The eve of the 15th of Sh‘aban is one of the most significant and spiritually important times in the Muslim liturgical calendar. It is a night that the salaf used to seek out and honor with intense devotion and sweet supplication. What follows is a very simple overview of the importance of this event and recommendations for observing it.
The eve of the 15th of Sh’abān in the hadith literature
There are many hadith that speak to the importance of this eve. Some, but not all by any means, narrated in the exalted status and blessings of the eve of the 15th of Sh‘abān are as follows:
1. Imam ‘Alī (God give him peace) said,“when the eve of the 15th of Sh‘abān comes, stand its night in prayer and fast its day, for indeed God Almighty descends to the lowest level of the heavens until sunset and says, ‘Is there not one who seeks forgiveness that I may forgive, is there not one asking for sustenance that I may give, Is there not one afflicted with troubles that I may cure them, is there not so forth and so forth?’ until the coming of the dawn prayer.” Narrated by Daralqutni, Ibn Shahīn, and Ibn Mājah.
2. Mu’ādh Ibn Jabal said that the Prophet (God bless him and give him peace) said, “God glances at His servants on the eve of the 15th of Sh‘abān and grants forgiveness to all creation except for those who associate with Him or cut their family ties.” Narrated by al-Ṭabarānī.
3. ‘Aisha (God give her be peace) said that the Messenger of God (God bless him and grant him peace) stood in night prayer on the eve of the 15th of Sh‘abān and said, “In this evening it is written who will be born, who will perish from the human race, and all actions are raised (to God) during it, and all sustenance is distributed during it.” Narrated by al-Bayhaqi in his work Faḍā’il al-Awqāt.
Most of the hadith narrated that relate to the 15th of Sh‘abān carry the same meanings. Despite the fact the some of these hadith have weaknesses, together they strengthen one another as is known in the science of hadith to at least the level of being sound (ḥasan) hadiths. In addition, and as is also known in the science of hadith, weak hadith are used for encouraging good works, especially when their weakness is not severe.
Conclusions based on these hadith:
1. These directives are descended from the Preserved Tablet (al-Lawḥ al-Maḥfuẓ) to the angels that are responsible for carrying out these orders. And since from our perspective these directives are “distributed” it is as if they have been revealed in this evening, although they are, from a theological point of view, written on the Preserved Tablets.
2. This evening serves as a preparation for our approach to the Night of Power during Ramadan. Just as we seek out Laylatul Qadr in Ramadan, so too we seek out this evening with prayer and supplication.
3. It is a night of remembrance and for turning sincerely to God for forgiveness, guidance, sustenance, and healing.
4. Fasting the day of the 15th of Sh‘abān is a sunna and a great way to prepare for fasting during Ramadan.
Devotional Actions for the eve of the 15th of Sh’abān and the day of the 15th
1. Spend a portion of the night, anytime after maghrib prayer, reciting some of the Quran, and turning to God in sincere dua.
2. Fast, if able, the 15th of Sh‘abān.
3. Recite the prophetic dua, found below, on the eve of the 15th of Sh’abān.
The Dua of the eve of the 15th of Sh’aban
This dua is a combination of two hadiths: one narrated by Ibn Abi Shayba in his Muṣanaf and Ibn Abi Dunya in his al-Du’a on the authority of Ibn Mas‘ūd and Ibn ‘Umar (God be pleased with them both). The second is narrated by Ibn Jarīr and Ibn Mundhir and al-Ṭabarānī also on the authority of Ibn Mas‘ūd (God be pleased with him). As for the tail-end of the dua, it is an addition by the famous Mauritanian mystic Mā’ al-‘Aynayn (d. 1328/1910) in his equally famous work Na’at al-Bidāyāt and it is certainly an acceptable formulation since additions to supplications is authorized by the Sharia.
Allahumma yā dhal manni wa lā yuman ‘alayhi. yā dhal Jalāl wa’l Ikrām yāl Ṭawli wa’l In’ām. Lā ilāha illa Ant, ẓahrul lāji’īn wa Jār al-Mustajirīn. wa amān al-khā’ifīn. Allahumma In kunta katabtani ‘indaka fī Umm al-Kitāb shaqiyan aw maḥrūman aw Maṭrūdan aw Muqataran ‘alaya fi’l rizq, famḥu. Allahumma bifaḍlika shaqāwatī wa ḥirmāni wa ṭardī wa iqtār rizqī wathbitni ‘indika fi Umm al-Kitāb sa’īdan marzūqan muwaffaqan lil khayrāt. Fa innaka qult, wa qawluka haq fi kitābika al-munazzal ‘ala lisān nabbiyika al-mursal, “Yamḥu Allah mā yashā’ wa Yuthbit wa ‘indahu ummu’l kitāb.” Ilāhi biltajalli al-‘Aẓam fi laylatil niṣf min shahr sh’bān al-mukarram alati yufraqu fiha kullu amrin ḥakīm wa yubram, An takshifa ‘anna min al-balā’ ma n’alam wa ma lā n’alam wa mā anta bihi ‘Alam Innaka Anta al-‘A’azu al-Akram. Wa ṣalla Allahu ‘ala Sayyiduna Muhammad al-Nabiy al-Ummiy wa ‘ala Ālihi wa ṣaḥbihi wa salam.
O Allah, Tireless Owner of Bounty. O Owner of Sublimity, Honor, Power, and Blessings.
There is no deity except You, the Support of refugees and Neighbor of those who seek nearness, Guardian of the fearful.
O Allah, if you have written in Your Book that I be abject, deprived, banished, and tight-fisted,
then erase O Allah, through Your bounty,
my misery, deprivation, banishment, and stinginess
and establish me with You as happy, provided with blessings,
for surely You have said — and Your Word is True —
in Your Revealed Book on the tongue of Your Messenger,
“Allah blots out or confirms what He pleases, and with Him is the Mother of Books.” (13:39)
My God, by the Great Manifestation of the Night of the middle of the Noble Month of Sha`bān
“in which every affair of wisdom is made distinct and authorized,“(44:4)
remove from us calamities — those we know and those we do not know,
and Thou knowest best — for surely You are the Most Mighty, the Most Generous.
May Allah bless Muhammad and his Family and Companions.
It should be noted that the 15th of Sh‘abān is the anniversary of the changing of the direction of prayer (qibla) from Jerusalem to Makkah. After the Prophet (God bless him and give him peace) migrated to Madina, he could no longer face Jerusalem by facing the K‘aba, which he used to do before the migration. While in Madina he had to give his back to Makkah in order to face Jerusalem, an action that pained him greatly. God answered His beloved’s desire to face Makkah and therefore the qibla was changed eternally for the entire Islamic faith.