Monday, September 29, 2008

Lailat-ul-Qadr (the Night of Power)

WE celebrate Lailat ul-Qadr on the auspicious night of 27th Ramadhan. But nobody knows definitely when the Great Revelation came down to the benighted world through the agency of the angelic host, representing the Mercy of Allah. The Night has been variously fixed as the 3rd, 12th, 21st, 25th, 27th or the 29th of Ramadhan. It is probably one of the last three. Ibn Hambal reported that Ibn Omar had narrated a Hadith in which the Holy Prophet (Peace be upon him) said: "Whoever seeks the Night, let him seek it on the 27th."

But Imam Bukhari (RA) writes that Ibn Abbas reported the Holy Prophet (Sm) as saying: "Seek Lailat-ul-Qadr in the last ten nights of Ramadhan, on the twenty-first, twenty-third and twenty-fifth."

Abu Said al-Khudri said: "God's Messenger spent the first ten nights of Ramadhan in devoition, and spent the middle ten nights in devotion in a round Turkish tent, after which he raised his head and said, 'I have spent the first ten nights in seeking this Night, then I spent the middle ten nights in devotion and after that I had a heavenly visitant and was told that it is in the last ten: so he who was engaged in devotion along with me should do so during the last ten nights, for I was shown this Night, then was caused to forget it, but I have seen myself prostrating in water and clay on the morning following, so seek it among the last ten and seek it in every night with an odd number." He said: "Rain fell that night, the mosque which was a thatched building dripped, and my eyes saw God's Messenger with traces of water and clay on his forehead on the morning after the twenty-first night." Bukhari and Muslim agree on the subject matter, the wording being Muslim's up to "and was told it is in the last ten," the remainder being Bukhari's.

It was on the auspicious Lailat-ul-Qadr, the Night of Power or Honour or Majesty, that the Holy Quran, the most blessed and perfect of all revelations, was vouchsafed to the benighted world. By revelation, of course, is meant the first revelation, because the Holy Quran was revealed in portions for twenty-three years. The real merit of this blessed Night has been expounded in the Holy Quran. Allah has emphatically and very clearly declared in Sura Qadr: "We have indeed revealed this (Message) in the Night of Power." Allah further corroborates in the same Sura. "And what will explain to thee what the Night of Power is? The Night of Power is better then a thousand months."

Lailat-ul-Qadr occupies a unique position in the Islamic calendar. It was this blessed Night of Majesty which first witnessed the shining of the divine light which was destined to illumine the whole world.

This night of grandeur or greatness, better than a thousand months, is indeed a night of great wonders and divine blessings, wherein, as the Holy Quran declares: "Come down the angels and the Sprit by Allah's permission on every errand."

The night on which a Message descends from Allah is indeed a blessed night, like a day of rain for a parched land. It is for this that the I'tikaf, going to the mosques or retiring for contemplation during Ramadhan as a form of devotion, is fixed for the last ten days of the month of Ramadhan. The Holy Prophet (peace be upon him) himself used to spent the last ten days of Ramadhan in complete retirement in the mosque. He even had his bed placed in the mosque during the I'tikaf.

"A thousand months" may be taken in a mystic sense as denoting a very long period of time. This does not necessarily refer to ordinary human conception of Time, but may refer to the "Timeless Time." In the words of Maulana Yusuf Ali: "One moment of enlightenment under God's light is better that thousands of years of animal life, and such a moment converts the night of darkness into a period of spiritual glory."

The descent of the angels and the Sprit by Allah's permission also testifies to deeper significance and religious sanctity of the auspicious Night, for though a particular night in the month of Ramadhan may be characterised by great Divine blessing, it is more especially in connection with the mission of the One appointed by Allah for the regeneration of the world that 'the angels and the Spirit' come down from heaven, such being the Divine support of his cause." Sura Qadr, testifying so eloquently to the divine grandeur and unique greatness of the majestic Lailat-ul-Qadr, ends with the beautiful expression. "Peace… This until the rise of morn."

Peace, indeed, is the chief distinction of Laila-ul-Qadr. This peace comes to the hearts of the devotees in the form of a tranquility of mind, which makes them fit to receive Divine blessings. When the Night of spiritual darkness is dissipated by the Glory of Benign Providence, a wonderful peace and sense of security arise in the soul. All agitations are stilled in the reign supreme of peace. "And this lasts on," in the words of Maulana Yusuf Ali, "until this life closes, and the glorious Day of the new spiritual world dawns, when everything will be on a different plane, and the chequered nights and days of the world will be even less than a dream."

The continuance of the blessed Night till "the rise of morn" is quite clear and evident when the Night is taken literally: the work of morning, signifying "the approaching end of the reforms, when truth, like the light of the day, has made itself fully manifest." In the words of Abdullah Yusuf Ali: "The mortal night gives place to the glorious day of an immortal world."

Lailat-ul-Qadr, the blessed Night in the Great Revelation of the Most Gracious and the Most Merciful Allah "broke through the darkness of the human soul" and the Holy Quran, the perfect code of human life, reached mankind as a message of "Mercy from the Lord," carries another significance of Diving Excellence. As Moulvi Mohammed Ali states: "The time during which a prophet appears is usually a time of darkness and, as such, is often compared to night in the Holy Quran. But, as in this darkness comes a blessing from on high in the person of a Divine Messenger, the Night is a blessed and majestic night. Hence, the period of the advent of Divine Messenger may also be metaphorically called Lailat-ul-Qadr. Its designation as the Blessed Night in Sura Ad-Dukhan, followed as it is by the statement that in it "every wise affair is made distinct," shows clearly that the other significance of the world is based on the Quran itself, because it is during the time of a prophet's advent that true wisdom is distinctly established.

Blessed indeed is this Night of Power. The divine importance of this Night of Grandeur is so great that the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him) himself declared: "He who spends the Lailat-ul-Qadr through prayers, in full faith, shall have all his previous sins and guilt forgiven."

It is not, however, the worldly pleasures and physical comforts that one should ask for on this holy Night. What a man should pray for in this blessed Night is forgiveness and Allah's forgiveness alone. Nothing can be more pleasant, nothing can be more beneficial, nothing can be sweeter that the glorious Mercy of the Most Gracious and the Most Merciful Allah.

Hazrat Ayesha Siddiqua (RA) said: "I asked the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him) what to say during the Night on the assumption that I knew it was the Night." The Holy Prophet (peace be upon him) replied: "One should say 'Lord! You love forgiveness, so forgive me.

Laylatul Qadr (the Night of Power) is described in the Quran as, “better than a thousand months” (97:3). Any action done on this night such as reciting the Quran, remembering Allah, etc. is better than acting for one thousand months which do not contain the night of Qadr.

Allah’s Messenger used to exert himself in devotion during the last ten nights to a greater extent than at any other time.” (Muslim). Allah’s peace and blessings be upon our beloved Prophet.

Aisha, may Allah be pleased with her, related that the Prophet said: Look for Laylatul Qadr on an odd-numbered night during the last ten nights of Ramadan (Bukhari).

The Prophet said: “Whoever prays during the night of Qadr with faith and hoping for its reward will have all of his previous sins forgiven.” (Bukhari and Muslim recorded from Abu Huraira).

Here are some tips of things we can do on the Night of Power and the time before and after it.

1. Take a vacation for Allah

We take a break from our jobs for almost everything in life. Why not this time to focus on worshiping and thanking our Creator.

If this is not possible at least take a few days off if you can. This can make it easier to stay awake at night to do extra Ibadah, not having to worry about getting to work the next day.

It will also facilitate doing Itikaf.

2. Do Itikaf

It was a practice of the Prophet to spend the last ten days and nights of Ramadan in the masjid for Itikaf.

Those in Itikaf stay in the masjid all this time, performing various forms of zikr (the remembrance of Allah), like doing extra Salat, recitation and study of the Quran. They do not go outside the masjid except in case of emergencies, therefore, they sleep in the masjid. Their families or the masjid administration takes care of their food needs.

Itikaf of a shorter period of time, like one night, a day or a couple of days is encouraged as well.

3. Make this special Dua

Aisha, may Allah be pleased with her, said: I asked the Messenger of Allah: ‘O Messenger of Allah, if I know what night is the night of Qadr, what should I say during it?’ He said: ‘Say: O Allah, You are pardoning and You love to pardon, so pardon me.’ “(Ahmad, Ibn Majah, and Tirmidhi).

The transliteration of this Dua is “Allahumma innaka `afuwwun tuhibbul `afwa fa`fu `annee”

4. Recite the Quran

Perhaps you can choose Surahs or passages from the Quran which you have heard in Tarawih this past Ramadan to recite.

If you attend a class where the recitation of the Quran is taught, this is a great time to put your knowledge into practice.

5. Reflect on the meaning of the Quran

Choose the latest Surah or Surahs you’ve heard in Tarawih and read their translation and Tafseer. Then think deeply about their meaning and how it affects you on a personal level.

(If you want to study the Quran with more understanding, check out Way to the Quran and Access to Quranic Arabic.

6. Get your sins wiped out

Abu Huraira narrated that the Messenger said: Whoever stands (in prayer) in Laylatul Qadr while nourishing his faith with self-evaluation, expecting reward from Allah, will have all of his previous sins forgiven. [Bukhari and Muslim).

Don’t just pray using the shorter Surahs that you know. Try to make your prayers longer, deeper and meaningful. If you are familiar with longer Surahs, read the translation and explanation and then pray reciting these Surahs, carefully reflecting on the meaning while you pray.

Even if you are only familiar with the shorter Surahs, read the translation and explanation beforehand, and then pray reflecting on the message of the Surahs.

This is a good way to develop the habit of concentration, even in regular prayers, where many of us tend to be fidgety and/or easily distracted.

7. Make a personal Dua list.

Ask yourself what you really want from Allah. Make a list of each and everything, no matter how small or how big it is, whether it deals with this world or not. Allah loves to hear from us. Once this list is ready, you can do three things:

• Ask Allah to give you those things
• Think about what actions you have taken to get those things
• Develop a work plan to get those things in future.

8. Evaluate yourself.

Ask yourself those questions that need to be asked. Do an evaluation of where you are and where you are going. Let this evaluation lead you to feel happiness for the good you have done and remorse for the bad you have done. (see a short and a long evaluation guide) This latter feeling should make it easier to seek Allah’s sincere forgiveness when making the Dua mentioned in tip number one above.

9. Make long, sincere and deep Duas

One of the best times to do this is during the last part of the night.

Abu Huraira, may Allah be pleased with him, related that the Prophet said: When the last one-third of the night remains, our Lord, the Glorious One descends towards the heaven of the earth and proclaims: Who is that who supplicates for Me, and I grant his supplication? Who is that who begs Me for anything and I grant it to him? And who is that who seeks My forgiveness, and I forgive him? (Bukhari, Muslim).

That means for instance, waking up one hour before Suhoor time to ask Allah for anything and everything you want that is Halal. This can be done using the Duas of the Sunnah, but also Dua in your own language, with sincerity and conviction.

For some tips on making Dua please see the article Some personal Duas you can make.

10. Memorize a different Dua every night

They don’t have to be long. They can be just one line. And be sure to know what they mean generally at least, even if you don’t know the exact translation in English.

You can put them on index cards (or and keep them with you during the day, glancing at them during work, while driving, waiting in line, etc.) Then practice them at night in prayer.

11. Have Iftar with the family

If you’ve spent Iftar time on weekdays in your cubicle at work alone with a couple of dates, now is the last few days you’ll have this Ramadan to spend with your family. Use it wisely.

12. Take the family to Tarawih

Have your spouse and kids missed Tarawih most of Ramadan because you weren’t there to drive them to the Masjid, which is too far away to walk to? If so, do all of yourselves a favor and bring everyone for Tarawih in these last ten nights.

13. Attend the Dua after the completion of Quran recitation

Almost all Masjids where the Imam aims to finish an entire reading of the Quran in Tarawih prayers in Ramadan will be completing their recitation in these last ten nights. They may try to end on one of the odd nights and read the Dua at the end of a reading of the Quran. Attend this particular night’s Tarawih prayer with your family. See if you can attend different Masjids’ Tarawih prayers the night they finish reading the Quran.

14. Finish reading a book on the Prophet

Read about the Prophet’s life, which can increase your love for him and Islam by seeing how much he struggled for Allah’s sake. It may inspire you to push yourself even harder during these last ten nights. This community is built on sacrifice.

15. Plan for the next year

Once you’ve done a self-evaluation, you can plan on where you want to go, at least in the next 12 months. Laylatul Qadr is a great night to be thinking about this (without taking away from your worship), since you’ll Insha Allah, be in a more contemplative state. You may choose to dedicate one night of power for evaluation and one night for planning for the next year.

16. To do list for the Night of Power

Make a to do checklist for each Night of Power. This should define how you would like your night, the one better than a thousand months, to be used. Pick things from this list and define the sequence you would like to do things in. This will help you avoid wasting your time in unproductive chats which common in the festive atmosphere of Masjids at the Night of Power.

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