The literal meaning of Shab e Barat can be translated to the night of Atonement. It has numerous names as per the different cultures worldwide, such as Cheragh e Barat, Barat Night, Berat Kandili, or Nisfu Syaaban. Due to the virtues of the night, it is one of the holiest nights in Islam. People use the night to atone for the sins of their ancestors and prevent them from hellfire.
When Is Shab-e-Barat in India?
This year Shab-e-Barat will be observed on March 18-19.
Let us first look at the origins. It is said that the Prophet’s wife, Hadrath Ayesha Siddiqa, found him missing on this night and went out in search, which ended when she found him in the cemetery of Medina. He spent a long time there lamenting and praying for the deceased, so that they may all be forgiven. This is said to have lent ultimate sanctity to this day, which has other significance as well. Following the gesture, Muslims would go to the graves of their loved ones and seek forgiveness for the deceased.
But while this night of remembrance is observed across the Indian subcontinent and in Central Asia and Turkey, as well as among Sufis all over, it is not so with Salafis, Wahhabis and more orthodox Arabs and followers.
Shia Muslims believe that Muhammed al-Mahdi, the last of their ‘Twelve Imams’ who were divinely ordained to succeed the Prophet, was born on this day. He is especially important as he is believed to be the promised Mahdi, who would appear again to destroy the false Messiah and save the world.
According to the Quran, on this night Allah said, “Who wants forgiveness, I will forgive you. Who wants food, I will provide food.” It is believed that Allah said this throughout the night until it was Fajr, the time when Muslims pray at dawn. It is believed that on this day the destinies of all people are written by Allah taking into account their past deeds and when he also forgives sinners.
This occasion is celebrated with great fervour all over South Asia, including India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Azerbaijan and Turkey and Central Asia including Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Kyrgyzstan. 15th of Shaban is the night to seek forgiveness for the sins and deceased. Hence, Muslims around the world stay awake at night to recite verses from the holy Quran. Conclusively, many countries observe public holidays on the next day of the night. People also visit the grave of the family members and reciting verses from the holy Quran, and atoning for their wrong deeds. As the night is highly rewarding, people keep voluntary fasts and pray at night.
There are many hadiths relating to the importance and significance of the 15th of Shaban. In one such hadith, Ibn ali narrates that Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said:
“When it is the fifteenth of Shaban, then stand (in worship) at Night and fast during the day. Because Allah descends in this Night at sunset to the first heaven and says: ‘Is there any seeker of forgiveness, that I may forgive him? Is there any seeker of sustenance that I may sustain him? Are there anyone in affliction, that I may remove his affliction? Is there anyone like this, like that (and so on)’. This continues until Fajr.”
– (Ibn Majah, vol 1, Book 5, Hadith-1388)
According to a hadith, “Doubtlessly, Allah surrounds everything on the fifteenth night of Sha’aban with his mercy. He forgives all of His creatures except mushriks (polytheists) and those whose hearts are full of hatred or enmity of others…”
– (Al-Targhib wa al-Tarhib, 2:118).