Barat Night

Shab-e-Barat/ Laylatun Nisfe min Sha’ban/ Laylat al Bara'at/ Berat Kandili

This Muslim holiday known by many names begins this evening (June 2nd, 2015). The holiday falls on the 15th of Sha’ban (the eighth month in the Islamic calendar) and is seen by many as a lead up to the holy month of Ramadan. 

It is known by many names and, subsequently, has several meanings. Shab-e-Barat is the South Asian name meaning Night of Records, but it is also known as The Night of Forgiveness/Deliverance/Emancipation, The Night of Atonement, and The Night of Innocence. While not an observance dictated in the Qur’an, the holiday is derived from several hadiths. According to tradition, this is the night when Allah decides the destiny of all for the year to come. The gates of Mercy are opened and those who will be born and those who will die are determined. Sunnis observe this day also as a commemoration of the Prophet Muhammad’s entry to Mecca. Muslims stay up all night praying and repenting. Some fast, but many feast as well. Many also take this day as a time to visit the graves of ancestors and send gifts of food to neighbors and relatives. Some Muslim communities observe the holiday as a festival of lights, burning candles, setting off fireworks and featuring string lights. The holiday therefore has the same blend of austerity, piety and joy that marks Ramadan. 

As for most Islamic holidays, culinary practices vary regionally. In Southeast Asia, favorite treats are roti and halwa. Some bakeries bake breads into elaborate shapes and designs.

For non-Muslims, there are similarities in practice to All Hallow’s Eve/All Souls day (with the distributing of soul cakes), Shavuot (with the all-night prayer session), and Yom Kippur (as a Day of Atonement). 

(It should be noted that this holiday is not celebrated by all Muslims, mainly because it is not Qur’anic. Additionally, there is controversy in the manner of observance as some practitioners frown upon the festive atmosphere of what they see as a day of austerity and prayer.)

For those who do observe with gastronomic abandon, The Daily Star (a Bangladeshi paper) offers up some delicious-looking treats (sweet and savory) for tonight’s festival. While I have never been a huge halwa fan, these variations might be enough to make a convert out of me.

In the meantime, give me some of Salina Parvin’s boti kebab:

Pan fried boti kebab 
½ kg beef chunk 
1 tbsp ginger paste
½ tsp garlic paste
½ tbsp vinegar
5 green chilli paste
5-6 crushed black paper
½ tsp kebab masala
1 tbsp ghee

Slice the meat chunks into thick pieces. Now boil the meat with little water, ginger-garlic paste, green chilli paste, salt and vinegar until the water dries out. Don't boil it too much as the meat is too tender. Heat 1 tbsp ghee in a pan, fry the boiled meat until charred. Sprinkle the crushed black paper and serve hot.