Laylat ul-Qadr - The Night of Decree
Gulf Times, September 28, 2007
The words qadr and qadar mean decree: qadr also means majesty or high esteem. Thus Laylat ul-Qadr, or the Night of Qadr, means the Night of Decree, or the Night of Majesty.
Laylat ul-Qadr is a very blessed night. It is the best night of Ramadan, rather, the whole year. Rewards for acts of worship during it are multiplied so as to equal one thousand months. It is the night that Allah chose to send the Qur’an down to the lowest heaven, from where it was revealed in small portions to Muhammad (sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam – peace and blessings of Allah be upon him).
It is the night on which Allah decrees His wise ordainments, appointing matters of life, death, sustenance, disasters, etc: and the angels descend with these decrees.
Allah says, which means:
“Verily! We have sent this (the Qur’an) down in the Night of al-Qadr. And what will make you know what the Night of al-Qadr is? The Night of al-Qadr is better than one thousand months. In it the angels and the Spirit (Jibreel) descend, by Allah’s permission, with all decrees. Peace it is, until the appearance of dawn.”
And He says, which means:
“Verily! We have sent this (the Qur’an) down on a blessed night. Verily, We always warn (people from sinning). In it, every matter of ordainment is decreed – by Our command. Verily, We always send (the messengers for guidance). It is a mercy from Your Lord; He is indeed All-Hearing, All-Knowing.”
It should be noted here that sending down the Qur’an on Laylat ul-Qadr does not mean that it was revealed all at once to Muhammad. According to the scholars, it was sent down on that night from al-Lawh ul-Mahfooz (the Preserved Tablet) to the lowest heaven. It was then revealed in small segments, as necessary, over a period of 23 years of the Messenger’s (pbuh) life.
The same applies to Allah’s decrees. They are not formulated on this specific night every year. Rather, Allah, with His encompassing knowledge, knew all what will happen, and has recorded it all in al-Lawh ul-Mahfooz. On Laylat ul-Qadr, Allah issues His decrees pertaining to the following year (life, death, sustenance, etc), after having been in al-Lawh ul-Mahfooz, to the angels.
VARYING REPORTS AND OPINIONS
There are various authentic hadiths in which the Prophet (pbuh) indicates that Laylat ul-Qadr falls on the night of the 21st, 23rd, 25th, 27th, 29th, or last night of Ramadan. Because of this, the scholars have differed widely as to which night it actually falls on. Al-Haafi al-Iraaqee wrote a booklet on this subject, titled Sharh us-Sadr bi-Thikri Laylat il-Qadr, in which he covered all of the scholars’ opinions in this regard, Imaam ash-Shaafi’ee said:
“It seems to me that the Prophet (pbuh) would answer in accordance with the question. So if one asked him: ‘Should we seek it on such and such night?’ He would reply, ‘Yes, seek it on such and such night.’”
THE LAST TEN NIGHTS OF RAMADAN
The various reports indicate that Laylat ul-Qadr definitely falls on the last 10 nights of Ramadan, and most frequently on the last seven nights, as in Ibn ‘Umar’s report that the Prophet (pbuh) said:
“Seek it on the last 10 nights. If one of you is weak, let him not miss (at least) the last seven nights.”
The knowledge of the exact night on which it falls is hidden from the Muslims. ‘Ubaadah Bin as-Saamit reported that the Prophet (pbuh) walked into the Masjid (Prophet’s mosque) and found two men arguing. He said:
“I was coming to tell you about (the time of) Laylat ul-Qadr; when such and such men disputed, the knowledge of this was raised (taken); and this may be better for you. So seek it on the ninth, seventh, and fifth nights (after 20).”
THE NIGHT OF THE 21st
In another report, Aboo Sa’eed al-Khudree narrates that a number of the sahaabah performed i’tikaaf with Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) during the middle 10 days of Ramadan. On the morning of the 20th of Ramadan, they were preparing to leave when the Prophet (pbuh) addressed them saying:
“I was informed (by Allah) about (when is) Laylat ul-Qadr. But I was then made to forget it. So seek it on the last 10, on an odd night. I was also informed that I will make sujood (for the morning prayer that follows it) in water and mud. So let those who started i’tikaaf with Allah’s Messenger return (to the Masjid for 10 more days of i’tikaaf).”
Aboo Sa’eed then continues:
“The people went back to the Masjid (to resume i’tikaaf). We could not see even a thin cloud in the sky. But then, a large cloud came: and it rained that night. The roof of the Masjid, which was made of palm reeds, leaked in the Messenger’s prayer place on the night of the 21st. The (morning) prayer was performed: and Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) made sujood in mud and water, until I saw the mud on his nose and forehead.”
THE NIGHT OF THE 27th
Other hadiths indicate that Laylat ul-Qadr falls on the 27th night of Ramadan. For example, Zirr Bin Hubaysh reported that Ubayy Bin Ka’b was informed that Ibn Mas’ood said, “Whoever stands the whole year (in prayer), he will certainly encounter Laylat ul-Qadr.” Upon hearing this, Ubayy said:
“May Allah have mercy on him, he did not want the people to become lazy (if they new more precisely when it is). By the One whom there is no deity but Him, it is surely in Ramadan. I swear by Allah I know which night it is: It is the night in which Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) commanded us to stand (in prayer): it is the night preceding the morning of the 27th (of Ramadan). Its sign is that the sun rises the following morning white and without rays.”
Therefore, Laylat ul-Qadr falls on an odd night of the last 10 nights of Ramadan; it is more likely to be on the last seven, and most likely on the middle one of those, which is the night of the 27th.
The scholars differ as to whether it always comes on a fixed night, namely, the 27th, as in Zirr’s hadith, or moves from year to year between these nights. The safest approach is to follow the hadiths instructing one to seek it at least on the odd nights of the last 10. At the same time, special care should be given to the night of the 27th, because it is the night on which the Prophet (pbuh) gathered all of his family, and passed it in prayer and worship, as in the forthcoming hadith of Abu Tharr.
How to seek Laylat ul-Qadr
Laylat ul-Qadr is the most blessed night. A person who misses it has indeed missed a great amount of good. If a believing person is zealous to obey his Lord and increase the good deeds in his record, he should strive to encounter this night and to pass it in worship and obedience. If this is facilitated for him, all of his previous sins will be forgiven.
It is recommended to make a long Qiyaam prayer during the nights on which Laylat ul-Qadr could fall. This is indicated in many hadiths. For instance, Abu Hurairah narrated that the Messenger (pbuh) said:
“Whoever stands (in qiyaam) in Laylat ul-Qadr (and it is facilitated for him) out of faith and expectation (of Allah’s reward), will have all of his previous sins forgiven.”
It is also recommended to make extensive supplication on this night. ‘Aa’ishah reported that she asked Allah’s Messenger, “O Messenger of Allah! If I knew which night is Laylat ul-Qadr, what should I say during it?” And he (pbuh) instructed her to say:
“Allaahumma innaka ‘afuwwun tuhibb ul-’afwa f’afu ‘annee – O Allah! You are forgiving, and you love forgiveness. So forgive me.”
ABANDONING WORLDLY PLEASURES FOR THE SAKE OF WORSHIP
It is further recommended to spend more time in worship during the nights on which Laylat ul-Qadr is likely to be. This calls for abandoning many worldly pleasures in order to secure the time and thoughts solely for worshipping Allah. ‘Aa’ishah (radhiallahu anha) reported:
“When the (last) 10 started, the Prophet (pbuh) would tighten his izaar, spend the whole night awake (in prayer), and wake up his family.”
And she said:
“Allah’s Messenger used to exert more (in worship) on the last 10 than on other nights.”
Signs of Laylat ul-Qadr
There are signs, mentioned in the authentic reports, by which one might be able to tell whether a specific night was Laylat ul-Qadr or not. It is interesting to note that these signs occur after the night ends. Some scholars have indicated that the wisdom behind this is that one would not rely on definite knowledge in order to limit his worship to just one night of the whole year. This understanding is supported by the Prophet’s statement in the preceding hadith of ‘Ubaadah. “... And this may be better for you.”
In the preceding hadith of Ubayy, he said: “Its sign is that the sun rises on the following morning white, and without rays.” Similarly, Abu Tharr reported that the Prophet (pbuh) said:
“On the morning following Laylat ul-Qadr, the sun rises without rays, resembling a dish, until it becomes high.”
Abu Sa’eed’s preceding hadith indicates that it is a humid or rainy night. A hadith reported by Ibn ‘Abbaas informs that it is a moderate night, neither hot nor cold.
According to some scholars, the last two descriptions apply to the particular years when the Prophet made his statements.
Many fables circulate among the common people, claiming unusual incidents happening during Laylat ul-Qadr. These fables claim that the trees make sujood, animals act in a strange way, sinners who happen to wake up for a few seconds and ask for wealth become millionaires, etc...
All of this is nonsense! Laylat ul-Qadr is a blessed night which should be spent in worship and obedience, not in negligence or sinning. Only the one who makes good use of it, in accordance with the Sunnah, as outlined above, can hope for Allah’s acceptance and blessings.