Shab e Barat is a Muslim holiday that is observed all over the world on the night between day 14 and 15 of Sha’ban, the eighth month of the Islamic calendar. Also, known as Mid-Sha’ban or Bara’at Nigh (The Night of Records), the festival is marked as the night of forgiveness or day of atonement. This year, the festival will be observed from the dusk of May 1 until the dawn of the following day.
A run-up to Ramadan, the festival is considered to be the night when God forgives sinners and men can expect a fortune reversal in the upcoming year. Believed to be the night when God writes the destiny of people after taking their past misdeeds and sins into account, Muslims spend the night repenting and asking God for mercy, so that He can be benevolent to them in the coming year.
Family members also ask forgiveness for the deceased in their family and thus, visit the graves of their loved ones, light candles, and offer prayers to Allah on their behalf. In Bangladesh, many people observe a fast during the day, while in Iraq, the custom dictates distributing sweets to children.
Incidentally, the birthday of Muhammad al-Mahdi, the twelfth Imam of Shia Muslims, also falls on the date of Shab e Barat. The Imam is considered to be a saviour of humankind and the Shias celebrate his birthday with a lot of zeal and joy.
Sunni Muslims, on the other hand, believe it to be the day when God saved Noah’s ark from the flood and celebrate the day to mark God’s mercy.