The month of Sha’ban is upon us. This is a month hailed by scholars as a fundamental time for sowing the seeds of pious toil that we can then hope to harvest during the most important month of the Hijri calendar: Ramadan. Despite its importance, however, Sha’ban is often pushed aside and overshadowed by the anticipation for Ramadan that overwhelms the Ummah. However, the month dubbed as merely ‘the month before Ramadan’ holds so much more weight than that and has, in truth, become a forgotten Sunnah. In actual fact, Sha’ban is a time gifted to us by Allah, to be cherished and duly observed for itself, as well as a build up for Ramadan.
Usamah ibn Zayd reported: I said, “O Messenger of Allah, I do not see you fasting any month as much as you fast during Sha’ban.” The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “It is a month people neglect between Rajab and Ramadan. It is a month in which the deeds are raised to the Lord of the worlds, and I like for my deeds to be raised while I am fasting.”
According to authentic hadith, Sha’ban was a month where the Prophet (upon him be peace) observed many fasts in the hopes of attaining the pleasure of Allah. Although habitual fasting was taken up by Muhammed (upon him be peace) throughout the year, there was no month, other than Ramadan, where fasts were observed more frequently than in the month of Sha’ban. As Aisha narrated :
“I never saw him fast more than he did in Sha’ban (except for during Ramadan).” (Al-Bukhari).
It should be noted however that, although fasting during Sha’ban was highly recommended, the last one or two days of the month weren’t fasted, according to ahadith.
The noble scholar, Ibn Rajab regarded the virtue of voluntary fasts before Ramadan as paralleling the virtues of voluntary prayers – just as voluntary prayers act as a means to make up for any shortcomings in one’s obligatory prayers, similarly, fasting in Sha’ban was a means to make up for any shortcomings in the obligatory fasts that the believer may experience in Ramadan. Other than a means to patch up any flaws that may befall our Ramadan, fasting during Sha’ban also earns us the tremendous reward that is assigned to fasting in Islam: every deed will be multiplied between ten and seven hundredfold, but Allah says,
“except fasting. It is for Me and I shall reward for it.”
Scholars comment that because a value wasn’t given for the reward of fasting it can be assumed that the true reward for it far outpaces the ten to seven hundred fold mark given for all other deeds. So what better time to observe it than during the month when “deeds are lifted to the Lord of the Worlds” (An-Nasai)
Would you run a marathon without having trained for it? Would you sit an exam without having revised for it? So why would you enter the most fundamental month of the year, Ramadan, without having prepared for it?
With the commencement of Ramadan comes the commencement of change for many muslims in regards to their habits and frequency of worship. The truth is however, that many Muslims can find this sudden onset of change to be overwhelming which may lead to a serious underperformance in their Ramadan. This is why it is so vital to start the Holy month prepared and already having established acts of worship as central parts of our daily routine.
“The year is a tree…Sha’ban is the time when its fruit appears, and Ramadan is the time when the fruit is picked.”
(al-Ghaniyyah by al-Jeelaani).
Sha’ban is nothing short of a gift from Allah, a gift of time, time to develop and strengthen our devotion to Him, ensuring that we set foot in Ramadan with our book of records already brightened with good deeds. It’s vital that we stop seeing Sha’ban as the void period before the major month and instead start seeing it as the springboard capable of launching us into Ramadan full of pious zeal and discipline.
Now that we know the weighty status of Sha’ban in Islam, the question is now, how can we go about taking full advantage of what is left of this time to ensure a fruitful and accepted Ramadan Insha’Allah.
We have three practical steps to help you get going and honouring this forgotten month, and leveraging it’s benefits before Ramadan
- SMALL AND CONSISTENT GROWTH
Sha’ban is the month to increase in our good deeds – this could mean having to slightly reshape our daily routines to facilitate more acts of worship. A great way to effectively integrate Ibadah into our schedules without feeling any overload is to create a small to-do list for the day. It could be to read the Quran for a minimum of 10 minutes a day, 2 extra units of voluntary prayer and a daily donation of £3. There’s no one way to do it, and it’s up to you how much you choose to commit yourself to, just remember that pushing yourself can still involve being realistic and kind to yourself:
“The most beloved of deeds to Allah are those that are most consistent, even if it is small” (Al-Bukhari)
- PRACTICE FASTING
Secondly, one of the most challenging parts of Ramadan for most is having to suddenly undertake fasting on a daily basis. A way to ensure that we enter this month already having been used to whole day fasts is to try and dedicate some of the remaining days of Sha’ban to fasting.
This will help us become used to leaving off food and drink during the day so when Ramadan does eventually come upon us we’ll find the hunger more manageable, thus allowing us to focus on filling our time with blessed acts such as prayer and reading the Quran.
- NIGHT PRAYER ( TAHAJJUD)
Finally, one of the greatest acts of worship one can perform is the night prayer (Tahajjud), the best time for which is the last third of the night, although it can be performed at any point after Ishaa prayer and before Fajr.
“Our Lord…comes down to the lowest heaven every night when the last third of the night is left, and He says: ‘Who will call upon Me, that I may answer them?”
Tahajjud is a golden time to illuminate our prayers and supplications with a more intense connection with Allah, and can be a beautiful addition to our spiritual experience in Ramadan. However, waking up even slightly before Fajr may be difficult without having made it a habit beforehand, so we can use Sha’ban to start this noble practice, even if it’s only once a week. You could approach doing this by going to sleep earlier and making a firm intention every night to wake up around 1/2 hour earlier than Fajr to observe the blessed time granted to us by our Creator for conversation just between you and Him.
Sha’ban is the time to untie the ropes that bound us to worldly distractions and to instead tie them tightly around our bond to Allah. Use what you have left of this month, and invite others to revive this forgotten month, too.
About the author: Fatna is a sister from London who has always held the love for literature close to her heart. Hoping to give practical Islamic support through writing, Fatna is one of our blog writers here at SolaceUK.