It's that busy time of year again. With all the end-of-year assignments, summer courses, and work in general, busyness is a tempting excuse to just do our daily obligations. Of course, Allah loves us too much to let us fall behind in good deeds - He has gifted us with an opportunity in the form of Rajab that easily trumps the "busyness" excuse! This blessed month is filled with simple ways to develop a stronger sense of God-consciousness, so why let it slip by unnoticed?
Rajab is a month of many special days, including the birth anniversaries of our first, fifth, and ninth, and tenth Imams, the day when the Prophet (peace be upon him and his progeny) officially proclaimed Islam, and the day when he ascended to the heavens. To top it all off, Almighty Allah has made it an especially honored month for us to seek His forgiveness, to earn rewards, and - above all - to attain nearness to Him through worship.
Acts of Worship in Rajab
While in the car, on the bus, walking to class, or cooking food - all these invocations can be recited at any place and anytime (keeping in mind, of course, what it is that we are saying). A small line of forgiveness and acceptance of deeds, for example, should be recited as much as possible during this month: Astaghfirullaha wa as-aluhu tawba. (I seek forgiveness from Allah, and I pray He accepts my repentance.)
Repeating Laa ilaha illAllah (There is no God but Allah) 1000 times in the entire month of Rajab strengthens our commitment of staying true to His commands. The Holy Prophet said that if we recite it 1000 times, Allah will grant us 1000 rewards and houses in heaven. He promises so much for what takes up so little of our time!
The Prophet also said that we should recite Astaghfirullahal-ladhee laa ilaaha illaa Huw, wahdahu laa shareeka lah, wa atoobu ilayh (I ask forgiveness from Allah Whom there is no God besides He, and He has no partner, and I repent before Him) 400 times. The reward of that will be the same as 100 martyrs would receive!
The days of Thursday, Friday, and Saturday are given special importance in Rajab. Fasting on those three days is equal to 900 years of worship! Besides those specific days, fasting on any day of Rajab is more beneficial than in other months. Imam Musa al-Kadhim (peace be upon him) said, "If one observes the fast on one day in Rajab, hellfire will go away from him a distance of one year walking. One who fasts three days in Rajab is bound to win Heaven."
Even for those who cannot fast, the Almighty has generously given an alternative so that they may still earn His pleasure! A small praise of Allah should be recited 100 times each day that one cannot fast. This serves as a reminder of His constant presence and of our goal to work closer towards Him.
During Rajab, a special invocation taught by Imam Ja'far as-Sadiq (peace be upon him) should be recited after each prayer. (It starts with Ya man arjoohu li kulli khayr.) It is not very long and can be recited in place of the usual invocations recited after daily prayers.
Prayer of Salman al-Farsi
Salman (may Allah be pleased with him), a very close companion of the Prophet, learned of this prayer from the Prophet himself. It consists of performing ten rak'ats on the first day, ten on the 15th, and ten on the last day.
The Holy Prophet said: "O Salman, there is no true believing man or true believing woman who performs [this prayer] that Allah does not forgive them their sins and bestows rewards upon them as upon a person who has fasted a whole month. He becomes among those who will be steadfast in their prayers in the year which is to come. For him the deeds of the day are equal to that of the martyr. He will be raised with the Martyrs of the Holy Battle of Badr. For him is written for the fast of each day, one year's worship. His station is raised 1000 times higher. If he fasts the entire month of Rajab and he performs [this prayer], Allah will give him salvation from the hellfire, make obligatory for him His Paradise, and bestow His Nearness upon him. Angel Jibra'eel informed me, 'O Muhammad, this is the sign between you and the polytheists and the hypocrites, because the hypocrites do not perform this prayer.'"
The method of Salman's Prayer can be found here.
Prayer on the Night of Rewards
The a'mal of Layla-tur-Raghaa'ib, the Night of Wishes or Rewards, takes place on the first Thursday night of Rajab.
According to some traditions, the benefits of the a'mal will come to the rescue on the first night in the grave. Making an appearance in a beautiful form, the reward of the a'mal will greet, "My dear one, glad tidings that you have found salvation from every hardship and horror [of the grave]!" The appearance of the reward will be so pleasing and relieving that the deceased will ask, "Who are you? Indeed, I have never seen a face better than yours; nor have I heard words sweeter than the words from your tongue; nor have I smelled a perfume more refreshing than from you!" The entity will then reply, "I am the reward of the prayer that you offered on Friday night in Rajab in [this year] at [this location]. I am now here so as to settle your right, to entertain you in your loneliness, and to save you from this cheerless situation. When the Trumpet shall be blown, I will cast a shadow over your head in the Court of Resurrection. So be happy for you shall never be deprived of goodness." (Iqbal al-Aa'mal)
Once again, we are given such a generous opportunity by the Most Merciful to return to Him!
After fasting on the first Thursday of Rajab, the a'mal takes place between Maghrib and Isha prayers. 12 rak'ats are to be performed in sets of two. The specific method of what to recite in and after the 12 rak'ats can be found here. After those recitations, any personal prayers can be made to the Almighty.
Prophet Muhammad has also said: "It is most important, however, that none of you should neglect the first Thursday night in Rajab, for it is the night that the angels call the Night of Wishes. This is because, by the time the first third of the night has elapsed, there will not be a single angel still at large in the heavens, nor in any region of the earth bar one. They will all be gathered together in the Ka'ba and the area immediately surrounding it. Allah will condescend to notice that they have assembled there, and He will say: 'My angels, ask Me for whatever you wish!' Their response to this will be: 'Our Lord, the request we wish to make is that You grant forgiveness to those who faithfully keep the fast in Rajab,' whereupon Allah will tell them: 'That I have already done!'"
It is apparent that these prayers are highly beneficial when recited on the first Thursday of Rajab; however, yet another example of His mercy is that we can do this exercise on other days as well!
Preparing for What is to Come
The Holy Prophet said: "Verily, the month of Rajab is the Great Month of Allah. No other month can be as sacred and as virtuous as this month...Therefore, if one observes fasting on one day of this month, he will bindingly win the grand pleasure of Almighty Allah and will be taken away from the displeasure of Almighty Allah, and the gates of hellfire will be closed in his face."
Rajab and Sha'ban serve as spiritual preparatory months before Ramadan. Just as we ready ourselves before going to visit someone, we are preparing ourselves for when we will be the guests of Allah during the month of fasting. By spending our time worshiping Him and disassociating ourselves from whatever we have gotten caught up in, we strengthen our focus on Him.
Our intention is crucial when it comes to the acceptance of our deeds. When doing all of these prayers and reciting these invocations, we must remember why we are doing it: not necessarily for the rewards promised to us, but for attaining nearness to our Lord. He has given us Rajab as a most beautiful gift - let's not let it come and go without receiving His blessings in this special month.
The sayings and narrations quoted in this article are taken from the booklet "The Rites of Rajab, Sha'ban, Ramadan: Supplications, Prayers, and Ziyarahs", prepared and translated by Badr Shahin.