Friday, August 1, 2008

Fasting During Sha'ban

A reminder of the virtues of fasting during the month of Sha`ban (which has just begun in many countries around the world) from Imam Zaid Shakir's blog:

Sha’ban is a month of good that introduces the great month of Ramadan. The Prophet, peace upon him, used to fast voluntarily during this month more so than in any other month. One of the motivations for that, as we will mention below, is that Sha’ban is the month during which the deeds performed by the servant ascend to God. What follows is a discussion around fasting during the month of Sha’ban.

Usama b. Zayd relates: “The Prophet, peace and mercy of God upon him, used to fast so many days in succession that we said, ‘He will never break his fast.’ At other times he would go without fasting for so long until we said, ‘He will never again fast;’ except for two days, which he would fast even if they occurred during the times he was not fasting consecutive days. Furthermore, he would not fast in any month as many days as he fasted during Sha’ban. I said: ‘O Messenger of God! Sometimes you fast so much it is as if you will never break your fast, at other times you leave fasting for such a long stint it is as if you will never again fast [voluntarily]; except for two days that you always fast.’ He asked: ‘Which two days are those?’ I replied: ‘Monday and Thursday.’ The Prophet, peace upon him, said: ‘Those are two days in which the deeds are presented to the Lord of the Worlds. I love that my deeds are presented while I am fasting.’ I said: ‘I do not see you fasting in any month like you fast during Sha’ban.’ The Prophet, peace and mercy of God upon him, said: “That is a month occurring between Rajab and Ramadan that many people neglect. It is a month in which the deeds ascend to the Lord of the Worlds, be He Mighty and Majesty, and I love for my deeds to ascend while I am fasting.” Related by Imam Ahmad and Imam Al-Nasa’i


There are other reasons we are encouraged to fast in Sha’ban, Ibn Rajab mentions a few. Among them, in summary:

1. People tend to neglect Sha’ban as it occurs between Rajab, one of the sacred months, and Ramadan, the great month of fasting and Qur’an. Therefore, we are encouraged to fast it by way of reviving it and not neglecting it.

2. Fasting during it is easier to hide. All observant Muslims are fasting in Ramadan, and many place great emphasis on fasting during Rajab. Therefore, those who fast Sha’ban are doing so against the expectations of most people and can therefore more easily hide the fact that they are fasting. There is great virtue, under normal circumstances in hiding our voluntary acts. One anecdote in this regard mentions a man who fasted voluntarily for forty years without anyone knowing it, even his family. Every morning he would leave home with two loaves of bread in his hand. He would give them away in charity. His family thought that he was eating them, and the people in the marketplace where he worked thought that he was selling them.

3. A third reason is related to the previous one. Because many people are fasting during Ramadan and Rajab, it is easier to fast then as large groups engaging in a particular act of worship make it easier for an individual to undertake that act. Hence, the increased difficulty of fasting during Sha’ban led the Prophet to place great emphasis on it.[2]

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