By: Sadruddin Noorani (Chicago, USA)
Laylat al-Qadr, (the Night of Power, Night of Destiny), commemorates the night during which the first verses of the Holy Qur’an were revealed to Prophet Muhammad (S.A.W.). Ismaili Muslims observe Laylat al-Qadr on the 23rd night of Ramadan, in accordance with traditions received through Hazrat Ali (A.S) and Hazrat Bibi Fatima al-Zahra (A.S).
Laylat al-Qadr is a powerful reminder of the spiritual traditions in Islam. The Holy Qur’an mentions the first revelation representing the Almighty’s Grace received by Prophet Muhammad on Laylat al-Qadr. A reference to this is found in Surah al-Qadr (97:1-5) of the Holy Qur’an, where Allah (SWT) says:
“We have indeed revealed the (Message) in the Night of Power.
And what will explain onto you what the Night of Power is!
The Night of Power is better than a thousand months.
Therein come down the angels and the Spirit by Allah’s permission, on every errand.
Peace!… it is until the rising of the dawn.”
Many interpreters of the Qur’an suggest that the reference to a thousand months is Allah’s way of defining eternal time, as Laylat al-Qadr value cannot be described in terms of worldly time. Any good acts and deeds completed on this night are the equivalent to if you had performed that one single act for 83 year. Some have suggested that this verse indicates that a single moment of enlightenment is better than a thousand months of prayers and devotion and such a moment of recognition transforms the life of the believer into one filled with spiritual grace and peace.
Many Muslims spend the entire night of Qadr reciting zikr (a form of devotion) and other prayers. The 12th century mystic poet Jalal ad-Din Rumi (1207-1273) recommends staying up at night in prayer. In the following verses he says:
“If you stay awake for an entire night,
Watch out for a treasure trying to arrive.
You can keep warm by the secret sun of the night,
Keeping your eyes open for the softness of dawn.
Try it for tonight, challenge your sleepy eyes,
Do not lay your head down and wait for the heavenly alms.
For the night is the bringer of gifts…”
Laylat al-Qadr is a night of great majesty, in which believers offer special prayers to Allah, seeking forgiveness for errors and Allah’s grace and mercy. Surah al-Dukhan (44, verse 3) refers to this night as the “blessed night” in which Allah bestows blessings upon us.
The Night of Power not only reminds us about our earthly limitations, but also about our spiritual potential that may be achieved through reflection, practice of faith, and personal spiritual search. On this special night, we are offered the opportunity to reflect upon our soul’s journey through time. As 48th Ismaili Imam, Sultan Mohamed Shah Aga Khan lll (1877-1957) says in his ‘Memoirs’:
“…all human beings carry a spark of the Divine Light. Everyone should strive his best to see that this spark be not extinguished but rather developed…”
It is the spark, which we seek to discover in ourselves as we perform prayers in the hopes that this ‘divine spark’ within us should lead us to greater spiritual awakening. Allah says that the Night of Power is equivalent to a thousand months. Thus, every moment of prayer and contemplation promises the seeker more blessings.
Dai Nasir Khusraw (1004-1088) explains the significance of Laylat al-Qadr by saying:
“You illuminate the mosques on the Night of Qadr and make it as bright as the day, while your hearts are as dark as the darkest night. Know that illuminations are not enough. when you light the lamps, remind yourselves that your dark hearts, without inner purification, will not become enlightened by the lamps”.
In the Ismaili Muslim Tariqah of Islam, the Imam-of-the-Time plays a vital role in guiding the murid‘s spiritual search and illuminates the path towards enlightenment and vision. On 12th March 1976, Mawlana Hazar Imam delivers the Presidential Address at the International Seerat Conference in Karachi, Pakistan, and he said:
“…the question of what Muslim Society should seek to be in the years ahead. Islam, as even non-Muslims have observed, is a way of life. This means that every aspect of the individual’s daily existence is guided by Islam: his family relations, his business relations, his education, his health, the means and manner by which he gains his livelihood, his philanthropy, what he sees and hears around him, what he reads, the way he regulates his time, the buildings in which he lives, learns and earns.
I cannot think of any time in Islamic history when Muslims have had a greater opportunity to unite, and to ensure that the society in which they live is that which they have defined and chosen for themselves”.
My non-Muslim friends are always amazed by the perseverance of Ismaili Muslims everywhere. Even in these difficult times, we are finding new ways to pray at home and stay connected within the community and innovative ways to safely make a difference and bring value to improve the quality of life of the community and those among whom we live. Our commitment of selfless service in this crisis is inspiring. And exactly what our communities need. During this Covid-19 pandemic, we are showing the world that there may be limits on what we can do in a time of social distancing, but there are no limits to the kindness of Ismaili Muslims. Let us all continue to put health and safety first as we continue the important work we are doing as Ismailis.
Laylat al-Qadr is a reminder for us to reflect on our inner self and to work towards our spiritual destiny. It is also an opportunity for us to reflect upon the blessings of Allah (S.W.T) and follow the Hadith (qualities, habits and guidance) of Prophet Muhammad (S.A.S). May the blessings of Laylat al-Qadr touch everyone of us and illuminate our hearts and lives. Ameen.