The month of Sha’ban brings with it many opportunities to perform good deeds while celebrating the birthdays of our leaders. The first two weeks of Sha’ban contains the birthdays of Lady Zainab (1st Sha’ban), Imam Hussain (3rd Sha’ban), Hazrat Abbas (4th Sha’ban), Imam Zainul Abideen (5th Sha’ban), Hazrat Ali al-Akbar (10th Sha’ban), Hazrat Qasim (11th Sha’ban), and of course, the Imam of Our Time (15th Sha’ban) – peace be upon them all!
As with Rajab, there are special acts of worship specific to certain nights, and there are short acts of worship which can be performed anywhere and at anytime during the Prophet’s (peace be upon him and his progeny) month. Imam Ja’far as-Sadiq (peace be upon him) once said, “When his eyes fell on the new moon of Sha’ban, the Messenger of Allah ordered somebody to declare the following to the people of Medina: Oh people of Yathrib! I am Allah’s Messenger to you all (carrying this message): Verily, Sha’ban is my month; therefore, may Allah have mercy upon him who helps me undertake my month.”
Giving charity and seeking forgiveness from the Almighty are acts especially recommended during this month. Imam Ja’far as-Sadiq once said, “Almsgiving and seeking forgiveness are the best deeds in Sha’ban. Verily, if anyone of you gives alms in Sha’ban, Almighty Allah will breed those alms in the very same way as you breed your small camels. Hence, these alms will be as huge as Mount Uhud on the Resurrection Day.”
Some sources say that when a person seeks forgiveness seventy times in a day in Sha’ban, it is as if that person has sought forgiveness seventy thousand times! It is highly recommended to recite a small yet powerful line of forgiveness seventy times daily. It is the same prayer recommended for the month of Rajab: Astaghfirullaha wa as-aluhu tawba. (I seek forgiveness from Allah, and I pray He accepts my repentance.)
Another prayer in which we address our Creator by some of His beautiful titles is also recommended to be recited seventy times each day: Astaghfirullahal-ladhee laa ilaaha illaa Huw, ar-Rahman ar-Raheem, al-Hayyul-Qayyoom, wa atoobu ilayh. (I ask forgiveness from Allah Whom there is no God besides He, the Beneficent, the Merciful, the Ever-Living, the Everlasting, and I repent before Him.)
An additional prayer should be recited as many times during the month; once it has been uttered 1000 times, the cycle is done. It is a line that is also recited in Du’a Wahda (the Prayer of Unity): Laa ilaha illAllah. Wa laa na’budu illaa iyyaah, mukhliseena lahu-ddeen, wa law karihal-mushrikoon. (There is no God but Allah. We do not worship (anyone or anything) except He alone, being sincere in our faith to Him, however much the disbelievers be averse.)
Besides the regular invocation of Allah’s blessings upon the Ahlul-Bayt, a longer invocation should be recited each midday and on the 15th. In it, we praise the noble character of our guides, the Ahlul-Bayt (peace be upon them) – “the sailing ships through the abysmal waves” – and we seek their intercession on our behalf.
The Prophet said, “If one observes fasting each Monday and Thursday in Sha’ban, Almighty Allah will settle forty of his needs: twenty appertained to the worldly life and twenty to the hereafter.” Imam Ali (peace be upon him) emphasized the purity of intention for fasting: “As for one who observes fasting in Sha’ban on account of love for the Messenger of Allah and seeking nearness to Almighty Allah, Almighty Allah will love him and will draw him near to His honor on the Resurrection Day and will decide Paradise for him incumbently.”
Every Thursday night of Sha’ban, a special two-unit prayer should be recited. In each rak’at, recite Sura Fatiha once followed by 100 recitations of Sura Tawhid. The prayer helps grant the needs of the one who performs it, even more so if the person fasted that day. On these few Thursdays, the angels combine the two acts of worship by asking Allah to “forgive him who observes fasting on this day and respond to his prayers.”
Imam Ali used to recite a prayer exclusively during this month, and all the Imams after him followed his example. Munajat-e-Sha’baniyya was also often mentioned by Ayatollah Khomeini – in fact, when he taught an ethics class in Qum, he always ended his lectures with this line from the Munajat: “O God, grant me total separation from other than You and attachment to You; brighten the vision of our hearts with the light of looking upon You, so that they may pierce the veils of light and attain the source of magnificence, and our spirits be suspended from the splendor of Your sanctity.”
The quote is so inspiring, yet it is but a single line from the entire Munajat! Throughout the prayer, we state our utter reliance on the Almighty and we ask forgiveness for our many and repetitive sins. Invoking His Mercy, we ask Allah to continue to bless us as He has been doing and to make firm in us the sense of devotion and love towards Him. If we understand and truly mean what we say in the Munajat, our faith can only get stronger.
Acts on the First of Sha’ban
Indeed, the whole month of Sha’ban is a blessing upon the Muslim ummah – thus, the first night and day of such a month should be spent in worship. On the first night of Sha’ban, a twelve rak’at prayer should be performed. In each rak’at, recite Sura Fatiha once and Sura Tawhid 11 times. Also, Imam Ja’far as-Sadiq said, “Paradise will be incumbently decided for he who observes the fast on the first day of Sha’ban.”
The Commander of the Faithful once entered a mosque and addressed a group of Muslims: “This is the first of Sha’ban, the honorable month. Our Lord has given it this name because, because welfare is distributed in this month. Your Lord has opened wide the gates of Paradise and offered you the palaces and bliss of Paradise with the cheapest costs and the easiest matters; therefore, you should purchase them.” Although he was addressing that group of Muslims, we should take the Imam’s message to heart as well.
Prayer of the Third of Sha’ban
A prayer should be recited on the auspicious occasion of the birthday of the Master of Martyrs, one of the Leaders of the Youth of Paradise, Imam Hussain (peace be upon him).
Prayer of the Bright Days
The 13th, 14th, and 15th days of Rajab, Sha’ban, and Ramadan all have special ranks. The prayer’s details are the same in each month, as mentioned in Rajab’s acts of worship.
Acts of the 15th of Sha’ban
Besides being the Night of Dissociation and the last night of Ayyaam al-Baydh, the 15th of Sha’ban also marks the birthday of the Last Prince of Bani Hashim, Imam Muhammad al-Mahdi (may Allah hasten his reappearance). On such a night showered with many blessings of joyous occasions, it is recommended to spend the night in worship of the Most Merciful One.
For those who are fortunate enough o be at the shrine of Imam Hussain on the 15th, it is one of the best acts of the night to visit his shrine. Some sources say that doing so will fulfill the visitor’s wish to shake hands with all 124,000 Prophets! There is also a ziyarat of Imam Hussain to be recited while at the shrine.
A supplication that is in reference to Our Awaited Savior and his reappearance should be recited. In it, we praise Allah and beseech Him to help us be worthy of being among the Imam’s supporters. The night’s a’mal go on to include prayers recommended by Imam Ja’far as-Sadiq and the Prophet, Du’a Kumayl, Tasbihaat-e-Arba’a (the four testaments of Allah’s Magnificence), supplications, special prostrations, and a two-rak’at prayer. It is also recommended to do the Night Prayer, the Prayer of Ja’far al-Tayyar, a four-rak’at prayer, and a prayer of 100 rak’at.
Of course, it is not necessary that all of these be done; each believer should do as much as (s)he is able to. We should definitely not get discouraged if we cannot do every recommended act; rather, we should seize the chance to do as much as we can. Finally, on the day of the 15th, it is recommended to do Ghusl.
The Last Days of Sha’ban
On the last Friday of Sha’ban, Imam Ali al-Ridha (peace be upon him) said: “The majority of Sha’ban has passed…You should thus settle what you have missed in this month by working hard in the rest of it.” Indeed, once the 15th of the month has passed, oftentimes we seem to lose the energy that we had during the a’mal. Yet during the last couple of weeks, we should increase our efforts so as to prepare for Ramadan. There is a line of forgiveness specific to Sha’ban which should be recited during these weeks, and a prayer to be recited on the last night. Both can be found here.
All the prayers of this month are beneficial whenever recited, yet it is even more beneficial if we ensure that we understand what we are reciting. We should make it a point to regularly read the translation of the prayers so that it is not just our tongues that are reciting, but it is also our spirits that are truly communicating with Allah. While the month of the Prophet is here, let us take advantage of the opportunities the Almighty has bestowed upon us. While celebrating the birthdays of our leaders, let us remember to follow their immaculate examples by sincerely worshiping our Lord.
The sayings and narrations quoted in this article are taken from the booklet “The Rites of Rajab, Sha’ban, Ramadan: Supplications, Prayers, and Ziyarahs”, prepared and translated by Badr Shahin.