In the Name of Allah, the Compassionate, the Merciful
“Surely We revealed it (Quran) on the Night of Qadr - And what do you know about what Night of Qadr is - The Night of Qadr is better than a thousand months - The angels and the Spirit descend in it by the permission of their Lord every command - It is peace till the break of the morning.”
(The Holy Quran, Chapter 97 (Surah al-Qadr))
A year consists of different hours, days, nights, months, and most importantly different periods. However amidst all these times, certain moments are given a higher value than the rest because of the special attention of Allah upon them, the effects they have, and the events that occur or have occurred during those times. Of these very important times is the Night of Qadr. This night is the most important and valuable night of the year. The importance of this night is to such an extent that along with the different verses that discuss the Night of Qadr, a whole chapter (Surah) in the Holy Quran has been named after this night.1
To further study the importance of this night, we can consider two series of the verses, one of which talk about its magnificence and the others are about its effects.
The magnificence of this night in the Holy Quran is to the extent that Allah addresses His messenger as “And what do you know about what Night of Qadr is?” By referring to the holy Quran, we find that such kind of addressing is used only when Allah is referring to very important issues or when He is reminding people of very great events. For example, where the Recurrence day and its magnificence is mentioned and Allah has intended to inform people and draw their attraction to the huge events of that day, such kind of addressing is used. Likewise in this verse of Surah al-Qadr, if Allah is addressing His best creature and last messenger in this way, definitely He is implying the great magnificence of this night.
In another verse the almighty Allah considers this night to have a higher value than nearly 30,000 ordinary nights. Such comparison of the Holy Quran is an obvious proof for the high value and great magnificence of such night.
In the second series of verses Allah mention the special features of this night. Having such features causes the Night of Qadr to have special and unique effects among the other nights of the year. For example this night is called Mubarak. Mubarak means full of mercy and blessing. Applying such a word for the Night of Qadr states that this night has the capacity of abundant blessing to the degree that the revelation of the Holy Quran has taken place in this night. Also due to the abundant blessing in this night the gates of forgiveness and mercy of Allah is open to people.
Another effect of it is that in this great night no punishment is assigned for the creatures. For the almighty Allah has named it a night full of Salam (Peace) till the break of the morning.
Considering the greatness and importance of the Night of Qadr and contemplating the effects and events of it, one is naturally inclined to learn more about this holy night. In this article we are to briefly study different aspects of it.Then we will briefly touch on the terminology of Qadr, the events that take place on this night, the exact date, and the ways to truly benefit most from the abundant blessings of this night.
Definition of Qadr
In general, Qadr is defined as measurement. Apparently the reason for using the term Qadr in referring to this grand night is mainly for the fate and measure of all affairs that will be decided in this night. In this precious night, the detail of events and affairs such as life and death, fortune or misfortune, sustenance and wealth … is determined for the Man. Also the detail of Natural events such as floods, earthquakes and … is determined. A verse in the chapter of the Holy Quran, al-Dukhan, confirms this fact about the Night of Qadr: “Therein the detail of every affair which is to happen is made distinct.”
Knowing the outstanding mercy and blessings in this Night of Qadr one may wonder, does this night belong to a certain time; has this night been a specific night in the past? Or is there the Night of Qadr today and we also can benefit from the high blessings of this night?
It is better to search for the answer to these questions in the verses which are talking about this night. The verses in the Holy Quran confirm this fact. When discussing the events that take place on the Night of Qadr, the verbs are used in the continuous form. So this night is not limited to a certain age, time, or year, rather is repeated at different times. This night along with the different events that take place, such as the descending of angels, will be repeated in the present age. But if we focus more deeply on the verses of the Quran, we will discover more details on how this night is repeated continuously in the different ages. One of the clear points that can be seen in the verses is that the Night of Qadr is in the sacred month of Ramadan (this point will be discussed further in the next sections). Just as the month of Ramadan is reoccurring each year, the Night of Qadr is also repeated each year. Therefore, depending upon the level of attention we give to understanding the significance of this night, we too can benefit from the great value and blessings of this night today.
The events that take place on Night of Qadr
As previously stated, by referring to the verses of the Quran, we understand that all affairs destined to happen in the universe and also to each person and other creatures in the following year, are made clear in this night. Moreover the angels will descend these destined affairs in the form of divine command.
By referring to the verses which have talked about the descent of the angles, we can divide the descent of the angles according to their purpose into two groups. One type is when the angels would descend to execute the orders of Allah. Examples of this method can be seen in the descending of angels for the task of helping the believers in Badr, Hunain and other stage, taking the life of people, or the descending of angels to execute a punishment from Allah, like the punishment on the people of Prophet Lut (AS).
The second type of descending is mainly to present the sacred affairs and communicate the message of Allah. It is clear that each message requires a receiver or an audience. Therefore in this manner of descending the angles deal with both Allah as the sender and a recipient. In other words the angles should receive the messages from Allah and then present it or descent it to a creature of Him. An example of this method of descending can be seen in the descending of Angel Gabriel to Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP). Angel Gabriel descended upon Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) for twenty three years to continuously give the messages of Allah.
Now we have to see, which method of descending do the angels have on the Night of Qadr. In the verse 4 of Surah al-Qadr Allah has talked about the descent of the angles and divine commands. In fact in this verse, we should see what the responsibility of the angles about these commands is. Are they to perform such commands? Or are they to descent them and inform these commands as messages? When Allah says that the angels will descend in it by the permission of their Lord, every command, then it is clear that this manner of descending is like the second type: to communicate a message.
The descent of the angles toward which destination?
As it was discussed the descent of the angles in the Night of Qadr is for delivering messages. In this type of descending, the angels act as messengers from Allah to bring a message for a receiver. Therefore there has to be a recipient for the angels to descend upon and give the commands.
Considering the descending of the angels and the message they carry, and supposing that the descent of angles is not vein, one can conclude that the descending of the angels cannot be upon every creation of Allah . Rather it should be upon a person who has the ability of receiving such extensive and important information. Not only different inanimate objects, plants, the animals, and even holy places are incapable of receiving such an important message, but also normal human beings do not have the capacity of receiving such an important message, including the distinction of affairs for all the humans. The distinction of the yearly affairs of only a single man is extensive amount of information. Now let us refer to the verse of the Holy Quran which implies that in that very night the angels reveal the distinction of all affairs, namely not only the distinction of the yearly affairs of you and I, but all the human beings on this planet. Therefore we simply find that an ordinary man can never receive such amount of information in just one night.
On the other hand, the angels reveal the executive commands of Allah. In order for this act of angels to be considered useful, their descent needs to be followed by a result. In another words, the person who the angles descend upon should have a responsibility and role in the process of accomplishment of these commands. Now by a careful glance at ourselves and the people around us, we would find that not only we are not in the position to receive divine messages from the angles, but also we don’t have any role in relation with the distinctions of people.
Now that we realize an ordinary human being cannot be the receiver of the decrees brought by angels, we can therefore expect that certain chosen people exist for this task. These chosen people must be far from any impurities or defects of any normal human being, and they must have the capacity of receiving and executing divine messages. In other words they must be Allah’s representative on the earth. This is the status which the Holy Quran refers to when talking about the representatives of Allah. The representative of Allah is one who represents Allah and with His permission does divine acts, like Prophet Jesus (AS) who was able to bring the dead back to life. The caliph of Allah on the earth is responsible for executing specific command and effects, in other words he is the connection between the heavens and the earth. It is obvious that the Caliph of Allah being His representative on the earth and in connection with Him should be able to receive and execute divine messages.
Who are these people?
Muslims all agree on the fact that in the age of the Prophet the only person whom the angels would descend upon for bringing the sacred messages was the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP). During his lifetime, no one else would receive these messages. However, just as discussed above, the descending of the angels on the Night of Qadr and bringing the divine commands is a progressive act that is repeated each year. Therefore it did not end after the demise of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP). And the angels continue to bring the distinction of people to a person.
It is obvious that such a person should be the one who like the Prophet is appointed to by Allah to be responsible for divine affair like the descent of the angles upon him. Also he should be given the special abilities and capabilities by Allah. Naturally such a person is the continuer of the path of the Prophet and is responsible for the acts which he was responsible for and should be continued after him. To be more clear, he is the successor of the prophet and besides the representative of Allah on the earth.
Historical sources have shown that after the demise of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP), no one except a few have claimed that the angels descend unto him on the Night of Qadr. If they had done such, their claim could be easily defeated by asking the people of his era a few simple questions about the future and its specifics. However there were a few who claimed that angels would descend upon them, and they would defend their claim through legitimate proof. They, like the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) had such a vast knowledge about the incidents of the world that the people of their era would easily realize that they were the most knowledgeable Man in their era. The biographies of these certain people confirm this claim and open a whole new subject that will need to be discussed in other articles.
Let it not be unsaid that these people are none other but the one who the Shiites believe in their Imamah, the successors of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP), the representative of Allah: Ali and the eleven infallible Imam from his progeny (PBUT).
From the above argument, one can deduce that there must be a leader chosen by Allah, a representative of Allah at all times so the angels can descend upon on the Night of Qadr for bringing the destinies. Based on this reasoning the Shiite Muslims believe that after the demise of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP), the angels would descend upon the representatives of Allah and true successors of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) on the Night of Qadr. And in our present age, each year the angels descend upon the living Imam of the time, Imam Mahdi (May Allah hasten his appearance) to bring the destined affairs.
When is the Night of Qadr exactly?
Through verses of the holy Quran and the Prophetic narrations we can deduce that the Night of Qadr is in the holy month of Ramadan. In one verse, Allah confirms that the Quran was revealed in the month of Ramadan, 22 And in another chapter, it is made clear that the Quran was descended on the Night of Qadr, “We have indeed revealed this (Quran) in the Night of Qadr.” 23 Since in the first verse it was made clear that the Quran descended in the month of Ramadan, and in the second verse it was said that the Quran was revealed in the Night of Qadr, then we can conclude that the Night of Qadr is in the month of Ramadan. In addition to the verses of the holy Quran, narrations from Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) and from the Ahl al-Bait (the Imams) also confirm that the Night of Qadr is in the month of Ramadan. The Quran does not reveal the exact Night of Qadr, but the traditions give more detail as to which nights have a higher possibility to be the Night of Qadr. In these narrations, the infallibles have suggested that there is a strong possibility that the Night of Qadr may be on the 19th, 21st, or 23rd of Ramadan. However the 23rd of Ramadan has been given the strongest possibility for being the Night of Qadr.
What is recommended to do on this night?
In the previous sections we referred to the verse that considers the value of the Night of Qadr to be better than a thousand months24. The Infallible Imams (PBUT) see the reason for the excellence of this night in the fact that any good deed or worship done in this night has more value than if one were to accomplish these good acts in a thousand months25.
If we think to ourselves in just a few moments we would get that out of the 365 nights of the year only one has the value of 1000 months and has such extraordinary features. Therefore with a little thinking we would find that we should make the most benefit from this great opportunity. This is the reason that every wise man would strive to do his best in understanding this night and performing good deeds.
On these possible nights of Qadr, it is best to act upon the recommended acts and pay attention to the worships we are advised by the Infallible Imams (PBUT). Of the recommended acts in this night is best to stay up till dawn and think about the issues which help us keep closer to Allah. For example it is proper to sit aside and investigate our acts in the past year. Where were we last year and where we are today?
By thinking about these issues we can get prepared for benefiting better from this night. We may ask Allah a better distinction in this year. We may ask Him to help us follow the path which He is satisfied with. We may ask Him to forgive us in this night which He has promised us the forgiveness for the incorrect acts we have committed. We may decide in this night to obey Allah more than before.
Remembering Allah in our heart, helping the poor, and praying for others is of the other recommended acts of this night.26
In this way every wise man can benefit from the blessings of this night due to his attention to this opportunity. We pray for all to take the best advantage from this valuable night.