِنِينَ لَا إِلَهَ إِلَّا هُوَ يُحْيِي وَيُمِيتُ رَبُّكُمْ وَرَبُّ آَبَائِكُمُ الْأَوَّلِينَ
Allah says in His Noble Quran, the translation of which is, “We sent it down on a blessed night; We are constantly giving warning. During it every wise decree is specified by a command from Our presence. We are constantly sending out as a mercy from your Lord. He is the All-Hearing, the All-Knowing: the Lord of the heavens and the earth and everything in between them, if you are people with certainty. There is no god but Him – He gives life and causes to die – your Lord and the Lord of your forefathers, the previous peoples.”
These ayats and the ‘blessed night’ to which they refer are understood by the majority of the mufasirun to refer to the laylatu qadr in Ramadan, as is suggested by other ayats in the Quran, such as Allah’s Words:
شَهْرُ رَمَضَانَ الَّذِي أُنْزِلَ فِيهِ الْقُرْآَنُ
the translation of which is, “The month of Ramadan in which the Qur’an was revealed”; and His Words:
إِنَّا أَنْزَلْنَاهُ فِي لَيْلَةِ الْقَدْرِ
the translation of which is, “Truly we sent it down on the Night of Power.”
However, there are a number of mufasirs, including ‘Ikrimah, the freedman of Ibn Abbas, who interpreted the ayats to refer to the night for which we have gathered, commonly known as laylat nisf ash-shaban ‘the night of the middle of Sha’ban’, or laylat al-bara’a - the night of emancipation or freedom from the Fire. ‘Ikrimah said,
“هي ليلةُ نصفِ الشعبان، يُبرَمُ فيها أمرُ السنةِ ويُنسخ الأحياءُ من الأمواتِ، ويُكتب الحاجُ فلا يُزاد فيهم أحدٌ ولا يُنقص منهم أحد.”
“It is the night of the middle of Sha‘ban, when Allah arranges the affairs of the year. He transfers [some of] the living to the list of the dead, and records those who will go on hajj [that year], neither adding anyone to them nor leaving anyone out.” In other words, in the opinion of ‘Ikrimah and others, this night is the time when Allah’s decree is made specific, particularly with respect to people’s lifespans. This is confirmed by a number of hadith from the Messenger of Allah, including one narrated by A‘ishah, in which she asked the Prophet why he fasted so much in the month of Sha‘ban and he replied,
إن الله يكتب فيه على كل نفس ميتةٍ تلك السنةَ فأحبُ أن يأتيَني أجلي وأنا صائم
“In this month, Allah writes down the death of everyone who will die during the coming year and I would like my destiny to reach me while I am fasting.”
And another narrated by Uthman ibn al-Mughirah in which the Prophet said,
تُقطع الآجالُ من شعبان إلى شعبان حتى أن الرجلَ لَينكحَ ويولَد له وقد خرج اسمه في الموتى.
“The appointed times for everyone from one Sha‘ban to the next is mapped out so a man may get married and be granted a child while his name has already been written amongst the dead.”
And, in another hadith narrated by Usamah ibn Zayd, the Prophet said,
هو شهرٌ يُعرض فيه حسابُ الأعمال على رب العالمين، فأحب أن تُعرَض أعمالي وأنا صائم
“Sha‘ban is a month in which the deeds of mankind are presented before the Lord of all the worlds, so I would like my deeds to be presented whilst I am fasting.”
However, the majority of scholars still took the position that the night on which the Decree is decided is on the laylat al-qadr, so in order to affirm both positions, Imam az-Zamakhshari narrated the following in his tafsir:
“It is said that the copying down of the decree into the lawh al-mahfuz (preserved tablet) begins on the night of bara’a and is completed on the night of qadr when the book of provision is given to mika’il; the book of wars is given to jibril, as well as that of earthquakes, thunderstorms and other natural disasters; the book of deeds is given to Ismail, the guardian of the lowest heaven, an immense angel; and the book of deaths is given to the angel of death.”
Thus, there is a significant body of opinion that this month of Sha‘ban, and indeed this night of bara’a, is the time when our destiny for the coming year is mapped out. It is when our deeds are placed before the Lord of the Worlds, so we must make sure we are in the best of states when that happens. We must understand its significance as the Prophet did and pray that having a praiseworthy state on the day when our fate is decided will weigh heavily in the balance for us and will mean that we are in a good state on the day that we die and that we are granted husn al-khatima - the best of seals. Thus, it is important for us to fill this night, and indeed this entire month with good deeds of every sort.
The night of bara’a is so named because it is a day in which many are forgiven and freed from the Fire. Ka’b is narrated as having said,
إن الله تعالى يبعث ليلة النصف من شعبان جبريلَ عليه السلام إلى الجنة فيأمرَها أن تتزينَ ويقول : إن الله تعالى قد أعتق في ليلتك هذه عددَ نجوم السماء وعددَ أيام الدنيا ولياليها وعدد ورق الشجر وزنةَ الجبال و عددَ الرمال
“Allah sends Jibril on the night of the middle of Sha‘ban to the Garden, where he commands it to beautify and ready itself, saying, ‘On this night of yours, Allah has set free a number of people equivalent to the number of stars in the sky, the number of days and nights in this world, the number of leaves on the trees, the weight of the mountains and the number of grains of sand.“
The like of it has been narrated by Abu Hurayra from the Prophet. The Prophet is also narrated as having said,
"إذا كان ليلةُ النصفِ من شعبان اطّلعَ اللهُ إلى خلقِه فيغفرَ للمؤمنين ويمليَ للكافرين ويدعَ أهلَ الحقد بحقدِهم حتى يدعوه"
“On the night of the middle of Sha‘ban, Allah makes careful scrutiny of His creatures, and He forgives the believers, gives respite to the unbelievers, and leaves the people of rancour and resentment to their resentment until they supplicate to Him.”
And ‘Ali ibn abi Talib narrated that the Prophet said as part of a much longer hadith,
فلْيقُمْ كلُ واحدٍ منكم ليلةَ نصفِ شعبان وليصمْ نهارَه، لأن اللهَ ينزل إلى السماءِ الدنيا في تلك الليلةِ عند المغرب ويقول من ذا الذي يستغفرني فأغفرَ له...الخ
“Let all of you spend the night of the middle of Sha‘ban in prayer and its day in fasting, for Allah descends to the nearest heaven on that night and says, ‘Is there no one asking for forgiveness so that I may forgive him.’”
There are many other hadith indicating the importance of seeking forgiveness in the course of this night, and despite the fact that nearly all of these hadith are weak in terms of their isnads, the sheer number of them indicates that they must have some basis. Such was the point of view of many of the people of knowledge of the past and present, including men such as Ibn Taymiyyah and Ibn Rajab, so this is a night in which we must all seek the forgiveness of our Lord and ask Him to keep us from the Fire.
And do not forget its day nor the days that follow it. It was the practice of the Messenger of Allah, as we already mentioned to fast the 15th of Sha‘ban, but also to fast most of the month of Sha‘ban, for this was the month the Messenger of Allah most liked to fast in outside of Ramadan, as has been narrated in a sahih hadith from ‘Aisha. However, that does not mean we should go to excessive in fasting it ourselves, for it is incumbent upon us to preserve our strength for the obligatory fast of Ramadan that follows. So be careful and fast only as much as you can easily manage. Islam is not a deen of excess, it is one of moderation.
We thank Allah for His mercy and blessing in granting us opportunities such as this in which to draw near to Him and obtain His pleasure and forgiveness. We ask Him to make us amongst those to whom He grants forgiveness and frees them from having to endure the torments of the Fire. We ask Him to grant us the strength to benefit from this night and this month and accept all our good actions during it and overlook all our bad actions and shortcomings. We ask Allah to give us the best of seals. We ask Allah to grant us the best of seals. We ask Allah to grant us the best of seals. We ask Him to let us live as Muslims and dies as Mumins. And we ask that He forgive and have mercy on all of our parents, families teachers and shuyukh, and everyone who has gone before us.
إنَّ اللهَ ومَلائِكَتَهُ يُصلُّونَ على النَّبِي يَا أَيُها الذينَ آمنوا صَلُّوا عَلَيْهِ وسَلِّمُوا تَسْليماً. اللهمَّ صَلِّ وسَلِّم وبارِك عَلَيْهِ وعلى آلِهِ وصَحْبِهِ أجمعين. الفاتحة