The Night of Qadr
“In the name of God, the Beneficent and the Merciful. We revealed it (the Qur’an) on the Night of Qadr. And how do you what the Night of Qadr is? The Night of Qadr is better than a thousand months. The angels and the spirit descend on this night by the permission of their Lord for determining every affair. It is a night full of peace (mercy and blessings) until the rise of dawn.”
We revealed it on the Night of Qadr.
Although this verse does not explicitly take the name of the Qur’an, it is clear that the pronoun refers to the Qur’an. And its apparent ambiguity is to show its importance.
It is clearly seen from the verses of the Qur’an that it was revealed during the month of Ramadan. Allah states: “The month of Ramadan in which was revealed the Qur’an.” (2:185) And what is apparent in this phrase is that the entire Qur’an was revealed in this month.
The phrase “We revealed it” also points to the greatness of this heavenly book. That is to say God has attributed its revelation to Himself. This is especially signified by the use of the personal plural pronoun We, which indicates collectivity and shows prominence. Its revelation on the Night of Qadr, which is the very night in which peoples shares and destinies are allotted, is another proof for its importance.
By combining this verse with the one related above from Sura Baqarah, it can be determined that the Night of Qadr is in the holy month of Ramadan. But which night is it? No conclusions can be made from what the Qur’an says, but the traditions have discussed it in detail.
When is the Night of Qadr?
There is a good deal of discussion concerning this matter, and numerous explanations have been given. From among them the first, seventeenth, nineteenth, twenty-first, twenty-third, twenty-seventh, and twenty-ninth nights of Ramadan have been mentioned. Even so, what is well-known and recognized in the traditions is the fact that it is on the last ten nights of this month, on either the twenty-first or twenty-third night. That’s why we read in a tradition that Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him and his progeny) kept vigil during the last ten nights of this blessed month.
Imam Sadiq (peace be upon him) states that “the Night of Qadr is the twenty-first or the twenty-third night.” When the narrator of this tradition asked him to specify in case he cannot stay up both nights in worship, the Imam did not specify and said, “How easy are two nights for what you seek.” (Noor Al-Thaqalayn, vol. 5, p. 625)
Imam Sadiq also states: “The determination of the decrees are on the nineteenth, its confirmation is on the twenty-first, and the signing is on the twenty-third.” (Noor Al-Thaqalayn, vol. 5, p. 626) This statement has brought all the traditions together. Nevertheless, there is a kind of mystic ambiguity over the Night of Qadr for reasons we will discuss later.
Why is it called the Night of Qadr?
It is named Qadr because an entire year’s destiny for human beings is determined on this night. This is testified to in chapter 44, verses 3-4 of the Holy Qur’an, “We revealed this clear book in a night full of blessings, and We were always a cautioner against evil. On that night in which every affair is determined based on God’s wisdom.”
Certainly, this matter does not at all contradict freewill and ability to choose, because Divine determination by way of angels is based on worth, individual merit, the balance of faith and piety, and the purity of a person’s intentions and actions. Essentially, everyone is sustained with what he deserves. In other words, the path is paved by the person himself. Not only does this not contradict freewill, it emphasizes it.
Some scholars have said that this night has been name the Night of Qadr because it possesses great honor and reverence, similar to verse 22:74, which states: “They did not understand the honor (Qadr) of God.”
At times they have said it is because the Holy Qur’an with its grandeur and magnificence was revealed to the honored Prophet through a noble angel.
Another reason why it is called so is because it is a night for which the revelation of the Qur’an was predestined.
Or it was named as such because the person who stays vigil on that night becomes the possessor of grandeur, high rank, and position.
Lastly, it could have been named thusly due to the fact that so many angels descend on this night, and the earth’s expanse becomes restricted, since Qadr also means restricted, as in chapter 65, verse 7, which states: “And the one whose resources are restricted.” It is possible to combine all of these explanations to give a broader understanding of the Night of Qadr, but the first explanation is the most appropriate and widely recognized.
Why is the Night of Qadr Hidden?
Many scholars believe that the exact time of this night is undisclosed so that people consider all the nights of Ramadan as important. Its benefit is similar to when God places His pleasure among various forms of obedience so that people obey all of His commands. And He places His anger in all forms of sins so that people refrain from all sins. He has secretly placed His friends among people so that all people are respected. He has concealed the answer to prayers among all prayers so that people refer to all prayers. He has hidden His greatest name (Ism A’dham) among all His names so that all of them are considered great. He has concealed the time of death so that people will always be prepared for it. And this is a fitting reason for why the exact time of this night is undisclosed.
How do you know what the Night of Qadr is? The Night of Qadr is a night which is better than a thousand months.
This wording shows that the greatness of this night is to such an extent that even Prophet Muhammad with his vast knowledge was unaware of it prior to the revelation of this verse. Also, we know that one thousand months is greater than eighty years. It is truly a great night that is worth as much as a long and blessed lifetime.
The commentary Dur al-Manthoor (vol. 2, p. 371) has related that the Holy Prophet said: “A person from the Children of Israel wore his battle uniform and did not take it off for a thousand months during which he was constantly prepared to fight in God’s way. The Prophet’s companions were amazed and hoped for such an honor for themselves. The above verse was revealed and stated that ‘The Night of Qadr is better than a thousand months.'”
The same book also relates that he talked about four people from the Children of Israel who had worshiped God for eighty years without committing any sin. The companions also wished for such an opportunity, and the above verse was revealed in connection to this.
The angels and the spirit descend on this night by the permission of their Lord for determining every affair.
As to whom “spirit” (Ruh) refers to here, some have said that it is Gabriel, who is also referred to as the “trustworthy spirit”. Others have said that spirit hear means inspiration or revelation. They have compared it to the verse, “And thus We have sent inspiration to you by Our command” (42:52). Therefore, the meaning of the verse would be, “The angels descend on that night with Divine inspiration concerning the measurement of every affair.”
There is another explanation for it which seems more appropriate than the rest. The spirit is another creation of God which is better than the angels, as is reported in a tradition from Imam Sadiq in which a man asked him: “Is the spirit Gabriel?” The Imam replied: “Gabriel is from the angels, and the spirit is greater than the angels. Does not God say, ‘The angels and the spirit descend’?” (Tafsir al-Burhan, vol. 4, p. 481)
And the intent of the phrase “for every affair” (min kulli amr) is that the angels were sent down on that night for determining and measuring all destinies, and bringing every good and blessing. The purpose for their being sent is carrying out these affairs. Or they bring every good affair and every destiny with themselves on that night. Other scholars have also said that what is intended is that they come down with the command of God, but the first meaning seems more fitting.
It is a night full of peace (mercy and blessings) until the rise of dawn.
It is a night in which the Qur’an was revealed. Staying awake and worshiping God in that night is equal to a thousand months. God’s blessings come down in that night. Furthermore, His special grace takes over His servants, and the angels and the spirit descend on that night.
Therefore, this is a night which is full of peace from start to finish. According to some traditions, Shaitan is locked up in chains on that night. It is a peaceful night full of security.
Some scholars have said the use of “peace” for that night is because the angels greet each other with peace, or greet the believers, or greet the prophet and his infallible successors. It is also possible to combine these explanations. In any case, it is a night full of light, mercy, good, blessings, peace, and felicity – a night unlike any other night.
Imam Baqir was asked: “Do you know which night is the Night of Qadr?” He replied, “How could we not know, when the angels circle around us on that night?” (Tafsir al-Burhan, vol. 4, p. 481)
A few angels came to Abraham to give him the good news of a son and greeted him with peace (salam). Abraham said nothing in the world could compare to the delight he received from their greetings. On this night all the angels come and greet Muhammad’s nations. This shows the lofty position of this nation. How unfortunate that we have not recognized our place!