Shaban is the eighth month of the Islamic calendar. This month acts as a bridge between the two blessed months of Rajab and Ramadan. The fifteenth night of this month is known as the "Night of Records" (Laylat al-Bara'at).
Shaban is one of the most important and very significant months for our spiritual works. Every Muslim should start practising more their spiritual works from this month. This month is for the preparation for the holy month of Ramadan. We find some particular instructions in the light of Sunnah of the Prophet (pbuh). It is reported in authentic hadith that the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) used to fast most of this month. Ummul-Mu'mineen Umm Salamah, (Ra) says: "I have never seen the Messenger of Allah fasting for two months continuously except in the months of Shaban and Ramadan." (Musnade Ahmad, Hadith 26022, Abu Daud, Hadith 2336, Nasayi, Hadith 2175, Ibne Majah, Hadith 1648).But these fasts were not obligatory on him, however, Shaban is the month immediately preceding the month of Ramadan. Therefore, some preparatory measures are suggested by Prophet Muhammad (pbuh).
The Prophet (pbuh) used to fast all the time of this month because this month is very special. In spite of this, we always neglect it. The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) alerted us to this fact when he was asked why he was fasting so much in Shaban. He replied: "It is a month that people neglect"
The blessed companion Usama ibn Zaid (Ra) reports that he asked Prophet Muhammad (pbuh): "Messenger of Allah, I have seen you fasting in the month of Shaban so frequently that I have never seen you fasting in any other month." Prophet Muhammad (phuh) replied, "That (Shaban) is a month between Rajab and Ramadan which is neglected by many people. And it is a month in which an account of the deeds (of human beings) is presented before the Lord of the universe, so, I wish that my deeds be presented at a time when I am in a state of fasting." (Narrated by Ahmad and al-Nasai).
Ummul Mumineen Aishah (Ra) says, "Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) used to fast the whole of Shaban. I said to him, ‘Messenger of Allah, is Shaban your most favourite month for fasting?' He said, ‘In this month Allah prescribes the list of the persons dying this year. Therefore, I like that my death comes when I am in a state of fasting." (Sahih Muslim, Hadith 1156).In another hadith, she says, "Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) would sometimes begin to fast continuously until we thought he would not stop fasting, and sometimes he used to stop fasting until we thought he would never fast. I never saw the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) fasting a complete month, except the month of Ramadan, and I have never seen him fasting in a month more frequently than he did in Shaban."
These hadiths indicate that fasting in the month of Shaban, is not obligatory, but that Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) did not like to miss it.
We should remember that the fasts of Shaban are for those persons only who are capable of fasting obligatory fasts of Ramadan if they fast as nafal in shaban. If one fears to lose his strength or freshness for the fasts of Ramadan and will not be able to fast in it with freshness, he should not fast in Shaban, because the fasts of Ramadan, being obligatory, are more important than the optional fasts of Shaban.
That is why Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) himself has forbidden Muslims from fasting one or two days immediately before the commencement of Ramadan. The blessed companion Abu Hurairah (Ra) reports that the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) to have said, "Do not fast after the first half of the month of Shaban is gone."
According to another hadith, Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) has said: "Do not precede the month of Ramadan with one or two fasts."
The essence of the above-quoted hadith is that Prophet Muhammad (phuh) himself used to fast most in the month of Shaban because he had no fear of developing weakness or weariness before the commencement of Ramadan. As for others, he ordered them not to fast after the 15th of Sha'ban for the fear that they would lose their strength and freshness before Ramadan starts and therefore would not be able to welcome the month of Ramadan with enthusiasm.
The writer is the Editor of monthly Al-Hera (An Arabic Magazine) and Assistant Mufti at Jamia Rahmania Sautul Hira, Tongi, Gazipur.