Lecture by Shaykh Yasir Qadhi | Transcribed by Zara T.
[The following is the video and transcript of Shaykh Yasir Qadhi’s Ramadan khatirah. The transcript includes slight modifications for the sake of readability and clarity].
Tonight’s khatirah is about the last ten nights. The last ayah of Sūrah Luqmān is that famous verse that our Prophet (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) commented on when he said, “There are 5 things that no one knows other than Allāh (subḥānahu wa ta‘āla).” This is from ‘ilm’l-ghayb that not even the angels, not anyone, knows these five things and they are, as Allāh says in the Qur’ān:
- Allāh has the knowledge of the Day of Judgment, and
- Allāh has the knowledge of when the rain will come down, and
- Allāh knows what is in the wombs of those who are about to give birth. Allāh knows not just whether it’s male or female but what is the qadr of this child. Is this child going to be a successful child or not? Is this child going to be righteous or not? Is this child going to be a millionaire or going to be a pauper?
- No one knows what will happen tomorrow.
- No one knows in which country, in which land, he or she will die.
All of this has to do with the knowledge of Allāh (subḥānahu wa ta‘āla) and Allāh is saying no one knows this other than Allāh (subḥānahu wa ta‘āla), and therefore, the topic tonight, which is of course about laylat’l-qadr, fits in perfectly because what is laylat’l-qadr? Allāh (subḥānahu wa ta‘āla) mentions that laylat’l-qadr is the most blessed night of the year. There is no other night about which Allāh has revealed a whole sūrah. Allāh has revealed a whole sūrah that we call the sūrah of qadr. Allāh (subḥānahu wa ta‘āla) emphasizes this sūrah. In every single verse in this sūrah, Allāh emphasizes laylat’l-qadr.
Allāh is saying Inna anzalnahu fi laylat’l-qadr. Allāh has revealed the Qur’ān on laylat’l-qadr. In another khatirah we mentioned that it is as if Ramaḍān has been made holy because of the Qur’ān. It is as if the primary reason that Ramaḍān is special is because of the Qur’ān. “The month of Ramaḍān is the month that the Qur’ān came down. Therefore, if you are not traveling, fast.” We said it is as if fasting is secondary, Qur’ān is primary. And this sūrah of qadr also emphasizes the same point. Why is laylat’l-qadr so blessed? That Inna anzalnahu fi laylat’l-qadr – “We revealed it on laylat’l-qadr.” The Qur’ān came down on laylat’l-qadr. And iqra bisma Rabbik occurred on the day of qadr. Jibrīl and the Prophet (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam)’s encounter happened in the month of Ramaḍān. And Jibrīl said “iqra” on the day that was going to be the night of qadr.
“Wa maa adraaka ma laylat’l-qadr?” this is a rhetorical question, and the purpose of a rhetorical question is to emphasize the obvious. “What will make you understand what is laylat’l-qadr?” Allāh (subḥānahu wa ta‘āla) is emphasizing. What will make you understand? How will you understand? It’s too beyond your understanding. You’ll never truly appreciate laylat’l-qadr. Wa maa adraka. How can you expect to understand what is laylat’l-qadr?
To make us understand, Allāh gave us only one dimension that perhaps our limited minds can encompass, and that is, “This one night is better than a thousand months in which there is no laylat’l-qadr.” And of course 1,000 months, as well all know, translates into around 83 years and four months. And this shows us that laylat’l-qadr is more blessed than multiple lifetimes. Not even one lifetime because even if one of us lives for 83 years, in reality how much do we worship in those 83 years? Think about it. How much do we actually worship? Suppose even that they have been righteous and practicing since they were children, praying regularly, and giving zakāt and going regularly for the ‘ibādāt. How many years do you actually worship of your life? Think about it. 24 hours of the day. At least 15 to 20 hours are gone for the dunya: sleeping, eating, drinking, going to work. How much do you actually worship in that 24 hours? Wallāhi, even a righteous person, with difficulty, will be no more than 2 hours of that 24.
Allāh (subḥānahu wa ta‘āla) is saying, on this laylat’l-qadr, if you worship Allāh for this one night, you will get the ajr of worshipping Allāh for 83.33 years. And that is more than multiple lifetimes than any one of us can ever have.
And then Allāh tells us another blessing. Laylat’l-qadr is too magnificent for us to truly understand. Allāh just gave us some tidbits, that perhaps, we’ll understand and appreciate some elements of laylat’l-qadr.
Tanazzalul malaaikah – Tanazzal is a very interesting verb. Nazzala is not anzala. Nazzala and anzala are two different verbs. Tanazzala is yet a third form, tafa’ala, which basically means batches upon batches keep on coming down. Tanzzala means one batch, and then another batch, and then another batch and it keeps on happening. They don’t all come down together. Rather, throughout the whole night they’re coming down.
Warruhu feehaa. And the Rūḥ, which is of course a reference to Jibrīl, Jibrīl himself comes down.
Bi idhnee rabbīhim. They come down with the decree, with the command of their Lord. And this is why laylat’l-qadr fits into the last verse as well of Sūrah Luqman that Allāh knows all of this ‘ilm’l-ghayb. But He tells partially, some of this to the angels for a period of time, because the main meaning of laylat’l-qadr is that on this night, Allāh’s qadr is announced to the angels. On this night, Allāh’s decree is announced only for this one year. For this one year. And so in this year, whosoever’s death has been ordained, the angels will be told on laylat’l-qadr that so and so will die on this day. Whosoever’s rizq has been increased, whosoever’s parcel of land has been said that it’s going to wither and dry or it will be giving fruit; every single element of the person’s decree, only for that year, shall be announced on laylat’l-qadr. Why? Because the angels execute the commandments of Allāh.
As we learn from our traditions, so much so that every drop of rain, Allāh has assigned an angel to deliver it to where Allāh has said it should go. Nothing happens except by the decree of Allāh. La hawla wa la quwwata illa billah. Everything that happens, Allāh has willed it. So the angels are given a roster. They’re given, just like in any corporation you have your annual meetings, just like in any group, you will be told, “these are the goals, this is what needs to be done.” And so Allāh (‘azza wa jall) informs the angels what will be happening for the next year. Births, lives, deaths, happinesses, accidents, problems, every qadr will be told to the angels that “you are assigned to this person to do this on this day,” and that’s what Allāh says in the Qur’ān, “feeha yufraqu kullu amrin hakeem.” That on that night, fee haa, on laylat’l-qadr, yufraqu kullu amrin hakeem. Every single decree of Allāh is decided. Now this does not mean that, astaghfirullah, Allāh doesn’t know what’s going to happen until laylat’l-qadr. It means Allāh announces it to the angels on laylat’l-qadr. Not that Allāh doesn’t know, but rather that the angels are told what is happening for the next year on laylat’l-qadr.
And therefore we are told that on this night, we should be found praying and prostrating and pleaing to Allāh and begging because those who pray to Allāh on laylat’l-qadr, their chances of a better qadr are increased. Those who pray to Allāh on laylat’l-qadr, their blessings become much more than otherwise imaginable, 83.33 years. And therefore the Prophet (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) strongly encouraged us, almost bordering on a command, but it is not a command, because Allāh has made our religion easy. But it is a very strong encouragement, and that is why in the famous ḥadīth, three things forgive one in Ramaḍān. Number one is fasting the whole month, number two is praying every night, and number three: praying that one night of laylat’l-qadr, just that one night will forgive all of your sins.
As our Prophet (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said, “whoever fasts all of Ramaḍān will have his sins forgiven.” “Whoever prays all of Ramaḍān will have all of his sins forgiven.” And “Whoever prays on laylat’l-qadr will have all of his previous sins forgiven.” And ‘Ā’ishah narrates that the Prophet (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam), when the ten final nights came, he would tighten his belt (the lower garment).
This has two meanings, and both of them are valid:
1. The first of them, even we have the expression in English, that when you tighten your belt, what does it mean? You’re going to have determination; you’re going to have perseverance. This is a time of stamina, this is a time he needs to have his energy and so ‘he’s tightening his belt’ means he’s going to be serious now. That there’s no playing around, this is a time of seriousness, a time of ‘‘ibādah.
And there is a beautiful secondary meaning that our mother ‘Ā’ishah (ra) hinted at in a very beautiful manner and that is that he didn’t care about the sensual pleasures that were ḥalāl for him, he did not care about that aspect of marriage that is perfectly ḥalāl in the nights of Ramaḍān, but in these ten nights he would tighten his belt because he has far more important things to concentrate on. Not that it is ḥarām to enjoy one’s spouse on these nights, but our Prophet (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) being the perfect man, these are the ten days of ‘ibādah. They’re not even the days of permissible pleasures for the Prophet (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam). Even that which is ḥalāl, he would avoid it because there are more important things to do, and so our mother ‘Ā’ishah (raḍyAllāhu ‘anha), she hinted at this in this beautiful delicate language, that he would tighten his belt, as ibn Hajar says, it means he would avoid his wives in that manner for those ten nights. Once again, not that it is not allowed, but that this is the perfection of one’s īmān.
2. And he would stay awake for the whole night. And it is not reported that our Prophet (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) ever spent the entire night in worship other than these ten nights. Never did our Prophet (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) as far as we know, spend the whole night in non-stop worship other than these ten nights and that is why when he heard of some of the ṣaḥābah who were worshipping all night outside of Ramaḍān, he criticized this. And he said “your body has a right over you, your wife has a right over you, your Lord has a right over you, so give everyone their right.” Pray one third, sleep one third, but don’t pray the whole night (this is outside of Ramaḍān). But these last ten nights, wa ahya laylatahu. He would spend the whole night awake. And notice the verb is also ‘ihya, which is: he would give life to the night. Not just he would stay awake, wa ahya lalatahu; he would enlighten, he would enliven the night, meaning he would be active in worship, he would be active in ‘ibādah, in tahajjud, in all of these good deeds.
3. And he would awaken his wives, his family; in other words, not just him. His wives and his servants and what not, his daughters, it is even reported he would knock on Fāṭimah and ‘Alī’s house (his daughter and son-in-law), he would knock on the door and tell them to wake up. So he would awaken his family as well to pray the night. And ‘Umar b. Al-Khaṭṭāb as well, he would go awaken his wives and his children and he would recite the verse from the Qur’ān: Command your family to pray and be patient in commanding them.” And therefore, its not just the man prays, but that he encourages his wife, he encourages his children to spend the whole night in prayer as well.
And ‘Ā’ishah also reports that the Prophet (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) never exerted himself as much as he did in these last ten nights. He never exerted himself as much as he did in these last ten nights of Ramaḍān. And our Prophet (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam), in the beginning of the Madinan years, he would exert himself in the first ten of Ramaḍān, then in the middle ten he would, and then towards the last few years he said that Allāh (subḥānahu wa ta‘āla) has informed me that laylat’l-qadr is in the final ten nights. So utlubuuhaa: Go seek it in the final ten nights of the month. And so in the beginning it was as if he wasn’t fully sure, he might have thought it’s in the middle of in the beginning, but then towards the end of the Madinan phase in the last few years he said, “Allāh (subḥānahu wa ta‘āla) has told me that laylat’l-qadr is in the last ten nights, so utlubuuhaa fil ashril awaakhir. Find it in the last ten nights of Ramaḍān.” And he said especially fil witr, in the odd nights. And in one ḥadīth he actually said “in the 21st, and the 23rd, and the 25th, and the 27th and the 29th.” He specifically mentioned the odd nights.
Pretty much all of the scholars have unanimously agreed that laylat’l-qadr is in one of the last ten nights of Ramaḍān, and especially one of the odd nights. And the strongest position, which Ibn Tayymiyyah and others gave forth, and Allāh knows best, this appears to be the strongest, is that every year laylat’l-qadr changes from night to night. It’s not one night for the rest of eternity. But rather, that Allāh (subḥānahu wa ta‘āla) changes it every year. Why? So that people exert themselves every single year. And it’s only ten nights, and of those ten, five with extra importance. And the reward is so great, so who amongst us would be lazy when the reward is 83 years of worship, when the reward is to be blessed on laylat’l-qadr. Allāh (subḥānahu wa ta‘āla) has made it only a few nights. Wal fajri wa layaalin ‘ashr. Allāh swears by the oath of the layaalin ashr. Ibn Abbās said layaalin ‘ashr are the last ten nights of Ramaḍān. Wal fajri wa layaalin ‘ashr. There are only ten nights, and of these ten, five are especially encouraged.
And our Prophet (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) would spend the whole ten in i‘tikāf in the masjid and he did this every single year of his life, as we said in the beginning, it was the first ten then the middle ten and then towards the last few years of his life when Allāh told him that laylat’l-qadr is the last ten, so he would literally cut himself off from his family and he would live inside the masjid for ten days and the last year he passed away, he in fact did i‘tikāf for twenty days to be even longer in the masjid. And of course i‘tikāf is a very well known sunnah and it helps us to find laylat’l-qadr. Why? Because in i‘tikāf, you are supposed to do nothing other than worship. You are supposed to pray and fast and do dhikr and do du‘ā’, you are cut off from the world around you. You are not even supposed to leave the masjid unless you have to get food or you have a necessary emergency. Otherwise, you stick to the masjid for those ten days. This is the sunnah of the Prophet (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam).
For those who cannot do i‘tikāf, they should at least come and pray as much as possible, and if they don’t pray in the masjid, at least they should pray at home, they should do something extra.
If you are able to only choose one of these two, either tarāwīh or the qiyām, there is no question that the qiyām is more rewarding. Because the later one prays in the night, the more blessed it is and our Prophet (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) especially encouraged praying in the last third of the night. So if you have to choose between the two, then come to the later one. However, having said that, please realize that praying the fard prayers in the masjid is the most blessed of all blessings that you can do. To miss ‘Ishā’ to pray at night is not good. You should pray ‘Ishā’ and if you need to go to sleep and then come back, then that is good to do.
You should pray ‘Ishā’ and pray Fajr because the Prophet (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said “Whoever prays ’Ishā’a in jamā’h it is as if he has prayed half of the night and whoever prays Fajr in jamā’h it is as if he has prayed all of the night.” So especially ’Ishā’ and Fajr in these ten days, you should make a point to try to come. And especially if you cannot do qiyām in the masjid, then do it at home. If you wake up 4:30 for suhoor, wake up at 4, at 3:30. We realize we’re living in circumstances and times 99% of us have to go to work at 7, 8 AM. We realize it’s not possible for every one of us to worship the whole night. Allāh knows your situation, so do what you can. Laa yukallifullahu nafsan illa wus’aha. I understand perhaps me and you, we cannot spend the whole night awake if we have to go to work at 7 AM. But these are the nights of sacrifice so if you can get by with four hours of sleep, three hours of sleep, take a nap when you get back home. Where there’s a will, there’s a way. Every single one of us needs to see: what can I do on these nights? And Allāh knows your situation. If you can’t pray the whole night, pray half the night, pray two hours, pray one hour. Do something that you usually do not do.
And one of the scholars of the tabi‘ūn , the students of the ṣaḥābah, he said “I seek Allāh’s refuge that Jibrīl comes down to this earth and he finds me asleep in bed.” And who is Jibrīl? Jibrīl is that being that has communicated with every single Prophet of Allāh. Jibrīl is that being that Allāh has mentioned by name in the Qur’ān—one of only two angels that Allāh has mentioned by name (some have said 3, 4, 5, but the 2 main are Jibrīl and Meekaeel that Allāh has mentioned by name). And Allāh said, “Whoever hates Jibrīl, he has taken me as an enemy.” This is Jibrīl. And Jibrīl (‘alayhi’l-salām), he only comes down, after the going of the Prophet (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam), on laylat’l-qadr. There is no other reason for him to come down. And the presence of the angels brings about barakah and mercy. Where there are angels, there is Allāh’s raḥmah. Where there are angels, there is Allāh’s mercy. And that is why Allāh said, “Salaam.” The whole world is in peace on this night.
Salaamun hiya hatta matla’il Fajr. There will be peace. What does it mean: there will be peace? Angelic peace, spiritual peace. It doesn’t mean that people will still not commit crimes. People will be evil. They will be evil. But spiritually, there will be peace. Salaamun hiya hatta matla’il Fajr. And therefore when the angels are everywhere, then when you make a du‘ā’, the angels will say ‘ameen.’ When the angels find you praying, they will pray for you. When you pray to Allāh, the angels pray for you. When you make du‘ā’, the angels say “Ameen,” to your du‘ā’ and therefore being active on laylat’l-qadr, this is the night where we will get the rewards of 83 years of worship, this is the night where we will get our qadr decreed by Allāh, so we ask Allāh for a good decree on this night.
And one final ḥadīth: ‘Ā’’ishā’h (raḍyAllāh‘anha) said “Oh messenger of Allāh, what should I say if I am praying on laylat’l-qadr?” and he said this du‘ā’, so this should be our main du‘ā’, but of course all du‘ā’s, but especially this du‘ā’, He said, say this du‘ā’, “Allāhuma innka ‘affuwun tuhibul ‘afwa fa’fu anna”
Oh Allāh, You are Al ‘Afuw, and Al ‘Afuw means the one who wipes away completely, the one who erases. ‘Afaa means to erase as if it never existed. So Allāh erases our sins, ‘Afuw, literally as if it never happened, this is what ‘Afuw means, and that’s different than maghfirah, that’s different than rahmah, each one has a connotation. And the scholars say the most powerful of all of these connotations is Al ‘Afuw, because Al ‘Afuw literally means to erase as if it never existed.
So we ask Allāh to completely wipe out our sins as if we never did them in the first place. Allāhuma innka ‘affuwun. Oh Allāh, You are Al ‘Afuw.
Tuhibul ‘afwa. You love to forgive and to erase.
Fa’fu anna. So erase our sins away.
Three times we mention: one as a proper noun. Allāhuma innka ‘affuw. Then as a verb, Tuhibul ‘afwa. Then as a command which is a request Fa’fu anna, that Oh Allāh, make ‘afw of our own sins.
So this should be our most common du‘ā’.
One final point I needed to mention as well, some basic fiqh that we need to know, because we’re going to have two tarāwīhs and qiyāms basically every night..tarāwīh then qiyām, we’re going to have two witrs (of course we’re going to have to because some people can only attend one) So for those who are only praying tarāwīh, not a problem, you pray the witr and then you leave. If you wish to then join us again for qiyām or you pray qiyām at home, the Prophet (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said “Let no one pray two witrs in one night.” (this is a ḥadīth) and in one ḥadīth to Abu Hurayrah, he said, “Make the last ṣalāh that you pray at night, make it your witr.”
So what is to be done? If you know that you are going to pray at night as well, whether in the masjid or in your house, then you should still pray the witr with us but when the imam says salaam, you stand up, you don’t say salaam. You stand up and you add one extra nafl rak’ah after the imam has finished. So you have not prayed witr, you have made your three into four. It doesn’t count as witr because you have prayed four. Then you go home or you come here and you pray your witr.
Suppose you prayed witr with us, and then you go home and you decided you know what I’m energetic, I can come to the masjid, I’m energetic I can pray at home. Still, no problem, you have two options. The first option, which is the lesser rewarding, it’s still permitted but it’s not the most best, and that is that you pray your qiyām and you skip the witr. It’s allowed to pray after the witr but it’s not the best. The sunnah is to pray witr at the very end. Suppose you prayed one witr in tarāwīh, you went home, then you woke up at 3, you said, “You know, I can pray extra.” You should pray. Don’t let your witr stop you from extra ṣalāh, because it’s not ḥarām, it’s not sinful; it’s very rewarding to pray extra. So you should pray and then you don’t finish off with the witr you simply finish off 4 rak’ah, 6 rak’ah, 8 rak’ah, however many you pray.
Even better than this is the following: before you start your second set of salawaat, you quickly pray one rak’ah to even off your witr. Suppose you have one hour, you want to pray eight raka’t. So you quickly pray one rak’ah, and that one rak’ah evens off your witr. And then you pray 4 rak’ah, 6 rak’ah, 8 rak’ah and then you pray your final witr for the night, and this is the ideal scenario and situation. Realize brothers and sisters, in nafl ṣalāh, the Sharī‘ah is lax. In nafl ṣalāh, you don’t have to be that strict and so we’re allowed to pray one rak’ah or two rak’ah, it’s easy going; not a problem.
May Allāh (subḥānahu wa ta‘āla) grant us the taufeeq to be able to pray on laylat’l-qadr.