The first week of Sha'ban is home to the birth anniversaries of some of the most important figures in Islamic history.
3rd Sha'ban: Imam Hussain ibn Ali (peace be upon him), born 4 AH
4th Sha'ban: Abbas ibn Ali (peace be upon him), born 26 AH
5th Sha'ban: Ali Akbar ibn Husain (peace be upon him)
5th Sha'ban: Imam Sajjad (peace be upon him), born 38 AH
6th Sha'ban: Bibi Zainab bint Ali (peace be upon her), born 6 AH
7th Sha'ban: Qasim ibn Hasan ibn Ali (peace be upon him)
For these occasions, it is recommended to perform Ghusl (ablution), wear clean clothes, give Sadaqah (charity), recite Ziyarat (salutations) and Salat (prayers) associated with the personality, learn about the person, and join together in praising and learning about him/her with other believers if possible. Fasting is also recommended in general in this month but in particular on some of these dates.
Sha'ban is a month for seeking nearness to Allah and preparing for the height of opportunity in the month of Ramadhan. It is full of opportunity in itself, and this first week of many birth dates is a string of opportunities to begin to renew ourselves spiritually. Commemorating birth dates and other historical occasions is a means to an end – it is a method mentioned by the Ahlul Bayt (peace be upon them) in sayings such as, "May Allah have mercy on those who remember us", to seek spiritual growth and nearness to Allah.
In Ayatollah Ibrahim Amini's famous work Self Building, a famous supplication for the month of Sha'ban, the Munajat-e-Shabaniyah as taught by Imam Ali (peace be upon him), is mentioned. About it he states, "Imam Khomeini, the most perfect Gnostic of our times, in his repeated speeches has emphasized the special spiritual importance of this precious supplication. Those who are blessed with Divine grace of keeping themselves continuously engaged in supplications and God's remembrance love this supplication a lot, and because of this supplication eagerly await for the arrival of the Holy Month of Sha'ban.
"This supplication contains vast sublime themes, especially the etiquettes and manners of servanthood, the manners of how to face God Almighty, how to beseech Him, how to tell him about heart's secrets, how to open the tongue for offering apologies, and how to remain hopeful. Also, in these supplications, the meanings of interpretation of God's Countenance (Laqa), God's Witnessing (Shahud), and God's Nearness (Qurb) have been described in a delicate manner, which do not leave any doubt or confusion for those wayfarers, who are still double-minded, and who do not want to believe. Regarding self-awareness, which is preliminary for God's learning (Ma'rifah), this supplication contains most meaningful and surprising points."
The text of this supplication and the English translation are available online.
A narration from the Sixth Imam (peace be upon him) states, "Whoever has a wish he wants Allah to fulfill, let him begin with blessings on Muhammad and his Family, then let him ask his wish, and end by sending blessings on Muhammad and his Family. Allah is nobler than to accept the first and the last (the blessings) and reject the middle (the prayer)."
We mention the Munajaat and Salawat because they seem to encapsulate the ideals of the month, which in turn encapsulate the faith: drawing nearer to Allah and learning from and honoring the best examples of how to draw near Him through the Ahlul Bayt.
Shaikh Abbas al-Qummi narrates in Mafatih al-Jinan that Imam Ali once saw a group of Muslims arguing about fate and destiny on the first day of Sha'ban. He guided them away from their debate and instead led them to ponder the merits of the month. He said, Allah called this month Sha'ban because he scattered (Sha'aba) His favors and bounties all through it. He made the bounties great and easy to achieve, with the acts of worship and abstaining from sin having multiple and generous benefits.
The birth anniversaries in the first week are the first beads in a precious string of pearls for our benefit. If we begin with remembering the Ahlul Bayt and an open heart, then here is a month of hope and a month of optimism, a chance for forgiveness and enlightenment.
Let us give welcome to a wonderful month with so many ways for us to draw nearer to God, improve ourselves, and find peace. It invites us with a chain of birthdays of wonderful people that we can love and learn from – a chain of joyous days to excite and entice us with love of Ahlul Bayt to take advantage of the month and keep that joy growing on our path of self building during the month of Sha'ban.