It is the way of God to create and then choose some of creation in preference over others. Time and place – being creations of God, Most High – are not exceptions to this. Of all the galaxies of the universe, God chose the Milky Way to host human life. From the planets in it, He chose to furnish Earth as the cradle and crucible of man. In Earth’s geography, He chose Makkah to be the holiest place.
Likewise, from the twelve months of the year that God decreed, He chose Ramadan, the ninth lunar month, to begin sending His Last and culminating Revelation, the Quran, to the people of the latter days. Then from the days and nights of Ramadan, He chose Laylat Al-Qadr, The Night of Empowering Decree, as its most blessed night – making it equal to a thousand months! – and selecting it as the moment in which the Quran from the High Heavens first pierced human history.
Muslims today should know that God preferred the community of Muhammad, on him be peace, over all the previous ones by giving it The Night of Empowering Decree in which deeds are multiplied thousands of times.
God has said about Laylat Al-Qadr in the Quran, in a concise and power-packed sura named after itself:
Indeed, [it is] We [who] have sent this [Quran] down [from on high]on the Night of Empowering Decree.And do you realize what is the Night of Empowering Decree?The Night of Empowering Decree is better than a thousand months!Therein do the angels and the Spirit [Gabriel] descend,by the permission of their Lord,with every [divine] commandment.Peace it is till the rise of dawn!
Also, in Surat Al-Dukhan (44:2-5), He called it “laylatin mubarakatin,” a blessed night, extolling it in this way:
[I swear] by [the Quran,] the clear Book!Indeed, it is We [alone]Who have sent it down in a blessed night.For, indeed, it is We [alone]Who are giving [humanity] forewarning [of a nearing Judgment].In that [blessed night], every wise affair is determinedby a [divine] command from Our providence.For, indeed, it is We [alone]Who have been sending messengers [to humanity].
‘Qadr’ in the Arabic language has a handful of related meanings, such as ‘decree,’ ‘greatness,’ ‘proportion,’ and so forth. It was named this for two reasons:
It is a great night
In it is sent down all the decrees of the coming year, such as who will live and who will die, what provisions each person will have, and what will happen to the Earth for that year, and all else.
In the creation and experience of this Night, there is great wisdom, some of it known to us – such as the fact that it shows us that God is completely involved in and in control of our affairs on Earth – and much of its wisdoms unknown to us, which we cannot grasp.
The one who worships on this night receives a magnified proportion of reward.
Laylat Al-Qadr is not an established day in the sense that it is calendared, with its coming precisely known by people with certainty, though it does have a timeframe of more likely occurrence. Also, the generation that came after the Prophet, on him be peace, and his Companions (Sahabah) – which is known as the Successors, or Tabi‘in – have reported signs that may indicate its advent. When Successors convey religious knowledge there is a reliable assumption that they learned it from the Companion generation. While not authentic prophetic reports, such information still carries significant weight.
There are two kinds of signs when it comes to identifying Laylat Al-Qadr. Those that occur on the night itself, and ones that immediately follow it. As for the signs occurring on Laylat Al-Qadr, the most reliable sources point to the following five:
The night is infused with a strong glow.NOTE: This sign cannot be witnessed in areas with light pollution. In order to see this, a person must be far from the cities. It is also difficult to gauge, since strong glows are subject to individual discernment and imagination.
A sense of serenity and calmness in the heart that is stronger than usual.
The winds are calm that night. There are no storms or strong winds on Laylat Al-Qadr.
A person tastes a sweetness in his or her worship that night greater than one’s sense of it in worship on other nights.
As for the morning after Laylat Al-Qadr, the sun rises without rays, in a haze, looking extremely clear. (This is reported in a hadith narrated by Muslim).
It was the night in which the revelation of the Quran began (inna anzalnahu / Indeed, it is We who have sent it down).
It is a blessed night (laylatin mubarakatin).
In it the affairs of the world for the coming year are sent down to earth (fiha yufraq kullu amr).
The reward of worship in Laylat Al-Qadr is greatly magnified (Laylatul Qadri khayrun min alfi shahr / The Night of Empowering Decree is better than a thousand months).
The angels come down that night with blessings, mercy, and forgiveness. It is the only night of the year, since the sealing of Revelation, that the Spirit (Al-Ruh), the Arch-Angel Gabriel, peace on him, descends to earth.
It is a night of peace, free in itself of harm and evil. In it are performed many good deeds. In it is much saving from punishment. Satan is more restricted and trapped than any other night (salamun hiya / Peace it is).
In it is forgiveness for sins for the one who makes much ritual prayer (salah) in it, while doing it in hope of reward from God. The Prophet, on him be peace, said: “One who stands much (in salah, ritual prayer) in Laylat Al-Qadr waiting for reward from God will be forgiven all his past sins” (Bukhari and Muslim).
The people of previous communities used to live hundreds of years, but the men and women of the community of Muhammad, on him be peace, live mostly between 60 and 70 years. In order to be able to compete with them, God, Most High, gave the nation (Ummah) of the Prophet Muhammad, on him be peace, Laylat Al-Qadr.
Laylat Al-Qadr, as the Prophet, on him be peace, informed us, is one of the last odd nights of Ramadan. So people should strive in their ritual prayer (salah) and other worship most on the 21st, 23rd, 25th, 27th, and 29th nights of Ramadan. Of these, the strongest prophetic indication is one of the last three (Bukhari), and the 27th favored among these (“One searching for Laylat Al-Qadr should seek it on the night of the 27th” (Muslim)).
Commonly, there are differences of opinion in the global Muslim community on the start of end of Ramadan. So to be sure, people should strive in prayer and worship all of the last 10 nights. This period of nighttime from sunset to dawn (maghrib to fajr) is only a handful of hours. So people should push themselves on these nights, knowing one of them will be Laylat Al-Qadr, especially since their worship in it will have the reward of more than (khayrun min) 83 years and 4 months for them.
If one were to live until the age of 35, for example, and caught every Laylat Al-Qadr with extra prayer and worship, then he would have the like of 1,660 years of worship written in his Book of Deeds, not counting the first 15 years of his or her life, starting the count from around the time one should have reached puberty, when one’s divine account was opened.
One should start to prepare for this night from the Dawn Prayer (Salat Al-Fajr) of the previous day. If one wants a strong night of worship the coming evening, the warm up should begin that morning.
After Fajr, they should be vigilant about saying all of the adkhkar(remembrances of God) of the day, and should say 100 times: La ilaha illa’Lah. Wahdahu, la sharika lah. Lahu’l-mulk. Was lahu’l-hamd. Wa huwa ‘ala kulli shay’in qadir. “There is no God but Allah, His Oneness. No partner has He. For Him is all the domain. For Him is all praise. And over all things, He is powerful.”
Abu Hurayrah reported that the Messenger of God, on him be peace, said: “Whoever says this 100 times in a day, it is written for him as the reward of freeing 10 slaves. He receives 100 [additional] good deeds, and 100 of his bad deeds are erased. Moreover, it is a protection for him from Satan on that day until he sleeps, and none shall have surpassed him that day [in good works], save one who did the like or more” (Bukhari).
One should invite others to break fast with him or her, or provide the fasting food.
Save up, well ahead of time, so that you can give sadaqah, especially to those in need, on Laylat Al-Qadr so as to maximize the reward of the good deed. Some encourage believers to save up throughout the entire year, for even if one can give only $1 in sadaqah, it will equal giving at least $30,000.
One should make sure to perform all the known non-obligatory prayers (sunnah salawat) and other worship that the Prophet, on him be peace, did. For example, repeat after the caller to prayer (mu’adhdhin), saying the supplications (s. du‘a) between the call to prayer (adhan) and the summons to stand for prayer (iqama), and making the prophetic supplications before one breaks one’s fast and after.
In fact, Bukhari reported on the authority of Anas ibn Malik, that the Companions, may God be pleased with them, used to hasten to reach the pillars of the mosque [to perform the non-obligatory prayers that the Prophet, on him be peace, did (sunnah) behind them] after the call to the Sunset Prayer, and they would be making these extra ritual prayers when the Prophet, on him be peace, came out of his home to lead the obligatory (fard) prayer because there was little time between the call to prayer (adhan) and the summons to stand (iqama) in which to do so. For this reason, the Companions would hasten to pray the non-obligatory two cycles (rak‘ahs) of prayer in order to reap the extra rewards in that time.
On this night, one should constantly be saying: “O God, You are the Pardoner. You love pardoning. So pardon me.” Aisha reported that one should say this on the Night of Empowering Decree (Bukhari). There is another report that the Companions of the Prophet, on him be peace, asked him what they should do if they found themselves to be in this great night. The Prophet, on him be peace, advised them to say the above supplication seeking pardon. (Allahumma! Anta ‘Afuwun. Tuhib Al-‘Afwa fa ‘afu ‘anna.)
Take advantage of every opportunity of reward God has put in all the last ten nights of Ramadan. Break your fast (iftar) as soon as the sun sets, with the intention of following the way (sunnah) of the Prophet, on him be peace, for he said: “There will be goodness in my community (Ummah) so long as they hasten to break their fasts [when the time comes in] and to delay the pre-fasting meal (suhur)” [that is, to eat it as late as possible, right before dawn comes in].”
Sometimes on an odd night of the last ten nights of Ramadan, one may see a dream, for example, or perceive some other sign, that indicates the following night will be Laylat Al-Qadr and then strive hard on that night and not on the others.
Some may do this to the point where, even if they were in Makkah, they would leave the holy precincts because of the dream they saw, which they interpret as Laylat Al-Qadr, thinking they have achieved the rewards of that Night, after which they will believe it has passed. Yet this may not be a true dream, and even if it is, it could be interpreted wrongly.
Once the noble Companion Abu Bakr, may God be pleased with him, interpreted a dream in the presence of the Prophet, on him be peace, and the Prophet, on him be peace, told him: “You were correct in some of it and incorrect in some of it” (Bukhari). This proves to us, who are not nearly as aware and wise as Abu Bakr, that we could be wrong, not to mention that leaving worship in the other nights of Ramadan deprives us of good worship in them, which is still eminently worthy and heavy in the scales.
Similarly, one should not be overly concerned with confirming the signs of Laylat Al-Qadr so that they grow sure it has passed. Again, we can be wrong in our assessments and miss out on the rest of the nights of beneficial worship.
In our time, it is common for us to observe the 27th night of Ramadan as Laylat Al-Qadr. Our imams often complete the Quran’s recitation in prayer on that night. After this night, there is often a lessening of exertion in our prayer (salah), worship, and good deeds because we believe Laylat Al-Qadr has passed. We should strive, rather, until the very end of Ramadan, and in all its days for the reasons already stated.
One should take care to maximize the benefits of Laylat Al-Qadr because it is a great and rare blessing given to us by God, and we have no guarantee of life, that we shall reach the next Laylat Al-Qadr. To exert oneself, then, in every night of Ramadan is the only certain way of knowing one has found it.
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