(By: Seyyed Ali Quli Qara’i – English translator of the holy Qur’an and "Mafatih al-Jenan”)
Sha’ban is a month of great merits. It is associated with Prophet Muhammad (SAWA). He would fast throughout the month and say: "Sha’ban is my month; whoever fasts a day of this month of mine will surely be admitted into paradise.”
The best supplication during this month is "isteghfar” (seeking forgiveness in the Divine Court). One should say 70 times every day "Astaghfirullaha, wa as’aluhut-tawbah! (I plead to Allah for forgiveness and beseech Him to accept my repentance)!” Another recommended act for this month is "sadaqa” (charity), even if it be as little as half a date, so that God may make immune one’s body from the fire of hell. A highly recommended act is to offer a 2-raka’ah prayer on every Thursday of Sha’ban with recitation of Surat al-Hamd once, followed by Surat at-Tawhid 100 times in each raka’ah, and after salaam "Salawat” to be recited 100 times. It is said God Almighty fulfills all needs pertaining to the world and the Hereafter of those who perform this. It is also meritorious to fast on this day, and as per a hadith the heavens are adorned every Thursday of Sha’ban and the angels plead with God to forgive those who fast on it and to answer their supplications.
In the book "Kalimat at-Tayyibah”, once, on the 1st of Sha’ban, the Commander of the Faithful – Imam Ali (AS) – was passing by a group sitting in one of the mosques and engaged in a debate concerning such matters as pre-destination and similar controversial issues. They were debating hotly with raised voices. The Imam stopped and greeted them. They answered his greeting and stood up reverently, asking him to join them. He declined, saying:
"O people who venture into matters that neither concern them nor are of any benefit to them! Don’t you know that there are servants of God who have been urged to maintain silence, not because they are incapable or dumb, but because of their trepidation? For indeed they are the most eloquent, intelligent and wise, who have knowledge of God. But when they remember the greatness of God, their tongues fail, their hearts cave in, their minds are perplexed, and their intellects are confused in front of God’s might, majesty and glory. When they recover from this state, they approach God by the means of pious deeds, counting themselves among wrongdoers and the erring, even though they are exempt from the faults of laxity and negligence. But they are not satisfied with their little service of God, nor do they regard as plenty the works they have done for the sake of God. They do not flaunt their works before Him, and whenever you see them you will find them overcast with sorrow and awe, fearful and apprehensive. So where do you stand, O band of mavericks, in relation to them? Don’t you know that the most knowledgeable of people concerning predestination are those who are the most reticent concerning it, and that the most ignorant of people concerning predestination are those who are most glib about it? O band of mavericks! Today is the first of Sha’ban, named so by our Lord because of the ramification and branching forth of His blessings during it. To be sure, in it your Lord has flung open the gates of His paradise and presented to you the spectacle of its palaces and good things, attainable at the cheapest of prices, in exchange for the easiest of works, and yet you decline them. The accursed Satan too has presented to you the branches of his multifarious evils and afflictions, and you catch hold of the offshoots sent out by Satan, and turn away from the branches of good, whose gates have been laid open for you.
"This is the first day of Sha’ban. The branches of its goods are prayer, fasting, zakat, bidding what is right and forbidding what is wrong, kindness towards parents, relatives, and neighbours, resolving conflicts between people, and giving charity to the needy and the poor. You burden yourself with a task of which you have been spared, and venture to probe Divine mysteries, an exercise from which you have been forbidden, as those who try to explore them perish. But if you come to know what our Lord, the Almighty and Glorious, has prepared on this day for His obedient servants, you will cut short what you have been engaged in and start doing what you have been told to do.”
They said to him, "O Commander of the Faithful, what is it that God has prepared for the obedient on this day?” He replied:
"I will not recount for you anything except what I have heard from the Prophet of Allah. Once the Prophet of Allah dispatched a company of troops towards a people who were intransigent infidels; the enemy made a sudden night raid on Muslims. It was a pitch dark night and the Muslims were fast asleep. No one among them was awake that night except four: Zayd bin Harethah, Abdullah bin Rawahah, Qatadah bin Nu’man and Qays bin Asem Minqari. Each of them was engaged in prayer and reciting the Qur’an at one of the sides of the camp. The enemy rained arrows on the Muslims who could not shield themselves from the assailants, as they did not see because of darkness. Such was their predicament when they suddenly saw lights burst forth from the visages of these four men, which illuminated the battlefield for the Muslim warriors. This gave them strength and morale. Drawing their swords they gave a good fight, killing the attackers, wounding some them and taking others captive. On their return when they related the incident to the Prophet, he told them that those lights came from certain acts of theirs performed on the first of Sha’ban. Then he described the acts that each one of them had performed.”
"Thereafter he (the Prophet) said, ‘When the first day of Sha’ban arrives, Satan spreads out his troops throughout the corners of the earth and its horizons, telling them to try to attract some of God’s servants toward themselves. Indeed God Almighty and Glorious also scatters his angels throughout the earth’s quarters and horizons, telling them ‘Guide My servants and show them the right way, whereat all of them will attain felicity through you, except such of them who refuse and are arrogant and rebellious; these join the party of Satan and enter his hosts. On the advent of the first of Sha’ban, God, Almighty and Glorious, commands the gates of paradise to open, and He commands the Tree of Tuba, whereat it spreads its branches all over the world. Thereat a herald of our Lord, Almighty and Glorious, calls out: "O servants of God! These are the branches of the Tree of Tuba! So catch hold of them so that they may lift you up toward paradise.
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And those are the branches of the Tree of Zaqqum! Beware of them! Let them not draw you toward hell!” The Prophet of Allah said, "By Him who sent me as a prophet with the truth! Whoever approaches one of the doors of goodness and piety on this day adheres to a branch of the Tree of Tuba, and is taken toward paradise. And whoever approaches one of the doors of evil on this day, is stuck to a branch of the Zaqqum Tree which draws him toward hell.”
"The Prophet of Allah then said, ‘Whoever performs supererogatory prayers this day for the sake of God catches hold of one of its branches. Whoever fasts this day clings to one of the branches. On this day whoever makes peace between husband and wife, father and son, between two of his relatives or neighbours, or between two strangers, clings to one of the branches. Whoever is lenient toward the debtor in straits or forgoes part of the debt clings to one of its branches. Also, theone who on reviewing his accounts sees that he owes an old debt to someone who has lost hope of reclaiming it, and repays it, clings to one of its branches. Whoever assumes charge of an orphan’s care on this day clings to one of the branches. Whoever restrains a fool from compromising the honour of a faithful person clings to one of the branches. Whoever recites the Qur’an or part of it clings to one of the branches. Whoever remembers God and His blessings and gives thanks for them clings to one of the branches. Whoever visits a sick person clings to one of the branches. Whoever accompanies a funeral procession is one who clings to one of the branches. Whoever condoles with the bereaved victim of a tragedy on this day clings to one of the branches. Whoever does an act of kindness for his parents clings to one of the branches. Whoever obtains the satisfaction of his parents after they had been displeased with him earlier is one who clings to one of the branches. Whoever performs any of the various kinds of good on this day is one who hangs on to one of the branches of Tuba.’
"Then the Prophet of Allah added: By Him who sent me as a Prophet with the truth! Whoever approaches one of the doors of evil and disobedience to God on this day, hangs on to one of the branches of the Tree of Zaqqqum and is drawn towards hell.” Then he said, ‘By Him who sent me as a Prophet with the truth! Whoever is negligent of his obligatory prayers on this day and misses them clings to one of its branches. Whoever misses a fast that was obligatory on him on this day clings to one of its branches. If a person is approached on this day by a weak and indigent one whose wretched condition he knows and is able to change it without suffering any harm, while there is no one else to help and act, and were he to leave the indigent to languish and perish by failing to give a helping hand, then he clings to one of the branches of the Zaqqum Tree. Whoever does not accept the apology of the one who has done him a wrong and instead of keeping the offender’s punishment within the limits of the offense exceeds those limits clings to one of the branches of the Zaqqum Tree. Whoever creates ill feeling between a husband and wife, a father and son, two brothers, two relatives, two neighbours, two friends or two strangers, clings to one of its branches. Whoever presses his demand harshly against the one in a pinch, aware of his predicament, thus adding to his distress and affliction, clings to one of the branches.”
"Whoever denies a debt that is owed and transgresses against the creditor forcing him to forgo his claim, clings to one of the branches. Whoever mistreats an orphan, torments him or unjustly appropriates his property, clings to one of the branches; whoever harms the honour of a brother-in-faith and makes others to do so, clings to one of the branches of the Tree. Whoever engages in unlawful singing on this day that prompts sinful actions clings to one of the branches of the Zaqqum Tree; whoever sits and recounts his ugly deeds in a confrontation or his wrongful actions against God’s servants and boasts about them, clings to one of that tree’s branches. Whoever has a sick neighbour and does not pay a visit due by belittling his rights, clings to one of the branches of that Tree. Whoever fails to take part in the funeral of a neighbour by not giving significance to him clings to one of the branches. Whoever is undutiful toward parents or one of them is the one clings to one of the branches. Also someone who has been undutiful toward parents and in spite of being able to make them pleased with him again on this day, does not do so, has caught hold of one of the branches. Similarly, whoever that commits any of the various kinds of evils on this day is one who clings to one of the branches of the Zaqqum Tree.”