Allah has said concerning the sacred months
إِنَّ عِدَّةَ الشُّهُورِ عِنْدَ اللَّهِ اثْنَا عَشَرَ شَهْراً فِي كِتَابِ اللَّهِ يَوْمَ خَلَقَ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالأَرْضَ مِنْهَا أَرْبَعَةٌ حُرُمٌ ذَلِكَ الدِّينُ الْقَيِّمُ فَلا تَظْلِمُوا فِيهِنَّ أَنْفُسَكُمْ
Which means, “Verily, the number of months with Allaah is twelve months (in a year), so was it ordained by Allaah on the Day when He created the heavens and the earth; of them four are Sacred (i.e. the 1st, the 7th, the 11th and the 12th months of the Islamic calendar). That is the right religion, so wrong not yourselves therein”
The sacred months are: Rajab, Dhu’l-Qa’dah, Dhu’l-Hijjah and Muharram.
It is narrated from Abu Bakrah (may Allaah be pleased with him) that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said:
السَّنَةُ اثْنَا عَشَرَ شَهْرًا , مِنْهَا أَرْبَعَةٌ حُرُمٌ , ثَلاثٌ مُتَوَالِيَاتٌ : ذُو الْقَعْدَةِ وَذُو الْحِجَّةِ وَالْمُحَرَّمُ , وَرَجَبُ مُضَرَ الَّذِي بَيْنَ جُمَادَى وَشَعْبَانَ
“The year is twelve months, of which four are sacred: three consecutive months, Dhu’l-Qa’dah, Dhu’l-Hijjah and Muharram, and Rajab Mudar which comes between Jumaada and Sha’baan. [Al-Bukhaari (4662) and Muslim (1679)]
Today, when most of us are weak in language, we need to distinguish between holy and sacred; in any language (any language) there is a contextual difference. Holy, means venerated and pure. Sacred means it is off limits, or untouchable, and this also has a context; in the context of these sacred months, certain acts cannot be performed in them. The word for sacred in Arabic and forbidden is the same: Haraam (i.e. al-Haramain).
These months are called sacred for two reasons:
1- Because fighting therein is forbidden unless initiated by the enemy
2- Because transgression of the sacred limits therein is worse than at other times.
Hence Allaah has forbidden us to commit sins during these months, as He says (interpretation of the meaning), “wrong not yourselves therein”. [al-Tawbah 9:36]
Although committing sins is haraam and forbidden during these months and at other times, in these months it is more forbidden.
The scholar of Tafseer, Al-Sa’di (may Allaah have mercy on him) said “In the phrase, “wrong not yourselves therein”, the pronoun may be understood as referring to twelve months. Allaah states that He has made them a measure of time for His slaves, which they may use for worshipping Him, and thank Allaah for His blessings, and they serve the interests of His slaves, so beware of wronging yourselves therein. The pronoun may also be understood as referring to the four sacred months, and this forbids them to wrong themselves in those months in particular, as well as it being forbidden to do wrong at all times, because it is more forbidden at this time, but it is worse at this time than at others.” (Al-Sa’di p. 373),
It is easily understood what is forbidden in Rajab. What then is encouraged to do in Rajab or other Sacred Months? With regard to fasting the month of Rajab, there is no saheeh hadeeth to indicate that there is any special virtue in fasting all or part of this month.
There is a report from the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) which indicates that it is mustahabb to fast during the sacred months (and Rajab is one of the sacred months). The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “Fast some days of the sacred months and not others.” (Narrated by Abu Dawood, 2428; classed as da’eef (weak; not authentic) by al-Albaani in Da’eef Abi Dawood). Even if this hadeeth were saheeh, it indicates that it is mustahabb to fast during all of the sacred months, not Rajab especially. So if a person fasts during Rajab because of this, and he also fasts in the other sacred months, he is applying the sunnah in this hadeeth correctly, and is not blameworthy But singling out Rajab for fasting is not the correct implication, and we as Muslims must seek precision when we able to be precise.
As for fasting in Rajab particularly, the ahaadeeth concerning that are all da’eef (weak), and in fact mawdoo’ (fabricated). The scholars do not rely on any of them. They are not among the da’eef ahaadeeth which have been narrated concerning virtues, rather most of them are fabricated and false. In al-Musnad (Imaam Ahmad) and elsewhere there is a hadeeth which says that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) enjoined fasting the sacred months, namely Rajab, Dhu’l-Qa’dah, Dhu’l-Hijjah and Muharram, but this has to do with fasting during all of them, not just Rajab.” [ Shaykh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyah Majmoo’ al-Fataawa (25/290)]
Every hadeeth which mentions fasting in Rajab (by itself especially) and praying during some of its nights is false and fabricated.” [Ibn al-Qayyim, al-Manaar al-Muneef, p. 96]
There is no saheeh hadeeth that would count as evidence which speaks of the virtue of the month of Rajab, or that speaks of fasting this month or part of it, or of spending any particular night of it in prayer. [Al-Haafiz ibn Hajar said in Tabyeen al-‘Ajab (p. 11)]
Shaykh Sayyid Saabiq (may Allaah have mercy on him) said in Fiqh al-Sunnah (1/282), “Fasting in Rajab is no better than fasting in any other month, except that it is one of the sacred months. There is no report in the saheeh Sunnah to suggest that there is anything special about fasting in this month. Whatever has been narrated concerning that is not fit to be quoted as evidence.”
There is no doubt that the Isra’ and Mi’raaj (the Prophet’s Night Journey and Ascent into heaven) are two great signs of Allaah which point to the truthfulness of the His Messenger Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him), and the greatness of his status before Allaah. They are also signs of the great power of Allaah, and of His exalted position above His creation. Allaah says
سُبْحَانَ الَّذِي أَسْرَى بِعَبْدِهِ لَيْلًا مِنَ الْمَسْجِدِ الْحَرَامِ إِلَى الْمَسْجِدِ الأَقْصَى الَّذِي بَارَكْنَا حَوْلَهُ لِنُرِيَهُ مِنْ آيَاتِنَا إِنَّه هُوَ السَّمِيعُ الْبَصِيرُ
(interpretation of the meaning):
“Glorified (and Exalted) be He (Allaah) [above all that (evil) they associate with Him] Who took His slave (Muhammad) for a journey by night from Al‑Masjid Al‑Haraam (at Makkah) to Al‑Masjid Al‑Aqsa (in Jerusalem), the neighbourhood whereof We have blessed, in order that We might show him (Muhammad) of Our Ayaat (proofs, evidences, lessons, signs, etc.). Verily, He is the All‑Hearer, the All‑Seer”
There are Mutawaatir (ahadith reported by such a large number of people that they cannot be expected to agree upon a lie; all of them together) reports from the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) that he was taken up into the heavens, and their gates were opened for him, until he passed beyond the seventh heaven, where his Lord spoke to him as He willed, and enjoined the five daily prayers upon him. At first Allaah, may He be exalted, enjoined fifty prayers, but our Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) kept going back and asking Him to reduce it, until He made them five, so they are five obligatory prayers but fifty in reward, because each good deed is rewarded tenfold. To Allaah be praise and thanks for all His blessings.
When did the ascension, Isra’ wal Mi’raaj occur? Did it happen in Rajab? Did it happen in another month? With regard to this night on which the Isra’ and Mi’raaj took place, there is nothing in the saheeh ahaadeeth to indicate that it is in Rajab or in any other month. The only consensus that we have is that it preceded the hijrah to Madinah. We know it happaned, and no Muslim can deny that it happened, and remain a Muslim. The muhaditheen have established from their research that every narration concerning a specific date for these events cannot be proven to have come from the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him). Allaah has chosen from his wisdom to cause the Muslim ummah to forget when it happened. Even if the date were proven, it would not be permissible for the Muslims to single it out for particular acts of worship, and it is not permissible for them to celebrate it, because the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) and his companions (may Allaah be pleased with them) did not celebrate it and they did not single it out in any way. There is no difference in opinion that celebrating Isra’ wal Mir’raaj is not Sunnah, and if it is not sunnah it is either Mubah or Bid’a; but celebrations and out of the ordinary acts of worship have legislation around them, and what is outside of that legislation is bida’a. If celebrating it was something that is prescribed in Islam, the Messenger would have told his ummah about that, either in word or in deed. If any such thing had happened, it would have been well known, and his companions would have transmitted the information to us. They narrated from their Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) everything that his ummah needs to know, and they did not neglect any aspect of the religion, rather they were the first ones to do anything good. If celebrating this night had been prescribed in Islam, they would have been the first people to do so. The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) was the most sincere of people, and he conveyed the message to the people in full, and he fulfilled the trust. If venerating and celebrating this night were part of the religion of Allaah, then the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) would have done that and would not have concealed it. Since no such thing happened, it is known that celebrating it and venerating it is not part of Islam at all. Allaah has perfected this ummah’s religion for it and has completed His favour upon them, and He condemns those who introduce things into the religion which Allaah has not ordained. Allaah says in His holy Book, in Soorat al-Maa’idah
الْيَوْمَ أَكْمَلْتُ لَكُمْ دِينَكُمْ وَأَتْمَمْتُ عَلَيْكُمْ نِعْمَتِي وَرَضِيتُ لَكُمُ الإِسْلامَ دِينًا
(interpretation of the meaning):
“This day, I have perfected your religion for you, completed My Favor upon you, and have chosen for you Islam as your religion”
There is no record of the Prophet teaching the companions to do this, and it was not done in their time. If it was good the Prophet would have been the first to do it, but he didn’t rather, people invented lies saying that he enjoined it. Fasting in general is good, but it should be kept general. No man or woman aside from the Prophet or those to whom he delegated by ALLAH’s order can declare that a certain act of worship for a certain benefit, because this can only be done if ALLAH revealed it. The Prophet died, peace be upon him, and left his Sunnah complete.