Indeed we are in a time when the believer issubjected to fluctuations and Allaah has stretched out for him his lifespan. Every day that we spend in this world is a treasure. It is a booty that we must gather as our provision and we must seek from it what we are able of deeds to the best of our ability. Allaah says:
"Whosoever desires the reward of the Hereafter, We give him increase in his reward. And whosoever desires the reward of this world, We give him thereof and he has no portion in the Hereafter" (Q42 [ash Shura]:20)
Sha'ban is the name of the (eigth) month of the Islamiclunar calendar, and it is so called because in this month the Arabs used to disperse (tasha'aba) in search of water, or it was saidthat it is so called because it sha'aba (branches out or emerges) i.e., it appears between the months of Rajaband Ramadan. For this reason the pious predecessors would make a new start in Sha'ban and use it to prepare themselves for Ramadan. This month of Sha'ban is often described as the month for the reciters (of Qur'an). it is also said that the previous month of Rajab is the month for planting seeds; the month of Sha'ban is the month in which you water the seedsand the month of Ramadanis the month of harvest; wherein the seeds bear fruit.
How can we expect the seeds to bear fruit in Ramadan if we do not plant any seed sin the previous months. Sha'ban is an introduction to the month of Ramadan and just like Ramadan- fasting and recitation of the Qur'an has been prescribed within it in order to meet Ramadan by having ourselves prepared in obedience to the Merciful and for such reasons amongst others, the Prophet (salal/ahu alayhi wa sal/am) would increase his fasting in this blessed month and grab this time whereas many of usare heedlessof its virtues. And remember who was he - he was the Messenger of Allaah, he was the one forgiven his pastandfuture shortcomings. 'A'ishah (RA) said:
"The Messenger used to fast until we thought he would never break his fast, and not fast until we thought he would never fast. I never saw the Messenger of Allah fasting for an entire month except in Ramadan, and I never saw him fast more than he did in Sha'ban." (Bukhari and Muslim).
The Prophet himself did not leave us in the dark concerning the reason why he fasted a lot in the month of Sha'ban. Usamah ibn Zayd (RA)· said:
"I said, '0 Messenger of Allaah, I do not see you fasting in any other month like you fast in Sha'ban.'He said:
'That is a month to which people do not pay attention, between Rajab and Ramadan, and it is a month in which deeds are lifted up to the Lord of the Worlds. I like for my deeds to be lifted up when Iamfasting.'" (Nasa'i).
Ibn Rajab(RAH) added:
"Fasting in Sha'banis 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 statusof these fasts is like that of al- Sunan al-Rawatib 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 andafter Ramadan.
Just as al-Sunan al-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. The phrase "Sha'ban is a month to which people do not pay attention, between Rajab and Ramadan" indicates that because it comes between two important months, the Sacred Month of Rajab and the month of fasting, people are preoccupied with those two months and they do not pay attention to Sha'ban. Many people think that fasting in Rajab is better than fasting in Sha'ban, because Rajab is one of the Sacred Months, but this isnot the case. Bythe same token, doing righteous deeds at times when people 'are distracted and negligent is more difficult. One of the indications of how virtuous a deed is, is how difficult it is: if everyone is doing a certain action, it is easy, but if most people are negligent, this makes it more difficult for those who do remember Allah. Muslim narrated from the hadeeth of Ma'qil ibn Yasar:"[The Prophet said:]
'Worship at times of tribulation (fitnah) is like Hijrah to me.'" (The phrase "worship at times of tribulation" refers to times of upheavals and trials, when people follow their own desires, and those who adhere to Islam are doing something difficult.)
When Sha'ban began, ifthe Prophet (salal/ahu alayhi wa saflam) still had some voluntary fasts outstanding that he had not fasted, he would make them up during Sha'ban so that his nafl fasts would be complete before Ramadan came. Similarly, if he had missed some Sunnah prayers or he had missed Qiyam al-Layl (night prayer), he would make it up. 'A'ishah used to make the most of this opportunity to make up any obligatory Ramadan fasts that she had missed because of menstruation; during other months she was too busy with the Prophet (salal/ahu alayhi wa sal/am) to fast We should also note here that anyone who has ny missed fasts to make up has to make them up before the next Ramadan comes. It is not permissible to delay it until after the following Ramadan except in cases of necessity (such as a valid excuse that continues between the two Ramadans).
Whoever is able to make them up before the (second) Ramadan and does not do so, has to make them up after the (second) Ramadan and in addition to that, he has to repent and to feed one poor person for each day that he missed. This is the view of Malik, al-Shafa'I and Ahmad
Another benefit of fasting inSha'ban is that it is a kind of training for the Ramadan fast, in case a person minds it difficult to fast when Ramadan starts; if he fasts in Sha'ban he will have gotten used to fasting and he will feel strong and energetic when Ramadan comes. Sha'ban is like an introduction to Ramadan and it has some things in common with Ramadan, such as fasting, reciting Qur'an and giving in charity. Salamah ibn Suhayl used to say: "The month of Sha'ban is the month of reciters (of the Qur'an)." Habeeb ibn Abi Thabit used to say, when Sha'ban came, "This is the month of reciters (of the Qur'an)." When Sha'ban came, 'Amr ibn Qays al- Mala'i used to close his store and devote his time to reading the Qur'an.
Fasting at the end of Sha'ban The Prophet (salallahu alayhi wa sal/am) said:
"Do not pre-empt Ramadan by one or two days, except for those who have the habit offasting regularly, in which case they may fast." (Bukhari and Muslim).
Based on this hadeeth, there are three scenarios for fasting at the end of Sha'ban:
I. If a person fasts at the end of Sha'ban with the intention of being on the safe side and not missing the first day of Ramadan. This is forbidden.
2nd. If a person fasts with the intention of fulfilling a vow or of making up a day of Ramadan that he missed or as an act of expiation (kaffarah), etc. This is permissible according to the majority of scholars. 3rd. If one fasts a purely voluntary fast. This is regarded as makrooh (disliked) by those who said that we should differentiate between Sha'ban and Ramadan by not fasting for a while. Among those who said this was ai-Hasan. However, f it happens to coincide with a day when a person habitually fasts, then it is permissible to fast.
This article was culled from the publications of Deen Communication Limited