The Cloud before the Rain

Rajab is like the wind; Sha’ban is like a cloud; and Ramadan is the rain – Imam Abu-Bakr Al-Warraq

All praise is due to Allah (SWT) for allowing us to reach the month of Sha’ban and we pray that Allah (SWT) grants us the opportunity to reach the blessed month of Ramadan.

The Prophet (SAW) said, “Sha’ban is a month that many people do not give attention to.”  Both Imam Bukhari and Imam Muslim reported that Aisha [may Allah (SWT) be pleased with her] said, “I never saw the Messenger of Allah (SAW) fast an entire month except for Ramadan, and I did not see him fasting more in any month other than the month of Sha’ban.” The Prophet (SAW) fasted particularly during the first half of Sha’ban. He said, “When the middle of Sha’ban comes, do not fast.”  This was reported by Abu Dawud, Tirmidhi, and others.

One of the many incidents that took place during the month of Sha’ban throughout the centuries happened on the very first day of the month in the year 380 Hijri. At the time, the Abbasid Caliphah appointed Ash-Shareef Ar-Radhy Mohammad Ibn Al-Hussain Al-Alawi to the position of Naqeeb (head) of the Talibeen. Later on, Al-Ashraaf, who is claimed to be in the lineage of the Prophet (SAW) in many Muslim-majority countries, also claimed this position.  The Caliphah also assigned Al-Alawi the responsibility of taking care of the mosques and religious institutions. This responsibility of maintenance is the ideological precursor to the famous notion of the Ministry of Awqaf (trusts).

On the 14th of Sha’ban in the year 175 Hijri, the famous Imam Al-Layth Ibn Sa’ad died in Egypt.  He was the most prominent Imam at the time in Egypt, and his fame was derived primarily from his scholarly knowledge of hadith and fiqh, to the extent that Imam Ash-Shafi’i, may Allah (SWT) be pleased with him, said, “Al-Layth Ibn Sa’ad was more established in knowledge than Imam Malik who is today more famous than Al-Layth.”

Al-Layth’s family came originally from Asfahan in Iran, but his father came to Egypt on his way back from Hajj, where Al-Layth was born.  Later on, the young Al-Layth moved to Mecca to study with many of the people who were directly in touch with the companions of the Prophet (SAW), such as Abdullahi Ibn Umar (the son of Umar Ibn Al-Khattab), Nafi’, Az-Zuhri, and ‘Ataa Ibn Abi Rabah.  A famous exchange took place between Al-Layth and Imam Malik when Imam Malik wrote to Al-Layth, asking him to stick to the fatawa of the people of Madina.  Al-Layth answered him with a letter that became a masterpiece in adab (being well-mannered and respectful), eloquence, and high scholarship, which became very famous.  Al-Layth also became famous by reclaiming the respect of the Caliphah Utham Ibn Affan, which was lost by the people, as they did not show him the respect he deserved.

Indeed, Al-Layth was a man of great intelligence and wisdom.  Another incident that reflects his intelligence occurred when the famous Abbasid Caliphah, Harun Ar-Rashid, had a heated argument with his own wife and said, “You are divorced if I am not from the people of Paradise.”  This created a dilemma for him and his wife, so the Caliphah gathered all the scholars of the time, from different regions, in order to resolve this problem.  All the scholars agreed that there was no way to revoke this divorce, as nobody knows whether or not they are the people of Paradise.  The only scholar able to find a way out of this dilemma was Al-Layth Ibn Sa’ad.  Al-Layth asked Harun Ar-Rashid, the Caliphah, to read Surah Ar-Rahman (Chapter 55) from the Holy Quran.  The Caliphah started reading the surah, until he came to verse 46:

“But for he who has feared the position of his Lord are two gardens…”

The Caliphah’s tears suddenly began to run, so Al-Layth asked, “Do you truly fear the position of your Lord?”  The Caliphah responded, “By Allah, I do.”  Al-Layth responded, “Allah (SWT) has given you two Paradises instead of one.”  At that time, the Caliphah’s wife (named Zubaida) said, “I have never seen a more intelligent man than Al-Layth.”

Imam Muhammad Ibn Hazm, who died on the 20th of Sha’ban in the year 456 Hijri, was the most famous Imam from what is known as the Adh-Dhahiri school.  He was born in Qurtuba and was from a very rich and prominent family.  While he was well-established in fiqh, hadith, and poetry, he also became a minister in the government. Still, his passion for knowledge pushed him to leave the official, state circles.  He became very controversial ever since the beginning of his devotional works because he used a rational and logical approach to the deen.  He wrote a book on logic called Kitab Attaqreeb Lihudud Al-Mantiq (The Book of Approximation upon the Boundaries of Logic) which angered many of the scholars who were literalists in their approach to holy scripture and the hadith of the Prophet (SAW).

However, Ibn Hazm was revered for his vast knowledge in hadith, manners, Qur’an, psychology, and particularly for his writings on human relations. His famous work Tawq Al-Hamama (Cincture of the Pigeon) became a very prominent guideline for marital relationships.  Also, his opinion on music was based on analyzing all previous studies about the subject, and he is known to say that the evidence on making music haram is not as strong as people think.  He actually made a case for music and musical instruments being acceptable in Islam.  Despite this controversy, Imam Ibn Taymiyyah, who was highly strict when it came to music, admitted that when he completed his studies, his scholarly or literary dessert, as he would say, was Ibn Hazm’s Kitab Al-Muhalla (The Sweetened Book) acknowledging the work of Ibn Hazm.

Moreover, Al‘iz Ibn Abdus-Salam, the well known scholar, also said, “I have never seen a book in Islam as well-established in knowledge as Al-Muhalla.”  Of the recent scholars, Shaykh Al-Azhar Abu Zahra wrote his famous volume titled Ibn Hazem: His Fiqh and His Opinions, which became a very famous reference for fiqh issues.

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