Sha'ban is the eighth lunar month of the Islamic calendar, which began at Maghrib on Monday 20th February 2023.
Many of the names for the Islamic months are either related to weather or war, or both. The word Sha'ban is derived from Tasha'ub meaning 'it became separated'. Traditionally, Arab tribes used to separate or disperse themselves in Sha'ban, to search for water in preparation for the hot weather of Ramadan. They could also disperse for war expeditions, as they were restrained from doing so in the previous sacred month of Rajab, in which all fighting was to cease.
Sha'ban is a highly special month, as the Prophet (saw) said, 'Rajab is the month of Allah, Sha'ban is my month and Ramadan is the month of my Ummah'. [Suyuti]
In this blog, we will focus on the virtues of fasting in Sha'ban:
1) Our deeds are raised to Allah in Sha'ban
Our deeds are raised to Allah (swt) via the Noble Rock at the Blessed Masjid Al-Aqsa daily at Fajr and 'Asr time [Muslim], weekly on Mondays and Thursdays [Tirmidhi] and yearly in Sha'ban:
Usamah ibn Zaid (ra) said, 'I said, "O Messenger of Allah, I do not see you fasting any month as much as Sha'ban". He [saw] said, "That is a month that people neglect, between Rajab and Ramadan. It is a month in which actions are raised to the Lord of the worlds, and I love for my actions to be raised whilst I am fasting"'. [Nasa'i]
Interestingly, one of the meanings of Sha‘ban is 'something that is placed between two significant things so that you lose sight of it'.
For example, we have the Arabic word Shi‘b, which means 'a mountain path, valley or ravine'. This word is derived from the same Arabic root word as Sha‘ban. And similarly, Sha’ban is 'hidden' between the sacred month of Rajab and the blessed month of Ramadan, so can be easily overlooked or missed.
This month is truly an opportunity for the elite of the believers to shine while others are neglectful of its virtues. Just like the elite wake up in the last third of the night to pray Tahajjud while others sleep, they can also fast the days of Sha’ban while others may neglect this Sunnah. There is undoubtedly great virtue in hiding our voluntary acts.
2) The most beloved month of fasting for the Prophet (saw)
As mentioned before, the Prophet (saw) stated that Sha‘ban was 'my month'. In fact, he (saw) loved to fast in it more than any other lunar month:
Thus, fasting in Sha’ban is a way for us to express our love for the Prophet’s Sunnah and our wish to be close to him in the Hereafter:
'And whoever loves my Sunnah has loved me; and whoever loves me will be with me in Paradise'. [Tirmidhi]
3) The Prophet (saw) fasted these days the most after Ramadan
Naturally, as the Prophet (saw) loved to fast in Sha‘ban, he (saw) fasted the most in this special month! While most people neglected Sha’ban even though they fasted in sacred Rajab, he (saw) would carry on fasting throughout Sha’ban:
Aishah (ra) said, 'The Messenger of Allah (saw) used to fast (so continuously) that we said that he would not break it, and he did not fast at all until we said that he would not fast. And I did not see the Messenger of Allah (saw) completing the fast of a month, but that of Ramadan, and I did not see him fasting more in any other month than that of Sha‘ban'. [Muslim]
4) Combining Sunnah fasts
Although it was from the beloved Sunnah of the Prophet (saw) to fast most of Sha‘ban, this may be a difficult practice for many of us, especially if we’re not in the habit of fasting. A great solution to this is to fast the Sunnah days of fasting!
Mondays and Thursdays:
The Prophet (saw) used to fast on Mondays and Thursdays for the following three main reasons:
- 'Deeds are presented on Monday and Thursday [to Allah], so I love that my deeds are presented while I am fasting'. [Tirmidhi]
- 'The gates of Paradise are flung open' [Tirmidhi]
- 'Allah forgives every Muslim except two who have abandoned one another' [Ibn Majah]
The following hadith indicates that the Prophet (saw) targeted Mondays and Thursdays for fasting:
The Three Bright Days:
The following hadith indicates that the Prophet (saw) used to fast three days in every lunar month:
Ibn Umar (ra) said, 'The Prophet (saw) used to fast three days of each month'. [Nasa’i]
However, you could specifically target the 13th, 14th and 15th days of the lunar month. These are called Al-Ayyam al-Bid (the Bright Days), when the moon is full and circular. The Prophet (saw) consistently fasted on these particular days:
- The Prophet (saw) commanded us to fast them. On the authority of Abdul-Malik ibn Qudamah ibn Milhan (ra) that his father (ra) said, 'The Messenger of Allah (saw) used to command us to fast the (three) days with the bright beautiful nights (Al-Ayyam al-Bid), the 13th, 14th and 15th [of every lunar month]'. [Nasa’i]
- The Prophet (saw) fasted them if he was resident in a place or travelling. On the authority of Ibn Abbas (ra) who said, 'The Messenger of Allah (saw) didn’t use to break fasting on the Bright Days (Al-Ayyam al-Bid) whether he was a resident or traveling'. [Nasa’i]
- They are equivalent to fasting the entire month. On the authority of a man called Abdul-Malik (ra) who narrated from his father (ra) that the Messenger of Allah (saw) used to enjoin (fasting) these three Bright Days saying, 'They are (equivalent to) fasting the whole month'. [Nasa’i]
This Sha‘ban, the Bright Days will fall on March 26th, 27th and 28th. If you need extra-motivation to fast these three days, take on our 3 Bright Days Challenge!
5) Make up missed fasts of Ramadan
The scholars strongly advise that we make up our missed fard fasts from last Ramadan before another Ramadan comes. We have narrations even from the noble wives of the Prophet (saw), the Mothers of the Believers (ra), that they used to make up their missed fasts of Ramadan in Sha‘ban:
We learned earlier that the Prophet (saw) used to fast pretty much the whole of Sha‘ban. The scholars indicate more wisdoms for this, based upon the hadith above. Firstly, the Prophet (saw) supported his noble wives in this month by also fasting alongside them. Secondly, as they were making up their missed fard fasts of Ramadan, he was making up any voluntary (nafl) fasts in this month before Ramadan. This truly indicates his spiritual excellence once again, subhanAllah!
6) Fast Sha‘ban in honour of Ramadan
Fasting in Sha‘ban is a wonderful preparation for Ramadan, the month of obligatory fasting:
Scholars indicate that this is similar to praying Sunnah prayers in honour of our fard prayers. For this reason, Imam Ibn Rajab (rh) stated, 'Fasting in Sha‘ban is better than fasting in the Sacred Months, and the best of voluntary fasts are those that are (observed in the months) closest to Ramadan, before or after. The status of these fasts is like that of sunan rawatib (established Sunnah prayers), which are done before and after fard (obligatory prayers) and which make up for any shortfall in the number of obligatory prayers. The same applies to fasts observed before and after Ramadan. Just as sunan rawatib are better than other kinds of voluntary prayers, so fasts observed (in the months) before and after Ramadan are better than fasts at other times'. [Lata’if al-Ma‘arif]
Fasting in Sha‘ban is a great physical and spiritual preparation for Ramadan and the Prophet (saw) even used to count down the days to Ramadan in Sha‘ban:
Aishah (ra) said, 'The Messenger of Allah (saw) used to count the days in Sha‘ban in a manner he did not count any other month; then he fasted when he sighted the new moon of Ramadan; but if the weather was cloudy he counted thirty days and then fasted'. [Abu Dawud]
7) Revive the Sunnah
The Prophet (saw) predicted that people would neglect this special month of Sha‘ban. Why not honour his legacy and try to revive this forgotten and beloved Sunnah, as well as encouraging our family and friends to also fast and gain the great reward?
The Messenger of Allah (saw) said, 'Whoever revives a Sunnah of mine that dies out after me, he will indeed have a reward equivalent to that of those among the people who act upon it, without that detracting from their reward in the slightest…' [Ibn Majah]
Don’t neglect the month of Sha’ban!
Having read all of this, you may be wondering why we don’t have a direct hadith in which the Prophet (saw) commands us to fast in Sha‘ban? The answer is both subtle and beautiful, ma sha Allah!
Scholars state that if you look very carefully at the ahadith about Sha‘ban, you notice that all the narrators are either the noble wives of the Prophet (saw) or from his household. They observed the Prophet (saw) fasting in Sha‘ban even though he didn’t command his Ummah to do so. The reason for this is from his mercy to his Ummah, subhanAllah - he knew that we have to fast in Ramadan, so he reduced our burden in Sha‘ban!
The Prophet (saw) even advised his Ummah to not fast the second half of Sha‘ban or its final days if they are not used to fasting regular Sunnah fasts like Mondays and Thursdays. Thus, it is highly recommended to fast in Sha'ban - but we should make sure that we are physically capable of doing so!
If you find it difficult to fast, you can still make the most of Sha’ban! The scholars explain that the days of Sunnah fasting are also a golden opportunity to do other righteous deeds, such as reciting more Qur’an, performing extra prayers and giving more charity.
Aishah (ra) said, 'The Messenger of Allah (saw) did not observe fast in any month of the year more than in the month of Sha‘ban, and he used to say, "Do as many deeds as you are capable of doing, for Allah will not become weary (of giving you reward), but you would be tired (of doing good deeds)". And he also used to say, "The most beloved deed to Allah is one to which the doer adheres constantly even if it is small"'. [Muslim]
We pray Allah helps us to increase our good deeds in Sha’ban and allows us to make the most of this special month, amin!