Laylat al-Qadr: The Night of Power
Let's analyze the significance of Laylat al-Qadr with commentary,
(tafseer) on chapter 97 of Al-Qur'an, Al-Qadr
(the Night of Power).
This chapter (surah) was revealed in Makkah, and
its basic theme is honoring the revelation of this blessed book,
the Holy Qur`an. The Night of Power or honor is a special gift
only to the community (Ummah) of Islam. The night is one which
even the angels in the heavens see as worthy of witnessing. The
night is so rich with holiness, as the night when good deeds
are returned, and is equal to a thousand months in the sight
Occasion Of Revelation
In a report by Abi Hatim and Al-Wahidi, by way of Mujahid,
the Messenger (saas) mentioned that there was a man among the
Israelites who devoted his life to the cause of Allah for a thousand
months. The companions were amazed and impressed, but were saddened
because they knew there would be no way that they could reach
this status of devotion. So Allah (SWT) revealed this surah to
inform them that He had just blessed this Ummah with the Night
of Honor, which is equal to a thousand months.
"We have indeed revealed it, (Al-Qur`an) in the Night
of Power." (Al-Qur`an 97:1)
There are several points pertaining to the meaning of this
The meaning and the use of the pronoun "We" is a
style in Al-Qur`an that when the Creator (SWT) is mentioned as
a pronoun, He is referred to by "We" or "I,"
as is evidenced in this surah. Elsewhere He said, "Behold,
thy Lord said to the angels: `I will create a vicegerent..."
(Al-Qur`an, 2:30). There is no problem when Allah uses
the pronoun "I" to refer to His Exalted Self, but when
he uses "We" the explanation becomes warranted because
it cannot be perceived to indicate plural. There is unanimity
among the scholars that "We" indicates respect and
exaltation for the Creator and Cherisher of all the worlds, whose
greatness is incomprehensibly vast and beyond our imagination.
Or, it is referring to Allah (SWT) and the angels who carry
out his words to one all, in every level of His dominion. It
cannot mean plural, or more than One Allah, for that would necessitate
dropping in ranks, the absoluteness, and the powers of each competing
deity. If each is capable of being absolute, each would have
been independent from the other and the idea that each deity
can be independent from the other, is evidence that none is absolute.
This is inconceivable of Allah (SWT) therefore, "We"
cannot mean anything but respect and exaltation of the One and
"...Have Indeed Revealed It In the Night of Power"
There is again unanimity among the commentators that "it"
refers to Al-Qur'an, meaning "We revealed"
Al-Qur'an in the Night of Power. He (SWT) did not mention
Al-Qur'an explicitly because to refer to Al-Qur'an
by the pronoun implies a certain divine uniqueness of this book,
as well as greatness and honor that may not be attained if the
word Al-Qur'an was used instead. First, it ascribed
the revelation of Al-Qur'an to Himself, and not to anyone
else. Second, referring to Al-Qur'an by pronoun is an
indication that the revelation of this book was not a secret
that no one knew about. Its revelation was an event widely known
to all during the time of Muhammad (saas) and after, guarding
against anyone who may like to challenge it or claim any honor
of teaching Muhammad (saas) Al-Qur'an. Third, the statement
also meant to honor and memorialize the time period in which
Al-Qur'an was revealed.
By revealing Al-Qur'an in the Night of Power, Allah
(SWT) inaugurated or started its revelation for the beginning
of the prophethood ('Bi'ethah), and the Prophet's mission
of Al-Islam began in the month of Ramadan on that Night.
Al-Qur'an was not revealed in one night; it was revealed
over the course of 23 years. Ibn Abbas (raa) said: The whole
Qur'an was revealed to the lower heavens from the protective
slate (Lawhul Mahfuz) on the Night of Power, then from
there to the earth in the course of 23 years.
The word power, Al-Qadr, has several implications
and meaning, but we cover only those implications which are relevant
to the issues here.
Qadr implies having power over something, as in the
case of the Creator over the creation. Allah's (SWT) excellence
is Al-Qadr, capable, omnipotent, almighty, all powerful.
It also implies excellence and high esteem, and as for this Night
of Power, it is highly esteemed and regarded. For this night
is equal to over 80 years in the sight of Allah (SWT).
It also implies to maintain, appoint, assign or decree an
order. Thus, in the Night of Power, Allah (SWT) proclaims to
the angels His commands and orders in regards to the affairs
of the universe. From this meaning is derived the concept of
Al-Qada Wa Qadar, the fifth article of faith, that Allah
has decreed or preordained or, in other words, has full knowledge
of all that the human being will do with his free will. A man's
decision to act freely in good conscience or bad conscience is
all known to Allah (SWT), past, present and future.
Qadr also implies measurement, that is all the events
of the year will occur in accordance to the exact measurement
of what is in the knowledge of Allah, Who states: "Verily,
all things have We created in proportion and measure." (Al-Qur`an,
Why the name, the Night of Power?
As mentioned above, it is the night of Taqdeer, meaning the
one in which Allah (SWT) announces to the angels His already
decreed commands, rules, events, etc., for the coming calendar
year, from the present Night of Power to the next Night of Power.
Allah (SWT) states:
"We sent it down during a blessed night; We forever wish
to warn (against evil). In that (night) is made distinct every
affair of wisdom." (Al-Qur`an, 44:3-4)
It should be known that most scholars believe Allah's commands
and rules are not made on that night. It has already been decreed
in the eternity what is known to Allah, but that knowledge is
not known to anyone, including the angels, until He announces
it to the angels on that night so that they will record it on
the protective slate.
This is also the night of honor and prestige which may be
awarded to the servant who devotes himself to special deeds,
or to the deeds themselves for the higher value they contain
on that night.
The Night Is Concealed
Allah (SWT) in His mercy, has concealed the Night of Power
from us for the following reasons: The problems pertaining to
an exact night on which the honors are attained are not unique
with this Night. It seems that Allah conceals many things. He
conceals his pleasure from us in all our good deeds so that we
will strive in all of them. He conceals His wrath from us in
all of the sins we commit so that we will avoid them. He conceals
His most beloved servants ('awliya) so that we will
respect all the believers. He has concealed the time of His acceptance
of our supplications so that we will strive in all our supplications.
He concealed his greatest name, so that we mention all His names.
He has concealed the time of death so that we will be conscious
of Him and our deeds all the time.
He has concealed the exact date of the Night of Power so that
we would double our the efforts in the whole month of Ramadan,
or at least the last ten days. He has concealed it also to test
the serious and the non-serious. The seriously interested person
will search for the night late and in the early hours until he
or she attains it, regardless of the hardship.
Where Is The Night?
The majority of the scholars who agreed that the night occurs
in the month of Ramadan, disagreed on the exact night. Some said
it comes on the first day of Ramadan. Others said it is on the
seventh; while others say its on the 19th night. All these opinions
are not built on sound proof. There is evidence that the night
comes on the last ten days of Ramadan, specifically on the odd
numbered nights. In a report by Bukhari, the Messenger of Allah
(saas) said: "Seek it on the odd nights of the last ten
days of Ramadan."
In a hadith by Ibn Umar (raa), some men among the companions
saw the night in a dream occurring in the last seven nights.
Responding to this, the Messenger of Allah (saas) told them,
"I see your dreams coincide on the last seven, whoever wants
to seek it should do so in the last seven." (Agreed upon)
In Muslim's report, the Prophet (saas) said, "Seek the
night in the last ten days, and if any of you is weak, or can't
observe it, he should not miss the remaining seven days."
In Hadith by Ubayy bin Ka'ab (raa), he said: "By Allah,
I know which night it is. It is the night the Messenger commanded
us to observe, the night of the 27th." (Ahmed/Tirmidhi)
Analyzing all these citations indicates still no one knows
for sure which night is the Night of Power, at least in a given
year. It seems that the night shifts and rotates to different
nights from one year to another. It may occur on the 27th in
one year, while the next year it will be on the 25th, while on
the following year it will be occurring on the 29th, etc. There
is an indication to this in hadith by Bukhari, when the Messenger
of Allah (saas) states: "Seek it on the twenty-ninth; it
may be on the twenty-seventh, or on the twenty-fifth." Imam
Ibn Hajr, in his book, "Fathul Bari", in the
commentary of the Book of Bukhari, said: ``I accept the ruling
that the night occurs on the odd nights of the last ten days
of Ramadan, namely the twenty-first, twenty-third, twenty-fifth,
twenty-seventh and or twenty-ninth.''
Seeking The Night
It is recommended to seek the night and spend it diligently
in devotion, including night Sunnah prayers (Tahajjud),
recitation of Al-Qur'an and supplications. In a hadith
related by Abu Hurairah (raa), the Messenger of Allah (saas)
said: "He who spends the night in prayer on the Night of
Power, as a sign of His faith, and seeking rewards from Allah,
his previous sins will be forgiven." (Bukhari/Muslim) This
citation indicates that regardless of whether a person knows
the night or not, Allah will grant him forgiveness for previous
" And what will explain to thee what the Night of
Power is?; The Night of Power is better than a thousand months."
Allah (SWT) is emphasizing by putting the second verse in
question form. The answer being no one knows, or comprehends,
the awesomeness and the depth of honor of the night. As if to
say whatever merits Allah informs you about the night is just
nothing compared to the things you have no idea about. Nonetheless,
He mentions three honors in the credit of the night: 1."The
Night is better than a thousand months. 2. "Therein, come
down the angels..." and 3. "Peace!"
The Night of Power is better than a thousand months.
This indicates that acts of worship such as prayer, charity,
and recitation done on this night are better in reward than the
same act done on other nights. The rewards (thawaab)
are being multiplied several-fold.
Imam Malik reported that the Messenger of Allah (saas) was
shown the long life span of people of previous nations, so the
Prophet bemoaned the shortness of the life span of the Ummah,
fearing that they might not be able to save many good deeds for
the Hereafter. Therefore, Allah gave him the Night of Power to
compensate for their lack of longevity. Hence, the devoted believer
has as chance of adding 80 something years of worship to his
life on the Night of Power. You see, for instance, if you worship
Allah on this night every year for 65 years, by multiplying 65
by 80, you would have lived for 5,200 years, or achieved the
reward of a person who lived that long.
You can see why the devotions were highly encouraged by the
Prophet. Indeed, you can achieve the honor of the Night of Power
if you so wish by spending the odd nights of the last ten days
in acts of worship.
"Therein, come down the angels and the Spirit by
Allah's permission, on every errand." (Al-Qur`an 97:4)
This is far from the earlier cry of the angels who, when Allah
told them, "...I will create a vicegerent on earth,"
they said, "Will you place therein one who will make mischief
therein and shed blood?..." (Al-Qur`an, 2:30)
You see, when the angels first looked at our spirit with its
traits of mischief, vanity and desires, and the rages of anger,
they, the embodiment of all that is good, did not like us at
all. That explains their response in the above verse. So is the
case with parents, when they first conceptualize the shape of
the offspring, semen and congealed blood; they do not like it.
They will even wash their hands, clothes and everything that
this substance touches, a gruesome thing. They may even think
about aborting the baby in the beginning.
But after the baby is being fashioned in the most beautiful
shape and they feel the movement of life, they change from dislike
to caring love.
That is seemingly what happened to the angels. When they saw
in us this beautiful spirit of knowing the Creator, and worshipping
Allah alone, they changed from dislike to complete love, and
cannot wait for another Night of Power to come down so they can
pray for us. Allah states: "...And they implore forgiveness
for those who believe..." (Al-Qur`an, 40:7)
He used the form (tanazzal) "They come",
to indicate that the angels descend on the Night of Power, group
after group; some coming down to earth while others ascend into
the heaven. This heavenly, angelic organized traffic of good
will continues until the break of dawn.
As for the reasons why they come, there are several explanations
including: (1) they descend to witness how we worship and obey
Allah, and (2) to show their deep love for the believers. This
is why they seek permission from Allah to come and meet us. This
is a once-a-year opportunity they do not like to miss. (3) Allah
promised the believers that in the hereafter, angels will approach
on them with greetings: "...And the angels shall enter into
them from every gate (with the salutation): Peace be unto you
for that you persevered in patience..." (Al-Qur`an,
Now, if you preoccupy yourself with worship of Allah, the
angels will descend on you with salutations. (4) Allah (SWT)
singles out this night with honors on the earth so the angels
can come down and increase their rewards, and as a means to encourage
the human race to worship. (5) Realization that the angels are
around is encouragement for the servants to devote more time
to good deeds as a man will work harder when a foreman is present.
"...And the Spirit..." (Al-Qur`an 97:4)
There are several explanations for the meaning of the Spirit:
(1) The Spirit is comprised of groups of special angels who are
seen only on the Night of Power; (2) it is referring to Al-Qur`an,
as Allah (SWT) stated: "And thus have We, by Our command
sent inspiration (spirit) to thee..." (Al-Qur`an 42:52),
(3) This is a reference to Angel Jibreel, as this is a special
honor to Jibreel who has been mentioned twice Surah 42 first
with another angel, and separately as the spirit of Allah (SWT)
as the Qur`an says: "Verily this is a revelation from the
Lord of the Worlds. With it came down the spirit of faith and
truth." (Al-Qur`an, 26:192-193) Thus the correct
explanation of the spirit, Ruuh, is Jibreel in this
verse to indicate the angels on one side and Jibreel on the other,
while they were descending.
"...By Allah`s permission..."
This indicates the angels extend a request to come to meet
the believers; and to underscore the fact that angels are infallible;
that they do not make a move without explicit permission from
their Lord. Allah (SWT) states: "They speak not before He
speaks, and they act (in all things) by His command." (Al-Qur`an,
21:27) "(The angels say) We descend not but by command
of thy Lord..." (Al-Qur`an 19:64)
"(Their) Lord." It indicates honor for the angels.
It is as if Allah (SWT) is saying ``They are for Me and I am
for them''. Similarly, Allah (SWT) said regarding us: "Verily
your Lord is Allah Who created the heavens and the earth in six
days..." (Al-Qur`an, 10:3) And regarding Prophet
Muhammad (saas) Allah said: "Behold, your Lord said to the
angels..." (Al-Qur'an, 2:30)
It has been reported that when Prophet David was terminally
ill, he asked Allah to be for his son Solomon, as He was for
him. Allah (SWT) replied, saying: "Tell Solomon to be for
Me as you are for Me. (Al-Qur`an 2:30)
"...On every errand..."
This indicates the angels and the Spirit descend for different
purposes: some come down for prostration, some for bowing, and
others for supplications for the believers and salutations. Or
they come down carrying with them the proclamations of the coming
"Peace!..." (Al-Qur`an 97:5)
There are several explanations to this verse: (1) The whole
Night of Power, from sunset to the break of dawn, will be spent
by the angeles in salutation. (2) The purpose is to describe
the night with peace because of the salutation from the angels.
That is very important, because when seven angels visited Prophet
Ibrahim (saas) and saluted him, he was very happy, and when Nimrod
threw him in the fire, it turned ice-cold when the angels saluted
him. (3) This is a wish of safety and peace from all evil and
harmful things, or the angels will only bring on this night,
"...Until the rise of morn." (Al-Qur`an 97:5)
All the honor, blessings and peace of the Night of Power will
continue in every second of the night until Fajr. Allah (SWT)
is the Best Knower.