Muslims in Bradford and around the world observed Shab-e-Barat on Thursday night, marking the countdown and the midway point of the month before Ramadan.
Known as the night of forgiveness, the occasion is considered one of the holiest nights in Islam, celebrated on the 15th night (the night between the 14th and 15th) of the month of Sha’ban, the eighth month of the Islamic calendar.
The night of forgiveness begins at sunset and ends at dawn, with many Muslims praying throughout Thursday night into Friday morning, for some it will start this evening, Friday 18 March, and end tomorrow morning, Saturday 19 March.
The festival is a night of atonement. For Shia Muslims, this day is important as it marks the birth of Muhammad al Mahdi, who is believed by the Twelver Shia to be the Mahdi, the final Imam of the Twelve Imams who will emerge with Isa (Jesus) to fulfil their mission of bringing peace and justice to the world.
Sunni Muslims believes that on this day the Lord saved the ark of Nuh from the flood.
It is also thought that the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) prayed for his family members in the graveyard of Jannat al Baqi – a cemetery in Medina and the first-ever Islamic burial ground – on this day.
Devotees believe that on this night, the Lord writes the destinies for everyone for the coming year by considering their actions of the past. Some say there is a tree in heaven with everyone’s names on its leaves. If any leaves drop on this night, those people will die in the coming year.
Others say the spirits of the dead descend to earth to visit their living descendants.
Shab-e-Barat is a time when Allah offers mercy and forgiveness to sinners. One of the most common prayers people seeking mercy on the holy night will offer is Salatul Tasbih.
Some Muslims will fast during the day of Shab-Barat to practise getting used to fasting during Ramadan although it is not compulsory.
Imam Sajid Safdar of Masjid-E-Umar in Girlington, said: “The night of Shab-e-Barat means freedom or emancipation of sins, freedom from the hellfire.
“On this night, our Lord comes to the first heaven and calls out ‘if anyone is seeking forgiveness, I may forgive them. If anyone is seeking sustenance, I may provide for them. If anyone is seeking help, I may help them’.
“So, on this night, our Lord forgives many people, it is a blessed night. It is also like a rehearsal in the run-up to Ramadan, we pray on this night, we supplicate to God that he forgives our sins.”
Imam Safdar added: “It is a time of reflection, to look inwards on our purpose of life and to reconnect with our Lord. Sometimes as we get busy, we need to remind ourselves of our purpose and the purpose of life.
“We also may visit the graveyard and think about the people who do not live in this world and that we all have got to go one day, and when we do, we go back to our Lord. We came from our Lord, and we go back to our Lord.
“It is the build-up to Ramadan and Ramadan is a month of reflection of our purpose in life and a preparation for the life after.
“Some people fast during the day, it is not compulsory. Fasting during Ramadan is compulsory for most people during Ramadan, but it is optional today. By fasting, we slowly resist the temptation of eating and drinking. The more we resist out temptation the more we are inclined towards God. We also sympathise with those less fortunate than ourselves and by not fasting we feel empathy for others.”