Lecture 22 in the Ramadaan series:
UNPACKING THE MOST INTRIGUING QUESTIONS IN THE QURAN
Saturday 16 May 2020 (23rd Night of Ramadaan 1441)
Ahlul Bait (a.s) Masjid, Ottery, Cape Town
Mowlana Syed Aftab Haider
Respected brothers and sisters, followers of the religion of truth and the divine message of Islam; followers of the final message of Almighty Allah (SWT) to humanity, Quran al-Hakeem, we are in the most important night of the year, and therefore every moment counts. We need to make sure that we benefit as much as possible from this night.
As we are all aware, tonight is most likely that night which is regarded in Islamic teachings, in the Quran and also Hadith reported from the Prophet of Islam (SAWA) as well as from his purified Ahlul Bait (a.s) to be the most precious and most important night of the year.
This night is so great, that the whole chapter of Surah Qadr is dedicated to describing to us the magnanimity of this night. Surah Qadr (chapter 97 of the Holy Quran), which we all know by heart, reads as follows:
إِنَّا أَنْزَلْنَاهُ فِي لَيْلَةِ الْقَدْرِ
- Surely We revealed it on the grand night.
وَمَا أَدْرَاكَ مَا لَيْلَةُ الْقَدْرِ
- And what will make you comprehend what the grand night is?
لَيْلَةُ الْقَدْرِ خَيْرٌ مِنْ أَلْفِ شَهْرٍ
- The grand night is better than a thousand months.
تَنَزَّلُ الْمَلَائِكَةُ وَالرُّوحُ فِيهَا بِإِذْنِ رَبِّهِمْ مِنْ كُلِّ أَمْرٍ
- The angels and Gibreel descend in it by the permission of their Lord for every affair,
سَلَامٌ هِيَ حَتَّىٰ مَطْلَعِ الْفَجْرِ
- Peace! it is till the break of the morning.
WHAT DO WE KNOW ABOUT THE GRAND NIGHT OF QADR?
Verse 2, which presents this question, is basically a question in the form of denial. This means that we do not know what is Laylatul Qadr. According to some of our religious scholars and commentators of the Holy Quran, who have deeper understanding as the experts, explain that comprehending (as referred to in verse 2) is the primary level of our relationship and interaction with the night of Qadr.
What is meant here is that we are stuck in that primary level of our understanding of the night of Qadr. We do not know, as it is way beyond our ability to comprehend, let alone capture the reality and truth about the night of Qadr.
THIS GRAND NIGHT OF DESTINY IS BETTER THAN A THOUSAND MONTHS
The next verse is an indication for us to realize the greatness of this night, not as if we can capture the reality of it. It is a night which is greater than a thousand months, meaning this one night is worth more than 83 years! This is more or less the average lifespan, so this verse is saying that the value of this night is worth that of a lifetime!
Another meaning is that the impact of this one night is on the whole lifetime. If we can benefit from this great night, even a drop in the ocean, our whole life will change! This night can change everything. That is why this is called the night of Qadr ie. the night of measurement. Measurement in this context refers to the measurement of our destiny.
Amongst the Surahs which are recommended to be recited on this auspicious night, we read in verse 4 of Surah Dukhaan (chapter 44 of the Holy Quran):
فِيهَا يُفْرَقُ كُلُّ أَمْرٍ حَكِيمٍ
Therein every wise affair is made distinct.
This verse emphasizes that every decision is taken in this night. Destinies are determined. Therefore, your whole life depends on this sacred night!
THE NIGHT OF QADR IS PRESENT TENSE AND NOT THE COMMEMORATION OF A HISTORIC EVENT
Moving on to verse 4 of Surah Qadr, we further understand the scene of this night. It is the night when the angels descend. What does this mean?
The first point to note is that this verse is in the present tense. Angels descend…it is not saying angels descended. This is important to remember – the night of Qadr is not in the past. The night of Qadr is past, present and future, and the angels are here amongst us on this night.
When we commemorate important dates, it is due to an event which occurred in history. The night of Qadr is very different. We are not celebrating the night of Qadr which occurred 14 centuries ago. We are holding this night alive because it is a live event every year! It is a continuous phenomenon.
This question was asked from our beloved Prophet Muhammad (SAWA), and he confirmed that the night of Qadr existed in the past, exists now and will always exist in the future. That is why verse 4 is in the present tense.
The next question is, what is “ruh” and “malaika” in this verse? Malaika as we know are the angels, but there are different interpretations of what is “ruh”. Some religious scholars say that it is Gibreel. He is part of the category of angels, but since he is the most important of them all, he is specifically mentioned.
On the other hands, we have scholars who say that “ruh” is greater than Gibreel, and it is beyond our comprehension what is referred to by “ruh”. They say it is one of the divine secrets.
IT IS THE NIGHT OF BIG DECISIONS
What is the reason for this night being so significant? One reason is that the Holy Quran was revealed on this night. However, there are many more reasons. It is a debate amongst research scholars, on whether the Holy Quran gives significance and importance to this night or is it this night which gives importance to the Quran, meaning it is an honour for the Quran to be revealed in this night.
Anyway, this night’s virtue is not confined to the revelation of the Holy Quran but of course, the soul and spirit of this night is the Holy Quran, without any doubt.
This leads us to the commonly asked question on why is this night called the night of destiny? The reason is due to it being called the night of the Holy Quran. We are following the Quran and surrender to the teachings of the Quran, and this decides our destiny. If you follow the Quran, your destiny is shining bright. If you abandon the Quran, your destiny is dark! This is what is meant by the night of Qadr. The destiny of all of humanity depends on following the Quran or abandoning it!
SURAH QADR IS PROOF OF IMAMATE WITH IMAM MAHDI (A.S) BEING THE HOST OF THE NIGHT OF QADR
Another important point on the same verse is that if this auspicious night comes every year, then it means that angels descend every year. Now the question is, where do they descend? In the life of our beloved Prophet Muhammad (SAWA), they use to descend upon him.
Nuzul (revelation) is not possible without 3 components, namely the sender, the message (what is coming down), the recipient. Based on this, the question is that it is the Quran and angels coming from Almighty Allah (SWT), but on who is this coming, because Rasulullah (SAWA) is not physically here to receive, since he physically departed this world. The question therefore is, who is the host of these countless angels on this sacred night?
This now links into our discussion of last night and the night before, namely about Imamat and Wilayat in the Holy Quran. The angels descend to this earth towards that link between us and our Lord (SWT). He is the host of this special night!
Therefore, Surah Qadr is a proof of Imamate, as explained by Imam Jafar Sadiq (a.s). If there is a night of Qadr every year, then who is the host of this night? Indeed, the Imam of our time is the host of this night, as he is the link between creation and the Creator.
WHO KNOWS WHEN IS THE NIGHT OF QADR?
We are not being told when exactly the night of Qadr is. The Holy Quran describes Ramadaan as the month when the Quran was revealed, in verse 185 of Surah Baqarah (chapter 2), but we do not know when exactly. But then much later in the Quran we read that the Quran was revealed in the night of Qadr, but again, we are not told in the Quran when the night of Qadr is.
How do we then know when is the night of Qadr? We know with the help of Hadith. When Rasulullah (SAWA) was asked by his companions to please tell them which night is actually the night of Qadr, he explained that it is one of the odd nights in Ramadaan. They asked if he could please be more specific, to which he then said that it is one of the odd nights from the last 10 nights. They then requested for him to be more specific.
In the school of Ahlul Bait (a.s), we have traditions which place greater emphasis on the nights of 19th, 21st and 23rd Ramadaan, with the night of 23rd Ramadaan being the most likely. But again, we are not sure. Amongst Sunnis we also find different narrations on when the night of Qadr probably is, but the majority of them place emphasis on the 27th night of Ramadaan as being the most probable night of Qadr.
So, we do not know exactly when the night of Qadr is. All we know is that it is the most likely the 23rd night, according to the traditions of the Ahlul Bait (a.s). Naturally, this is unknown for all of us. As we discussed last night, the Imam of our time is someone who is knowledgeable on the truth and reality of everything in this universe (malakootu kulli shay). Therefore, Imam Mahdi (atfs) certainly knows when the night of Qadr is.
THE NIGHT OF QADR HAS A HEAVENLY FRAGRANCE OF SPIRITUALITY
Someone asked from Imam Jafar Sadiq (a.s) whether he knows when the night of Qadr really is. Imam Jafar Sadiq (a.s) responded that they clearly know when the night of Qadr is, as they are surrounded by angels on this night. He explains that they are hosting the angels on this special night, so it is impossible for them to not know when the night of Qadr is.
Imam Jafar Sadiq (a.s) was then asked if he can provide signs that they should look out for, to get an indication when the night of Qadr is. Imam (a.s) replied by saying that the night of Qadr has a fragrance, and if you smell this fragrance then you should know that it is the night of Qadr.
Indeed, the greatness of the night of Qadr is not in this material world. It is beyond matter – metaphysical – as it is linked to revelation, the angels descending and other secrets. In our humble understanding, this fragrance on the night of Qadr which Imam Jafar Sadiq (a.s) is referring to is not as easy as picking up a perfume to smell.
To smell that fragrance of the night of Qadr requires that powerful sense of smelling in the spiritual world, rather than smelling a bodily perfume.
The last verse of Surah Qadr also has deep meaning, describing this night having infinite peace and tranquility all the way until dawn breaks. We are so confined in matter, and matter restricts us from capturing the reality around us. If we were not trapped in the prisons of matter, we would be able to see the angels floating around us, and we could smell that heavenly fragrance.
DIAOGUE BETWEEN ALMIGHTY ALLAH (SWT) AND NABI MOOSA (A.S) ON THE NIGHT OF QADR
I wish to now move to the second part of my discussion, and that is the night of Qadr is the night of dua and acceptance thereof. There is a Hadith recorded by Sayyid ibn Tawus, where Nabi Moosa (a.s) asked Almighty Allah (SWT) to gain proximity to Him. Allah (SWT) replied to Nabi Moosa (a.s) by saying that His proximity is for those who keep the night of Qadr alive!
Nabi Moosa (a.s) went to his next question, asking Almighty Allah (SWT) for mercy. Allah (SWT) replied to Nabi Moosa (a.s) by saying that His mercy is for those who are merciful towards the poor and needy on the night of Qadr.
Nabi Moosa (a.s) went to his third question, asking Almighty Allah (SWT) for a passport to easily pass through the very difficult bridge on the Day of Judgement. Allah (SWT) replied to Nabi Moosa (a.s) by saying that His passport is for those who give charity in the night of Qadr.
Nabi Moosa (a.s) went to his fourth question, asking Almighty Allah (SWT) for salvation from the Hellfire. Allah (SWT) replied to Nabi Moosa (a.s) by saying that this salvation is for those who seek forgiveness in the night of Qadr.
This Hadith gives us a comprehensive understanding of the magnanimity of this night of Qadr.
ALMIGHTY ALLAH (SWT) PREPARED A HEAVENLY FEAST OF INFINITE BLESSINGS ON THIS NIGHT OF QADR
Sometimes people ask this question from great scholars of spirituality for advice on what dua to make on the night of Qadr. What must we ask for? The doors of mercy are open and Almighty Allah (SWT) is giving! So, we should ask without hesitation and any reservation!
But what is the best to ask for? We all have challenges in our lives, be it financial debt, health and diseases, economic challenges with loss of income, relationship problems, marriage challenges with spouse selection, and the list goes on and on regarding all the different challenges people are sitting with. Indeed, we need to call upon Almighty Allah (SWT) in this night of Qadr to help us out.
That said, Ayatollah Jawadi Amuli, the great philosopher of our time, explains very beautifully that we are being invited to a grand divine feast on this night. There is a big variety on the table of God (SWT) tonight! Are we going to go for the small pieces of bread on the corners of the dish or the dry salad? Or, are we going to focus our efforts on enjoying the big main courses?!
Ayatollah Jawadi Amuli says that when we are asking for help in our worldly affairs on this night, then we are being very humble in our request, similar to only being interested in the dry salad or pieces of bread on the corner dish, instead of enjoying the big main course which is prepared for you!
We need to enjoy the lavish main course of Almighty Allah’s (SWT) blessings on this night, instead of being stuck on starters!!!
WHAT IS THE MAIN COURSE ON THE TABLE FROM HEAVEN TONIGHT?
So, what is the main course on the menu from Almighty Allah (SWT) on this sacred night of Qadr? The main course we need to ask from Almighty Allah (SWT) on this sacred night is to be granted a Quranic life!
Oh Allah (SWT), brighten my heart on this night of Qadr. Remove this darkness of sins and jealousy and hatred and love of dunya. Cleansing of hearts on this night is one of the main dishes being served on this table from Heaven tonight!
Another important main dish on the Heavenly table is to ask to be a real follower of Imam Ali (a.s). Of course, we cannot achieve the level that Imam Ali (a.s) was at. Someone asked him one day whether he can see Almighty Allah (SWT). Imam Ali (a.s) replied by asking how it is possible for him to worship someone whom he has not seen?!
Clearly, this is beyond our reach and an unattainable status for us fallible human beings. However, we can ask on the lowest of the lowest levels, amongst the servants of Imam Ali (a.s) and in the service of Quran. We ask Almighty Allah (SWT) in these nights of remembering the martyrdom of Ali (a.s), in these nights of Quran and the nights of Qadr and divine blessings, that we be connected to the Holy Quran and the Ahlul Bait (a.s). We can then say in a very, very humble manner that we are the followers of the Quran and the Ahlul Bait (a.s).
On this night, let us ask Almighty Allah (SWT) to brighten our hearts, minds and souls with His Noor and the Noor of Quran, with the love of Muhammad (SAWA) and his purified and pristine family (a.s).
Let us not forget to humbly implore from Almighty Allah (SWT) on this sacred night for freedom from the Hellfire. There is no guarantee that we will be presented with another night of Qadr. Let us take the benefit of this night, as if it is the last night of Qadr of our life, and benefit from it as much as possible, Insha Allah.
One of the recommendations of this night is the Ziyarah of Imam Husain (a.s). it is an indication to all of us, that we should ask a very special favour from Almighty Allah (SWT) on this night, namely to be granted the Ziyarah of Husain (a.s), love of Husain (a.s), the Taufeeq to cry for Husain (a.s), and to be granted the intercession of Husain (a.s) in the Hereafter (Akhirah), and in Paradise, to be in the service of Husain (a.s) and amongst those who sit under him, because Husain (a.s) is the rescuer!
Let us now begin our journey of beautiful supplication to our Lord (SWT), to melt our hearts which have become rock heart.