The Month of Rajab
Rajab is the seventh month in the Islamic lunar calendar. This month was regarded as one of the sacred months (Al-Ash-hur-Al-hurum) in which battles were prohibited in the days of the Holy Prophet Sallallahu alaihi wa sallam. It is also deemed to be a prelude to the month of Ramadhān, because the month of Ramadhān follows it after the intervening month of Sha'ban. Therefore, when the Holy Prophet Sallallahu alaihi wa sallam sighted the moon of Rajab, he used to supplicate to Allāh in the following words:
"O Allāh, make the months of Rajab and Sha'ban blessed for us, and let us reach the month of Ramadhān (i.e. prolong our life up to Ramadhān, so that we may benefit from its merits and blessings)."
Although the month of Rajab has the aforesaid merits, yet no specific way of worship has been prescribed by the Shari'ah in this month. People have invented some special rituals or practices in this month which are not supported by reliable resources of the Shari'ah or are based on some unauthentic traditions. Here we briefly discuss the night of ascension.
Celebration of Lailatul Me'rāj
It is generally believed that the great event of Me'rāj (ascension of the Holy Prophet Sallallahu alaihi wa sallam to the heavens) took place on the night of 27th Rajab. Therefore, some people celebrate the night as "Lailatul Me'rāj".
Indeed, the event of Me'rāj was one of the most remarkable episodes in the life of our beloved Nabi Sallallahu alaihi wa sallam. He was called by Almighty Allāh. He travelled from Makkah to Baitul Maqdis and from there he ascended the heavens through the miraculous power of Allāh. He was honoured with a direct contact with his Creator at a place where even the angels had no access. This was the unique honour conferred by Allāh to the Holy Prophet Sallallahu alaihi wa sallam alone. It was the climax of the spiritual progress which is not attained by anybody except him.
No doubt the night in which he was blessed with this unparalleled honour was one of the great nights in the history of this world. But, as we have explained in our discussion about the month of Rabi'ul-Awwal, Islam has its own principles with regard to the historic and religious events. Its approach about observing festivals and celebrating days and nights is totally different from the approach of other religions. The Holy Qur'ān and the Sunnah of the Holy Prophet Sallallahu alaihi wa sallam did not prescribe any festival or any celebration to commemorate an event from the past, however remarkable it might have been. Instead, Islam has prescribed two annual celebrations only. One is Eid-ul-Fitr and the other is Eid-ul-Adha. Both of these festivals have been fixed at a date on which the Muslims accomplish a great ibādah (worship) every year. Eid-ul-Fitr has been prescribed after the fasts of Ramadhān, while Eid-ul-Adha has been fixed when the Muslims perform the Haj annually. None of these two Eids is designed to commemorate a particular event of the past, which has happened in these dates.
This approach is indicative of the fact that the real occasion for a happy celebration is the day in which the celebrators themselves have accomplished remarkable work through their own active effort. As for the accomplishments of our ancestors, their commemoration should not be restricted to a particular day or night. Instead, their accomplishments must be remembered every day in our practical life by observing their teachings and following the great examples they have set for us.
Keeping this principle in view, the following points should be remembered with regard to the "Lailatul-Me'rāj":
1) We cannot say with absolute certainty in which night the great event of Me'rāj had taken place. Although some traditions relate this event to the 27th night of the month of Rajab, yet there are other traditions which suggest some other dates. Al-Zurqāni, the famous biographer of the Holy Prophet Sallallahu alaihi wa sallam has referred to five different views in this respect: Rabi'ul Awwal, Rabi'ul Ākhir, Rajab, Ramadhān and Shawwal. Later, while discussing different traditions, he has added a sixth opinion, that the Me'rāj took place in the month of Zul-Hijjah.
Allamah Abdul Haq Muhaddith Dehlawi, the well-known scholar of Hadīth, has written a detailed book on the merits of Islamic months. While discussing 'Lailatul Me'rāj', he has mentioned that most of the scholars are of the view that the event of Me'rāj took place in the month of Ramadhān or in Rabi'ul Awwal.
2) It is also not certainly known in which year the event of Me'rāj took place. There are a number of views mentioned in the books of history, which suggest a wide range between the fifth year and the twelfth year after the Prophet Sallallahu alaihi wa sallam was entrusted with prophethood.
Now, if it is assumed that the event of Me'rāj took place in the fifth year of his prophethood, it will mean that the Holy Prophet Sallallahu alaihi wa sallam remained in this world for eighteen years after this event. Even if it is presumed that the Me'rāj took place in the twelfth year of his prophethood, his remaining lifetime after this event would be eleven years. Throughout this long period, which may range between eleven and eighteen years, the Holy Prophet Sallallahu alaihi wa sallam never celebrated the event of Me'rāj, nor did he give any instructions about it. No one can prove that the Holy Prophet Sallallahu alaihi wa sallam ever performed some specific modes of worship in a night, calling it the 'Lailatul Me'rāj' or advised his followers to commemorate the event in a particular manner.
3) After the demise of the Holy Prophet Sallallahu alaihi wa sallam also, not one of his companions is reported to celebrate this night as a night of special acts of worship. They were the true lovers of the Holy Prophet Sallallahu alaihi wa sallam and had devoted their lives to preserve every minute detail of the Sunnah of the Holy Prophet Sallallahu alaihi wa sallam and other Islamic teachings. Still, they did not celebrate the event of Me'rāj in a particular night in a particular way.
All these points go a long way to prove that the celebration of the 27th night of Rajab, being the Lailatul Me'rāj has no basis in the Sunnah of the Holy Prophet Sallallahu alaihi wa sallam or in the practice of his noble companions. Had it been a commendable practice to celebrate this night, the exact date of this event would have been preserved accurately by the Ummah and the Holy Prophet Sallallahu alaihi wa sallam and his blessed companions would have given specific directions for it.
Therefore, it is not a Sunnah to celebrate the 'Lailatul Me'rāj'. We cannot take any practice as a Sunnah by our own emotions, unless it is established through authentic sources that the Holy Prophet Sallallahu alaihi wa sallam or his noble companions have recognized it as such, otherwise it may become a bid'ah about which the Holy Prophet Sallallahu alaihi wa sallam has observed in the following words:
"Whoever invents something in our religion which is not part of it, it is to be rejected."
Being mindful of this serious warning, we should appreciate that the 27th night of the month of Rajab is not like 'Lailatul Qadr' or 'Lailatul Bara'ah' for which special merits have been mentioned expressly either by the Holy Qur'ān or by the Holy Prophet Sallallahu alaihi wa sallam.
However, all the recognized modes of ibadah [worship] like salāh, recitation of the Holy Qur'ān, dhikr, etc. are commendable at any time, especially in the late hours of the night, and obviously the 27th night of Rajab is not an exception. Therefore, if someone performs any recognized ibadah in this night from this point of view, nothing can stop him from doing so, and he will be entitled to the thawāb (reward) allocated for that recognized act of worship, Insha Allāh). But it is not permissible to believe that performing ibādah in this night is more meritorious or carries more thawāb like 'Lailatul Qadr' or 'Lailatul Barā'ah', because this belief is not based on any authentic verse or sunnah of the Holy Prophet Sallallahu alaihi wa sallam. Similarly, it is not a correct practice to celebrate this night on a collective scale and to invite people to special ritual congregations.
4) Some people suggest some special modes of worship to be performed in this night. Since the Shari'ah prescribes no special mode of worship in this night, these suggestions are devoid of any authority and should not be acted upon.
It is believed by some that the Muslims should keep fast on the 27th Rajab. Although there are some traditions attributing special merits to the fast of this day, yet the scholars of Hadīth have held these traditions as very weak and unauthentic reports which cannot be sufficient to establish a rule of Shari'ah. On the contrary, there is an authentic report that Sayyidinā Umar Radhiallahu anhu used to forbid people from fasting on this day. He would compel them to eat if they had started fasting.
It should be borne in mind here that a 'nafl' fast can be observed on any day (except the six prohibited days of the year). Therefore, fasting on the 27th Rajab is not prohibited in itself. What is prohibited is the belief that fasting on this day is more meritorious than fasting in other normal days. One should not fast on this day with this belief. But if someone fasts therein, believing it to be a normal nafl fast, there is no harm in doing so.
Source: Madrasah Arabia Islamia Azādville