The Opportunity

The Opportunity

She walks quietly to her kitchen and pulls out the coffeemaker. As the rich smell of caffeine confuses the usual nighttime smells, she pulls out her prayer carpet and her expensive perfume. The night awaits her and she is seeking forgiveness and the pleasure of her Lord.

It is Niṣf Shaʿbān.

An argument on Facebook and comments on Twitter run through her mind, and she shakes her head and thinks of ʿĀʾisha (r), who, when she asked the Prophet ﷺ of his long prostration (indeed she had feared the worst!) was told, “Do you know what night this is?… This is the night of Mid-Shaʿbān. God looks at His servants on the night of Mid-Shaʿbān and forgives those seeking forgiveness, has mercy on those seeking mercy, and leaves the bearers of grudges as they are.” [al-Bayhaqī]

She thinks of ʿAlī (r) who tells us that the Prophet ﷺ said, “If it is the night of Mid-Shaʿbān then stand [in prayer] in its night and fast its day. For God descends to the heavens of the earth when the sun sets and says, ‘Is there anyone who seeks forgiveness so that I may forgive him? Is there anyone who seeks provision so that I may grant him provision? Is there anyone afflicted so that I may remove his affliction? Is there not such and such…’ until the break of dawn.” [Sunan Ibn Mājah]

She remembers the advice of al-Subkī, the great mufassir of Quran, who said that the night of Mid-Shaʿbān atones for the sins of a year, the night of Friday atones for the sins of the week, and the Night of Power (Laylat al-Qadr) atones for the sins of a lifetime.

She turns off her computer, switches off her phone, pours her coffee and dons her freshly ironed prayer clothes.

The night has begun and she does not want to be left behind.

Islam is a religion of opportunity and the night of the fifteenth of Shaʿbān is one of those opportunities. Fifteen days before Ramadan, it is a chance to stand in the down-pouring rain of Allah’s mercy, and flick off our sins one by one as we stand in prayer and the remembrance of God on this night.

The one deprived of the opportunity has been described by the early scholars as the miserable one. ʿĀʾisha (r) narrates that the Prophet ﷺ said, “Jibrīl has come to me and said, ‘This is the night of Niṣf Shaʿbān; by God, there are people who will be saved from the Fire as the number of hairs on the sheep of [the tribe] of Kalb. In it God will not look at a polytheist, one who incites rancor in the hearts of people towards others, one who severs the bonds of kinship, one who drags his clothing (is haughty), one who transgresses against his parents, or one who is addicted to alcohol.’” [Kanz al- ‘Amal]

While idolatry and alcohol are not real concerns, she worries about the hearts of people, her duties toward her family, and her own arrogance, so today and all of last week she was catching up with family. She reevaluated her relationships and made sure she wasn’t saying anything to her in-laws about her husband that might upset them, or vice-versa. She looked at her clothes, and recognizing that pride and arrogance are no longer in clothes that drag on the floor, she looked for modern signs of such in her wardrobe. She called each parent and made sure there were no pressing needs, and that they were pleased with her.

Now tonight she stands in hope of reward from her Lord. She calls out and asks for forgiveness. Tears stream down her face as she remembers early years of distance and sin. Her heart breaks as she remembers times she was less than kind to others.

As fajr begins to line the night sky, her heart is full and thankful. Allāhumma ṣalli ʿalā sayyidinā Muhammad. She thinks of him now. And asks that prayers and blessings, equal in number to the drops of water in the sea, will be sent to him.

What a beautiful night. Alhamdulillah.

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