The Night of Mid-Sha`ban (laylat al-bara'a)
inna anzalnahu fi laylatin mubarakatin inna kunna mundhirin
Lo! We revealed it on a blessed night -- Lo! We are ever warning --
fiha yufraqu kullu amrin hakim
Whereupon every wise command is made clear
amran min `indina inna kunna mursilin
As a command from Our presence -- Lo! We are ever sending --
rahmatan min rabbika innahu huwa al-sami`u al-`alim
A mercy from thy Lord. Lo! He is the Hearer, the Knower. (44:3-6)
Although the majority of the commentators consider the "blessed night" in the above verses to refer to the Night of Decree (laylat al-qadr) which is considered to be in the month of Ramadan, yet the commentaries also mention that this "blessed night" may be that of mid-Sha`ban (laylat al-bara'a). This view is based on the profusion of hadiths on the great merits of the latter. Consequently the Shari`a has commended observance of that night. Concerning supererogatory worship on the night of mid-Sha`ban Suyuti says in his Haqiqat al-sunna wa al-bid`a:
As for the night of mid-Sha`ban, it has great merit and it is desirable (mustahabb) to spend part of it in supererogatory worship.24
Even Ibn Taymiyya -- the putative authority of "Salafis" -- considered the night of mid-Sha`ban "a night of superior merit" in his Iqtida' al-sirat al-mustaqim:
[Some] said: There is no difference between this night (mid-Sha`ban) and other nights of the year. However, the opinion of many of the people of learning, and that of the majority of our companions (i.e. the Hanbali school) and other than them is that it is a night of superior merit, and this is what is indicated by the words of Ahmad (ibn Hanbal), in view of the many ahadith which are transmitted concerning it, and in view of what confirms this from the words and deeds transmitted from the early generations (al-athar al-salafiyya). Some of its merits have been narrated in the books of hadith of the musnad and sunan types. This holds true even if other things have been forged concerning it.25
Among the hadiths stressing the status of laylat al-bara'a are the following:
1. Ibn Hibban narrated from Mu`adh ibn Jabal in his Sahih the following narration which the hadith scholar and editor of the Sahih Shu`ayb Arna'ut confirmed as sound:
The Prophet said : yattali`u Allahu ila khalqihi fi laylati al-nisfi min sha`bana fa-yaghfiru li-jami`i khalqihi illa li mushrikin aw mushahin.
Allah looks at His creation in the night of mid-Sha`ban and He forgives all His creation except for a mushrik (idolater) or a mushahin (one bent on hatred).26
Haythami said that Tabarani also narrated it in his Kabir and Awsat with chains containing only trustworthy narrators, that is: sound (sahih) chains; Ibn Khuzayma included it in his Sahih, which has the same level of acceptance among the experts as Sahih Muslim; and even Albani included it in his Silsila sahiha!
2. Tirmidhi and Ahmad narrate from `Abd Allah ibn `Amr, and al-Bazzar with a chain he graded as fair (hasan) through the great Tabi`i jurist al-Qasim ibn Muhammad ibn Abi Bakr al-Siddiq:
Allah looks upon His creatures on the night of mid-Sha`ban and He forgives all His servants except two: one intent on hatred, and the homicide.
3. Bayhaqi relates from `A'isha in Shu`ab al-iman with his chain of transmission:
From `A'isha: She said: The Prophet stood up in prayer during part of the night and made his prostration so lengthy that I thought his soul had been taken back. When I saw this I got up and went to move his big toe, whereupon he moved, so I drew back. When he raised his head from prostration and finished praying, he said: "O `A'isha, O fair little one (humayra')! Did you think that the Prophet had broken his agreement with you?" She replied: "No, by Allah, O Messenger of Allah, but I thought that your soul had been taken back because your stayed in prostration for so long." He said: "Do you know what night this is?" She said: "Allah and His Prophet know best." He said: "This is the night of mid-Sha`ban! Verily Allah the Glorious and Majestic look at His servants on the night of mid-Sha`ban, and He forgives those who ask forgiveness, and He bestows mercy on those who ask mercy, and He gives a delay to the people of envy and spite in their state."
Concerning his words: "broken his agreement with you": this is said to a person who betrays his companion and therefore has not given him his due right.
I say: This hadith is missing the Companion in its chain, and is a good hadith (hadha mursal jayyid). It is probable that al-`Ala' ibn al-Harith took it from Makhul, and Allah knows best.27
4. Tirmidhi, Ahmad, and Ibn Majah relate:
From `A'isha: I missed the Prophet one night so I went out to al-Baqi` (and found him). He said: "Were you afraid that Allah would wrong you and that His Prophet would wrong you?" I said: "O Messenger of Allah, I thought that you might have gone to visit one of your wives." He said: "Allah Glorious and Exalted descends to the nearest heaven on the night of mid-Sha`ban and He forgives to more people than the number of hairs on the hides of the sheep of the tribes of Kalb.28
5. Ahmad and Ibn Majah relate:
From `Ali ibn Abi Talib: The Prophet said: "The night of mid-Sha`ban let all of you spend in prayer (i.e. partly) and its day (i.e. preceding it) in fasting, for Allah descends to the nearest heaven during that night beginning with sunset and says: Is there no one asking forgiveness that I may forgive them? Is there no one asking sustenance that I may grant them sustenance? Is there no one under trial that I may relieve them? Is there not such-and-such, is there not such-and-such, and so forth until until dawn rises.29