‘Ulama (Islamic scholars) interpret that if the Night were known, people (especially the commoners) would worship on that Night alone. They might make it ceremonial. Now, the Night being unknown, people would make the best efforts to catch it up.
Lailatul Qadr (Night of Power) from Socio-Religious and Leadership Perspectives
Our Holy Prophet (peace be upon him) lived for sixty-three years only. And he prophesied that the lifespan of the Muslim Ummah (Community) would be sixty to seventy years (Jami’ at-Tirmidhi 2331). On the other hand, Hazrat Adam and Hazrat Nuh (peace be upon them) lived for more or less than one thousand years. As in the case of the present Ummah, those prophets are thought to represent the lifespans of their respective Ummah (Tatli 2011).
As they lived long, they had opportunities to earn more rewards for good deeds than we do. For this reason, Allah, the Most Merciful, granted us an opportunity to catch them up or even to surpass them in this respect. And that is the worship in the Night of Power/Decree (Lailatul Qadr).
Worship in this night is more rewarding than the worship for one thousand months (eighty-three years and four months) (Qur’an 97:3). Plus, that one night’s worship will wipe out the previous sins (Sunan Abi Dawud 1372). But the most regrettable thing is that the blessed night is unknown. What happened is that Allah let the Prophet (PBUH) know of the exact night and he was coming to his Companions (Allah be pleased with them) to convey this, but he was distracted by a quarrel of two persons. Allah made him forget the date. He (PBUH), however, advised the Companions to search for it on the odd nights of the last ten days of Ramadan. He, of course, maintained that probably it was better for them (Sahih al-Bukhari 49).
Now, in the following, I would like to briefly reflect upon the above incident and the importance of the Night of Power/Decree from social, religious, and leadership perspectives.
As learned above, Lailatul Qadr is so meritorious, but it remained unknown to the Ummah forever due to the quarreling of two Muslims. This shows that Allah dislikes mutual quarrels and friction. Rather, He loves those who check their anger, forgive others, spend on others (like hospitality, charity) and do good of all sorts (Qur’an 3:134).
Therefore, the Holy Prophet (PBUH) advised us to avoid those vices that may lead to quarrel and fight, such as malice, aversion, and (unwanted) inquisitiveness about others and outbidding (with a view to raising the price). Rather he encouraged us to “be fellow-brothers and servants of Allah” (Sahih Muslim 2563c). He (PBUH) guaranteed “a house in the surroundings of Paradise for a man who avoids quarreling even if he were in the right, a house in the middle of Paradise for a man who avoids lying even if he were joking, and a house in the upper part of Paradise for a man who made his character good” (Sunnan Abi Dawud 4800).
Given the importance of family as the first institution of society, he (PBUH) admonished against friction between husband and wife, which is most pleasing to the Devil (Sahih Muslim 2813b). The quarreling in question was so displeasing to Allah probably because it happened in Ramadan, which is totally opposed to the teaching and spirit of Islam as the Prophet (PBUH) said that a fasting person “should neither use obscene language nor do any act of ignorance. And if anyone slanders him or quarrels with him, he should say: ‘I am fasting, I am fasting.'” (Sahih Muslim 1151a).
However, practically speaking, chances of quarreling or differences between people may be avoided but cannot be totally eliminated. That is why if there happens a dispute between people, it must be settled so that peace in society prevails. The Holy Prophet (PBUH) attached tremendous merit to this act of peacemaking.
Once, he (PBUH) asked the Companions (Allah be pleased with them), “Shall I not inform you of something more excellent in degree than (supererogatory) fasting, prayer, and charity?” They replied, “Yes, Prophet of Allah!” Then, the Prophet said: “It is putting things right between people, spoiling them is the shaver” (i.e., destroyer of religion) (Sunan Abi Dawud 4919 and Jami’ at-Tirmidhi 2509).
As we know, due to quarreling, the Prophet (PBUH) forgot exactly what night was the Night of Power/Decree. He (PBUH) said that perhaps it was better for the Companions (and for the Ummah as a whole). Then, he advised us to search for it in the odd days of the last ten days of Ramadan. Now, the question is – what did the Prophet (PBUH) mean by “better” in this context?
‘Ulama (Islamic scholars) interpret that if the Night were known, people (especially the commoners) would worship on that Night alone. They might make it ceremonial. Now, the Night being unknown, people would make the best efforts to catch it up. If, however, despite sincere intentions, anyone misses it due to valid reasons like sleepiness, personal, family or social issues, Allah, the Most Merciful, may still forgive him /her taking the intention into account as the Prophet (PBUH) said, “The reward of deeds depends upon the intentions” (Sahih Bukhari 1). This is how it is “better” for us.
Of course, we must have to make our good intention and possible efforts to catch the Night together with hope in Allah’s mercy. Here is a glad tiding that was given in a hadith that copies Allah’s Words as follows:
“I live in the thought of My servant and I am with him as he remembers Me … When he draws near Me by the span of his hand, I draw near him by the length of a cubit and when he draws near Me by the length of a cubit, I draw near him by the length of a fathom and when he draws near Me by walking I draw close to him hurriedly” (Sahih Muslim 2675g).
We have noticed that even though the quarreling, especially in Ramadan, made the Prophet (PBUH) forget the exact Qadr Night apparently causing a huge spiritual loss for the Ummah, he (Prophet) took it positively.
He (PBUH) did not blame anyone nor did he utter even a word of contempt. Rather he consoled his followers saying that there might be something better in it (and we have seen above how it has been better). This was part of his character. In everyday life, he was most loving, caring, and forgiving to others (Qur’an 9:128). That is why Allah titled him as “an exalted standard of character” (Qur’an 68:4) and “the Mercy for the worlds” (Qur’an 21:107).
Love, leniency, kindness, sympathy, cooperation, and fellow-feeling were his tools to bring the Ummah together. He even forgave his arch-enemies. Otherwise, they would have run away from him (Qur’an 3:159). In this way, he successfully built the Ummah and left a glowing example for us all who want to establish peace on the face of the earth today. An illustrious scholar of comparative religion, Karen Armstrong (2001, p.15), has this to say in this context,
“But above all, we can learn from Muhammad how to make peace. His whole career shows that the first priority must be to extirpate greed, hatred, and contempt from our own hearts and to reform our own society. Only then is it possible to build a safe, stable world, where people can live together in harmony, and respect each other’s differences”.
From the above, we learn that we should make and maintain social peace. It is a virtuous act. Second, since the exact Qadr Night is unknown, we should seek it in the odd-numbered days from the last ten days of Ramadan. We should, most importantly, pray ‘Isha and Fazr Fard (obligatory) Salah in congregation, which will give us the reward of praying for the whole night. In addition, if we should pray optional (nafl) Salah and do other acts like reading the Qur’an, doing dhikr, making charity, etc., that will credit more rewards to our account helping us get closer to Allah.
Last, we should be positive, considerate, and kind to others, especially our household people, relatives and work colleagues. It will create and fortify our social bond responding to Allah’s call for holding fast to His Rope (Deen) together (Qur’an 3:103).
Armstrong, K. (2001). Muhammad: A Biography of the Prophet. London: Phoenix.
Jami’ at-Tirmidhi found at https://sunnah.com/
Sahih al-Bukhari found at https://sunnah.com/
Sahih Muslim found at https://sunnah.com/
Sunan Abi Dawud found at https://sunnah.com/
Tatli, A. (2011), ‘Questions on Islam’ Found here.