On Laylat al-Qadr

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The Night of God’s Decree in the last ten days of the month of Ramadan

from NUZHAT AL-MAJALIS of Abdur Rahman as-Sufuri

God the Exalted said: “We have sent it down on the Night of the Decree” (97:1). It means that the Qur’an descended as a whole in one single time from the Preserved Tablet (al-lawh al-mahfuz) to the Nearest Heaven (al-sama’ al-dunya) and then placed in the House of Glory (bayt al-`izza), after which Gabriel would descend with its diverse parts over a duration of twenty-three years. The first verse revealed from it was: “Recite in the name of thy Lord Who createth” (96:1) and the last was: “And guard yourselves against a day in which ye will be brought back to God, then every soul will be paid in full that which it hath earned, and ye will not be wronged” (2:281) – Qurtubi said it.

I read in Ibn al-Subki’s Tabaqat (Transmission-Layers of the Shafi`i scholars) on the authority of Imam Ahmad ibn Isma`il al-Qazwini that the Prophet (s) lived for seven days after this verse was revealed. Al-Rafi`i* said: “And the same Imam Ahmad died seven days after saying this.” I read in Ibn Abu Jamra’s commentary on Bukhari that some of the scholars said the first verses revealed were those of “Recite” while others said they were those of “The Cloaked One” (“al-Muddaththir,” sura 74). What reconciles them is that “Recite” is the first revelation to descend was “Recite,” while the first order to warn was “The Cloaked One”.**

If it is asked: “Why did he say: “Arise and warn, and he did not mention the glad tidings, although the Prophet (s) is both a warner and a bringer of glad tidings?” The answer is that the glad tidings are for those who enter into the fold of submission, and at the time that this sura was revealed, no-one had yet entered Islam, and God knows best…

*The chief legal authority in the late Shafi`i school, followed by Nawawi.

** “O thou enveloped in thy cloak, arise and warn! thy Lord magnify, thy raiment purify, pollution shun!”

Ibn al-`Imad said: “We have sent it down on the Night of the Decree” indicates that the night is better than the day. The scholars differed in the meaning of its excelling a thousand months (“The Night of the Decree is better than a thousand months” 97:3) which adds up to 83 years and four months, or 30,000 days and 30,000 nights. Ibn `Abd al-Salam said in his Qawa`id (Rules): “The good deed (al-hasana) on that night is better than 30,000 good deeds on another.” Ibn Mas`ud said: “It is incumbant upon the believer to intend spending it in prayer from the very first night of the month of Muharram (the first month of the year) to the end of the year, so that he will most certainly chance upon it.” Nawawi said: “None is granted the benefit of its excellence except he to whom God shows its exact occurrence.” Mawardi said: “And it is desirable for him who knows it, not to reveal it.”

A large number of the commentators have said that deeds done on that night are better than the deeds of 1,000 months which do not contain a Night of the Decree. Ka`b al-Ahbar said — may God be well pleased with him:

“There was a righteous king among the Bani Isra’il. God revealed to their Prophet: “Tell him to wish for something.” He said: “I wish to strive in the way of God with my possessions and my offspring.” God gave him one thousand children. He began to prepare each child for battle until that child died as a martyr, whereupon he prepared the next one, and so forth until they were all killed in a period of 1,000 months. Then the king himself entered the fray and was killed. The people said: “No-one will ever be able to attain to his merit.” And (now) God revealed this sura (The Decree).”

Al-Waqidi said: “It is the first sura revealed in Madina.” Najm al-Din al-Nasafi, however, says: “Eighty-five suras were revealed in Mecca, the first being al-Fatiha and the last “Woe unto the Defrauders” (sura 83); and twenty-nine were revealed in Madina, the first being “al-Baqara” (sura 2) and the last “al-Ma’ida” (sura 5).”

Abu Bakr al-Warraq said: “Solomon’s kingdom was five hundred months, and Dhu al-Qarnayn’s kingdom was five hundred months, and God has made the deeds done during that night outweigh both kingdoms.”

I saw in Rawd al-afkar (The Meadows of Reflections) that one day the Prophet (s) mentioned four men who had who had worshipped God for eighty years, not disobeying him for one blink of an eye. The Companions were seized by wonder at this, whereupon Gabriel came to him and brought him this sura so that the Prophet (s) and the Companions became happy.

The scholars differ concerning the designation of the Night of the Decree. Most say that it falls on the twenty-seventh of Ramadan. Whoever prays on that night four rak`at (prayer-cycles) in which he recites al-Fatiha, “Rivalry in worldly increase distracteth you” (sura 102) once, and “Say He is God: One” (sura 112) three times, Allah will make the throes of death easy for him, remove from him the punishment of the grave, and give him four pillars of light on top of each of which rest 1,000 palaces.

Al-Shafi`i said — may God be well pleased with him: “The strongest reports I have is that it falls on the twenty-first.” The author of Tanbih al-ghafilin (Abu al-Layth al-Samarqandi, d. CE 983 CE) reportedly said it is not confined to the last ten nights of Ramadan, but al-Rafi`i rejected this opinion. What I did see in the “Tanbih” is that he said that the letters which form “The Night of the Decree” are nine (la-y-la-t-a-l-qa-d-r), and God mentioned it three times in the sura: 9 x 3 = 27, which is an indication that it falls on the twenty-seventh.

This is also the opinion of Ibn `Abbas, who adduced the fact that God created seven heavens, seven earths, seven seas, and seven days; and that He created us from seven elements and nourished us with seven kinds of food, according to His saying (80:27-31):

“And we cause the grain to grow therein”— this is (1)wheat and (2)barley —“and (2) grapes, and (3) reeds”— that is, canes –“and (4) olives and (5) dates, and garden-closes of thick foliage”-– orchards with great trees –“and (6) fruits”— such as figs —“and (7) grasses”— that is, the vegetation which animals eat.

And finally, (Ibn `Abbas adduces) that He ordered us to prostrate upon hearing seven verses. All this is discussed in the chapter on trust (al-amana).

Blessings and Peace on the Prophet, his Family, and his Companions

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