LAILAT-ul Baraat is a very auspicious night in the annals of Islam. Almost every Muslim in Bangladesh celebrates Lailat-ul-Baraat with due solemnity. Unfortunately, however, there are some who inadvertently claim that Lailat-ul-Baraat has no religious significance in the eyes of Islam. Nothing can be farther from the truth. It is true that Lailat-ul-Baraat has not been specifically mentioned in the Holy Quran (although mention is there of Lailat-ul-Mubarakatun), but there are numerous authentic Ahadith and historical evidence which testify so eloquently to the fact that the holy Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) himself used to attach great importance to this Night of Privilege or Night of Salvation. He not only said special prayers during this sacred night but also visited graveyards and prayed for the departed souls on this holy occasion. He even instructed his wives to honour the sanctity, divine excellence and majesty of this blessed occasion.
What is more, a reliable tradition also testifies that Bibi Ayesha Siddiqa (RA) visited a graveyard in this Mubarak Night of Privilege in search of the holy Prophet of Islam (pbuh). It is really unfortunate and painful that a handful of Muslimstry to fight shy of this sacred occasion on the plea that it has not been specifically mentioned in the Holy Quran as has been done in the case of Lailat-ul-Qadr or Lailat-ul-Miraj. One fails to understand how the learned opinion of great and revered authorities like Tirmidhi, Ibn Maja, Baihaqi, Ibn Khuzaima, Syed Abdul Quader Jilani and Maulana Ashraf Ali Thanvi (peace be upon them) can be dimissed. All of these scholars testify to the fact that Hazrat Muhammad (pbuh), the Last And Greatest of all prophets, himself gave recognition to the sanctity, majesty and divine excellence of this glorious night.
Of the nights in a year there are six which may safely be marked out for their grandeur and majesty, serenity and sacredness. These are Lailat-ul-Qadr, Lailat-ul- Miraj, the two nights of Eids, the Night of Arafat and Lailat-ul-Baraat. A person's prayers, his or her outpourings of the heart's sentiments, the reverential expression of the soul's sincerest desires before its Maker on this night never fail to evoke the most coveted response from Benign Providence.
Lailatul-Baraat , the glorious night on the 15th of Shaban, is popularly known as Shab-e-Barat in this subcontinent. Both the words Shab in Persian (and Urdu as well) and Lailat in Arabic mean “Night”, and Bara'at stands for Salvation or Privilege. (Some, however, inadvertently think that the word is Barat, which means “Fortune”, and the auspicious night is the Night of Fortune). Lailat-ul-Baraat is the Night of Privilege or the Night of Salvation. It is on this Night of Privilege that Rabbul Alameen, in His infinite Mercy, blesses each and every person with a unique opportunity to receive the most coveted Divine Mercy. Acclaimed traditionalist Ibn Maja (his Sunan is universally accepted as one of the Sihah Sitta, the six authentic traditional works) reported on the authority of no less a person than Sher-e-Khuda Hazrat Ali ibn Abu Talib (RA) that the holy Prophet (pbuh) said, “On this Night, from the moment the sun sets, Allah descends on the firmament of this earth and goes on asking till sunrise : “Is there any seeker of salvation, so that I may give it to him; is there any one in need of food, so that I may feed him; is there any one suffering, so that I may cure him?”
The Encyclopaedia of Islam, published in Leiden, Netherlands corroborates this claim when it says, “In Hadith it is said that in this night, Allah descends to the lowest heaven, from there He calls mortals in order to grant them forgiveness of sins.” (Tirmidhi, Sunan, B.39). (Tirmidhi's Sunan is also considered to be one of the six authentic traditional works). No wonder, the holy Prophet (pbuh), never failed to avail this unique and glorious opportunity and himself used to pray all through this Night every year with a view to receiving Mercy from the Most Gracious and the Most Merciful Allah.
Records are there that on one occasion the holy Prophet (pbuh) spent half of this auspicious Night of Salvation through a Nafl prayer of two rakat and the rest of the Night through a long Sijdah or prostration. What is more, he (pbuh) used to offer this prayer with inimitable dedication and unfathomable concentration. Hazrat Ayesha Siddiqa (RA) reported that on one such occasion the holy Prophet (pbuh) was so deeply absorbed in his meditation and remained so long in prostration that she became awfully nervous and thought that he (pbuh) had shuffled off the mortal coil. On another occasion, according to Hazrat Ayesha Siddiqa (RA), the Apostle of Allah (pbuh) said his prayers in this Night were offered with such unparalleled devotion and dedication that his feet got swollen.
Abu Busa al-Ashari (RA) reported Allah's Messenger (pbuh) as saying, “Allah Most High looks down on the middle night of Sha'ban and forgives all his creatures, except a polytheist or one who is hostile.” Ibn Majah transmitted it and Ahmad transmitted it from Abdullah bin 'Amr bin al-'As (RA). His version has, “except two, one who is hostile and a murderer.”
Hazrat Ayesha Siddiqa (RA) also said, “I missed Allah's Messenger (pbuh) one night and found him at al-Baqi (Jannatul Baqi). He (pbuh) said, 'Were you afraid that Allah and His Messenger would act wrongly towards you?' I replied, 'Messenger of Allah, I thought you had gone to one of your wives.' He said, 'On the middle night of Sha'ban Allah Most High descends to the lowest heaven and forgives more sins than the hairs of the goats of Kalb.'(According to an estimation, the tribe of Kalb during that period had more than 20,000 goats). Tirmidhi and Ibn Majah transmitted it.
It is also reported that the holy Prophet (pbuh) said, “Allah forgives every Muslim in this Night. He does not, however, forgive the Mushrik , the jealous, the cruel, and the adulterer.” Baihaqi transmitted it.
According to another tradition, Hazrat Ayesha Siddiqa (RA) reported the holy Prophet (pbuh) as saying, “Do you know what happens this night?” meaning the middle night of Sha'ban. She asked, “What happens in it, Messenger of Allah?” He replied, “In it record is made of every human being who will be born and of every human being who will die this year; in it their actions are taken up to heaven and in it their provisions are sent down.” Baihaqi transmitted it.
Let us not, therefore, question the religious sanctity of this great night. Let us celebrate it though prayers and meditation and fasting during day, certainly not through crackers and candles.
The writer is a former DG of Islamic Foundation of Bangladesh