Explanation of Praying Salat al-Khayr on Mid-Sha`ban According to the Shafi`i Madhhab

‘Inan al-Bayan fi Nisf Sha`ban“

Question:

Fulan has a shaykh in tasawwuf whom he greatly loves and respects (he has already taken baya` with him). this 15th of Sha’aban, the teacher has told fulan that he should try to perform Salatul-khayr (100 rakats with 10 ikhlas in each rakat). however, fulan knows from fiqhi sources that according to top authorities in the shafi`i school and in the hanafi school, this is to be considered a baseless and blameworthy innovation. it is clear that a teacher who lacks the knowledge of the Shariah is a poor teacher indeed, but this applies surely to obligatory knowledge (the fardu `ayn) and the like. such in depth knowledge, such as the above question, is known only to an `alim or to an aspiring `alim usually, which not all shuyukh are pursuing to be. what is the correct adab on the student in this case? i have advised him to first seek out if the Salat-ul-khayr in another madhhab (such as the Hanbali one, as i believe shaykh Abd-al-Qadir Jilani, may Allah have mercy on him and sanctify his secret, advised this practise, and he was of the Hanbali school) is valid. if it is, then there should be no objection at all. he is doing that now. if when he is done with his research, he still has not found the practise advised in any madhhab, i think i should advise him to take the question to his shaykh, with the utmost of respect and pose the question of reference to him so that his doubts may be alleviated for now and the future. i think he will have to get by for the time being (the 15th is tommorow night) but if, at your convenience, you could let me know what the correct way to go about such issues is, i would be most grateful.”

Answer:

Alhamdulillah alladhi salla ‘ala n-nabiyyi l-mustafa wa s-salatu wa s-salamu ‘ala n-nabiyyi l-awfa wa ‘ala alihi wa sahbihi dhawi l-qurba. Rabbi zidni ‘ilman wa-rzuqni fahman! Although it is true that, at first glance, the Qawl Mu’tamad of the Shafi’i school regarding the ‘Salat al-Khayr‘ – or the ‘Salat Laylat Nisf Sha`ban‘ – is that it has no legal status, and the hukm shar’i relating to it is Makruh (and not Haram) for the one performing it, there is tafsil and further details that the jurist must consider before relating this judgement. There is a mas’ala khilafiyya [a genuine khilaf such that one agrees to disagree] in our school on the following point: IF when praying during the night of the middle of Sha`ban [Nisf al-Sha`ban] the Musalli specifies the intention of the prayer as follows: uSallI sunnata laylati niSfi Sha`bana rak’atayni li-Llahi ta’AlA[I [intend to] pray the recommended [prayer] of the night of Sha`ban in two rak’as, for the sake of Allah the Most High] – then, there are three qawls [positions] in the school concerning the one performing Salat Laylat Nisf Sha`ban:

1. The Asl [original ruling] is that it is Makruh according to Imam al-Nawawi (may Allah be pleased with him!) and others, because it is a “Bid’a Qabiha” [blameworthy innovation]; and under this Tafsil only one qawl says it is Haram. (This position is, for example, mentioned in the text of the Fath al-Mu`in [I’anat, 1:270]; al-Nawawi’s position, for instance, is in the Majmu` [4:61]; the qawl that it is Haram is in the Irshad al-’Ibad (which is not, note, a fiqh work) [al-Mallibari, Irshad, 24] (who is also the same author of the Fath al-Mu`in)).

2. The Asl is Mandub/Sunna according to Imam al-Ghazali (may Allah be pleased with him!) and others. (This position is also related in the fiqh manual I’anat al-Talibin (the commentary to the Fath al-Mu`in above) [I’anat, 1:271-2]; al-Ghazali’s own position is in the Ihya’ (which is not, note, a fiqh work) [Ihya’, 1:203-4]) and this position is not brought up in his furu’ fiqhi works; the Wajiz or the Wasit.

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