Salam, this is from many years ago (apologies for the quality), a hanafi scholar recently asked to see the documentation for the virtues of the night of mid shaban when we passed over its mention in Imam al-Shurunbulali’s fiqh primer ‘Nur al-Idah’. I pointed him the direction of this article which is very ‘athari’ in its approach.
From the work al-Tarif bi Awham (4/470+) of the Muhaddith Allamah Mahmud Saeed Mamduh:
“The ahadith in the virtue of the night of mid shaban, and the sunnah of staying up (in it) is established from other chains of transmission which have been collated by our Shaykh, Allamah, the Muhaddith ..My Master, Abdullah bin al-Siddiq al-Ghumari in a treatise entitled Husan al-Bayan fi Lailah al-Nisf min Shaban, and it has been published.
The virtue of the night of mid shaban has been established from the Prophet (Allah bless him and give hime peace) and is reported by means of multiple channels of transmission from Abdullah bin Amr, Muadh, Abu Hurairah, Abu Thulabah, Awf bin Malik, Abu Bakr, Abu Musa and Aishah (May Allah be pleased with all of them), each one of the narrations strengthening each other.
1) As for the hadith of Abdullah bin Amr, it is reported by Ahmad in al-Musnad (2/176) from Abdullah bin Lahiah – Huyy(I) bin Abdullah – Abi Abd al-Rahman al-Jubuli- Abdullah bin Amr from the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace) who said: ‘Allah looks upon His creatures on the night of mid-Sha`ban and He forgives all His servants except two: one intent on hatred, and homicide.’
Hafidh al-Mundhiri said in al-Targhib wal-Tarhib (3/284): ‘Reported by Ahmad with a weak (layyin) chain of narration.’
Al-Haithami said in al-Majma (8/65): ‘Reported by Ahmad and it contains Ibn Lahiah who is weak (layyin) in hadith, and the rest of its narrators are trustworthy. As for Shaykh Ahmad Shakir, he declared it Sahih in his editing of the Musnad (10/327) on the basis of his declaring Sahih the hadith of Ibn Lahiah. And that which al-Mundhiri and al-Haithami said is correct because Ibn Lahiah is a mudallis, and may have mixed up, and may have clarified hearing so the isnad contains weakness (layyin), and layyin is the slightest form of weakness, and its like is Hasan (well authenticated) by the addition of another chain of transmission similar to it, and how is it when the hadith has multiple chains of transmission?
2) As for the hadith of Muadh bin Jabal, it is reported by Ibn Hibban in his Sahih (12/481) and al-Tabarani in al-Kabir (20/109) and in al-Awsat (al-Majma 8/65) and Abu Nuaym in al-Hilyah (5/195) and others all of them from Makhul from Malik bin Yukhamir from Muadh in a marfu form.
Hafidh al-Haithami said in al-Majma (8/65): ‘Reported by al-Tabarani in al-Kabir and al-Awsat and its narrators are trustworthy. Malik bin Yukhamir is trustworthy (thiqah) mukhdaram and he met Makhul, and there is no missing link (inqata) in its chain…
To sum up Ibn Hibban was correct to declare it Sahih (rigorously authenticated). And from the previous two chains of transmission alone you will know the short sightedness of the one who adjudges this hadith to be weak.
3) As for the hadith of Abu Hurairah it is reported by al-Bazzar in his al-Musnad (Kashf al- Astar 2/435-436). Al-Haithami said in al-Majma (8/65): ‘Reported by al-Bazzar and it contains Hisham bin Abd al-Rahman, and I do not know him, and the rest of its narrators are trustworthy.’
4) As for the hadith of Abu Thulabah al-Khushani it is reported by al-Tabarani (al-Majma 8/65) and Ibn Abi Asim in al-Sunnah (1/223). Al-Haithami said (8/65): ‘It contains al-Ahwas bin Hakim and he is weak’. The correct opinion with regards to al-Ahwas is that of al-Darqutni that he is relied upon if he narrates from a trustworthy (thiqah) narrator. Refer to al-Tahdhib (1/168) and his like are relied upon in the chapter of follow up and supporting narrations.
5) As for the hadith of Awf bin Malik, it is reported by al-Bazzar in his Musnad (Kashf al-Astar 2/436) from the hadith of Abdullah bin Lahiah- Abd al-Rahman bin Ziyad Ibn Naeem – Ubadah bin Nas(I) – Kathir bin Murrah – Awf bin Malik said: ‘The Messenger of Allah said: Allah looks at His creation in the night of mid-Sha`ban and He forgives all His creation except for a mushrik (idolater) or a mushahin (one bent on hatred).’
Al-Haithami said in Majma al-Zawaid (6/56): ‘Reported by al-Bazzar and it contains Abd al-Rahman bin Ziyad bin Anam, he was declared thiqah by Ahmad bin Saleh and he was declared weak by the majority of the Imams, and Ibn Lahiah is layyin (weak) and the rest of its narrators are trustworthy.
I say: the weakness is limited to Ibn Lahiah only and al-Ifriqi, a discussion of whom has preceded in the chapter of al-Adhan.
6) As for the hadith of Abu Bakr al-Siddiq it is reported by Ibn Khuzaimah in al-Tawhid (no.90) and al-Baihaqi (al-Targhib 3/283) and Ibn Abi Asim (no.509) Al-Bazzar said: ‘The people of knowledge report this hadith and rely upon it.’
Al-Haithami said in al-Majma (8/65): ‘It contains Abd al-Malik bin Abd al-Malik, he was mentioned by Ibn Abi Hatim in al-Jarh wal-Tadil and he was not declared weak and the rest of its narrators are trustworthy.’
However Abd al-Malik has a biography by al-Dhahabi in al-Mizan (3/658) and it contains that which indicates to him being weak.
7) As for the hadith of Abu Musa it is reported by Ibn Majah (1/446) and al-Lalikai (no.763) from the hadith of Ibn Lahiah – Zubair bin Muslim – Dahhak – Abd al-Rahman bin Musa in a marfu form. Ibn Lahiah, the discussion regarding him has preceded, and his Shaykh is unknown (majhul) (as in al-Taqrib P.214) and his Shaykh is trustworthy (thiqah) (as in al-Taqrib P.279)
8) As for the hadith of Aishah it contains the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) staying up on that night, it is reported by Ahmad (6/238) al-Tirmidhi (743) Ibn Majah (1389) al-Lalikai (p.448) Ibn al-Jawzi in al-Illal (2/66) and al-Baghawi (4/124) and others from the chain of transmission from: (No. 586) Hajjaj bin Artah – Yahya bin Abi Kathir – Urwah – Aishah said: I missed the Prophet one night so I went out to al-Baqi` (and found him). He said: “Were you afraid that Allah would wrong you and that His Prophet would wrong you?” I said: “O Messenger of Allah, I thought that you might have gone to visit one of your wives.” He said: “Allah Glorious and Exalted descends to the nearest heaven on the night of mid-Sha`ban and He forgives to more people than the number of hairs on the hides of the sheep of the tribes of Kalb.’
He (al-Albani) mentioned it in Daeef al-Tirmidhi (86/199) and in Daeef Ibn Majah (103,104/295) and He said: ‘Daeef’.
I say: the chain of narration contains a weak narrator, but the hadith is strong and established even according to al-Albani. There is a discussion surrounding him al-Hajjaj , and he is a mudallis who did not clarify hearing. And Yahya bin Abi Kathir is a Hafidh thiqah, and there is a difference in his hearing from Urwah bin al-Zubair, and his hearing was affirmed by Yahya Ibn Maeen, and this is the strongest opinion because the affirmation is given precedence tothe negation, and then he is a mudallis, and did not clarify having heard, and al-Hakim Abu Abdullah held the opinion that it is from the marasil of Yahya bin Abi Kathuir as in Shuab al-Iman.
And it has another chain of transmission from Aishah with a weak chain reported by al-Baihaqi in al-Shuab (3835) and it clearly contains (mention) of the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) staying up on that night. And Allah the Exalted knows best.
To Conclude that which has preceded from the narrations affirming the virtue of the night of mid shaban due to their collective number, not withstanding that one of them, and that is the narration of Muadh bin Jabal has been declared Sahih by Ibn Hibban in of itself and the words of al-Bazzar have preceded that: ‘The people of knowledge report this hadith and rely upon it’. And the hadith is established (thabit) even according to al-Albani as he declared it Sahih in his al-Sahihah (1144) and in his notes to al-Sunnah of Ibn Abi Asim (509,510,511,512) As for one who adjudges the hadith to be weak then he either has no knowledge of hadith, and it is incumbent for him to make taqlid of the one who is knowledgeable of it, or he is hasty or arrogant and we have no discussion with him.
Benefit: The night of mid shaban is a season from the seasons of good, and the virtue of this night has been specifically established as has preceded. And along with this some people are accustomed to troubling their brothers by printing publications warning from staying up on this blessed night and declare weak anything which comes in praise of its virtues. And if the virtue of this blessed night is known then it is recommended to do any action of obedience that comes under a general principle such as prayer, charity and the like. And if it is accepted from them – for arguments sake only – that the hadith is weak, then the answer is to say:
First: That the non satisfaction in the issue with a general or absolute proof and the seeking of a specific proof for every particular issue necessitates the nullification of the generalities of the shariah and leads to the tightening of the scope of the pure shariah……as requesting a specific proof for every issue is an innovation in the religion.
Second: As for deducing from the likes of the Words of Allah the Exalted: “Do they have partners who legislate for them the deen that which Allah does not give permission for.” As in the publication that some have published the likes of this issue and that which is similar to it, and the deduction is weak due to two reasons.
First: That the one who affirms the virtue of this blessed night deduces this from a shari proof, which is blessed sunnah, and the most is that it is weak in the sight of others, and this does not necessitate it being labelled a bidah or excessively condemning it. Not withstanding that acting on weak (hadith) in legal rulings(Ahkam) and virtues (fadail) is established from the Imams.
Second: The virtue of the night is established in the ahadith as has preceded, so they should refer to it themselves.
Ibn Taymiyyah was asked of the prayer of mid shaban, he answered: ‘If a person prays the night of mid shaban on his own or in a group specifically as was done by a group of the salaf then it is good (hasan). And he said in another place: As for the night of mid shaban its virtues have been reported in ahadith and athar, and it is reported from a group of the salaf that they would pray in it. So the prayer of a person in it on his own, and the salaf have preceded him in it and he has a proof in it, and the likes of this is not condemned’. Refer to Majmu al-Fatawa.
Hafidh Ibn Rajab al-Hanbali said in Lataif al-Maarif (P.263): ‘The night of mid shaban, the tabieen from the people of Shaam exalted it and exerted themselves in worship on it, and Khalid bin Madan, Luqman bin Amir and others from the Tabieen of Shaam would stay in the masjid on the night of mid shaban, and Imam Ishaq bin Rahaway agreed with them on this, and he said of their staying (qiyam) in the masjid where the congregational prayer was offered (masjid al-jamaah) that this is not an innovation (bidah).’ End of quote with a slight change and summary.
To conclude the virtue of this blessed night are established by ahadith and a group of the salaf it is recommended to stay up on it, and the opinion that it is bidah (innovation) is a reprehensible (munkar) opinion…”