Islam, January 1996

Enlivening the Night of Baraat

We are in the month of Sha'ban, one of the ''three blessed months'' of the year; Ramadhan is around the corner. We all are delighted to prepare for the Night of Baraat and for the king of the months, Ramadhan.

Sha'ban was the month of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh); he would spend the nights with prayers and the days with fasting often in this month. When asked by A'isha, the ''mother of the believers,'' he replied, ''O A'isha! This is the month in which the Angel of Death is given the names of people who are going to die this year. I love to have my name given while I fast.''

The companions of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) -- may Allah be pleased with them -- and the awliyaullah (close friends of Allah) who followed the tradition of the Prophet, would fast often and spend many hours with reciting Qur'an and salawaat in this month. The rich would pay their zakaat in this month so that the poor would gain strength for fasting in Ramadhan. Some governors would declare amnesty to the prisoners, and the merchants pay their creditors and close their accounts. Most of them would perform ghusl and go into i'tikaf by retreating into a mosque upon observing the crescent of the Ramadhan.

The Night of Baraat is not only the most important night of Sha'ban but also one of the the most blessed, fruitful nights of the year. It is the festival of angels; blessings, mercy and abundance descend on earth during this night. Believers are granted forgiveness except those who commit shirk by attributing a partner to God, who keep a grudge in their hearts, who severe the relationship with their relatives and friends, who practice sorcery, who drink, who indulge in riba, and who ''sell'' their honor.

In the Night of Baraat, important events to happen in the year are decided. For instance, the sustenance and life spans are allocated; those who will perform the pilgrimage are decided. Some attain the mercy of Allah and get rewards; some incur the wrath of Allah and get punished. Many will prepare their shrouds and graves unknowingly. There will be so many who expect to have a place in Paradise, yet they will find themselves in Hell.

The Night of Baraat is an awesome night; once during such a night, Hassan of Basra left his house extremely pale as if he got out of a grave. He was asked what made him fear and grieve so much. He replied: ''I swear that I am in a state worse than that of a man whose ship has sunk because I am sure of the sins that I committed, but I am not sure of the acceptance of my good deeds. That is why I worry so much.''

My beloved brothers and sisters! Prepare for this special night ahead of time by fasting, giving charities, paying zakaat, repenting, reciting Qur'an and salawaat, offering voluntary prayers, and visiting the relatives and friends. Turn to Allah with tears, and seek forgiveness, mercy and blessings. Ask for the plenitude of sustenance, good fortune, and guidance. May He open our hearts to receive His blessings and inspiration. May He save us from disasters, calamities and ill deeds. May He grant victory to the mujahideen. May he make us honorable and happy in this world and in the hereafter.

The flurry of this temporary world has no end; the life in the hereafter is eternal. May Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala awaken the Nation of Prophet Muhammad from the sleep of unawareness. May He make it easier for them to see the truth as truth and follow it, and the falsehood as falsehood and avoid it. May He grant us a complete preparation for the hereafter.