More and more I have found our thoughts have turned to how we prepare for Ramadan mash’Allah, but we should not neglect where we are now – the important month of Shaban. This is the eight month of the Islamic calendar (falling 8th May to 5th June approximately this year, depending on the sighting of the moon):
The Prophet, sallallahu alaihi wasallam, 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.” (Imam Ahmad and Imam Al-Nasai)
The excitement and high hopes for Ramadan can overshadow the benefits of the month that precedes it. Some of the good deeds that the beloved Prophet (sallallahu alaihi wasallam) used to engage in during this month include fasting:
Aishah (RA) narrated that, “The Prophet Muhammad (sallallahu alaihi wasallam), used to fast for most of Shaban. I said to him, ‘Messenger of Allah, is Shaban your favorite month for fasting?’ He said, ‘In this month Allah prescribes the list of the persons dying this year. Therefore, I like that my death comes when I am in a state of fasting."
Many people also increase their ibadah (worship) on the middle night of Shaban based on the hadith:
Aishah (RA) narrated that, the Prophet Muhammad (sallallahu alaihi wasallam) said, "This is the middle Night of Sha'ban. Allah frees in it a large number of the people from the Fire, more than the number of the hair growing on the sheep of the tribe, Kalb” (Hadith No.739, At-Tirmidhi, Hadith No. 1389, Sunan Ibn Majah).
It was narrated that Ali bin Abu Talib (RA) said that Allah’s Messenger (sallallahu alaihi wasallam) said, “When it is the night of the middle of Shaban, spend its night in prayer and observe fast on that day, for Allah descends at sunset on that night to the lowest heaven and says: Is there no one who will ask Me for provision, that I may provide for him? Is there no one who is afflicted by trouble, that I may relieve him?, and so on, until dawn comes.” (Hadith No. 1388, Sunan Ibn Majah).
So along side fasting during the day, there is encouragement to spend the night in prayer and make supplication. Mufti Taqi Usmani, in his detailed article on Shaban, suggests the night be spent in salah, reading the Quran, dhikr (remembrance) of Allah (SWT) and making dua insh’Allah.