O noble shaykh, we are now getting close to the middle of Shaʿbān, and you know – may Allāh preserve you – what takes place with regards to innovations during this time, so my wish is that the people are notified and made aware of this.
Shaykh Muḥammad Amān al-Jāmī:
A questioner asks regarding what the people customarily do mid-Shaʿbān, i.e. fasting the middle day of Shaʿbān and engaging in worship on that night; believing that this is from the Sunnah, and perhaps some of them may even believe that this will increase their life span; So the answer is …
The guidance of the Messenger ﷺ –which is the best guidance, is that you fast the month of Shaʿbān completely or the majority of it.
It has been confirmed in the ḥadīth of ʿĀʾisha that the Messenger ﷺ would fast the month of Shaʿbān completely, and according to another ḥadīth, he would fast the majority of it. Ahl al-Sunnah, the people of ḥadīth, reconcile between the two ḥadīths and say: he ﷺ would occasionally fast it completely and occasionally fast most of it in order that it is not mistaken for Ramaḍān (which would have been the case) had he continued to always fast it completely. Therefore, his guidance ﷺ which should be followed in this regard is: whoever is able to fast the month of Shaʿbān completely or most of it then he should do so.
As for what the latter-day people have introduced, namely the Ṣūfīs and those who were educated amidst them, which is this bidʿah of fasting mid-Shaʿbān (exclusively) and spending its night in worship and congregating over food that night, is an innovation that is not befitting (of a Sunni) to fall into nor believe that it is a good ‘bidʿah’ innovation; after it has been confirmed from the Messenger ﷺ that he said: “Every innovation is misguidance“.
All Innovating of new practises in the religion is misguidance, and if innovation is necessary, then it must only be in worldly affairs. Innovate as you wish! But as for Innovating in the religion, then No! No innovation, no development and no addition.
One may ask, and indeed many have, ‘what do you say about ʿUmar’s statement, when he gathered the people behind one imām for Tarāwīḥ, and after being delighted at seeing this he said’: “what a blessed ‘bidʿah’ innovation“. The answer is: the word ‘bidʿah’ innovation mentioned by ʿUmar implies the linguistic meaning, not the legislative meaning –the evidence being: the congregating of the people behind one imām for the Tarāwīḥ prayers occurred at the time of the Prophet ﷺ – wherein he lead the people in his masjid for three nights consecutively, then he feared that it would be made compulsory on them and then they would not be capable of doing it, so he abandoned it out of mercy for his nation. But when the reason for abandoning it no longer existed, ʿUmar, during his reign, gathered the people – meaning he renewed the congregating of the people behind one imām and he did not pray with them; he did not pray behind ʿUbay (bin Kaʿb) with the companions, however, he came out to them while they were lined up in a row behind one imam, and so the sight of that delighted him, thus he said: “what a blessed innovation” and the word ‘bidʿah’ innovation used here is not the legislative meaning of the word. (Because) The legislative meaning of bidʿah is that you perform an action which is apparently righteous (religious) but has no basis in the religion, as for this [tarāwīḥ], it has a basis in the religion. For three nights the Prophet ﷺ led the people in prayer, and for that reason the people of knowledge state that the innovation mentioned by ʿUmar in this instance implies the linguistic meaning i.e. renewal of the practise after a long period of its absence.