Sha'ban is one of the meritorious months for which we find some particular instructions in the Sunnah of Sayyidina Rasul-ullah (Sallaho Alaihe Wassallam) and he used to fast most of this month.
1 Our dear and beloved Nabi (Sallaho Alaihe Wassallam) used to fast the most (outside Ramadhaan) in the month of Sha'baan.
حدثنا يحيى بن يحيى قال قرأت على مالك عن أبي النضر مولى عمر بن عبيد الله عن أبي سلمة بن عبد الرحمن عن عائشة أم المؤمنين رضي الله عنها أنها قالت كان رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم يصوم حتى نقول لا يفطر ويفطر حتى نقول لا يصوم وما رأيت رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم استكمل صيام شهر قط إلا رمضان وما رأيته في شهر أكثر منه صياما في شعبان
Sayyida 'A'isha, the Mother of the Believers (RAS), reported that the Messenger of Allah (Sallaho Alaihe Wassallam) used to observe fasts (so frequently) that we said that he would not break, and did not observe (them) till we said that he would not fast: and I did not see the Messenger of Allah (Sallaho Alaihe Wassallam) completing the fast of a month, but that of Ramadan, and I did not see him fasting more in any other month than that of Sha'ban. [Muslim]
2 There are no authentic reports from Sayyidina Rasul-ullah (Sallaho Alaihe Wassallam) to specifically single out the night 15th of Shab’aan for worship, rather all of the reports have some weaknesses in them.
a A group of Scholars state that together when these weak reports are combined they give some credence to this night that it has blessings and extra worship should be done in this night. See the opinions of Shaykh (Mufti) Taqi Usmani (HA) and the research and analysis of all Ahadeeth on the subject by Shaykh (Maulana) Fazlur Rahman Aa'zmi (HA) who is one of the foremost Hadeeth Scholars of our time, below.
i It is then further stipulated that no specific acts of worship are defined and a person is free to perform any acts of worship (recitation of the Qur'aan, prayers etc.) but it must be done individually (and not collectively in Mosques). Cooking special meals, illuminating houses and Mosques, fireworks are all baseless innovations.
b Another group of Scholars such as Shaykh (Mufti) Rasheed Ahmed Ludhyanwi (RA) in Ahsanul-Fatawa concludes that it is correct that in some instances "many weak Hadeeth" give credence to a matter but in this case the weakeness of narrations is so severe that even if we have in excess of a 1000 narrations it would make no difference and hence rejects any significance of this night. Shaykh (Mufti) Rasheed Ahmed Ludhyanwi (RA) in Ahsanul-Fatawa also produces the opinions of major Deobandi Ulamah to substantiate his Fatwa that there is nothing significant in this night.
cShaykh (Maulana) Ashraf Ali Thanwi (RA) wrote that to send Isaal-e-Sawaab to the dead in this night is Sunnah in "Bahishti Zewar" and "Islahir-Rusoom". Shaykh (Maulana) Ashraf Ali Thanwi (RA) retracted this in "Imdadul-Fatawa" and said that "Islahir-Rusoom" shouldn't be printed without the correction.
3 There is no authentic report from Sayyidina Rasul-ullah (Sallaho Alaihe Wassallam) to visit the graveyard on the 15th or any other specific night (of this month), rather generally Muslims are encouraged to visit the graveyard (to remind them of death) and there is no connection of visiting the graveyard to the 15th (or any other) night of Sha'baan.
4 There is no authentic report from Sayyidina Rasul-ullah (Sallaho Alaihe Wassallam) to fast specifically and exclusively on the 15th of Sha'baan, hence this fast is neither Sunnah nor praiseworthy or recommended on its own. It has been previously stated that it was the noble practise of our dear and beloved Sayyidina Rasul-ullah (Sallaho Alaihe Wassallam) to fast frequently in this month so if 15th happens to fall during the days in which a person is fasting then that's fine but it cannot be singled out for fasting.
5 The opinion that destinies (births, deaths, marriages etc) are decided on this night (of the 15th of Shabaan) is without support and contradicts the Qur’aan and is therefore rejected by Scholars of Islam.
6 Some Muslims are of the opinion that the Qur’aan was revealed in this night (of 15th of Shab’aan) but the most correct view (as per the Qur’aan) itself is that it was revealed on the night of power (Laylatul-Qad’r). This discusison can be looked in the Tafseer of Imam Tabari (RA) and others. the verses quoted to erroneously establish that the Qur’aan was revealed on the 15th of Sh’baan are:
إِنَّآ أَنزَلۡنَـٰهُ فِى لَيۡلَةٍ۬ مُّبَـٰرَكَةٍۚ إِنَّا كُنَّا مُنذِرِينَ (٣) فِيہَا يُفۡرَقُ كُلُّ أَمۡرٍ حَكِيمٍ
[44:3] We have sent it down in a blessed night, (because) We had to warn (people). [44:4] In that (night), every wise matter is allocated
كان التابعون من أهل الشام كخالد بن معدان ومكحول و لقمان بن عامر و غيرهم يعظمونها و يجتهدون فيها في العبادة و عنهم أخذ الناس فضلها و تعظيمها و قد قيل أنه بلغهم في ذلك آثار إسرائيلية فلما اشتهر ذلك عنهم في البلدان اختلف الناس في ذلك فمنهم من قبله منهم وافقهم على تعظيمها منهم طائفة من عباد أهل البصرة و غيرهم و أنكر ذلك أكثر علماء الحجاز منهم عطاء و ابن أبي مليكة و نقله عبد الرحمن بن زيد بن أسلم عن فقهاء أهل المدينة و هو قول أصحاب مالك و غيرهم و قالوا : ذلك كله بدعة و اختلف علماء أهل الشام في صفة إحيائها على قولين : أحدهما : أنه يستحب إحياؤها جماعة في المساجد كان خالد بن معدان و لقمان بن عامر و غيرهما يلبسون فيها أحسن ثيابهم و يتبخرون و يكتحلون و يقومون في المسجد ليلتهم تلك و وافقهم إسحاق بن راهوية على ذلك و قال في قيامها في المساجد جماعة : ليس ببدعة نقله عنه حرب الكرماني في مسائله و الثاني : أنه يكره الإجتماع فيها في المساجد للصلاة و القصص و الدعاء و لا يكره أن يصلي الرجل فيها لخاصة نفسه و هذا قول الأوزاعي إمام أهل الشام و فقيههم و عالمهم و هذا هو الأقرب إن شاء الله تعالى و قد روي عن عمر بن عبد العزيز أنه كتب إلى عامله إلى البصرة عليك بأربع ليال من السنة فإن الله يفرغ فيهن الرحمة إفراغا أول ليلة من رجب و ليلة النصف من شعبان و ليلة الفطر و ليلة الأضحى و في صحته عنه نظر و قال الشافعي رضي الله عنه : بلغنا أن الدعاء يستجاب في خمس ليال : ليلة الجمعة و العيدين و أول رجب و نصف شعبان قال : و أستحب كل ما حكيت في هذه الليالي و لا يعرف للإمام أحمد كلام في ليلة نصف شعبان و يتخرج في استحباب قيامها عنه روايتان من الروايتين عنه في قيام ليلتي العيد فإنه في رواية لم يستحب قيامها جماعة لأنه لم ينقل عن النبي صلى الله عليه و سلم و أصحابه و استحبها في رواية لفعل عبد الرحمن بن يزيد بن الأسود و هو من التابعين فكذلك قيام ليلة النصف لم يثبت فيها شيء عن النبي صلى الله عليه و سلم و لا عن أصحابه و ثبت فيها عن طائفة من التابعين من أعيان فقهاء أهل الشام
Regarding the Mid-Sha'ban night, the followers from the people of Al-Sham; such as Khalid ibn Ma'dan, Makhul, Luqman ibn 'Amir and others used to exalt it and exert their efforts therein to perform more worships and people followed them with regard to its virtue and exaltation. It is said that some Israelite narrations and traditions have reached them regarding the virtue of this night, and when this became widespread in countries, people differed regarding it, and therefore, some of them accepted it and agreed with them with regard to the magnification of this night such as a group from the worshippers of the people of Basra and others. On the other hand, this act was denied by the majority of Muslim scholars of Al-Hijaz such as: 'Ata and Ibn Abu Mulaikah, and it was transmitted by 'Abdul-Rahman ibn Zayd ibn Aslam from the jurists of the people of Madinah, and it is the opinion of the disciples of Imam Malik and others. They said that all these acts are mere Bid'ah. However, the scholars of the people of Al-Sham differed regarding the way of celebrating it into two opinions:
1 First: It is recommended to celebrate it collectively in the Masajid (Mosques). It is reported that Khalid ibn Ma'dan and Luqman ibn 'Amir and others used to put on their best clothes, apply incense and kohl (antimony powder eyeliner) and spend the entire night in the Masjid. Their act was approved by Ishaq ibn Rahawyah who said about celebrating it in congregation in the Masjid, that it is not Bid'ah. This is reported by Harb Al-Kirmany in his book titled: "Al-Masa'il" (Religious Issues).
2 Second: It is reprehensible to gather during that night in the Masjid for prayer, narrating stories and supplication, but is not reprehensible for one to pray individually during that night for himself. This is the opinion of Al-Awza'iy, who was the Imam of the people of Al-Sham, their jurist and their scholar, and this, Insha'a-Allah (if Allah wills), is the closest opinion to the truth, until he said: It is not known if Imam Ahmad said something about the Mid-Sha'ban night. There are two narrations reported from Al-Awza'iy regarding the recommendation to stay up late for prayer during the Mid-Sha'ban night relying on the two narrations reported from Imam Ahmad regarding staying up late for Prayer during the two nights of 'Eid. In one narration, he did not recommend staying up late in congregational prayer during the two nights of 'Eid because it was not reported from the Prophet (peace be upon him) or from his Companions that they did that. In another narration he recommended staying up late for Prayer during those nights following the act of 'Abdul-Rahman ibn Yazid ibn Al-Aswad who was one of the Tabi'un (Followers, the generation after the Companions of the Prophet), in that. By the same token, there is no sound and authentic narration reported from the Prophet (peace be upon him) nor from his Companions regarding staying up late for Prayer during the Mid-Sha'ban night. However, it is reported from a group of the Followers from among the noble jurists of the people of Al-Sham"
1 The blessed companion Anas, Radi-Allahu anhu, reports that Prophet Muhammad, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam, was asked, "Which fast is the most meritorious after the fasts of Ramadan?" He replied, "Fasts of Shaban in honor of Ramadan."
2 The blessed companion Usama ibn Zaid, Radi-Allahu anhu, reports that he asked Prophet Muhammad, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam: "Messenger of Allah, I have seen you fasting in the month of Sha'ban so frequently that I have never seen you fasting in any other month." Prophet Muhammad, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam, replied: "That (Sha'ban) is a month between Rajab and Ramadan which is neglected by many people. And it is a month in which an account of the deeds (of human beings) is presented before the Lord of the universe, so, I wish that my deeds be presented at a time when I am in a state of fasting."
3 Ummul Mu'mineen 'Aishah, Radi-Allahu anha, says, "Prophet Muhammad, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam, used to fast the whole of Sha'ban. I said to him, 'Messenger of Allah, is Sha'ban your most 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."
4 In another Tradition she says, "Prophet Muhammad, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam, would sometimes begin to fast continuously until we thought he would not stop fasting, and sometimes he used to stop fasting until we thought he would never fast. I never saw the Messenger of Allah, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam, fasting a complete month, except the month of Ramadan, and I have never seen him fasting in a month more frequently than he did in Sha'ban."
5 In another report she says, "I never saw the Messenger of Allah, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam, fasting in a month so profusely as he did in the month of Sha'ban. He used to fast in that month leaving only a few days, rather, he used to fast almost the whole of the month."
6 Ummul-Mu'mineen Umm Salamah, Radi-Allahu anha, says: "I have never seen the Messenger of Allah fasting for two months continuously except in the months of Sha'ban and Ramadan."
These reports indicate that fasting in the month of Sha'ban, though not obligatory, is so meritorious that Prophet Muhammad, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam, did not like to miss it.
But it should be kept in mind that the fasts of Sha'ban are for those persons only who are capable of keeping them without causing deficiency in the obligatory fasts of Ramadan. Therefore, if one fears that after fasting in Sha'ban, he will lose strength or freshness for the fasts of Ramadan and will not be able to fast in it with freshness, he should not fast in Sha'ban, because the fasts of Ramadan, being obligatory, are more important than the optional fasts of Sha'ban. That is why Prophet Muhammad, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam, himself has forbidden the Muslims from fasting one or two days immediately before the commencement of Ramadan. The blessed Companion Abu Hurairah, Radi-Allahu anhu, reports Prophet Muhammad, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam, to have said, "Do not fast after the first half of the month of Sha'ban is gone."
According to another report Prophet Muhammad, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam has said: "Do not precede the month of Ramadan with one or two fasts."
The essence of the above-quoted ahadith is that Prophet Muhammad, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam, himself used to fast most of the month of Sha'ban, because he had no fear of developing weakness or weariness before the commencement of Ramadan. As for others, he ordered them not to fast after the 15th of Sha'ban for the fear that they would lose their strength and freshness before Ramadan starts, and would not be able to welcome the month of Ramadan with enthusiasm.
Another significant feature of the month of Sha'ban is that it consists of a night which is termed in Shariah as "Laylatul-bara'ah" (The night of freedom from Fire). This is the night occurring between 14th and 15th day of Sha'ban. There are certain traditions of Prophet Muhammad, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam, to prove that it is a meritorious night in which the people of the earth are attended by special Divine mercy. Some of these traditions are quoted as follows:
1 Ummul-Mu'mineen 'Aishah, Radi-Allahu anha, is reported to have said, "Once Prophet Muhammad, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam, performed the Salah of the night (Tahajjud) and made a very long Sajdah until I feared that he had passed away. When I saw this, I rose (from my bed) and moved his thumb (to ascertain whether he is alive). The thumb moved, and I returned (to my place). Then I heard him saying in Sajdah: 'I seek refuge of Your forgiveness from Your punishment, and I seek refuge of Your pleasure from Your annoyance, and I seek Your refuge from Yourself. I cannot praise You as fully as You deserve. You are exactly as You have defined Yourself.' Thereafter, when he raised his head from Sajdah and finished his salah, he said to me: 'Aishah, did you think that the Prophet has betrayed you?' I said, 'No, O Prophet of Allah, but I was afraid that your soul has been taken away because your Sajdah was very long.' He asked me, 'Do you know which night is this?' I said, 'Allah and His Messenger know best.' He said, 'This is the night of the half of Sha'ban. Allah Almighty looks upon His slaves in this night and forgives those who seek forgiveness and bestows His mercy upon those who pray for mercy but keeps those who have malice (against a Muslim) as they were before, (and does not forgive them unless they relieve themselves from malice).'"
2 In another Tradition Sayyidah' Aishah, Radi-Allahu anha, has reported that Prophet Muhammad, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam, has said, "Allah Almighty descends (in a manner He best knows it) in the night occurring in the middle of Sha'ban and forgives a large number of people more than the number of the fibers on the sheep of the tribe, Kalb." Kalb was a big tribe the members of which had a very large number of sheep. Therefore, the last sentence of the hadith indicates the big number of the people who are forgiven in this night by Allah Almighty.
3 In yet another Tradition, she has reported Prophet Muhammad, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam, to have said, "This is the middle Night of Sha'ban. Allah frees in it a large number of the people from Fire, more than the number of the hair growing on the sheep of the tribe, Kalb. But He does not even look at a person who associates partners with Allah, or at a person who nourishes malice in his heart (against someone), or at a person who cuts off the ties of kinship, or at a man who leaves his clothes extending beyond his ankles (as a sign of pride), or at a person who disobeys his parents, or at a person who has a habit of drinking wine."
4 Sayyidna Mu'adh ibn Jabal, Radi-Allahu anhu, reports that Prophet Muhammad, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam, has said: "Allah Almighty looks upon all those created by Him in the middle Night of Sha'ban and forgives all those created by Him, except the one who associates partners with Him or the one who has malice in his heart (against a Muslim)".
Although the chain of narrators of some of these traditions suffers with some minor technical defects, yet when all these traditions are combined together, it becomes clear that this night has some well founded merits, and observing this night as a sacred night is not a baseless concoction as envisaged by some modern scholars who, on the basis of these minor defects, have totally rejected to give any special importance to this night. In fact, some of these traditions have been held by some scholars of hadith as authentic and the defects in the chain of some others have been treated by them as minor technical defects which, according to the science of hadith, are curable by the variety of their ways of narration. That is why the elders of the ummah have constantly been observing this night as a night of special merits and have been spending it in worship and prayers.
In order to observe the Night of Bara'ah, one should remain awakened in this night as much as he can. If someone has better opportunities, he should spend the whole night in worship and prayer. However, if one cannot do so for one reason or another, he can select a considerable portion of the night, preferably of the second half of it for this purpose, and should perform the following acts of worship:
1 Salah. Salah is the most preferable act to be performed in this night. There is no particular number of Rak'at but preferably it should not be less than eight. It is also advisable that each part of the Salah like qiyam, rukoo' and sajdah should be longer than normal. The longest surahs of the Holy Qur'an one remembers by heart should be recited in the Salah of this night. If someone does not remember the long surahs, he can also recite several short surahs in one rak'ah.
2 Tilawa. The recitation of the Holy Qur'an is another form of worship, very beneficent in this night. After performing Salah, or at any other time, one should recite as much of the Holy Qur'an as he can.
3 Dhikr. One should also perform dhikr (recitation of the name of Allah) in this night. Particularly the following dhikr is very useful:
a One should recite Salah (durood) on Prophet Muhammad, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam, as many times as he can. The dhikr can also be recited while walking, lying on bed and during other hours of work or leisure.
4 Dua. The best benefit one can draw from the blessings of this night is prayers and supplications. It is hoped that all the prayers in this night will be accepted by our Lord, insha-Allah. Prayer itself is an 'Ibadah, and Allah Almighty gives reward on each prayer along with the fulfillment of the supplicator's need. Even if the purpose prayed for is not achieved, one cannot be deprived of the reward of the prayer which is sometimes more precious than the mundane benefits one strives for. The prayers and supplications also strengthen one's relation with Allah Almighty, which is the main purpose of all kinds and forms of worship.
a One can pray for whatever purpose he wishes. But the best supplications are the ones made by Prophet Muhammad, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam. These are so comprehensive and all-encompassing prayers that all the human needs, of this world and the Hereafter, are fully covered in the eloquent expressions used in them. Actually, most of the prophetic prayers are so profound that human imagination can hardly match their greatness.
b Several books in various languages are available which provide these prophetic prayers, and one should pray to Allah Almighty in accordance with them, whether by reciting their original Arabic text or by rendering their sense in one's own language.
5 There are some people who cannot perform any additional Salah or recitations for any reason, like illness or weakness or being engaged in some other necessary activities. Such people also should not deprive themselves completely of the blessings of this night. They should observe the following acts:
a To perform the Salah of Maghrib, 'Isha' and Fajr with Jama'ah in the mosque, or in their homes in case of their being sick.
b They should keep reciting the dhikr, particularly the one mentioned in para (c) above, in whatever condition they are until they sleep.
c They should pray to Allah for their forgiveness and for their other objectives. One can do so even when he is in his bed.
d The women during their periods cannot perform salah, nor can they recite the Qur'an, but they can recite any dhikr, tasbeeh, durood sharif and can pray to Allah for whatever purpose they like in whatever language they wish. They can also recite the Arabic prayers mentioned in the Qur'an or in the hadith with the intention of supplication (and not with the intention of recitation).
e According to a hadith, which is relatively less authentic, Prophet Muhammad, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam, went in this night to the graveyard of Baqi' where he prayed for the Muslims buried there. On this basis, some of the fuqaha hold it as mustahabb (advisable) in this night to go to the graveyard of the Muslims and recite Fatihah or any other part of the Qur'an, and pray for the dead. But this act is neither obligatory nor should it be performed as regularly as an obligatory act.
1 As mentioned earlier, the Night of Bara'ah is a night in which special blessings are directed towards the Muslims. Therefore, this night should be spent in total submission to Allah Almighty, and one should refrain from all those activities, which may displease Allah. Although it is always incumbent upon every Muslim to abstain from sins, yet this abstinence becomes all the more necessary in such nights, because committing sins in this night will amount to responding to divine blessings with disobedience and felony. Such an arrogant attitude can invite nothing but the wrath of Allah. Therefore, one should strictly abstain from all the sins, particularly from those mentioned in the Hadith No. 3 quoted earlier in this article, because these sins make one devoid of the blessings of this night.
2 In this night some people indulge in some activities which they regard as necessary for the celebration of the Night of Bara'ah, like cooking some special type of meal, or illuminating houses or mosques, or improvised structures. All such activities are not only baseless and innovated in the later days by ignorant people, but in some cases they are pure imitation of some rituals performed by non-Muslim communities. Such imitation in itself is a sin; performing it in a blessed night like the Night of Bara'ah makes it worse. Muslims should strictly abstain from all such activities.
3 Some people spend this night in holding religious meetings and delivering long speeches. Such activities are also not advisable, because these acts can easily be performed in other nights. This night requires one to devote himself for the pure acts of worship only.
4 The acts of worship like Salah, recitation of the Qur'an and dhikr should be performed in this night individually, not collectively. The Nafl Salah should not be performed in Jama'ah, nor should the Muslims arrange gatherings in the mosques in order to celebrate the night in a collective manner.
On the contrary, this night is meant for worshipping Allah in solitude. It is the time to enjoy the direct contact with the Lord of the Universe, and to devote one's attention to Him and Him alone. These are the precious hours of the night in which nobody should intervene between one and his Lord, and one should turn to Allah with total concentration, not disturbed or intermitted by any one else.
That is why Prophet Muhammad, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam, observed the acts of worship in this night in total seclusion, not accompanied by anyone, not even by his favorite life companion Sayyidah 'Aishah, Radi-Allahu anha, and that is why all forms of the optional worship (Nafl Ibadah), are advised by him to be done in individual, not in collective manner.
On the day immediately following the Night of Bara'ah, i.e. the 15th of Sha'ban, it is mustahabb (advisable) to keep fast. Prophet Muhammad, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam, is reported to have recommended this fast emphatically. Although the scholars of hadith have some doubts in the authenticity of this report, yet it is mentioned earlier that the fasts of the first half of Sha'ban have special merits and Prophet Muhammad, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam, used to fast most of the days in Sha'ban. Moreover, a large number of the elders (salaf) of the Ummah have been observing the fast of the 15th of Sha'ban. This constant practice indicates that they have accepted the relevant hadith as authentic.
Therefore, it is advisable to fast the 15th of Sha'ban as an optional (nafl) fast. One can also keep a fast of qada on this day and it is hoped that he can also benefit from the merits of this fast.
Q. I have read the Shabaan issue of your magazine Al-BALAGH certain questions are bothering me with regard to fasting on the 15th of Shabaan. I would like to explain the reason for this question. Several months ago a friend explained to me that there is no special significance of the fast of the 15th of Shabaan. However, he says this Hadith is absolutely weak to such an extent that one of its narrators was a person who was regarded by some scholars of Hadith as a fabricator of Hadith and a liar. Hence, he says that, until another reliable Hadith can be found the fast of the 15th of Shabaan has no special virtue. He also explained to me the following points :
Hence I now wish to pose my questions.
I hope Mufti Sahib will quickly answer these questions and remove my doubts and the doubts of many others here in this regard.
(Yousuf Desai, South Africa)
A. I am grateful to you for your question which provided me with an opportunity to revise my article and to study the subject in more detail. In fact, the fast of the 15th of Shabaan is based on a tradition reported by Sayiddna Ali. Its text runs as follows :
When the Middle Night of Shabaan arrives, you should stand (Praying) in the night and should fast in the day following it.This Hadith is recorded by Ibn Majah in his Sunan, one of the famous six books of Hadith, and also by Baihaqi in his famous book Shu'ab-al-'iman'. Both of them have reported it without any comment about its authenticity. But after a critical analysis of its chain of narrators it is found that this tradition is mainly based on the report of Abu Bakr Ibn Abi Saburah whose narrations cannot be relied upon. That is why the scholars of Hadith have declared it as a weak (da'if) tradition. However, the allegation that the narrator of this Hadith i.e. Abu Bakr ibn Abi Saburah, is a fabricator who used to coin forged traditions does not seem correct. In fact, he was mufti of Madinah, a well-known jurist and he was appointed as a qadi (Judge) of Iraq in the days of Mansur and was succeeded in this office by Imam Abu Yousuf. He was a colleague of Imam Malik.
Once Mansur, the Abbasi Caliph, asked Imam Malik referred to three names, and one of them was that of Ibn Abi Saburah. Had he been a fabricator, Imam Malik would have never referred to his name in this context. But despite his high position among the jurists, his memory was not of the standard required for the uthenticity of a tradition. That is why most of the critics of Hadith like Imam Bukhari etc. Have held him as weak, but did not declare him a fabricator. Only Imam Ahmed is reported to have remarked about him that he fabricates Hadith. But this remark alone is not sufficient to hold him as a fabricator, for two reasons: Firstly Imam Ahmed was born long after him, and his contemporary scholars never held him as such, secondly the Arabic words used by Imam Ahmed are some times used for confusing one tradition with another, and not for deliberate fabrication.
This is the reason why the majority of the scholars of Hadith have held Abu Bakr ibn Abi Saburah as a weak reporter of Hadith, but they did not declare him as a forger or fabricator. Now, coming to his tradition about the fast of the 15th Ramadan it is held by the scholars to be weak but i have not come across an authentic scholar who has treated it as a fabricated (Mawdu) Hadith. There are a number of books indicating the fabricated Ahadith, but this tradition is not included in these books as fabricated.
It is well-known that Ibn Majah consists of about twenty Ahadith held to be fabricated. The list of these fabricated AHadith is available, but the tradition in question is not included therein.
Therefore, the correct position is that this Hadith is not fabricated. However, being reported by a weak narrator, it cannot be relied upon in the matter of the injunctions of Shariah. Thus, the fast of the 15th of Shabaan cannot be termed as Sunnah or Mustahab in the strict sense of the term. Nevertheless, it may be advisable to fast in the 15th of Shabaan without taking it as Sunnah for several reasons:
Firstly it is fully established through a large number of Ahadith that the Holy Prophet (S.A.W.) has emphasized on the merits of fasting in Shabaan, and particularly in the first half of the month. The 15th day of Shabaan, being the last day of the first half, is included in the preferable days for fasting.
Secondly, the merits of the 15th night of Shabaan is established by more than a dozen Ahadith. It means that this night should be spent in prayers and other forms of worship. On the other hand, all the blessed nights which the Muslims are advised to spend in worship are generally followed by fasting on the coming day like in the Laylatul-Qadr, where fasting on the following day is obligatory, or like the first night Zilhijjah where fasting on the following days is optional, rather advisable. on this analogy, too, the 15th night of Shabaan may be followed by an optional fasting on the following day.
Thirdly, the tradition relating to the merits of fasting on 15th of Shabaan is, no doubt, a weak tradition, not competent to prove this practice to be a Sunnah or a formal Mustahabb, but it can be acted upon as a measure of precaution, provided that the practice is not taken as Sunnah or a formal Mustahabb. It is for these reasons that some Ulama and elders have been fasting on the 15th of Shabaan and have been taking it an advisable practice. It is in this context that I had mentioned this fast as advisable in my previous article. But when I revised the article after receiving your question, I now feel that the relevant paragraph may create misunderstanding and it needs clarification. I now armend it in accordance with what is stated above in this article.
Again, I am thankful to you for your letter which enabled me to revise and correct my previous article. May Allah give you the best reward for it.