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The significance of Shaban

In Lataiful Ma’arif, Ibn Rajab al-Hanbali records that Abu Bakr al-Balkhi said: The month of Rajab is the month for planting, the month of Sha’bān is the month of irrigating crops, and the month of Ramaḍān is the month of harvesting the crops

He also said: The likeness of the month of Rajab is that of the wind, the likeness of Sha’bān is that of the clouds and the likeness of Ramaḍān is that of the rain; whoever does not plant and sow in Rajab, and does not irrigate in Sha’bān, how can he reap in Ramaḍān? Now that Rajab has passed, so what will you do in Sha’bān if you are seeking Ramaḍān? This is how your Prophet (sall Allāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) and the early generations of the ummah were in this blessed month. So what will you do?

Sha’bān is the month where last year’s account of good and bad actions for every individual ascends to Allāh. As we know, there are four instances when our actions ascend to Allāh: the daily record, weekly record, yearly record, and the whole life record.[Tarīq al-Hijratayn wa Bāb al-Sa‘ādatayn by Ibn al-Qayyim]

The daily record ascends twice – actions of the night ascend in the morning and actions of the day ascend in the night. This is why it is from the Sunnah to seek forgiveness in the morning and the evening, as we want our sins to be forgiven before they ascend, and we want it to ascend while we are in a righteous state.

The weekly record also ascends twice, as it ascends every Monday and Thursday. It is also due to this that the prophet (SallaAllāhu ‘alayhi wasallam) used to fast every Monday and Thursday and he said, “Deeds are shown (to Allāh) on Mondays and Thursdays, and I like my deeds to be shown when I am fasting.” [Tirmidhi]

The actions of the days are recorded, not neglecting any hour, nor second of each day. Ibrāhīm al-Nakh’ī used to cry to his wife every Thursday, and she used to cry too and he used to say, “Today our actions will be put forth in front of Allāh”. So how about the actions of the whole year?

The whole life’s record ascends when we die, and since we never know when that is, nor are we usually strong enough to do good actions close to the pangs of death, we should always be in a constant state of repentance and seeking forgiveness from Allāh, as well as doing a lot of good actions.

As for the yearly record, it is reported that Usāmah ibn Zayd (may Allāh be pleased with them both) said: “I said, ‘O Messenger of Allāh, I do not see you fasting in any other month like you fast in Sha’bān.’ He (SallaAllāhu ‘alayhi wasallam) said, ‘That is a month to which people do not pay attention, between Rajab and Ramadān, and it is a month in which deeds are lifted up to the Lord of the Worlds. I like for my deeds to be lifted up when I am fasting.’” [Nasā’i]

Its important to note a few points about this:

  • There is great value in being woke when others are neglectful – this is reserved for the special people
  • Of the extra acts which are done only for Allah(SWT), don’t show it off to others. If you can keep it hidden, this is the best manner and approach. 
  • Preparation for Ramadan through fasting and recitation of the Qur’an. How do you prepare for a marathon, except with training, reviewing your diet and learning good practice.
  • Be in the best state when you’re called for review. Have you ever been called out to the Headteachers / Bosses office? Imagine if they call you and they find you working hard, how that may influence their thinking about you?

O believers! Be mindful of Allah and let every soul look to what ˹deeds˺ it has sent forth for tomorrow.And fear Allah, ˹for˺ certainly Allah is All-Aware of what you do. [Surah al-Hashr 18-20]

Its only the intelligent people who prepare for the future. Dont you have investments, retirement plan, money under the mattress, gold in the safety deposit box.

Allah(SWT) calls the Hereafter tomorrow for 2 reasons:

  1. It will be here as quickly as tomorrow
  2. None of us is guaranteed tomorrow and for some it will actually be tomorrow. Today the janazah announcement is about our neighbour and our friend, while tomorrow it will be you and I.

I remember when I was young, our father (rahimahullah) would occasionally buy sweets for my brother and I. I had the habit of enjoying one and then saving the others for later days. Whereas my brother would eat them all on receipt and then watch uncomfortably as I continued to enjoy them for the remainder of the week. 

The concept of delayed gratification has been discussed by psychologists and they conclude that children seek immediate gratification, aiming to satisfy cravings such as hunger and thirst, and seeking whatever they want in the moment to ease their discomfort. Adults are characterized by their ability to delay gratification and tolerate hard work, discipline, and occasional unpleasantness in order to fulfill responsibilities and achieve goals. Mature adults don’t expect others to meet their needs. They understand and accept that they won’t always be gratified.

Studies show that delayed gratification is one of the most effective personal traits of successful people. People who learn how to manage their need to be satisfied in the moment thrive more in their careers, relationships, health, and finances than people who give in to it.

A well-known study conducted at Stanford University in the 1960s explains a lot about why it’s beneficial to delay gratification. In the study, children were placed in a room with one marshmallow on a plate. The lead researcher gave the children an easy instruction: You can eat the marshmallow now, or wait 15 minutes and receive two marshmallows. The researchers found that the children who were able to wait for the second marshmallow without eating the first one scored higher on standardized tests, had better health, and were less likely to have behaviour problems.

Back in 300 B.C., Aristotle saw that the reason so many people were unhappy was that they confused pleasure for true happiness.

And do not be like those who forgot Allah, so He made them forget themselves. It is they who are ˹truly˺ rebellious.

Don’t be like those who forgot about tomorrow – those who forgot Allah(SWT) and that He(SWT) is the only one they will ever certainly meet. These wont be the non-believers, rather those who knew Allah(SWT) like you and I, but forgot.

Whats the damage? Sometimes we think people turn away from Allah(SWT) because they are focusing on themselves and winning – they’re getting richer, getting promoted, enjoying life. No, rather Allah(SWT) says that when they turn away from Allah(SWT), they will forget themselves. Why? Because they have forgotten the real purpose of their existence and so everything they taste and enjoy never tastes good enough.

Of what value are we if we bite the hand that feeds us?. Or even worse, we stop eating food, instead choosing to swallow drugs, sweets and poisons which don’t nourish us but just keep us barely alive, unhappy and desperate? Allah(SWT) reminds us throughout the Qur’an that we are on a conveyor belt – no-one can get off it and the ultimate destination is back to the One (SWT) who created us.

A teacher once asked his student “Where are you?” to which the student replied “I’m right here?”. His teacher clarified “Point at yourself” to which he pointed at his chest and the teacher said thats your chest, point at your self, so he pointed at his head and his teacher said thats your head. Point at your self, to which he then pointed at his whole body. And the teacher said thats your body, wheres your “self” and the student understood he was referring to the soul, the essence of your being. Remember this body will remain behind but your self (soul) will continue on its journey. People who remember Allah(SWT) know their real self which lives inside them. The worst punishment of forgetting Allah(SWT) is that you will lose yourself and how can you take care of someone you don’t remember. People who forget Allah(SWT) live an existence of animals – eat, sleep, toilet. But the self who knows Allah(SWT) produces good for this world and the Hereafter, not just waste.

A story is told of a poor man who chanced upon a large rock which looked beautiful. Being uncertain of its value, he took this to the local jeweller who was amazed saying that he had never seen a more valuable jewel, and recommended he take it to the king. OIn presenting it to the king, the kings advisors said this jewel was worth more than his whole kingdom so the king presented a deal to the man. He said how would you like to be king for a day – you can sit on my throne, enjoy and take whatever you want from my palace on that day? The poor man was very excited as he had never been presented such an honour so he readily accepted. The day arrived and on the break of fajr (dawn), he eagerly entered the the kings chamber. On seeing the throne, he made himself comfortable looking across the hall and enjoying the trail of servants around him at his beck and call. 

After a long period, one of the courtiers said we have much prepared for you and pointed to another room. He entered and to his amazement saw some of the finest clothes in the kingdom – he tried one after the other looking in the mirror, throwing them over his shoulder until he found a few outfits which really pleased him. He could only wear one so he left the rest behind. 

As he reached the end of the room, he found another large, royal door which he entered and found a room decked out with the finest food. He picked between roasted meat, exotic starters, savoury snacks, delicious sweets gorging himself on a bit of everything until he felt he was going to burst.

Stuffed, he got to his feet and saw another royal door. When he entered this chamber, he found the finest bedroom with luxurious throws and blankets. Having eaten so much, he thought he’d take a brief rest and before long was fast asleep. He enjoyed the best sleep in the most comfortable bed he’d ever experienced and with a full belly, he slept long and well and the late afternoon passed and the adhan for Maghrib was called. Courtiers immediately entered the room and lifted him out of the bed to throw him out of the palace. He woke and started protesting but they reminded him of the deal being only that day. He was thrown onto the mud outside the palace only taking what he had worn. 

The story is an apt reminder for each of us. Given that opportunity, I’m sure we’d all think we would spend the day shipping all of the goods out of the palace to our home and not wasting a moment of the day so that we could enjoy the comfort on leaving the palace. However, the palace is this dunya and our real Home is the Afterlife. How much have you and I sent forward to our home, in prayer, character, actions and charity or are we too busy enjoying the nice clothes, food and pleasures of this world not realising that the only thing we will take to our grave is our investment?

The residents of the Fire cannot be equal to the residents of Paradise. ˹Only˺ the residents of Paradise will be successful.

Story of the builder

All of the names in the calendar come from one of two things – either weather or war.

Ibn Hajar (rh) says that one of the reasons why it would be named sha’ban as people would carve out their wells to prepare their water supply for the month of Ramadan, which was usually a hot month, so they would collect their water in preparation. The other meaning is that people would descend upon each in war as it follows the last of the sacred months, Rajab.

Shaban is also the month in which Ramadan was legislated. It was a second year after hijrah and the time in which the qiblah was changed.

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