Cherishing The Neglected Month: 5 tips for Sha’ban.
You’re in lock down. You’re Muslim. You’re worried. Worried about the news, worried about friends, family, those around you that are vulnerable. Worried about your job, studies or business. Worried about Ramadan coming up. The most momentous occasion in a Muslim's life. A chance to turn to Allah, to change for the good and a chance to transform spiritually and psychologically into that amazing person you had always felt you were destined to become.
But with all these concerns have you forgotten something that was right under your nose. An opportunity that presents itself every time this year since the last 1400 years that even the Rasul ﷺ said “many people ignore or are neglectful of”.
What is this opportunity? It is the blessed month of Sha’ban that we are in now. The month wherein the Prophet ﷺ said, “deeds are raised to Allah”.
So if you’re reading this, consider this as a sign from Allah to take heed of this month and to utilise this time that Allah has given you if you’re in lock down or isolation, to make this Sha’ban the best Sha’ban you’ve ever had.
Here are 5 tips to help you do just that in sha Allah.
1) Turn your face to Allah:
It was in this very month of Sha’ban that the hearts of the believers and of our beloved messenger ﷺ were comforted when it was revealed to him during salah, to turn away from masjid Al Aqsa, to face the Ka’ba in Makkah, the first masjid and house of Allah.
Although masjid Al Aqsa bares incredible importance in Islam and for all of the Muslims,the significance of masjid al Haram, the Ka’ba in Makkah is in symbolising tawheed (monothiesm) and the story of prophet Ibrahim who built it along with his son Ismail, as Allah says about him:
And who can be better in religion than one who submits his face (himself) to Allah (i.e. follows Allah's Religion of Islamic Monotheism); and he is a Muhsin (a good-doer). And follows the religion of Ibrahim Hanifa (Islamic Monotheism - to worship none but Allah Alone). And Allah did take Ibrahim as a Khalil (an intimate friend).
In these testing times, when our hearts and minds are being pulled in so many directions, be it by scaremongering messages on WhatsApp, news of death tolls rising globally, family, friends and those who are vulnerable in a condition that we cannot help, the story of Ibrahim and the turning of the qibla towards Makkah that happened this month reminds us to turn back to Allah and seek his aid and aim for his friendship.
A beautiful way to actualise this turning to Allah in our daily lives and imprint this in our hearts is to learn this du’a from Surah Al An’am - surah 6 verse 79 (dua al istiftah) that can be used to open the salah, to be read just after the first takbir al ihram:
Inni wajjahtu wajhiya lilladhi fataras-samawati wal arda hanifan wa maa ana minal mushrikin.
Verily, I have turned my face towards Him Who has created the heavens and the earth, Hanifa (worshipping none but Allah Alone) and I am not of Al-Mushrikun (those who associate partners with Allah).
2) Stockpile on soul food: Islamic knowledge.
The scholar Ibn Hajar Al Asqalani mentions that Sha’ban is so called because in this month the Arabs used to disperse (tasha'aba) in search of water. They would carve out their wells to store water in preparation for the following month of Ramadan, whose name is derived from “ramadha”, indicating intense heat, as Ramadan coincided with the severe heat of summer.
This sha’ban, due to the global pandemic we are also seeing a type of dispersing and even hoarding occurring whereby people are frantically stockpiling on food and essentials, or panic buying, often in great excess and being neglectful of neighbours and the vulnerable in society.
When everyone around us seems to be engaged in this material frenzy let us, as Muslims, who acknowledge this worldly domain as temporary and our true homes as the hereafter engage in a different pursuit. This sha’ban let us stockpile on soul food. That is, Islamic knowledge.
As Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal said:
“People are more in need of knowledge than food and drink because they only need food and drink once or twice a day - but they need knowledge with every breath they take”.
There are many benefits to be taken from this saying including the fact the muslims of the past would only eat once or twice a day, an example that we ought to aspire to during this pandemic and in the build up to Ramadan, but also how they would view the importance of knowledge.
In this day and age by the grace of Allah an abundance of knowledge is at our fingertips. And with the situation we are in, Allah has also granted us an abundance of time. Especially for those of us working or studying from home or not engaged in matters that we were busy with before the lock down. So perhaps the difficulty is no longer in having to travel days on end to seek knowledge like those who came before us did, but rather with where to start and what to learn.
There are many ways to begin studying Islam. From short animated YouTube videos on topics such as Tafsir (exegesis of the Qur’an) like the series from Nouman Ali Khan for visual learners, to podcasts on stories of the sahaba (companions) for more auditory learners to free e-books and PDFs like this 30 page summary of the Qur’an and this short PDF covering 80% percent of the oft-repeated arabic words of the Qur’an.
The important thing is to begin somewhere, even an ayah or a hadith a day, and keep a connection with knowledge. As is narrated from the Rasul ﷺ:
“Take up good deeds only as much as you are able, for the best deeds are those done regularly even if they are few.” (Sunan Ibn Mājah 4240).
3) Believe in miracles:
It is mentioned that Sha’ban is also the month in which the splitting of the moon took place. This was from one of the miracles of the Prophet ﷺ. As Allah says in the Qur’an:
“The hour (of Judgment) is nigh, and the moon is cleft asunder. But if they see a Sign, they turn away, and say "This is (but) transient magic." (54: 1-2)
The mushrikeen (polytheists) of Makkah said to the Prophet ﷺ “If you truly are a Prophet that has been appointed by Allah, then split the moon in half. Let it be in such a way that one half will appear over Mount Abu Qubais and the other half will be seen over Mount Quayqian.” They also said if this happens they would accept Islam.
However, when the Nabih ﷺ ‘s dua was accepted by Allah and this miracle took place the mushrikeen still denied what was so clear to them and said: “This is a prevalent magic!” … “Abu Talib’s orphan affected the sky with his spell!”
The miracle of the splitting of the moon has already passed. But what remains with us is an even greater miracle. One that Allah has preserved and has not been altered or changed by an iota over 1400 years. A miracle by which those who Allah allows to be affected by it are taken from the depths of darkness to the light of Allah. That is the speech of Allah, the Qur’an.
So believe in the miracle of the Qur’an. And beautify this belief by striving to learn it, implement it in your life. Make it your companion in times of ease and difficulty. When you feel the world around you closing up, stress and anxiety overwhelming you, seek comfort in the words of the most merciful and be of those as the great scholar Hasan Al Basri said:
“Those who treat the Quran as a cure and apply it to heal the ailments of the hearts. They recite it in their places of devotion and attain tranquillity, they weep in their hooded cloaks, and they are overcome with fear and sombreness. It is for their sake that Allah sends down the rain and it is through them that Allah confers victory against the enemy. By Allah this category is rarer than red gold”.
4) Raise yourself and your deeds:
Going back to the first Hadith we mentioned, the Prophet ﷺ stated that deeds rise and are presented to Allah in the month of Sha’ban.
In fact it has been confirmed in the Prophetic Sunnah that the deeds of an individual are raised and presented to Allah on a daily basis during Fajr and Asr, weekly on Mondays and Thursdays and on a yearly basis in Sha’ban
This is to motivate us to hasten in good deeds and provide us an opportunity to make up for our shortcomings. And just as Allah has given great importance to Fajr and Asr salah compared to the rest of the prayers, Mondays and Thursdays and the month of Sha’ban should also be given importance.
And bearing in mind that our deeds are risen towards Allah this month we should try to raise our own selves too in all that is good. That is to become better neighbours, better colleagues, better worshipers and better muslims so that we can bring forth the best of ourselves to Allah this month and be best prepared for Ramadan.
5) Prepare for Ramadan
Ibn Rajab al-Hanbali, one of the great scholars, said:
“The month of Sha’bān is a preparation for the month of Ramadān.”
Also Imam Abu Bakr Al Warraq Al Balkhi said:
“Rajab is the month to sow the seeds. Sha’ban is the month to irrigate the crop and Ramadan is the month to reap the harvest.”
Sha’ban is also the month in which Ramadan was legislated when Allah sent down verse 285 of Surah Al Baqarah:
In preparing for Ramadan it is recommended to fast this month as according to several authentic hadiths the Prophet ﷺ would fast all of the month or most of it, although fasting two days before the end of the month is not liked (makruh).
It is also scientifically proven that the human body in the first days of fasting begins to consume its stored reserves of fats and proteins, to compensate for the shortage of food. As a result, some poisons (adrenaline hormone) flow into the blood and that is why the fasting person feels some symptoms like headache, weakness, temper or other withdrawal symptoms. After a few days of fasting, these symptoms disappear when the hormone ratio in the blood returns to normal, with Allah’s will. Thus the voluntary Sha’ban fasting is considered as training for the obligatory fasting of Ramadan and removes hardship when entering Ramadan.
And finally considering that the ultimate purpose of Ramadan is Taqwa (God Consciousness), Sha’ban is an opportune time to begin to practise those things that can bring us closer to Allah and more importantly leave off those things that take us away from his remembrance. It is commonly believed that it takes 21 days to build or break a habit. So use the time from now until Ramadan to let go of those habits you’ve either picked up during isolation or before and build small but effective acts into your life, all put together by a solid routine in sha Allah. Get up at a set time, go to sleep at a set time and break your day up according to your salah schedule.
We end by asking Allah;
Allahumma baarik lana fi rajab wa sha’ban wa ballighnaa Ramadan.
Oh Allah bless us in Rajab and Sha’ban and allow us to reach Ramadan.
Written by Muhammad Malik