Observing 15th Sha’ban: Significance and Recommended Practices

The month of Sha’ban has high significance because of its attribution to the Holy Prophet (sallallahu alaihe wa’alihi) and the birthdays of various holy personalities. So, while all its nights are special, one of them has merits like none other – the 15th of Sha’ban. Although the followers of Ahlulbayt celebrate the birth of Imam Mahdi on this day, on its eve is an essential night of worship called Laylatul Bara’a (Night of Forgiveness).

Significance of the Eve of the 15th Sha’ban:

Imam Ja’far al-Sadiq (alaihis salaam), in one of his narrations, recounts an incident where the Prophet (sallalahu alaihe wa’alihi) was with one of his wives on the night of the 15th of Sha’ban. She noticed that the Prophet rose from his bed around midnight, went to his prayer mat and began praying fervently in prostration. Upon his return, she inquired about his actions, to which the Prophet responded:

“Don’t you know what night this is? This is the night of the middle of Sha’ban. On this night, provisions are distributed, destinies are decreed, and the list of Hujjaj is compiled.
Indeed, Allah forgives more people from His creation on this night than the number of hairs on the backs of the sheep. And Allah Almighty sends down His angels from the sky to the earth in Mecca.”

[Iqbal al-A’mal, Pg. 702]

Similarly, Imam Ja’far al-Sadiq narrates that Imam Muhammad al-Baqir was once asked about the significance of the eve of 15th Shaban. He replied:

“It is the best night after the Night of Decree (Laylatul Qadr). On this night, Allah bestows His favours upon His servants and forgives them out of His grace.
So, strive in drawing near to Allah on this night, for it is a night dear to Allah, wherein He does not turn away a supplicant who asks Him for goodness, as long as they do not ask for sin…”

[Wasail al-Shia, Vol. 8, Pg. 1056]

Recommended Acts on the Eve of 15th of Sha’ban

Books of Hadith and Supplications contain numerous recommended acts for this special night, as detailed by the Prophet and the Ahlulbayt. Some of the highly significant acts include:

1) Performing Ghusl: One highly recommended act on this night is Ghusl or a ritual full-body bath. Abu Baseer narrates from Imam al-Sadiq:

“Fast in Sha’ban and bathe on the middle night of it— for it (results in) relief and mercy from your Lord”.
[Misbah al-Mutahajjid, Pg. 853]

Scholars recommend performing Ghusl with the intention of washing away one’s past sins and impurities, especially with the belief that this may be one’s last Ghusl.

2) Staying Awake, Doing Worship: Numerous narrations encourage remaining awake while spending the Night of Bara’at in worship. Imam Ali narrates from the Holy Prophet (sallalahu alaihe wa’alihi),

“When the night of the fifteenth of Sha’ban arrives, engage in worship and fast during its day, for from the beginning to the end of this night, a call comes from the Lord: ‘Is there anyone seeking forgiveness for their sins that I may forgive them? Is there anyone asking for sustenance that I may provide for them?”
[Bihar al-Anwar, Vol. 95, Pg. 415]

Similarly, Zaid ibn Ali narrates about his father, Imam Ali Zayn al-Abidin,

“[Imam] Ali ibn al-Husayn (peace be upon them) used to gather us all on the night of the fifteenth of Sha’ban. Then he would divide the night into thirds, leading us in prayer for one-third, then supplicating, and we would affirm his supplication, then seeking forgiveness from Allah, and we would seek forgiveness from Him and ask Him for Paradise until dawn broke.”
[Misbah al-Mutahajjid, Pg. 813]

3) Ziyarah of Imam Husayn: In various narrations, visiting the grave of Imam Husayn on this night results in forgiveness of sins. This act is so significant that we have a special Ziyarah of Imam Husayn for the eve of the 15th of Sha’ban. Abu Basir narrates the following from Imam al-Sadiq:

“Whoever wishes to shake hands with one hundred and twenty thousand Prophets, let him visit the grave of Hussain (peace be upon him) on the fifteenth of Sha’ban. For the souls of the Prophets seek permission from Allah to visit him, and permission is granted to them.”

Similarly, Haroon ibn Kharija, another trustable companion of Imam al-Sadiq, narrates from him that:

“When the fifteenth of Sha’ban arrives, a caller from the highest horizon announces: ‘O visitors of Husayn! Return forgiven, your reward is with your Lord and your Prophet Muhammad.”
[Misbah al-Mutahajjid, Pg. 830]

Note: If one cannot visit the grave or recite Ziyarah, the least one can do is find an elevated place to stand, look left, right, and then towards the sky, to say the following:

السَّلامُ عَلَيْكَ يَا أَبَا عَبْدِ اللّه السَّلامُ عَلَيْكَ وَرَحْمَةُ اللّه وَبَرَكَاتُهُ

Other Recommended Acts:
Scholars have narrated other recommended acts for this night which include:

4) Reciting Dua al-Kumayl (Dua al-Khizr): Sayed ibn Tawus in his book Iqbal al-A’mal quotes from Imam Ali that the one who revives this night and recites Dua of Khizr in it, his supplication will undoubtedly be responded.

5) Performing Salat Jafar al-Tayyar: Reciting this 4-unit prayer and its supplications has immense benefits. Imam Ali al-Reza highly recommends performing Salat Jafar al-Tayar on this night for the fulfilment of wishes and desires. The complete method for this Salat can be found here: https://www.duas.org/mobile/salaat-jafar-tayyar.html

6) Seeking Forgiveness: Reflecting on your sins and seeking forgiveness is highly important, especially through the various supplications that the Imams of Ahlulbayt have taught us. Furthermore, the Dhikr (doxology) of the Holy Prophet (sallalahu alaihe wa’alihi) and the Holy Household must be prioritised, found in Mafatih al-Jinan or duas.org, throughout this holy night.

7) Strengthening Your Bond with Your Imam: Recite this special supplication, welcoming the birth of the Imam, as narrated by Sheikh Tusi and Ibn Tawus (found here).

It’s imperative to remember that the 15th of Shaban not only marks the occasion of Imam al-Mahdi’s birth but also the day that marks the commencement of his Great Occultation (Ghaybat al-Kubra). Consequently, scholars encourage individuals to utilise this opportunity to write a letter (Ariza) on this night and pray with utmost sincerity for the hastening of the Imam’s reappearance.

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