All praise is due to Allāh, and may His peace and blessings be upon His Messenger, his family, and his companions.
“And your Lord creates what He wills and chooses.” (28:68)
Allāh, the Exalted, has created a wide variety of things, and in His Infinite Wisdom and Knowledge, He has chosen from among them selections for different purposes.
For example, Allāh created mankind, and from them He chose prophets and messengers, believers and disbelievers, righteous and evil.
He created places and chose to honor from among them specific areas, blessing Mecca with being the location of His Sacred House and the land of al-Quds to have been inhabited by His prophets, and so on.
And Allāh created times, and He chose and elevated specific times, certain months, days, or hours in status and virtues. Undoubtedly, the month of Ramadan is one of these blessed times and the best month of the year. From among Ramadan, Allāh further raised the status of a night over that of one thousand months, and that is laylat'l-qadr.
Indeed, We sent the Qur'an down during the Night of Decree. And what can make you know what is the Night of Decree? The Night of Decree is better than a thousand months. The angels and the Spirit descend therein by permission of their Lord for every matter. Peace it is until the emergence of dawn. (97:1-5)
It is due to the status of laylat'l-qadr that the last ten nights of Ramadan were considered of vital importance.
Ibn 'Abbās and others said: The ten nights refers to the last ten of Ramadan.
'Ā'ishah tells us: “During the last ten nights of Ramadan, the Prophet would tighten his waist belt and spend the night in worship. He would also wake up his family.” (Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhāri)
'Ā'ishah tells us: “The Prophet would exert himself in worship during the last ten nights more than at any other time of the year.” (Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim)
These ten nights of Ramadan were thus chosen for extra care and dedication in worship due to laylat'l-qadr being among them. Additionally, it is always best to seal our good deeds with the best we have, so it only makes sense that we take our worship a step further to end Ramadan with the best that we can. This is in contrast to those who start off Ramadan motivated and allow their worship to wither away by the end of the month. These ten nights begin on the 20th day of Ramadan, or the night of the 21st.
Fiqh Rulings and Acts of Worship in the Last Ten Days
Certain rulings and acts of worship are relevant to these special days.
1. Giving life to the night through prayer
'Ā'ishah described our Prophet as “giving life to the night,” which is done by praying in its beginning, end and middle according to a person's ability. This prayer is known as “qiyām” or the “Getting Up” prayer because it usually takes place after a person has slept for some time, although it is also acceptable if a person prays only in the beginning of the night.
One should take care not to pray two witr prayers in one night, as the Prophet said, “There should not be two witrs in one night.” (Abu Dāwūd, al-Tirmidhi, Aḥmad) One should also attempt to follow the Prophet's advice, “Make the last of your night prayer witr.” (Bukhāri) If you are praying behind an imām, and he prays the witr, then you may stand up after he finishes with a second rak'ah should you intend to continue praying later in the night. It is also permissible to pray two rak'ahs at a time and not pray another witr, and it has also been narrated that several of the Salaf used to even out their witr with another witr, and then end all of their night prayers with a final witr.
Ibn Rajab al-Ḥanbali said, “During the era of the tabi'īn, they used to recite Al-Baqarah in eight rak'ahs during the qiyām of Ramadan, then it was read in twelve rak'ahs, or they lightened the recitation.”
The correct view is as al-Imām Aḥmad said: “It should be left to what the people can handle.”
'Ali b. Abi Ṭālib passed by a masjid and saw bright lanterns lit and the Book of Allāh being recited and said, “May Allāh light up your grave for you, O son of Khaṭṭāb, as you lit the mosques with the Qur'an.”
2. Taking care of family
'Ā'ishah said, “He woke up his family.” It has been reported in authentic narrations that the Prophet used to wake up his family when the middle of the night was reached. He even knocked on Fāṭimah and 'Ali 's door during the night and called out to them, “Shall not the two of you wake up and pray?”
When the middle of the night began, 'Umar b. al-Khaṭṭāb would also wake up his family, saying, “Al-ṣalāh, al-ṣalāh!” and he would recite the verse:
“And enjoin prayer upon your family and be steadfast therein.” (20:132)
Sufyān al-Thawri said, “I like that when the last ten days of Ramadan come upon us, one puts in lots of effort during the night and to wake up his wife and children for prayer if they can handle it.”
A Muslim is concerned for the members of his household and desires that they take advantage of blessed occasions and seasons, and thus a husband should help his family find the time to dedicate for worship and encourage that during these days.
Due to his focus on prayer during these nights, the Prophet abstained from having intimate relations with his wives and that is the meaning of “tightened his waist-belt” mentioned in 'Ā'ishah's ḥadīth per the strongest interpretations of the Salaf, as mentioned by Sufyān al-Thawri and others.
3. Bathing Every Night
Ibn Jarīr al-Ṭabari mentioned that of the Salaf who used to encourage bathing every night of the last ten nights of Ramadan, and Ibrāhīm al-Nakha'i was among those who bathed every night. Others used to bathe on those nights which they expected was laylat'l-qadr. It was reported that Anas b. Mālik would bathe, apply perfume and dress in his finest on the night of the 24th of Ramadan and every night. Ayyūb al-Sukhtiyāni would bathe on the nights of the 23rd and 24th and wear new clothes for these nights and fragrance himself with incense. It was also transmitted that Thābit al-Banāni and Hamid al-Tawil would dress in their best and apply fragrance during these ten nights. Tamīm al-Dāri bought a cloak for one thousand dirhams to adorn himself with on the nights he hoped laylat'l-qadr might fall.
In addition to outer beautification, one should not forget developing the inner beauty of taqwa during this time.
4. It is Sunnah to perform i'tikāf during these nights for whoever is able.
'Ā'ishah reported that the Prophet used to practice i'tikāf in the last ten days of Ramadan until he died and then his wives used to practice i'tikāf after him. (al-Bukhāri) The Prophet would lay out a straw mat as his designated area and sit aside and not busy himself with interacting with others. I'tikāf is Sunnah by the consensus of Muslim scholars, and they also agreed that it must be performed at the masjid.
And do not have relations with them as long as you are staying for worship in the mosques. (2:187)
If the night a person wants to perform i'tikāf coincides with the night of Jumu'ah, the majority of the scholars, such as al-Imām Abu Ḥanīfah, Mālik, al-Shāfi'i, and Aḥmad, said it becomes incumbent that the person makes i'tikāf in a masjid that offers Jumu'ah prayer – with slight differences in the details of their opinions, which would be the topic of a more advanced discussion.
The opinion held by Hudhayfah , 'Aṭā', and Sa'īd b. al-Musayyib that i'tikāf should only be performed in the three Holy Mosques is incorrect as it contradicts the āyah “as long as you are staying for worship in the mosques.” For this reason, Ibn Mas'ūd objected to Hudhayfah's opinion. As for the ḥadīth: “There should be no i'tikāf except in the three mosques,” the chain of transmission stops at Hudhayfah in the authentic chains as mentioned by al-Ḥāfiẓ al-'Ala'i and al-Haythami while continuing on to the Prophet in weak chains as mentioned by al-Shawkāni, and thus it cannot be accurately attributed to the Prophet . Others, such as al-Tahawi, regarded the ḥadīth as abrogated. If the ḥadīth is authentic, it must be understood as a preference and not as excluding other mosques, and the permissibility of i'tikāf in other mosques has been established by the consensus of scholars.
In the beginning of his life, the Prophet made i'tikāf during the first ten nights of Ramadan, and once he performed it during the middle ten. He then began to make i'tikāf during the last ten nights when he learned that laylat'l-qadr was among them, and he maintained the habit of i'tikāf during the last ten nights from then on until he passed away. It is not necessary to perform i'tikāf during all ten of the days for those who are not able, and there is no set required minimum as is the opinion of al-Shāfi'i, Abu Ḥanīfah, and Aḥmad. However, the statement of some scholars such as an-Nawawi, that even a moment spent at the masjid can be considered i'tikāf does not seem plausible, considering that the linguistic meaning of i'tikāf is to remain somewhere for a long duration of time. One narration from Abu Ḥanīfah states the opinion that the minimum is one night and one day, and this opinion is plausible, but if one were to stay for a whole day or night, or even most of a day or night, then I hope that it will be sufficient.
Ibn Ḥazm said, “The scholars of fiqh have agreed that whoever leaves their place of i'tikāf for no need or necessity or an act of worship that he was commanded to do or highly encouraged to do, then his i'tikāf is invalid.” (Maratib al-Ijmā')
Whoever began his i'tikāf and then had to cancel it due to an unexpected event, he must make it up, according to al-Imām Mālik because when the Prophet canceled an i'tikāf made it up in Shawwāl, but the majority (Abu Ḥanīfah, al-Shāfi'i, Aḥmad) said that making it up is only recommended. It appears that the opinion of the majority is stronger, because the Prophet's wives also canceled their i'tikāf with him, and he did not command them to make up their i'tikāf. The Prophet did not break a habit that he had, and for that reason made up his i'tikāf and also made up the sunnah of ẓuhr after 'aṣr.
Whoever intends to make i'tikāf of the last ten days of Ramadan should start at the maghrib ending the 20th, according to Mālik, Abu Ḥanīfah, al-Shāfi'i, al-Thawri, because this is the first night of the last ten and it could be laylat'l-qadr. Al-Imām Awza'i and Isḥāq and the opinion of al-Shaykh Ibn Baz that one should start after fajr on the 21st, because 'Ā'ishah said, “When he prays fajr, he entered his i'tikāf.” The opinion of the majority is stronger, because the ḥadīth of 'Ā'ishah could be referring to that the Prophet entered the PLACE in the masjid that he had designated for himself during i'tikāf. One should then end his i'tikāf at maghrib on the last day of Ramadan, whether it is the 29th or 30th, because that night would belong to the next month. If he wants to stay until fajr, this was recommended by a large number of the Salaf.
I'tikāf is also recommended for women, as the Prophet's wives practiced it during the Prophet's time and after his death, as 'Ā'ishah reported in al-Bukhāri. The safety and privacy of the location and the woman's wali's approval are all conditions for women's i'tikāf . It is not permissible for women on their menses or experiencing post-partum bleeding to perform i'tikāf.
The one who makes i'tikāf must not waste his/her time in idle activities or socializing, even though this is permissible in small amounts, as long as most of the time is engaged in acts of worship. Al-Imām al-Zuhri said, “I am surprised at the behavior of Muslims. They abandoned i'tikāf even though the Prophet never missed i'tikāf from the time he migrated to Madīnah until he died.”
5. Reciting Qur'an
Al-Aswad b. Yazīd used to recite the whole Qur'an every six days, and when Ramadan started, he would finish it in three days, but when the last ten started, he would finish it every night. Al-Imām al-Shāfi'i used to read the entire Qur'an every day during the last ten days of Ramadan. And the same was reported about Abu Ḥanīfah and many others from the Salaf. Ibn Rajab stated that the ḥadīth that warns us from reading the whole Qur'an in less than three days would not apply to someone doing so because he is in a place or time that is special. If it is Ramadan, one is in Mecca, or during Hajj, it would not be disliked, and this was the practice of the Salaf.
“Therein on that night is made distinct every precise matter.” (44:4)
Al-Imām al-Zuhri said it was called that because it is such a distinguished, precise night. Mujāhid said: “It is the night of Decree.” It is a night that comes every year in Ramadan starting from maghrib until fajr. Al-Ḥasan al-Baṣri was asked, “Does laylat'l-qadr come in every Ramadan?” He said, “Yes, I swear by Allāh, the one who has no partner, it is in every year in Ramadan and it is laylat'l-qadr. This night has so many unique qualities such as:
- In it, the Qur'an was revealed to a place in the first heaven called Bayt'l-'Uzza. (97:1) (44:3) and after that, it was sent down over 23 years. This was stated by Ibn 'Abbās.
- The Prophet Muḥammad said, “Whoever prays the night prayer on laylat'l-qadr for the sake of Allāh, all his sins will be forgiven.” (al-Bukhāri & Muslim)
Kā 'b al-Ahbar said, “This night will wipe out sins completely.”
- It is a blessed night, i.e. it has abundant goodness. The good deeds performed on it are abundant, the acts and wealth given in charity, the obedience of Allāh, as well as the reward, forgiveness, and multiplication of good deeds. Allāh has made it better than one thousand months! (97:3). Allāh honored it with the title of a “Blessed Night” in Sūrat'l-Dukhān. (44:3)
Mujāhid said, “Its deeds, its fasting and its qiyām are better than one thousand months.” This was explained as a thousand months of non-laylat'l-qadr days.
Anas reported that the Prophet said, “This month has come upon you and in it is a night greater than one thousand months, whoever is denied it has been denied all good, and no one is denied its good except one who is a true loser.” (Ibn Mājah)
What is meant by this is that prayer during this night equals the prayer of one thousand months, or that whoever gives in charity or supplicates or mentions Allāh or gives of his zakāh or performs any other righteous act, it will be as if he has done the act for one thousand months, which is over 83 years. For those who gave life to laylat'l-qadr with worship for multiple years, it's as if he has lived many lengthy lifetimes, and this is from the mercy of Allāh upon this nation. The lifespans of our nation may be shorter than of previous nations, but Allāh has placed great barakah in its deeds so that they may equal the deeds of those who had much longer lives. Take care to maximize your good deeds this laylat'l-qadr.
- Laylat'l-qadr is a night of peace and security.
Peace it is until the emergence of dawn. (97:5)
This night is safe from much harm. When angels give salām to the Children of Ādam, this means that they are praying for their safety and peace.
- Many angels descend during this night.
The angels and the Spirit descend therein by permission of their Lord for every matter. (97:4)
Jibrīl is the head of the angels who only descends to earth for great affairs such as revelation to Allāh's prophets, and he descends during this night to pray for the faithful. This is due to the honor of the believer and the greatness of this night, for Allāh sends down his purest creation, the angels, and sends among them the most honored, Jibrīl. Abu Hurayrah narrates that the Prophet said, “Laylat'l-qadr is the twenty-seventh or twenty-ninth and the number of angels exceeds the number of pebbles on that night.” (Aḥmad, Ibn Khuzaymah)
The angels say āmīn to the prayers of the believers on this night and ask for their forgiveness and the acceptance of their deeds.
- During this night, the affairs of the following year are set.
On that night is made distinct every precise matter. (44:4)
On this night, the angels are commanded to write who will live and who will pass away during it, the provision of every person, etc. This has been narrated from Ibn 'Abbās, Mujāhid, 'Ikrimah, Qatādah, 'Abdul-Raḥmān al-Sulami, and many others from among the Salaf.
There are many different narrations regarding the specific timing of laylat'l-qadr. The ḥadīth of Bilāl tells us that it is one of the last seven nights. (al-Bukhāri) Another narration from Ibn 'Umar similarly tells us that the Prophet advised us to “seek it during the last seven (nights).” (al-Bukhāri)
“Did you hear Allāh's Apostle talking about the Night of Qadr?” He replied in the affirmative and said, “Once we were in i'tikāf with Allāh's Apostle in the middle ten days of (Ramadan) and we came out of it in the morning of the twentieth, and Allāh's Apostle delivered a sermon on the 20th (of Ramadan) and said, 'I was informed (of the date) of the Night of Qadr (in my dream) but had forgotten it. So, look for it in the odd nights of the last ten nights of the month of Ramadan. I saw myself prostrating in mud and water on that night (as a sign of the Night of Qadr). So, whoever had been in i'tikāf with Allāh's Apostle should return for it.'” (al-Bukhāri)
'Ā'ishah narrated that the Prophet said, “Seek laylat'l-qadr during the odd nights of the last ten nights of Ramadan.” (al-Bukhāri)
As mentioned earlier, Abu Hurayrah narrates that the Prophet said, “Laylat'l-qadr is the twenty-seventh or twenty-ninth and the number of angels exceeds the number of pebbles on that night.” (Aḥmad, Ibn Khuzaymah)
In the ḥadīth of 'Ubādah b. al-Ṣāmit who said, “The Prophet came upon us to inform us about laylat'l-qadr and two men from among the Muslims were arguing, so the Prophet said, 'I had come out to tell you the timing of laylat'l-qadr, but so-and-so and so-and-so were arguing, and thus it (this knowledge) was taken up, and perhaps that is better for you. Seek it on the ninth, seventh, and fifth (of the last ten days of Ramadan).'” (al-Bukhāri)
The Prophet also said, “I notice that your good dreams fall during the final seven days, so whoever is seeking it, should seek it during the final seven.” (Agreed upon)
Ubayy b. Kā'b believed that it was the night of the twenty-seventh and he used to swear that it was so due to signs that he had seen, and it is the statement of Ibn 'Abbās as well as the most popular and widespread view among Muslims.
Al-Ḥāfiẓ ibn Hajar collected forty-six different scholarly views concerning the timing of laylat'l-qadr. The strongest of these opinions is that it falls during the odd nights of the last ten days of Ramadan, with the most likely being the night of the twenty-first according to the Shāfi'i scholars and the night of the twenty-seventh according to the majority. Some scholars came to the conclusion that it moves between the odd nights taking narrations that specify its falling once on the twenty-first and another on the twenty-seventh, etc. The wisdom behind hiding its exact time is so that none of the last ten nights is abandoned, and one should give life to all ten of these nights with qiyām in attempt of seizing this amazing opportunity.
Whoever stands in prayer during all ten nights will have ensured finding laylat'l-qadr and escaped the difference of opinion, in shā' Allāh. Since the determination of the beginning of the month may be different from one country or group to another, the odd nights can be different from one group to another.
'Ā'ishah asked the Messenger of Allāh what she should say if she knew which night was laylat'l-qadr. He said: You should say, “Oh, Allāh, You are the Most-Forgiving, and You love forgiveness, so forgive me.” (Aḥmad)
Signs of Laylat'l-Qadr
Some of the scholars mentioned signs for laylat'l-qadr, such as that it is a rainy night, as mentioned in al-Bukhāri. It is neither too cold nor too hot with mild weather as found in the ḥadīth recorded by Ibn Khuzaymah and al-Ṭabarāni. It is a bright night as reported in the ḥadīth mentioned by Ibn Ḥibbān. The sun of the following morning is not as radiant, as recorded in Muslim. A tranquility and calm is felt by those praying during it due to the abundance of angels present. People may also see dreams that indicate that it is laylat'l-qadr as seen by the ṣaḥābah.
These are merely signs and they do not necessarily signal laylat'l-qadr in surety, for these things are not exclusive to that night. A sign is not absolute proof of what it signifies. For example, wet ground may be a sign that rain has fallen, but wet ground may be caused by something else. Additionally, these signs are merely signs and not conditions, so one cannot affirm that a particular day was laylat'l-qadr. The specific time of laylat'l-qadr is of the knowledge of the Unseen that Allāh has hidden from us and what is required of us is to busy ourselves with worship and hope for its acceptance.
Finally, I advise myself and all of you to have taqwa of Allāh and to benefit from what remains of Ramadan, to pray for yourselves and your families, for the Muslims in this country and around the world, for our oppressed brethren in calamity stricken areas such as Syria, Burma, Kashmir, Afghanistan, Palestine, and elsewhere, that Allāh gives victory to those who struggle in His path, to lift oppression, and to pray for those Muslim countries whose dictator-like governments have been removed that they may ease into a prosperous future.
If you have any comments or questions, feel free to visit me on Twitter @WaleedKBasyouni. I wish you accepted fasts, righteous deeds, and a joyous 'Īd.