Every year during Ramadhan, Muslims would look forward to a night called Laylatul-Qadr, in which those who spend the night performing prayers, reading the Quran, chanting zikhir or any other religious rituals or worshipping, shall be rewarded with blessings better than a thousand months. Muslims believe that Surah Al-Qadri (97) was dedicated to this event as proof of the validity of this claim. The night was said to come filled with blessings and mercy, better than a thousand months, while all sins are forgiven.
The date of Laylatul-Qadr is very much rooted in the Hijri Calendar month of Ramadhan, implying the Lord of the Universe is subscribing to the Arabic calendar. Please be reminded that the Hijra Calendar is a continuation of the Arabic calendar that had served the Arabs since pre-Islamic era, identified as Jahili Calendar. And for this reason, we shall explore the relevance of Surah Al-Qadr, from the Quranic perspective, whether it has any relation to a night called Laylatul-Qadr.
When is Laylatul-Qadr?
The actual date of this night is unknown and has been the subject of speculation by scholars with differing opinions. The Prophet was said to have been shown when the actual date of Laylatul-Qadr, but had forgotten it because he was distracted by some qualrellings and forgotten about it. (Sahih Bukhari Volume 3, Book 32, Number 235 & 240)
The general belief of the occurrence of Laylatul-Qadr is within the last ten nights of Ramadhan.
Narrated by 'Aisha Allah's Apostle used to practice Itikaf in the last ten nights of Ramadan and used to say, "Look for the Night of Qadr in the last ten nights of the month of Ramadan." Sahih Bukhari Volume 3, Book 32, Number 237 (also Sahih Muslim 1174) However, this was narrowed down to the odd numbered nights;
Narrated by 'Aisha Allah's Apostle said, "Search for the Night of Qadr in the odd nights of the last ten days of Ramadan." Sahih Bukhari Volume 3, Book 32, Number 234 According to Ibn Abbas, it could be on the 21st, 23rd or 25th nights
Narrated by Ibn Abbas The Prophet said, "Look for the Night of Qadr in the last ten nights of Ramadan ,' on the night when nine or seven or five nights remain out of the last ten nights of Ramadan (i.e. 21, 23, 25, respectively)." Sahih Bukhari Volume 3, Book 32, Number 238 (also 239) While 'Ubada bin As-Samit said it was on 25th, 27th and 29th
Narrated by 'Ubada bin As-Samit The Prophet came out to inform us about the Night of Qadr but two Muslims were quarreling with each other. So, the Prophet said, "I came out to inform you about the Night of Qadr but such-and-such persons were quarreling, so the news about it had been taken away; yet that might be for your own good, so search for it on the 29th, 27th and 25th (of Ramadan). Sahih Bukhari Volume 3, Book 32, Number 240 As we can see, there is no agreement on the exact date from the authentic hadith. Some contradict each other on the sayings from the same the Prophet that leave us speculating and making guesses whether the night before was the blessed night. Even if we think we saw the signs as speculated by scholars, we were never be sure of it and it will still remain as a guess. So we will repeat the cycle without really knowing of any truth in it.
Scholars reasoning for guessing Laylatul-Qadr
Some scholars argued that the reason the actual date was not disclosed was to make the ummah strive for the bounty during the last 10 nights, in the hope of obtaining the most sought after blessings during the month of Ramadhan.
As Ibn Qudamah al-Maqdisi (d. 620 H) writes:
God has concealed this night from the ummah so that they may strive in seeking it and performing worship throughout the month in the hopes of catching it. Similarly, He concealed the hour of special acceptance on Friday so that one would increase in their supplications throughout the day, and He concealed His Greatest Name (ism al-a’dham) amongst His Divine Names and His Pleasure with acts of obedience so that people would strive for them. And He concealed an individual’s lifespan and the Hour [of the Day of Judgment] so that humanity would continuously strive in good deeds, being heedful of them. Ibn Qudamah,al-Mughni (Dar `Alam al-Kutub), vol. 4, p. 453.
Annual Lottery for Muslims?
This notion that God is making Muslim to speculate and taking chance during the last ten nights is contradictory to what is being mentioned in the Quran on the game of chance – 2:219 & 5:90-91. Is this not like hosting an annual lottery for Muslims that one can just become indifferent towards making good works, for the rest of the year, knowing that he, or she already had a full pocket of blessings for the rest of his or her life?
The only problem with this “reward”, is that, no one has ever claimed to have secured such blessings, even if the person had observed the night diligently every last ten nights, every year. No one had ever come forward and admit with truth, that he or she had obtained such blessings. And yet, every year, most Muslims, without second thoughts, would spend their nights with great hope of achieving it without any tangible results as proof.
The Wrong Calendar
From the previous parts of this series on the Hijra Calendar, we have shown that Muslims the world over are following a flawed calendar that is not the same as the original calendar observed by the Prophet. Muslims today are not fasting in the actual season of Ramadhan, which it was named after. Some thinking Muslims are aware of the flaws in the calendar, but has remained clueless in trying to seek a solution for a correct understanding. But Muslims general ignorance on the glaring fault in the calendar is not surprising, when they are not even able to realize that their annual night rituals had not presented any perceivable substance or outcome.
So here we have a religious event that not only contradict the Quran, but also exploiting a flawed calendar. How much further distort one need to go?
Do we really think God is playing dice?
The Quran is against Conjectures and Guesswork
The Quran has warned us of such predicament, based on assumptions and guessings.
6:116 And if you obey most of those in the earth they will mislead you from the way of Allah. Not they follow except the assumption (al-zana), and not they do except guess (yakhrusūna). 10:36 And not follow most of them except assumption (zannan). Indeed, the assumption (al-zana) does not avail against the truth anything. Indeed, Allah (is) All-Knower of what they do. 10:66 No doubt! Indeed, to Allah belongs whoever is in the heavens and whoever is in the earth. And not follow those who invoke from other than Allah, partners. Not they follow but the assumption (al-zana) and not they but guess (yakhrusūna).
But Muslims are doing just that, and had been convinced by scholars that there are easy ways to gain certain things, such as forgiveness and rewards by simply reciting certain verses or performing certain rituals. Similarly, to gain blessings worth more than a thousand months is just a great deal too good to be ignored . This is not the way of Allah
So whatever happened to accountability?
According to the Quran, if one wishes to seek blessings and achievement from Allah, the rewards of his works will be shown.
An-Najm 53:38 None can carry the burdens of another. 53:39 And the HUMAN BEING will have what he sought. 53:40 And his works will be shown. 53:41 Then he will be paid fully for such works. 53:42 And to your Lord is the final destiny Ibrahim 14:51. That Allah may repay each soul what it hath earned. Lo! Allah is swift at reckoning
And the results of his works should be earned equitably
An-Nisa4:85 Whoever rallies for a good cause will share in its benefits; and whoever rallies for an evil cause will answer for his part in it. God watches everything.
And all shall earn for what they do.
2:134 This was a community which has passed away, for it what it earned and for you what you have earned. And not you will be asked about what they used to do. (also 2:141)
The Quran does not contradict itself. So there is no shortcut, or deal of the century, according to the Quran.
So what is the real message of Surah Al-Qadr?
Let us read the chapter, word by word and make clear sense of the text.
Layl – the term night in the Quran usually refers to the times of darkness, as opposed to the period of enlightenment and revelations. It is the dark period that covers the light (nur).
91:3-4 When the Day when it shows it. When the Night when it draws a veil over it. 93:2 And the Night when it covers with darkness
And the revelation is always when we are in the dark.
44:3 Indeed, We sent it down during a blessed night. Indeed We were to warn.
There was no special night selected from the Arabic Calendar.
Al-Qadr – qadr generally means to measure, estimate, scale, determine or assess. This act of measuring is to determine or assess our predicament, the state of consciousness and truth. If we are able to witness and comprehend the unsound conditions, or obscene situations, then we must act upon it to relieve ourselves from this situation of darkness.
Alfi – from the root word Hamza Lam Fa, : he frequented it, or resorted to it habitually; he became familiar with it, or accustomed, or habituated, to it (the Sihah, Taj al-Aroos)
Verse 3 is saying that the act of comprehending the dark situation is better than making ourselves accustomed to the dark situation.
Also refer to 106:1 & 2 of the familiarity of the Quraisy.
106:1 For the familiarity [liīlāfi], of the Quraish, 106:2 Their familiarity [īlāfihim], embarking [riḥ'lata] the winter [l-shitāi], and the summer [wal-ṣayfi].
Shahri – from the root word Shiin Ha Ra , : he made it apparent, conspicuous, manifest, notorious, notable, commonly known, or public (Sihah, Kamoos)
Something well known.
Al-Fajr – Also in relation to the darkness, Al-Fajr symbolizes the beginning of the light towards a new era.
Revelations comes when we began to make reckoning, assessment, determination, judgement of the dark conditions we experience. It is a period where results are measured and evaluated to analyse or determine the cause and effects of a situation or predicament.
This comprehension will be the turning point, of submitting to what has been ordained by the Lord of the Universe. Such comprehension will reveal the way towards the desirable results, by employing all the right resources towards the conditions of peace and security.
This determination to embark towards betterment is a call to set apart from the accustomed situation, where the dark period has become a familiarity.
We can reflect this in two scenarios;
First is the social economic perspective. In the story of Shuaib, his community were reluctant to change their way of trading by altering the scale and measurement, because they were already comfortable to their ways, that had served them comfortably.
Also in Surah Al-Jumu’a, The elite class were not willing to listen to the call to enjoin goodness and forbid the wrong. They had ignored the message in the call, in preference of the worldly gains and pleasure that has become a familiarity to them
The result of this will be an imbalance of wealth in the community and widening of economic gap resulting in exploitation of the lower section of the society.
This is the dark side which one need to identify, analyse and make the necessary reckonings for the betterment of society.
The other perspective relates to the social doctrines, where a certain society is confined to a customary or religious decree that was based on false doctrine. One will realize it is a false doctrine when the outcome is never tangible, but is rested on hope and belief. Even worst, they do not provide any results of real importance.
Once we have understood the restrictive situation of the dark period, and comprehend the false ideology behind it, we are then able to embody, engage and summon all the forces that are available, to our own disposal.
The European Example
Europeans had experience this dark period, aptly termed as The Dark Ages, a period identified by intellectual and economic decline, where the clergy of the Church reign supreme. Centuries later, Europeans critical thinkers began to perceive religion as antithetical to reason, hence The Age of Reason, or the Enlightenment took shape to transform Europe, with global influences to explore and develop wide range of ideas, knowledge and human values that initiated scientific and industrial revolution that gave us modernism in the 20th Century.
The transformation of Europe from The Dark Ages to it’s current modern and civilized nation is parallel to message of the Surah Al-Qadr. Al-Qadr is not an overnight affair, but requires a long and rigourous process of critique, analysis, reform, development and outcome.
In contrast to the European Dark Ages, the Muslim world was experiencing the Islamic Golden Age that had produced rational thinkers, philosophers and scientists, also known as the Muktazila. On the other hand, the outcome of this Islamic Rationalism or Enlightenment did not result in the same manner of the Europeans. But the works of the Muktazila continued and were carried further by the Europeans during the Age of Reason.
The second half of the Islamic Golden Age has seen a marked increase in the influence of clergymen, that was seen very important by the Empire as means of influence and governing the vast empire. The same model of the Roman Empire, using Christianity to suppress and retain their authority.
It is very unfortunate that the Muslim world is still unable to emulate the Rationalism of the Europeans but took refuge in the same model of the Roman Empire.