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Laylat al-Qadr

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Laylat al-Qadr (Arabic: لَیلَة القَدر; literal meaning: Night of the Measure, Night of the Destiny) is the night of the revelation of the Qur'an and the predestination of the coming year for all persons. In the Qur'an and hadiths, the Night of Qadr is said to be more valuable than one thousand months. It is the most virtuous night of the year and the night of divine mercy and the forgiveness of sins, when angels descend on the Earth. According to some Shiite hadiths, the angels present people's predestination for the coming year to the Imam.

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 whether the eve of 19th or 21st or 23rd of the month of Ramadan. Majority of Shi'a emphasis on the eve of 23rd and 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 (a)'s martyrdom at Ramadan 21 has increased the importance of these days among Shi'a.

Naming

Qadr, (قدر) in Arabic, means measure and limit or value of something or destiny.[1] 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.
  • 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.

Other names such as "Laylat al-'Azama" (Arabic:ليلة العظمة; night of the greatness) and "Laylat al-Sharaf" (Arabic:ليلة الشرف; night of the honor) have also be mentioned for this night.

Place and Significance

The Night of Qadr is the most superior and the most important night of the year in the Islamic culture. According to a hadith from the Prophet (s), the Night of Qadr is a divine endowment to Muslims, which was not enjoyed by any of the past nations. There is a full sura in the Qur'an characterizing and praising the Night of Qadr, and thus it is called "Sura al-Qadr." In this sura, the value of the Night of Qadr is said to be greater than one thousand months. Verses one to six of Qur'an 44 are also concerned with the importance and events of the Night of Qadr.

According to a hadith from Imam al-Sadiq (a), the best month is Ramadan, and the heart of the month of Ramadan is the Night of Qadr. There is a hadith from the Prophet (s) to the effect that the Night of Qadr is the head of all nights. According to sources of hadiths and jurisprudence, the Days of Qadr are as virtuous and valuable as its Nights. In some hadiths, Lady Fatima (a) is referred to as the secret of the Night of Qadr. According to these hadiths, if one recognizes the status of Fatima (a), he will recognize the Night of Qadr. For Shi'as, the Nights of Qadr are doubly important, because events such as the martyrdom of Imam 'Ali (a) occurred in the last ten days of the month of Ramadan. In addition to recommended practices of these nights, the Shi'as also mourn for Imam 'Ali (a).

Revelation of the Qur'an

The first verse of Qur'an 97 (Sura al-Qadr) and the third verse of Qur'an 44 say that the Qur'an was revealed in the Night of Qadr. Muhammad 'Abduh believes that the gradual revelation of the Qur'an began in the Ramadan month. However, the majority of exegetes hold that the whole Qur'an was instantly revealed from the Preserved Tablet (al-Lawh al-Mahfuz) to the Frequented House (al-Bayt al-Ma'mur) on the Prophet's heart, which is referred to as the instant revelation or compact revelation of the Qur'an.

Predestination of Affairs

In an interpretation of the verse four of Qur'an 44[2], Imam al-Baqir (a) said: every year in this night, every person's destiny in the coming year will be determined. Thus, in some hadiths, the Night of Qadr is said to be the beginning of the year. According to 'Allama Tabataba'i, "the word, "qadr," means measurement, and thus, in this night, God measures and determines events such as life, death, livelihood, happiness, and misery." There are hadiths to the effect that the wilaya of Imam 'Ali (a) and other people from Ahl al-Bayt (a) were confirmed in this night.

Forgiveness of Sins

According to Islamic sources, the Night of Qadr is special night for divine mercy and the forgiveness of sins. In this night, Satan will be chained and doors of the Heaven will be opened to believers. The Prophet (s) was quoted as saying: "if a person stays vigilant in the Night of Qadr and is a believer in the day of rewards and punishments, then all his sins will be forgiven."

Descent of Angels

According to verses of Qur'an 97, angels and the Spirit descend on the Earth in the Night of Qadr, and according to some hadiths, they meet the Imam to notify him on what is predestined for people in the coming year. Imam al-Baqir (a) said: "in this night, angels circumambulate around us, whereby we find out that it is the Night of Qadr." In some other hadiths, Shi'as are recommended to draw upon this fact to present an argument for the necessity of Imamate and the rightfulness of Shiism, since at each age there must be an Infallible Imam whom angels notify about people's predestinations.

Time

There are different views on which night in the year is the night of Qadr.

The Shi'a View

Shiite exegetes appeal to apparent meanings of verses of Sura al-Qadr (Qur'an 97) to show that the Night of Qadr was not only the night in which the Qur'an was revealed in the period of the Prophet (s); it repeats every year. This is confirmed by many hadiths, which are believed by some people to be mutawatir. However, the precise time of the Night of Qadr is not known, and there is no specification of the time of the Night of Qadr in Quranic verses and hadiths. However, it is emphasized by many hadiths that the Night of Qadr occurs in the Ramadan month.

In Shiite hadiths, one of the tree nights, Ramadan 19, 21, and 23, is said to be the Night of Qadr, and of these three nights, the latter is allegedly more likely to be the Night of Qadr. According to another hadiths, destinies are written on the night of Ramadan 19, are finalized on the night of Ramadan 21, and are ultimately confirmed on the night of Ramadan 23.

Two other possibilities about the time of the Night of Qadr are the nights of Ramadan 27 and Sha'ban 15.

The Sunni View

The majority of Sunnis appeal to a hadith from the Prophet to show that the Night of Qadr is one of the last ten nights of the Ramadan month, and the night of Ramadan 27 is more likely to be the Night of Qadr. Accordingly, Sunnis supplicate and stay vigilant on this night. Some Sunnis maintain that the Night of Qadr was repeated every year only during the lifetime of the Prophet (s), but there is no Night of Qadr after his demise. According to some others, the Night of Qadr is not a specific night every year; instead, different unknown night is the Night of Qadr each year. They believe that in the year in which prophet Muhammad (s) was appointed as a prophet, the Night of Qadr occurred in the Ramadan month, but it might occur in other lunar months in other years.

Differences of Horizons and the Specification of the Night of Qadr

Only one night of every year is the Night of Qadr. However, because of different horizons of countries (e.g. Iran and Arabia), the Ramadan month begins at different times in different locations, and thus, nights of Ramadan 19, 21, and 23 will also differ in these countries. With regard to this conflict, jurists believe that differences in horizons of different countries does not imply that there are different Nights of Qadr, and people in each region of the world should determine the Night of Qadr and other sacred times, such as Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha in accordance to their own horizons. According to Ayatollah Makarim Shirazi, a night is the shade of a half of the Earth, which moves with Earth's rotation which takes twenty four hours. Thus, the Night of Qadr can be a complete rotation of the Earth; that is, twenty four hours of darkness covering the whole Earth. Thus, the Night of Qadr begins from a region, and then continues for twenty four hours covering the whole Earth.

The Practice of the Infallibles

There is a hadith from Imam 'Ali (a) according to which, in the last ten days of the Ramadan month, the Prophet (s) took his sleeping sheets with him to the mosque and practiced I'tikaf there, and although the mosque of Medina had no ceiling, he did not leave the mosque even when raining. It is quoted that the Prophet (s) stayed awake on Nights of Qadr and splashed water on faces of sleepy people.

Lady Fatima (a) worshiped God in the Night of Qadr until morning, and had her children and family stay up the night and worship, and she compensated their sleeping problem with eating less and sleeping during the day. The Infallibles (a) were presented in mosques and stayed vigilant in Nights of Qadr. According to a hadith, Imam al-Sadiq (a) was very sick in one Night of Qadr. Notwithstanding this, he asked his companions to take him to the mosque where he could worship.

Mustahab acts of Laylat al-Qadr

The mustahab (recommended) acts for the nights of Qadr are divided into two types:

  1. Acts which are common to the three nights such as Ghusl, vigil (Ihya'), prayer of Laylat al-Qadr, Reciting sura 44 and sura 97 of the Qur'an, reciting al-Jawshan al-Kabir supplication, ziyara of Imam al-Husayn (a) and holding the Qur'an on the head.
  2. Particular acts for each night, which are extensively mentioned in Mafatih al-jinan and other supplication books.

Rituals

Shi'as practice the rituals of the Night of Qadr every year in mosques, tekyehs, shrines of Imams or children of Imams, Husayniyyas or their own houses. They stay vigilant the whole night until dawn and worship God. The most important practices of the Night of Qadr include congregational prayers, recitation of the Iftitah Supplication, Abu Hamza al-Thumali Supplication, and al-Jawshan al-Kabir, and collective supplications while they keep volumes of the Qur'an on top of their heads. Other rituals of the night include donations of dawn food and breakfasts, payment of their nadhr for the dead, feeding the poor, and emancipation of financial prisoners.

Since the martyrdom of Imam 'Ali (a) occurs in the last ten days of the Ramadan month, Shi'as mourn in these nights.

See Also

Notes

  1. Qarashī, Qāmūs al-Qurʾān, vol. 5, p. 246-247.
  2. فِيهَا يُفْرَقُ كُلُّ أَمْرٍ حَكِيمٍ; Every definitive matter is resolved on it (Q 44:4)

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