Assalamu alaikum, peace be with you all
I promised to blog about Laylathul Qadr. Layl means night in Arabic and Qadr is a word hard to translate. It can mean; power, destiny, highly valued, decree, among other meanings, when used in this context. Laylathul Qadr, can therefore be rendered as ‘the extremely valuable or powerful night of divine determination’ or ‘the night of power’. It comes once in a year, in the month of Ramadan. The Quran was first revealed to the Messenger of God, Muhammed (peace and blessing of God be upon him) during Ramadan, and many believe laylathul Qadr is when it was first revealed.
We don’t know when the exact night is (and hence the title of this post 🙂 ). There are valid scholarly opinions; it could be any of the nights of Ramadan, it could be in the last 10 nights of Ramadan or it could be among the odd numbered nights of the last 10 nights of Ramadan (i.e., 21st, 23rd, 25th night and so on). The majority favour the last two opinions. Scholars who do tafseer (=interpretation of the Quran) say these ayaath (=signs literally, but translated as verses in English) that open Surah Fajr (=chapter called ‘daybreak/dawn’) refer to laylathul Qadr. Again the English does not capture any of the rhyme or rhythm of the Arabic sadly…
بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم In the name of God, the most loving, the love-giving By the dawn
By the break of Day
And [by] ten nights
By the Nights twice five;
And [by] the even [number] and the odd
By the even and odd (contrasted);
And [by] the night when it passes,
And by the Night when it passeth away;-
Is there [not] in [all] that an oath [sufficient] for one of perception?
[I have to say the scientist in me is fascinated by numbers and the methodology of numeracy. I find ayah number 3 – ‘by the even and odd contrasted’ deeply delightful and extremely intriguing. What is it about numbers and divisibility and what does this tell us about ‘unity’ – that ‘one-ness’ of God our whole deen or way of life, is so completely based on. So much to ponder on! subhahanallah = exalted be God]
Reflecting on the fact that we don’t know when laylathul qadr is, there is divine wisdom in that ..for it makes us not lazy to seek it. As in, we don’t just flock to the mosque to remember God on that one night, but rather go everyday hoping to meet ‘her’. Also there is divine wisdom in that it is in the last 10 nights (majority view) as often after 20 days of fasting, the body is tired and the spirit sometimes can vain. But knowing lalthul qadr will come in the last 10 days gives us something very precious to look forward to and so we renew our efforts and rather than a tiring body we find new energy and drive.
There are ‘signs’ that tell us it was laylathul qadr. Many Muslim cultures have their own pieces of hearsay or you could even say ‘folklore’ about the signs :)…I remember as a kid being told that you won’t see a leaf on a tree move nor hear a dog bark (!). Some say the night will be softly cloudy, some say it will be clear…etc. Of course the messenger of God, peace be upon him, was asked about its signs and he did reply. The most authentic scholarly opinion based on his (peace be upon him) reply is that the sun will rise the next day ‘as if with no rays’, i.e., serenely and it won’t be dazzlingly bright. And more importantly during the night itself every believer’s heart will feel an immense peace. I found this nicely worded reply from Sh. Uthaymeen
From amongst the signs of Laylatul-Qadar is that it is a calm night and the believer’s heart is delighted and at peace with it, and he becomes active in doing good actions, and the sun on the following morning rises clearly without any rays.
Much Quran is recited during these precious nights and the mosques are full of worshippers who stand often through the night in long units of prayer. There is something so tranquil about this ‘standing by night’ (literally what the night prayer is called ‘qiyam ul layl’ = standing by night). When one is joined to one’s sisters and brothers standing shoulder-to-shoulder, row upon row. The lights are dimmed and the voice of the qari (=reciter of Quran) sings the verses of the Quran in soft serenity. Sometimes children will be playing outside or they will come and stand with the older ones in prayer, or they will be sleeping, some baby falling asleep in the arms of the mother standing in prayer. It is very beautiful and a time I long for each year. Some people follow the sunnah (=way, of the blessed prophet) who used to go into spiritual seclusion during the last 10 days, and so they will stay in the mosque in that seclusion – fasting by day and reciting Quran or offering salat (=Muslim ritual worship) and making du’a (=supplications or prayers) by day and night. It is a much needed ‘cleanse’. And I love it that this type of annual retreat is part of the religion and accessible to any ordinary Muslim that wants to take it instead of being only something for a priestly class of people, which does not exist in Islam.
Finally, chapter 97 in the Quran is entirely devoted to this night. It is a short chapter being only 5 ayath. Reading it tells us why we feel so much peace during this one night. It is the night the angels descend and the arch-angel, Gabrial himself (peace be upon them all) visits the earth. To those unfamiliar with the tafseer of the chapter, in verse 4 ‘the spirit’ is considered to be the arch-angel Gabrial who is called Jibra’eel in Arabic.
بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم In the name of God, the most loving, the love-giving
Indeed, We sent the Qur’an down during the Night of Decree.
And what can make you know what is the Night of Decree?
The Night of Decree is better than a thousand months.
The angels and the Spirit descend therein by permission of their Lord for every matter.
I will leave you with a 45 second clip so you can enjoy listening to the recitation of this beautiful chapter. I especially love the last ayah. Anyone who has had the good fortune to witness a laylathul qadr in their lives will know exactly what this means. May we all be granted the felicity to witness or to have witnessed laylathul qadr
Peace be with you all