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Laylat al-Qadr

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Islam
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Laylat al-Qadr (Arabic: لَیلَة القَدر, night of power, night of value, Night of Measure, Night of Decree) is the best and most sacred night in the year based on Islamic teachings. In the Qur'an, Laylat al-Qadr is mentioned in two Suras: Sura al-Qadr and Sura al-Dukhan.

The exact date of Laylat al-Qadr is unknown. However, according to many traditions, it is in the month of Ramadan. Shi'a believe that it is the night of 19th or 21st or 23rd of the month of Ramadan or 15th of Sha'ban. Majority of Sunni Muslims mark 27th of the month of Ramadan as Laylat al-Qadr.

On these nights, Shi'a follow their Imams (a) in staying awake the whole night, reciting the Qur'an, praying and performing other rituals. The anniversary of Imam 'Ali's martyrdom at 21st of Ramadan has increased the importance of these days among Shi'a. According to hadiths, Laylat al-Qadr is not only for the Prophet's time, rather there is Laylat al-Qadr in every year. Based on these hadiths, Shi'a demonstrated that there must be a living Imam so that the angels who descend on that night would descend on him, an Imam with similar characteristics as of the Prophet (s).

Naming

Prayer
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Qadr, (قدر) in Arabic, means measure and limit or value of something or destiny.[1] It is also used about the measure and the limits of existence.[2]

Some reasons have been offered for its naming:

  • It is said that it was called al-Qadr because the annual destiny of every person will be determined by God, as it is mentioned in Sura al-Dukhan verse no.4: "every definitive matter is resolved in it" and also in many hadiths that indicate the destiny of a year for everyone including the deeds, sustenance, births, deaths, etc. is determined at this night.
  • Some say that if one stay awake at this night, one will reach a high state.
  • Some have said that it was called al-Qadr because it is a grand and high-value night, as the Qur'an was revealed at this night to the Prophet's (s) heart by an archangel.[3]

Other names such as "Laylat al-'Azama" and "Laylat al-Sharaf" have also be mentioned for this night.

Importance

According to the Islamic teachings, Laylat al-Qadr has a special sacredness and holiness. At this night the destiny of the coming year will be determined.

Occurrence of some events at this night has increased its importance. The whole Qur'an was sent down on the Prophet's (s) heart at this night as it is mentioned in Surat al-Qadr:

"Indeed We sent it (the Qur'an) down on the Night of Qadr."

Imam Ali (a) was martyred in this night. Shi'a mark this event every year by mourning their Imam in this night besides practicing Mustahab (recommended) acts of the night.

Exegetes of Qur'an believe that the verses of Sura al-Qadr connote that Laylat al-Qadr is repeated every year and it is not the only night that the Qur'an was sent down to the Prophet (s), or the ones in the Prophet's (s) time. In addition, many hadiths, which are about to be Mutawatir, support this idea.[4]

According to some hadiths, Laylat al-Qadr is one of the blessings of God to the Islamic nation (umma). The Prophet (s) said "Allah has bestowed the Night of Qadr to my umma and non of the past nations have been blessed with this."[5]

In the Qur'an

Sura al-Qadr, the 97th sura of Qur'an is about Lalyat al-Qadr:

Also, the few beginning verses of Surat al-Dukhan (44) are about Laylat al-Qadr:

In Hadith

There are hadiths in Shi'a sources that presented the night of Qadr and Surat al-Qadr as evidence for existence of an Imam in every time. According to these hadiths, angels were sent down to the Prophet (s) on that night and because the Qadr night is not only for the Prophet's (s) time, every year they will be sent down on his successors, Infallible Imams (a) who are the nearest and most similar people to him (s). Here are two of these hadiths:

Ibn 'Abbas narrated: Imam 'Ali (a) said, "There is a Qadr night in every year, in which the affairs of the year will sent down. There are guardians for those affairs after the Prophet (s)." Ibn 'Abbas asked, "Who are they?" Imam said "I and eleven of my descendants, the muhaddath (the one to whom the angels speak) Imams."[6]

Imam al-Baqir (a) said, "O, community of Shi'a! Argue with your opponents by Sura al-Qadr, so that you succeed. By God! It (Surat al-Qadr) is about the Proof of God (Hujjat Allah) on people after the Prophet (s) and it (Sura al-Qadr) is the master of your religion and the extend of our knowledge."[7]

In other words the summary of the argument will be as following:

  • In the Night of Qadr the fate of the year was sent down to the Prophet (s),
  • Laylat al-Qadr is not only for the Prophet's (s) time,
  • There must a person with the same characteristics of the Prophet (s), to whom the angels would be sent down on the Night of Qadr,
  • According to hadiths, this person is an infallible Imam (a) who succeeds the Prophet (s);
  • So there must be an existent infallible Imam in every time to whom the angels would descent, and presently - according to reliable hadiths - he is no one except for Imam al-Mahdi (a), the last infallible Imam.

Specifying Laylat al-Qadr

There is no explicit narration specifying the exact date of Laylat al-Qadr in Islamic sources. However, there are several presumptions according to hadiths.

Shi'a Viewpoint

According to Shi'a hadiths, the Night of Qadr is either 19th or 21st or 23rd of the month of Ramadan. The most probable of the three is the latter. Al-Shaykh al-Saduq said, "Our elite anonymously said that Laylat al-Qadr is the 23rd of the month of Ramadan."[8] It is been narrated from Imam al-Sadiq (a) that there is Laylat al-Qadr to the Day of Judgment and it is in the month of Ramadan.[9] In another hadith, it is reported that the night of 19th is the night of assessment (Taqdir), the night of 21st is the night of confirmation (Ibram) and the night of 23rd is the night of determination (Imda').[10]

Sunni Viewpoint

Based on a narration from the Prophet (s), Sunni believe that Laylat al-Qadr is one of the last ten nights of the month of Ramadan. According, to hadiths in their Sihah[11] most of them mark the night of 27th of Ramadan as Laylat al-Qadr. On the other hand, some Sunni believe that the Night of Qadr was repeated in every year only in the time of the Prophet (s) and after his demise there is no Laylat al-Qadr.[12] Some other believe that the Night of Qadr is an unspecified night in the year. In the year of Bi'tha it was in the month of Ramadan, but in other years it can be in other months.[13]

Merits

There is a complete Sura in the Qur'an describing and eulogizing this night, titled after it -al-Qadr. Here are some attributes of this night which were mentioned in the Qur'an and hadiths:

  • It is better than one thousand months: the Qur'an explicitly denotes this in Surat al-Qadr "The night of Qadr is better than a thousand months." Imam al-Sajjad (a) says in the 44th supplication of Sahifat al-Sajjadiyya, which is about coming of the month of Ramadan "… Then He made one of its nights surpass the nights of a thousand months, and named it the Night of Qadr."[14]
  • The night of revelation of the Qur'an: according to the verses of Qur'an and hadiths, the Qur'an was sent down as a whole on the Night of Qadr from al-Lawh al-Mahfuz (preserved tablet) to the sky of this world or Bayt al-Ma'mur or the heart of the Prophet (s). It is extensively explained in Quranic Studies that there are two revelations for the Qur'an: as a whole and gradual over 23 years of the prophethood of the Prophet Muhammad (s). The latter was a verbal revelation unlike the former.
  • The night of forgiveness of sins: The Prophet (s) has been quoted, "Whoever stays up the Night of Qadr (performing Mustahab acts) and is faithful and believes in the Day of Judgment, all his sins will be forgiven."[15]
  • The heart of the month of Ramadan: Imam al-Sadiq (a) said, "... the master of the months is the month of Allah, the Ramadan month, and the heart of the Ramadan month is the Night of Qadr..."[16]
  • Master of the nights: It has been narrated from the Prophet (s) "The Night of Qadr is the master of all nights."[17]

Merits of the Days of Qadr

According to narrative and jurisprudential sources, the days of the presumed nights of Qadr are similar to their night in merits and attributes.[18]

Mustahab Acts for the Nights of Qadr

The Mustahab (recommended) acts for the nights of Qadr are divided into two types: the acts which are common to the three nights and are done in all of them, and particular acts for each night, which are extensively mentioned in Mafatih al-jinan and other supplication books.

Notes

  1. Qarashī, Qāmūs al-Qurʾān, vol. 5, p. 246-247.
  2. Ṭabāṭabāʾī, al-Mīzān, vol. 12, p. 144.
  3. Malikī Tabrīzī, al-Murāqibāt, p. 237-252.
  4. Makārim Shīrāzī, Tafsīr-i nimūnih, vol. 27, p. 197.
  5. Makārim Shīrāzī, Tafsīr-i nimūnih, vol. 27, p. 190.
  6. Kulaynī, al-Kāfī, vol. 1, p. 247-248.
  7. Kulaynī, al-Kāfī, vol. 1, p. 249.
  8. Ṣadūq, al-Khiṣāl, p. 519.
  9. Ṭabrisī, Majmaʿ al-bayān, vol. 10, p. 786.
  10. Kulaynī, al-Kāfī, vol. 2, p. 772.
  11. Muslim, Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim, vol. 8, p. 65.
  12. Qāsimī, Tafsīr al-Qāsimī, vol. 17, p. 217.
  13. Ibn al-Miftāḥ, Sharḥ al-Azhār, vol. 1, p. 57.
  14. Al-Ṣaḥīfa al-Sajjādīyya, p. 187.
  15. Kāshānī, Manhaj al-Ṣādiqīn, vol. 10, p. 308.
  16. Ḥuwayzī, Tafsīr nūr al-thaqalayn, vol. 5, p. 918.
  17. Majlisī, Biḥār al-anwār, vol. 40, p. 54.
  18. Shaykh al-Ṭūsī, al-Tahdhīb, vol. 4, p. 331.

References

  • Al-Ṣaḥīfa al-Sajjādīyya. Translated by Muḥsin Gharawīyān. Qom: al-Ḥādī, 1378 Sh.
  • Ḥuwayzī, ʿAlī b. Jumʿa al-. Tafsīr nūr al-thaqalayn. Qom: Ismāʿīlīyān, n.d.
  • Ibn al-Miftāḥ, ʿAbd Allāh. Sharḥ al-Azhār. Cairo: al-Ḥijāz, n.d.
  • Kāshānī, Mullā Fatḥ Allāh. Manhaj al-Ṣādiqīn. Tehran: ʿIlmī, 1340 Sh.
  • Kulaynī, Muḥammad b. Yaʿqūb al-. Al-Kāfī. Translated by Muḥammad Bāqir Kamarih-yi. Qom: Uswah, 1375 Sh.
  • Majlisī, Muḥammad Bāqir al-. Biḥār al-anwār. Beirut: Dār al-Iḥyāʾ al-Turāth al-ʿArabī, n.d.
  • Makārim Shīrāzī, Nāṣir. Tafsīr-i nimūnih. Tehran: Dār al-Kutub al-Islāmīyya, 1371 Sh.
  • Malikī Tabrīzī, Mīrzā Jawād. Al-Murāqibāt fī aʿmāl al-sunna. Beirut: Dār al-Iʿtiṣām, n.d.
  • Muslim. Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim. Beirut: Dār al-Kutub al-ʿIlmīyya, n.d.
  • Qarashī, ʿAlī Akbar al-. Qāmūs al-Qurʾān. Tehran: Dār al-Kutub al-ʿIlmīyya, n.d.
  • Qāsimī, Muḥammad Jamāl al-Dīn al-. Tafsīr al-Qāsimī. Beirut: n.p. , n.d.
  • Ṣadūq, Muḥammad b. ʿAlī al-. Al-Khiṣāl. Edited by ʿAlī Akbar Ghaffārī. Qom: Jāmiʿa Mudarrisīn, 1362 Sh.
  • Shaykh al-Ṭūsī, Muḥammad b. al-Ḥasan. Al-Tahdhīb. Tehran: Dār al-Kutub al-Islāmīyya, 1365 Sh.
  • Ṭabāṭabāʾī, Sayyid Muḥammad Ḥusayn al-. Al-Mīzān fī tafsīr al-Qurʾān. Qom: Ismāʿīlīyān, 1371 Sh.
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