Lailat al Bara’ah: Muslims pray through the Night of Forgiveness

Muslim man on his knees, facing a lit window with intricate laced design

Many Muslims pray the night through on Lailat al-Bara’ah. Photo by Ariff Ahmad Tajuddin, courtesy of Flickr

SUNSET THURSDAY, JUNE 12: A festive day replete with sweets, treats and works of charity gives way to a night of solemn, focused prayer, on Barat Night —also known as Lailat al Bara’ah, the Night of Records and the Night of Forgiveness.

On the 15th of the month of Sha’ban, Muslims believe that Allah writes the destiny of men and women for the coming year: whether an individual will live or die, find hardship or fortune, and whether he will be eligible to make the pilgrimage to Hajj. Many Muslims try to staying awake the entire night in prayer and worship. In some regions, Muslims also commemorate their deceased ancestors on this night.

While the faithful pray, worship and sometimes fast for Mid-Sha’ban, forgiveness is not promised to everyone: specifically, those with hatred in their hearts are not granted the favor. Many are freed from their sins tonight, Muslim tradition teaches, but those who commit wrongdoings—for example, by creating disunity among Muslims—are also looked upon with disfavor.

For the majority of Muslims worldwide, Lailat al Bara’ah is a cause for celebration. Strings of lights and candles illuminate the night, and fireworks brighten the dark sky. Families that have lost a member in the past year are showered with sweet treats by friends. Laylat is a popular time for performing acts of charity for the less fortunate. (Wikipedia has details.)

Shia Muslims also recall the birth date of Imam al Mahdi, the 12th Imam, on Mid-Shaban.

IN THE NEWS:
ISLAMIC REPRESENTATIVES
JOIN POPE FRANCIS IN PRAYER

In an unprecedented act, Pope Francis recently invited Islamic and Jewish representatives to pray with him at the Vatican, marking the first time that Islamic prayer would be held at the worldwide Catholic headquarters. (Read more in the Times of Israel and Reuters.) The gathering was held at a neutral, unadorned garden at the Vatican; the representatives read from their respective holy books ; then each recited a prayer for forgiveness and a prayer for peace.

Pope Francis said that he hopes that praying together can help the world “in some way.” The event was described by the Vatican an “invocation for peace,” and was broadcasted via the Vatican’s website.

Laylat al Bara’at: Repent on the Night of Forgiveness

Mosque lit up at nighttime

The Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque in the Sultanate of Oman. Photo in public domain courtesy of Flickr

SUNDAY, JUNE 23: Deep prayer emanates from Muslim homes and mosques tonight, as adherents pray for the year ahead on Lailat al Bara’at, literally, the Night of Forgiveness. Ahead of this sacred night, Muslims asked forgiveness from neighbors and friends; on this night, Muslims repent before Allah. Extending further, some Muslims also visit the graves of deceased ancestors, praying for their loved ones’ souls. Many believe that on this special night, Allah grants forgiveness to eligible Muslims and determines one’s fate in the year ahead; whether Hajj can be performed in the coming year is determined during Laylat al Bara’at. In some areas of the world, firework displays symbolize Allah’s forgiveness.

In most countries, daytime hours of Lailat al Bara’at are filled with gaiety as children receive sweets from neighbors and treats are made for friends. In the evening, Muslims shift to a more solemn state, praying throughout the night for salvation and forgiveness. The faithful stay awake the entire night, and many keep fast the following day. (Wikipedia has details.) Observances of Lailat al Bara’at vary slightly between Shia and Sunni Muslims: both honor the Night of Forgiveness with worship and prayer, but Shia also celebrate the birth date of Imam al Mahdi, the twelfth Imam.

MUSLIM INSTITUTION EXTENDS PEACE TO THE VATICAN

Following positive actions that Muslims have seen from the newly elected Pope Francis, Sunni Islam’s foremost institution has once again extended an invitation for peace with the Vatican. (Read more from the National Catholic Reporter.) Despite an amiable relationship between Al-Azhar and the Vatican during the reign of Pope John Paul II, ties were cut when Pope Benedict XVI spoke unfavorably during a 2006 lecture. Pope Benedict XVI attempted reconciliation with the Muslim world, but while some countries accepted his bid, Al-Azhar did not. When Pope Francis was elected and, further, displayed friendly relations, Al-Azhar expressed hope. Representatives report that the Vatican remains open to restoring ties.