Issues on Shabe Barat, Sajdah al-Tilawah, Makruh

Q 1. Please comment on the following:
What is Shab-e-barat? What is the significance of the night of 15th of Sha'ban? Why is the Arab world not aware of this night? When did we start celebrating this religious festival and where? Is there any mention of this night in our Holy Qur'an? Is there any authentic book where something is mentioned about this night? In India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, some people celebrate this night and mix it up with the greatest night "Laylatul Qadr" of the month of Ramadan. (Jamshed Taher, L.A)
A 1. The month of Sha'ban is the eighth month of the Islamic lunar calendar. The fifteenth night of this month is known as Laylatul Bara'ah or Laylatun Nisfe min Sha'ban in the Arab world. In the India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Iran, Afghanistan, etc., it is known as Shab-e-barat.
Some people believe that in Surah al-Dukhan (44:3-4) there is a reference to this night as Allah says, "We sent it (the Qur'an) down during a blessed night. We are truly warners. In that night is made distinct every affair of wisdom…" But the night referred to here cannot be a Sha'ban night, because it is said here clearly that the Qur'an was revealed in this night. We know from the Surah al-Qadr (97) that the Qur'an was revealed in the night of Qadr and we also know from the Qur'an (al-Baqarah 2:185) that the Qur'an was revealed in the month of Ramadan, so it is obvious that the night of the revelation of the Qur'an was in Ramadan, not Sha'ban, and that it was Laylatul Qadr not Shab-e-barat (or the Sha'ban night).
Some people also say that in the 2nd year of Hijrah, the direction of Qiblah was changed from Jerusalem to Ka'bah (Makkah) on the 15th day of Sha'ban. This report is also not confirmed by authentic Ahadith.
According to most of the scholars of Tafsir, the Qur'an has not mentioned anything about this night. There are some Ahadith that speak about the Middle of Sha'ban and its night. However, the scholars of Hadith say that most of the Ahadith concerning this night are not sound. They are weak (da'if) according to the criteria of the Muhaddithin. Imam al-Mundhiri (died in 656 A. H.) in his famous book Al-Targhib wa al-Tarhib (vol. 2, pp. 116-120) has reported fourteen Ahadith on the subject of this night. The following points can be summarized from those Ahadith:
  1. The month of Sha'ban is a great month.
  2. In this month Allah takes the account of His creation.
  3. Because this month occurs between two other important months, viz. Rajab and Ramadan, many people do not pay enough attention to it.
  4. The Prophet -peace be upon him- loved to fast during this month. He used to fast most of the month of Sha'ban.
  5. After sunset during this night, Allah in His great mercy and kindness turns towards His creation and asks, "Is there anyone who would seek My forgiveness and I forgive him/her? Is there anyone who is in need to ask Me and I provide for his/her needs. Is there anyone who in pain and seek My help and I help him/her. Is there… Is there… until the time of Fajr."
  6. The Prophet -peace be upon him- is said to have recommended prayers during this night and fasting during the following day.
  7. It reported that the Prophet -peace be upon him- used to visit the Muslim cemetery on this evening and he used to pray for the deceased Muslims.
These are the things that learn from some Ahadith about the significance of this night. However, there are many practices and customs common in some Muslim countries, such as making a sweet dish (Halwa), doing fireworks (atish baazi) , etc., have no meaning and no reference in Ahadith. There are also some superstitious beliefs about this night. For example, some people believe that the spirits (arwah) of the deceased visit their relatives during this night. There is a special Tree in the heaven upon whose leaves are the names of all human beings, and whatever leaves drop during this night, those people are destined to die in this year. The decisions about the life and death of people are made during this night. All these beliefs and superstitions do not belong to the authentic teachings of the Qur'an and Sunnah.
We must try to follow the Qur'an and the authentic Sunnah of the blessed Prophet -peace be upon him. It is our duty as Muslims to take advantage of all good occasions to revive our faith, to purify our souls and to increase our love and devotion to Allah subhanhu wa ta'ala, but we must follow the Sunnah of the Prophet -peace be upon him. We must not do anything in our celebrations that is against his teachings.
Q 2. What is the purpose of the "Sajdah" in the Qur'an? How many Sajdah are there altogether in the Qur'an? What do they signify? (Dr. M. Afzal)
A 2. These Sajdah are known as the Sajdah of Tilawah. There are 14 (and according to some jurists 15) places in the whole Qur'an where the verses of Sajdah occur. One can find in any copy of the Qur'an, the word "Sajdah" written either at the end of these verses or next to these verses on the margin.
Following are the verses of Sajdah:
1. Al-A'raf 7:206; 2. Al-Ra'd 13:15; 3. Al-Nahl 16:49-50; 4. Isra' 17:109; 5. Maryam 19:58; 6. Al-Hajj 22:18 (According to Imam al-Shafi'i the verse 77 of this Surah is also the verse of Sajdah.) 7. Al-Furqan 25:60; 8. Al-Naml 27:25-26; 9.Al-Sajdah 32:15; 10. Saad 38: 24; 11. Fussilat 41:38; 12. Al-Najm 53:62; 13. Al-Inshiqaq 84:20-21; 14. Al-'Alaq 96:19.
All these verses either give the command to make Sajdah or mention that the believers prostrate before Allah in submission to Him. As a response to these statements, it is required, according to the Sunnah of the Prophet -peace be upon him- to make one Sajdah whenever one reads, recites from the memory, or hears any of these verses. This is an important Sunnah (Sunnah Mu'akkadah) and it should not be omitted.
The pre-requisites for this Sajdah are the same as for the Salah. One has to be in Wudu', wearing proper clothes and should face the Qibla when making this Sajdah. Women, if they hear the reading of the Qur'an during their menses or post childbirth bleeding period, are not required to make this Sajdah. If one reads any of the above-mentioned verses in the prayer then one should go to the Sajdah immediately. Outside the prayer, if any of these verses are recited or heard then the Sajdah should be done as soon as possible. There is only one Sajdah required for each verse and in the Sajdah one should recite the usual du'a: "Subhana rabbiyal-A'la".
Q 3. What is the exact meaning of "Makruh"? What are the consequences of doing something that is Makruh?
A 3. "Makruh" literally means something "disliked" or "undesirable." According to the Shari'ah it is any action that one is told not to do without making it absolutely prohibited. It is important to avoid doing the Makruh. There is no sin in it and no punishment if a person commits the Makruh, but it is blameworthy. Those who want to be pious and conscious of Allah should avoid doing any action that is Makruh. An example of Makruh is cigarette smoking or chewing tobacco. It is better to avoid these things, although they are not Haram (according to the majority of the jurists).
In the Shari'ah the actions are divided into five categories: 1. Fard or Wajib meaning obligatory or mandatory; 2. Mustahabb or Mandub meaning liked and recommended; 3. Haram or Mahzur meaning forbidden; 4. Makruh meaning disliked and not recommended and 5. Mubah or Halal meaning permissible and allowed.

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