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What is ‘Shab-e-Bara’at’ (The Night of Salvation and Forgiveness)? Ghulam Rasool Dehlvi

This year, Shab-e-Bar’at falls on the 18th of March which means that it will begin on the eve of Friday, ending in the dawn on Saturday.

Ghulam Rasool Dehlvi
Founding Editor at Word For Peace
One of the spiritual nights in Islam—known as Shab-e-Bar’at in South Asia— is forthcoming. “Bar’at” is an Arabic word which means salvation, pardon or forgiveness. In Arabic, Bar’at also means: deliverance from errors or sins. Thus, this night is known in Arabic as “Laylat ul Bar’at”, the night the Almighty forgives the sinners quite graciously and generously.

Every moment, second, minute, hour, day and night should be spent in the devotion and complete submission to Allah, the Almighty. But there are specific days and nights in which one’s devotion to the Divine becomes exceedingly paramount, more meaningful and highly valued. For, these specific days and nights have their own weight due to extra importance and sanctity attached to them.

Among those special occasions is the Night of Freedom also known as the Night of Forgiveness–Shab-e-Bar’at–which is the best of all nights after the Night of Decree–Laylat-ul-Quadr– in the estimation of the holy Qur’an and Hadith.

Therefore, devoted Muslims of India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan celebrate the Shab-e-Bar’at on the 15th day of Sha’aban. Although this night is not celebrated in the Arab countries, Shab-e-Bar’at also known as “Laylat ul Nisf min Sha’aban” is a traditional spiritual occasion among South Asian Muslims in particular.
This year, Shab-e-Bar’at falls on the 18th of March which means that it will begin on the eve of Friday, ending in the dawn on Saturday.
The Shab-e-Bara’at generally includes worshipping Allah throughout the night, asking for His forgiveness, reciting the holy Qur’an and making a great deal of supplication to Allah, the Almighty. Since the night is believed to be full of divine bounties and spiritual blessings, Muslims customarily clean and decorate their houses with chains of lights and candles. Symbolizing the especial grace of God bestowed on this night, the clusters of decorated houses look very beautiful in the shimmering lights. As lightening is a clear sign of rejoicing divine bounties, it is done as an expression of gratitude to Allah, the Almighty who bestows uncountable rewards and blessings on His worshippers especially on this night. It is also a kind of salute to Him, as it is established by scores of authentic Islamic sources that on this night God writes the destiny of all living creatures for the upcoming year.
Muslims with a good festive spirit add to their delights by arranging sweets and sending them to their relatives and friends. Some people organize delicious feasts and invite others to their houses to eat together. Thus, they endeavour, on this night, to adopt the noble Islamic behavioural beauty of “Sila Rahmi” (Maintaining bonds of kinship) in their daily lives. Islam has given it paramount importance as the Prophet is reported to have said:
“Whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day, should maintain the bonds of kinship” (Bukhari)
Some of the most notable customs to mark this Night of Forgiveness include extending pardon and forgiveness to all kith and kin and all friends and acquaintances, giving in charity, distributing clothes, foods and other commodities of daily use to the poor and needy. Thus the observance of this night sets good examples of Islamic righteousness mentioned as “Birr” in the Quran, which carries huge weight in the estimation of Allah and earns His immense pleasure. This concept of ‘Birr’ is beautifully illustrated in the Holy Quran:
“It is not Birr (righteousness) that you turn your faces (in prayer) towards East or West; but it is righteousness to believe in God and the Last day, and the Angels and the Book, and the Messengers; to spend of your wealth – in spite of your love for it – for your kin, for orphans, for the needy, for the wayfarer, for those who ask, and for the ransom of slaves; to be steadfast in prayer and practice regular charity; to fulfill the contracts which you have made; and to be firm and patient, in pain and adversity and throughout all periods of panic. Such are the people of truth, the God – minded” (The Holy Qur’an, 2:177).
So, this is how the night of mid Sha’ban is celebrated by mainstream Muslims especially in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Indonesia, and Malaysia. Keeping in view the above norms, the core essence of celebrating Shab-e-Bar’at can be summed up in three fundamentals of Islamic worship: Ibaadat (Worshipping God), Sila Rahmi (Maintaining bonds of Kinship) and Birr (acts of righteousness).
All the above-mentioned ways of celebrating the night exhort us, in one way or the other, to fulfil our duties towards both our Lord and fellow human beings. While the sleepless night spent in various forms of worship is a gratitude to God, giving in charity, helping the needy, sending sweets to friends and relatives, inviting others to the feasts and things like these are, obviously, effective means to maintain bonds of kinship and attain righteousness. These are the clear objectives of celebrating Shab-e-Bar’at as traditionally upheld by millions of Muslims in South Asia.
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