Across different religions, there is a concept known as “sacred space,”1 which places value on certain places, objects, or days, as they remind us of God. In the school of Ahl al-Bayt (PBUT), for instance, there is value placed on certain cities like Mecca and Medina or Najaf and Karbala. Similarly, there is an emphasis on the sacredness of the turbah (earth surrounding the grave) of Imam Hussain (AS) due to the narrations that emphasize its unique status. Imam Jafar al-Sadiq (AS) is reported to have said, “If one takes such [earth] with belief that God will benefit him [it], He [God] will certainly benefit him [it].”2
Among those aspects which are incredibly significant when it comes to “sacred space” are the blessed days of Rajab, Shaaban, and the holy month of Ramadan. God says in the Holy Quran, “And…remind them of the days of God.”3 It is without a doubt that the seventh, eighth, and ninth months of the Islamic calendar are included as the “days of God,” for each day has a specified merit and act of worship associated with it, as mentioned in books of supplication.4 The Holy Prophet (PBUHH) is reported to have said, “Rajab is the month of Almighty God, Shaaban is my month, and Ramadan is the month of my people.”4
Common Merits of These Months
Although each of the three sacred months have their own unique merits and prescribed forms of worship and supplication, there are also several common themes among them.
Asking for forgiveness and forgiving others – There are numerous recommended acts of worship to perform during these months. These actions help build our spirituality. The first of these actions is to ask for forgiveness. It is highly recommended to recite “Astaghfiru Allah wa asaluhu al-tawbah” or “I seek God’s forgiveness and come to Him in repentance” seventy times a day, because repentance purifies the soul. Perhaps some of us have committed sins, and by repenting sincerely, our sins will be forgiven. We should also ask forgiveness from those whom we may have hurt by our words or actions. If someone has wronged us, and we are still holding a grudge against them, we should do our best to forgive them as well. The goal is that if we are merciful to creation, perhaps God will be merciful to us.
Fasting – Fasting (not only in the holy month of Ramadan) is highly recommended during the months of Rajab and Shaaban. There are many hadiths that speak about the benefits of fasting during these months. Imam Musa al-Kathim (AS) is reported to have said, “Whoever fasts one day in the month of Rajab has the fire (of hell) [kept] away from him [for]…one year, while whoever fasts three days (in this month) has paradise become incumbent for him.”5 Imam Ali al-Rida (AS) also states that “Whoever fasts one day in the month of Shaaban for the sake of God, he will be rewarded with paradise.”6 By examining these sayings, we can see how important fasting is during these months. It is not only an action that will please God, but the reward is significant. What greater reward can we ask but paradise for just fasting for a few days!
Reciting the Holy Quran – In addition to asking for forgiveness and fasting during these sacred months, we must train ourselves to build a relationship with the Holy Quran. Imam al-Baqir (AS) states, “Everything has a [spring season], and the [spring season] of the Quran is the month of Ramadan.”7 We need to prepare ourselves for the month of Ramadan by reciting even a few verses from the Holy Quran and contemplating their meaning. The holy month of Ramadan is known as the month of the Holy Quran, so we should dedicate a little more time of our day to read the Holy Quran. This is just a small step that we can take to build a connection between our soul and the book of God.
The nights of the month of Rajab are all special beginning with sighting of the crescent moon of the blessed month. The Holy Prophet (PBUHH) has said, “Rajab is the month known as Rajab al-asab [or the month of overflowing] because mercy overflows upon my community in it.”8 In one of the famous supplications that is recommended for recitation every morning and evening of this month we say, “Oh, the One who gives when He is asked! Oh, the one who gives to those who do not ask. Oh, the One who gives to those who do not even know him, out of his compassion and mercy.”9
The tradition of the Prophet, along with this supplication that the Imams has taught us, make it clear that God is ever merciful. He gives to those who ask and those who do not ask. He also gives to those who do not ask and do not know Him! Since God is so merciful and compassionate towards his creation, He will give continuously. These days and nights are an incredible chance for us to attain our desires for this world and the hereafter.
Just like the month of Rajab, the month of Shaaban also has specific acts of worship and supplications. One of the notable actions is to perform the ziyarah (or visitation) of Imam Hussain (AS) on the fifteenth of the month. Imam Zayn al-Abidin (AS) and Imam al-Sadiq (AS) have said, “The one who desires to shake the hands of 124,000 prophets should visit the grave of Imam Hussain (AS) on the fifteenth of Shaaban. Surely the souls of the prophets seek permission from God for this visitation, and God permits them. Surely, paradise is for one who shakes their hands [the prophets], and amongst them are the greatest prophets including Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jesus, and Muhammad.”10
Visiting the grave of Imam Hussain (AS) has incredible merit, for surely visiting him is a means to seek closeness to the prophets and to God himself. Pledging our loyalty to Imam Hussain (AS) is an opportunity for us to demonstrate that we wish we could have been with him on the Day of Ashura and shown absolute submission to God. Among the most profound lines in the visitation is when we address the Imam by saying, “Here I am, at your service, oh the one who calls us toward God! Though I could not answer with my body when you made your call, and could not answer you when you asked for help, I declare that my heart, [hearing, and sight] are at your service!”11 Due to the fact that Imam Hussain (AS) gave his life and everything that he had in the way of God, God has given Imam Hussain (AS) the honor of attaching great rewards (such as paradise itself) to his visitation.
The Holy Month of Ramadan
The days and nights of the holy month of Ramadan are among the most sacred of days. There are designated prayers and supplications specific to each night. However, the nights of Laylat al-Qadr which fall on the nineteenth, twenty-first, and twenty-third of the holy month are the most important nights in the Islamic calendar. God states in the Holy Quran, “(Worship) on the Night of Destiny is better than (worship) for a thousand months.”12
One important event that took place during these nights was that the Holy Quran was revealed to Prophet Muhammad (PBUHH). God says, “We revealed the Quran on the Night of Destiny.”14 On this great night, the final guidance for humankind was sent down from the heavens. Every year we may celebrate our birthdays and anniversaries, because they remind us of joyous occasions. Similarly, we celebrate the anniversary of the revelation of our holy book, because it lights up our lives and teaches us how to succeed in this world and the hereafter.
Moreover, these are the nights where God writes our decree for the next year. Imam al-Sadiq (AS) said, “During Laylat al-Qadr, the angels, the spirit, and the trusted scribes all descend to the lower heavens and write down whatever God decrees that year. And if God wishes to advance something, postpone it, or make any additions, He orders the angel to erase it and replace it with whatever He decrees.”14 These are the nights where God decides the events that will take place in our lives for the next year. If we make the most out of these nights by supplicating and seeking forgiveness, we have the opportunity to have a say in our own decree. If we ask with a sincere heart, God will surely respond to our supplication, as He states, “I am near; I accept the prayers of those who pray.”15
Pieces of Advice
During these holy months, we should focus our energy on doing actions that please the Almighty. Aside from fasting, praying, and reciting the Quran, there are other acts we can take part in every day that will also please God. These actions include:
- Being kind to our parents. A person once said to Imam Jafar al-Sadiq (AS), “My father has become very old and weak. We pick him up and help him [use] the restrooms.” The Imam said, “If you can, you should do all of this for him and feed him with your own hand; it is paradise for you tomorrow.”16
- Help make iftar, the meal of breaking fast. The Holy Prophet (PBUHH) is reported to have said, according to the sixth Imam (AS), “If one serves food for a fasting person at the end of a fasting day, God counts it equal in reward to setting free a slave and forgiveness of his sins of the past.” It was said, “O Messenger of God, not every one of us is able to serve food to a fasting person at the end of a fasting day.” The Messenger of God (PBUHH) said, “God is gracious, He grants such reward even for serving some milk mixed with water or some sweet water or a few pieces of dates, if he is unable to do more than this…”17
- Reconnect with relatives whom we have not spoken to in a long time, and spend quality time with family. “The Messenger of God (PBUHH) has said, ‘The good deed with the quickest reward is maintaining good relations with relatives.’”18
- Visit our sick brothers, sisters, or friends, and lend a helping hand if needed. Imam Jafar al-Sadiq (AS) is reported to have said, “If one visits a patient, God, the Most Majestic, the Most Glorious, assigns an angel to visit him in his grave.”19
The days of the months of Rajab, Shaaban, and the holy month of Ramadan are some of the most sacred days in the Islamic calendar. The Holy Prophet (PBUHH) and his family (PBUT) have shown the importance of these months through numerous hadiths. It is our responsibility to take advantage of the benefits of these months, as they come and go very quickly. Asking God for forgiveness, fasting, and reciting and contemplating the verses of the holy Quran are just a few actions (among many) that we can perform to purify our hearts and become closer to God. By following these bits of advice, we will have observed “the days of God” as we should.
1.Gale Thomson, “Sacred Space,” Encyclopedia of Religion, Encyclopedia.com, www.encyclopedia.com/environment/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/sacred-space.
2. Shaykh al-Kulayni, Al-kafi, vol. 4, p. 588, h. 3.
3. The Holy Quran 14:5.
4. See Mafateeh al-jinan and Dhiya al-saliheen.
5. Shaykh al-Sadooq, Al-faqeeh, vol. 2, p. 92, h. 1822.
6. Shaykh al-Majlisi, Bihar Al-anwar, vol. 94, 110 vols. (Beirut, Al-alami, 2008), 72.
7. Shaykh al-Kulayni, Al-kafi, vol. 2, p. 630, h. 10.
8. Abbas al-Qummi, Mafateeh al-jinan (Beirut, All-alami Library, 2006), 180.
9. Abbas al-Qummi, Mafateeh al-jinan (Beirut, Al-alami Library, 2006), 186.
10. Abbas al-Qummi, Mafateeh al-jinan (Beirut Al-alami Library, 2006), 516.
12. The Holy Quran 97:3.
13. The Holy Quran 97:1.
14. Bihar ul-Anwar, vol. 94, p. 12.
15. The Holy Quran 2:186.
16. Shaykh al-Kulayni, Al-kafi, vol. 2, ch. 70, h. 13.
17. Shaykh al-Kulayni, Al-kafi, vol. 4, p.67 ch. 47, h. 4.
18. Shaykh al-Kulayni, Al-kafi, vol. 2, p. 152, ch. 69, h. 15.
19. Shaykh al-Kulayni, Al-kafi, vol. 3, ch. 82, h. 7.