Shab-e-Barat: What is it really all about?
Read the article on Shab-e-Barat that came out on Prothom Alo which is available at http://www.prothom-alo.com/detail/date/2010-07-27/news/81929 and then another one at the Daily Sun at http://www.daily-sun.com/index.php?view=details&type=daily_sun_news&archiev=yes&arch_date=17-07-2011&pub_no=279&cat_id=2&menu_id=17&news_type_id=1&news_id=58392 . Also read the editorials of some major newspapers as well as the news announcements. Surprisingly, all of them have made a lot of claims trying to justify its merit but did not quote any direct references from the Qur’an and Sunnah to support them! The truth is, one would have failed miserably if one tried to bring in supporting quotes to back their claims; because, there aren't any.
There is no such thing as Shab-e-Barat as we like to perceive and follow it. Evidences suggest that our Prophet (S) used to begin preparation for Ramadan from the middle of Shaban, but that does not imply any significance for the night before or after being special.
There is no evidence in the Qur'an and Sunnah to support the claim that our luck and fate is re-written on the night of 14th Shaban. Rather, we find claims that Allah wrote our complete luck and fate before our birth and that does not change. He does not need to decide on a matter every year.
"Narrated Abu Huraira: Allah's Apostle said, "Adam and Moses argued
with each other. Moses said to Adam. 'You are Adam whose mistake expelled you
Not even Sahb-e-Miraz carries any significance other than the historical fact that our Prophet (S) went on to visit Allah and brought salat (formal prayers) for us. No special prayers were offered in the night of Meraz either by the Prophet (s) or any of his disciples. No instruction on treating this night specially can also be found in the Qur'an and Sunnah. What we find in the Qur’an regarding the night journey on Meraz is this –
“Glory to (God) Who did take His servant for a Journey by night from the Sacred Mosque to the farthest Mosque, whose precincts We did bless,- in order that We might show him some of Our Signs: for He is the One Who heareth and seeth (all things).” (17:1).
What we really have is Shab-e-Qadr. There are plenty of authentic references and instructions on how to observe this night and this particular night carries a lot of significance. Yet, the exact time and date is kept hidden from us.
Narrated 'Abdullah: The Prophet said, "Abusing a Muslim is Fusuq (an evil doing) and killing him is Kufr (disbelief)." Narrated 'Ubada bin As-Samit: "Allah's Apostle went out to inform the people about the (date of the) night of decree (Al-qadr) but there happened a quarrel between two Muslim men. The Prophet said, "I came out to inform you about (the date of) the night of Al-qadr, but as so and so and so and so quarrelled, its knowledge was taken away (I forgot it) and maybe it was better for you. Now look for it in the 7th, the 9th and the 5th (of the last 10 nights of the month of Ramadan)." (Bukhari, Book #2, Hadith #46)
It could be on any night within the last ten days of Ramadan. Thus, we have the system of a period of retreat in a masjid (called ‘Itikaf’) on the last ten days of the month to ensure that Qadr is not missed. The main reason for the significance of this night is the fact that the holy Qur’an was revealed in the night of Qadr-
“By the Book that makes things clear;- We sent it down during a Blessed Night: for We (ever) wish to warn (against Evil). In the (Night) is made distinct every affair of wisdom, By command, from Our Presence. For We (ever) send (revelations), As Mercy from thy Lord: for He hears and knows (all things); The Lord of the heavens and the earth and all between them, if ye (but) have an assured faith.” [Sura Dukhan (Smoke): 44:2-7].
Unfortunately, many misguided Muslim scholars quote this particular verse (i.e., 44:3) as a supporting verse for Shab-e-Barat, which is totally false! The verse here is clearly talking about the night of Qard which fell in the month of Ramadan; and the Qur’an as first revealed in Ramadan and not in Shaban!
A complete chapter (# 97) is dedicated on Qadr (meaning ‘The Night of Power or Fate’) in the Qur’an-
“We have indeed revealed this (Message) in the Night of Power: And what will explain to thee what the night of power is? The Night of Power is better than a thousand months. Therein come down the angels and the Spirit by God's permission, on every errand: Peace! This until the rise of morn!” (97:1-5).
The article in question did have some quotes from Baihaki and Ibn Mazah, but they need an introduction on who they were and
if their information are credible. As per my finding, Ibn
Majah (824-89 CE) was born in
Ibn Majah’s position remained controversial as late as the 18th century. He authored the sixth canonical hadith where a total of 4,341 recordings are found out of which 1,339 are unique. Among them, only 428 are considered authentic, which means he recorded many weak or false hadiths as well. Abu Daud and Al Tirmidhi, editors of two other authoritative hadith compilations, also recorded weak hadiths, they identified them as such, whereas Ibn Majah did not. During that time many Persian were Sunnis, but he may have been influenced by the Shiai sect around him during the time.
Quotes from any particular tradition or saying of the Prophet (S) (i.e., Hadith) requires the indicators of the exact source that could be checked and verified; because weak (daif) hadiths should be dealt with carefully and often gets rejected if not sound and not in compliance with the Qur’an and Sunnah. We need to be aware of the fact that Shiai sect have a lot differences in practice and rituals of Islam with the Sunnis.
In order to write this paper I went through the references online listed on the reference part below. From the introduction of the article and reading from the sites, I could find a link to a Persian (or Farsi) innovation to celebrate the birthday of their 12th Imam, which is on the 15 of Shaban – the day following the 14th night, which is a Shai matter. It is possible that the concept has somehow entered the main stream of Islam and got accepted without any challenge from the Muslim world who does not understand Arabic – the language of the Qur’an, Sunnah and thus Islam.
Shab-e-Barat and Shab-e-Miraz are not celebrated in the Arabic speaking Muslim world. Most of the misunderstandings, misinterpretations and wrong practices of Islam are noticed in the non-Arabic speaking Muslims countries and cultures. So, what is the solution? Learn Arabic and stick to the original sources of Islam – the Qur’an and Sunnah! Imam al-Shafi'i narrated: "People did not become ignorant nor differed except after their abandonment of the Arabic language and their inclination to the language of Aristotle’s!" [Source: al-Dhahabi, Siyar A'lam al-Nubala 10:74 and al-Suyuti in Sawn al-Mantiq p.15]
Finally, to strengthen my arguments further, I would like to pose the following comments / queries to the reader to ponder upon:
1. There are no solid and reliable evidence in any of the authentic hadiths supporting this "important" practice by the Prophet (s) himself or any of his followers. The question that automatically comes into one mind is that, why did the Prophet (s) and how followers keep so silent and low profile about such an important night if the night is really so important?
2. The only source of reference that the Muslims supporting this concept bring is from "Bai-haki and Ibn Maza" which are considered poor or weak references.
3. If one pay close attention to the references that are considered as a defense of this concept are from a much later period written by different scholars circling around those same reference from Bai-haki and Ibn Maza.
4. One would also notice that the details and descriptions (even word for word) match with the hatiths about Shab-e-Qadr. Only change is, instead of Shab-e-Qadr they are saying Shab-e-Barat thus making it a significant day; indicating to the possibility of intentional fakery of information.
There is among them a section who distort the Book with their tongues: (As they read) you would think it is a part of the Book, but it is no part of the Book; and they say, "That is from Allah," but it is not from Allah. It is they who tell a lie against Allah, and (well) they know it! ( سورة آل عمران , Aal-e-Imran, Chapter #3, Verse #78)
There is no harm in offering special prayers at any time and
date if one whishes to satisfy Allah; but when it is done with wrong
expectations than the prayers would not be accepted nor
would it serve the purpose intended for. We must follow Islam exactly it has
been prescribed to us, and in an authentic manner. Fortunately though, the
situation is improving in
Wikipedia on Shab-e-Barat: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mid-Sha%27ban
Islamic Voice: http://www.islamicvoice.com/december.98/dialogue.htm
Search Truth: http://www.searchtruth.com/
Ibn Majah: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ibn_Majah
Ibn Majah – Biography: http://www.islamlaws.com/ibn-majah-biography-ibn-maja-work-history/