Laylat al-Qadr: The Night of Power is better than a thousand months (4th May 2021 – Ramadan 23rd, 1442)
Laylat al-Qadr, the “Night of Power” or “Blessed Night” or “Night of Grandeur” or “Night of Majesty” commemorates one of the most significant events in the history of Islam. It is the night when Prophet Muhammad, salla-llaihu ‘alayhi wa alihi wa sallam, received the first revelation from Allah. Thus, Laylat al-Qadr, can be seen as marking the historical beginning of the Prophet’s mission that conveyed God’s final message of Islam to mankind. Today, the teachings and examples of the Holy Prophet guide the lives of nearly one-quarter of all people across the world.
Laylat al-Qadr marks an important moment in the Prophet’s spiritual journey. Prophet Muhammad was known to retreat regularly to a cave on Mount Hira, where he spent time in solitude and contemplation. During one such retreat, which the Holy Qur’an refers to as Laylat al-Qadr or the Night of Power, the Prophet had a profound spiritual experience, marking the beginning of the revelation. Every year, we commemorate this event as a reminder of our own spiritual search. Every moment of each day of our lives presents us with an opportunity to remember God and undertake a spiritual journey towards self-discovery and spiritual happiness.
Muslims generally believe that the descent of angels and the spirit as mentioned in the Holy Qur’an in Surat al-Qadr 3-4, indicates God’s Grace and Mercy during this special night. From a Shi’i point of view, the Night of Power and its continuous presence every year symbolizes the everlasting presence of the Hazar Imam and his continuing guidance for the believers. In a hadith, Abdullah Ibn-Maskan, a companion of Imam Ja’far al-Sadiq, narrates the following:
“When the Chapter of Qadr was mentioned in the presence of … Imam Ja’far al-Sadiq, ‘alayhi-s-salaam, and he was asked about its merits over other chapters. Imam al-Sadiq said, [that] ‘It was revealed with reference to the Wilayat (or authority) of the Commander of the Faithful (that is Imam Ali, ‘alayhi-s-salaam). He was asked, ‘Do you mean Laylat al-Qadr for which we look in anticipation during the month of Ramadan?’ Imam Ja’far al-Sadiq said, ‘Yes, it is the night in which the (destiny of the) heavens and the earth were determined, and the authority of the Commander of the Faithful was decreed.”
On Laylat al-Qadr, we should seek God’s Grace and Mercy, while rededicating our lives to piety and the regular practice of our faith, including the performance of prayers, offering supplications, and engaging in dhikr. In a widely reported hadith, cited in Sahih Bukhari, the Holy Prophet urges believers to spend Laylat al-Qadr in devotion and to seek God’s forgiveness. He is reported to have said:
“Whosoever establishes prayers in the night of Qadr, out of sincere faith, and hoping to attain Allah’s rewards, then all his past sins will be forgiven”.
Hazrat Imam ‘Ali (a.s) is reported to have said that ‘He who knows himself, knows his Lord.’ Those who put efforts in pursuit of this goal, are passionately in love with God, and they are, in the words of Imam Sultan Mahomed Shah (a.s), ‘the friends of the Spirit’.
It is said that Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) was a man of stature and sincerity; he had a sense of community-building and that he was receptive to spiritual experience. His family had the distinction of being the caretaker of the Holy Ka’bah. He was a well-respected merchant who played an active role in understanding and engaging with issues of Meccan society. He, nonetheless, regularly retreated from routine life to meditate on the higher truth that he felt was missing in the worship of idols, as was the common practice in Arabia at the time. In that sense, the Prophet was well aware of both the spiritual and material responsibilities even prior to him becoming the Prophet. This understanding of the need to balance one’s life perhaps gave voice to his disaffection with the prevailing civic order and he became actively involved with the Hunafa’ (seekers of truth), a group of people concerned with addressing societal issues of the time as well as seeking the ultimate reality.
It was after fifteen years of meditative practice that during one of his annual retreats in the cave of Hira just outside the city of Mecca, he received his first call of revelation, which henceforth came to be called Laylat al-Qadr, the night of power. It was on this blessed night that the Prophet was summoned to Prophethood with the Divine call as mentioned in Surah Al-Alaq 96, 1 to 5, which says:
This is also corroborated by the Qur’an in Surah Al-Dukhan 44: 3-6, which says:
“We have sent it (the Book), down on a blessed night, since We wanted to forewarn mankind. In that night every matter or Wisdom is decided upon – as a command from Us, for We send revelations as a Mercy from your Lord.”
Therefore, Muslims believe that this night was Laylat al-Qadr, the night of power. In fact, the wording “We sent it down on a blessed night wherein every matter of wisdom is decided upon” bears a profound resemblance to that of Surah al-Qadr, which says:
“Lo! We revealed it (the Qur’an) on the Night of Power. What will convey unto you what the Night of Power is! The Night of Power is better than a thousand months. The angels and the Spirit descend therein, by the permission of their Lord, with all decrees. Peace it is until the rising of the dawn.”
Laylat al-Qadr is the “blessed night” on which Allah bestows upon us His infinite mercy; the night wherein we pray and beseech for our spiritual happiness; and as assured in the above ayat, the immeasurable divine response coming from His mercy fulfills our requests. This night is solemnly observed every year by Muslims, many of whom spend the entire night in devotional prayers. It is reported by Bibi Aisha (r.a), the Prophet’s wife, that “the Prophet would strive to do acts of worship during the last ten days of Ramadan more than he would at any other time”, which included Laylat al-Qadr. This devotion and act of worship during the last ten days of Ramadan by some Muslims has continued to this day as a ritual of performing Etekaf in the Masjid, that is, seclusion in the Mosque. The objective behind such an act of worship is that the hearts and minds are fully occupied with thoughts of God and concentrate upon Him alone, through the act of zikr, that is, remembrance of God.
In the Ismaili Muslim tradition, we, however, balance the act of worship and remembrance by fulfilling our worldly responsibilities simultaneously, within the ethics of our faith. Special prayers and tasbihs offered on this night would bring immense blessings. Mu’mineen practice their faith to strive constantly to seek blessings, not just this night but every night, so that practice of our faith – maintaining a balance between din and duniya, becomes part of our daily life.
How can we achieve that balance? Mawlana Hazar Imam guides us on how we can practice our faith, both within and outside the Jamat Khana, in our day to day lives, by creating an attitude where practice of faith becomes a second nature to us.
Al-Mu’ayyad fi’l-Din al-Shirazi (1000-1078), a leading Ismaili Da’i, who served the 18th Imam al-Mustansir bi’llah, (1036-1095) reminds us of a hadith attributed to the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) which says that on Laylat al-Qadr, “all creatures, animals, trees, and precious stones prostrate themselves to God and humble themselves before Him.”
Nasir al-Din Tusi (1202-1274), a foremost Ismaili scholar who served the 26th Imam Alaiddeen Muhammad, 27th Imam Rukniddeen Khairi Shah and 28th Imam Shamsiddeen Muhammad, likens the night to the concept of origin, meaning the beginning of the journey of our souls in the world. The final destination of the soul is clearly mentioned in Surah 2, Ayah 156 which states:
“We are from Allah and to Him we will return”
The message here is that it is the soul which returns to God.
Tonight is the night of power, when, and as stated in the Holy Qur’an, angels and spirits descend upon earth with all decrees from God. Let us pray that the mercy and blessings of Allah may touch us tonight and lead us to greater spiritual awakening and upliftment. Ameen.
On this special night we are given the opportunity to reflect about our souls and our journey through this world. We must strive to ensure that the spark within us is not extinguished but rather developed. It is this spark which we seek to discover in ourselves as we perform ibadah on this night. Even a moment of prayer and contemplation promises immense blessings. Insha ‘Allah, this blessed night, this night of power will bring us closer to the Divine grace as we continue our spiritual journey and seek dini happiness and enlightenment.
On this sacred night, let us ask ourselves, to what extent is there a balance in our lives between the spiritual and material aspects? In today’s materialistic world, how can we overcome the challenges in our quest for spiritual enlightenment? In responding to these questions, Laylat al-Qadr provides us an opportunity to reflect upon and commit ourselves to an ongoing spiritual search. So, we can pause and ponder to remind ourselves to dedicate time from our daily activities to think about our spiritual progress, enlightenment and happiness.
On this night, let us pray for Allah’s continuous grace and mercy to keep us on Sirat al-Mustaqim and to be blessed with strength and courage to continue to serve humanity and all God’s creation with love and devotion.