Monday, August 30, 2010

Lailat al Qadr, The Night of Power: Quranic Revelation, Prayer, Forgiveness, and The Final 10 Days of Ramadan

In Islamic belief, Lailat al Qadr (Shab-e-Qadr [Farsi] Kadir gecesinin [Turkish]), the Night of Power, is the night of the first revelation of Islam to the Prophet Mohamed, and hence the beginning of the series of revelations that collectively form the Qur'an. This is a special night within the month of Ramadan. However, as the exact date of the night was deliberately not revealed, it is thought to be one of the odd numbered nights during the last 10 days of the month--(19), 21, 23, 25, 27, or 29 Ramadan.

This encourages the extension of special worship over the 10 days, and especially the odd numbered nights, so that the last 1/3 of the month of Ramadan is one of extra prayer (including Taraweeh, the post-Isha prayers during Ramadan), readings of holy texts, communal prayer at night in the mosque, and of observance. It is also a special period of asking for forgiveness from Allah--forgiveness of oneself, and of others on their behalf. Prayers in support of others who require help are another important form of prayer, and especially at this time.

Surah 97 of the Quran, Al-Qadr  (Power, Fate or Destiny), addresses Lailat al Qadr specifically:

Total Verses: 5
Revealed At: MAKKA

We have indeed revealed this (Message) in the Night of Power:
And what will explain to thee what the night of power is?
The Night of Power is better than a thousand months.
Therein come down the angels and the Spirit by Allah's permission, on every errand:
Peace!...This until the rise of morn!

This Night of Power is by extension a night when prayers are believed to be rewarded as if they were prayed for a thousand months--a lifetime (83.4 years). Thus many Muslims spend the entire night, or nights, in prayer, some taking time from work, some essentially living at the mosque. In addition to traditional prayers, Muslims make a special effort to read the Quran. Other texts about the faith may be read as well. Books of Quranic explication, books about the lives of the Prophet and his companions, books about religious law, and about forms of prayer may all be part of the special worship during this time.

In addition to the physical demands of Ramadan, praying all night is physically demanding, and should be done in safe measure, and paced throughout the night if one is going to remain awake for it. Those whose occupations or life demands don't allow them to invert their days and nights need to be more carefuly not to over tax themselves nor to perform poorly or unsafely during the day, due to fatigue.

Nonetheless, this last period of Ramadan is a special one, and an opportunity to be extra reflective, and extra forgiving of others, before the ending of the month, and the celebration of thanks giving, Eid Al-Fitr.

Photographer and PhD candidate (Anthropology),  Damon Lynch has a series of 14 exceptional photographs of Laylat al Qadr at Al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, thumbnails for expansion here. They give a sense of the ambiance, the reverance, and the family activity during these days and nights.

Over the next 10 days I will elaborate on some of the aspects of Lailat Al Qadr, and of Ramadan, including the Revelation, the Quran, and Umrah. Meanwhile, earlier posts from this Ramadan and from last year are relevent:

Ramadan and the Mixed Couple/Family
Ramadan, Zakat, Sadaqa, and Charity:
When Mixed Marriages Go Awry, and Mixed Families Suffer;
They're Off!;
Eid Al-Fitr and Thanks Giving:
"Do you believe in miracles?"
Ramadan and Remembering Pakistan:
Life in the time of the cholera?
Parts II, III, and IV: The Floods and Sociobiology; The Response; Katrina 5 Years On

How do you and your family usually spend this last period of Ramadan?
In what way is it special to you or not?
In your country when/ how do most Muslims observer Lailat al Qadr?
Any other comments, thoughts, impressions, experiences?


Susanne said...

It's special to me because Samer and I became friends during the last ten days of Ramadan 2007. ;)

Chiara said...

Susanne--thank you for your comment, and such a lovely sentiment! What a wonderful friendship you have!


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