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Holy Quran Section > Commentary of the Holy Quran by Dr. Basharat Ahmad > Chapter 97 (Al-Qadr - The Majesty)


Commentary of Chapter 97 (Al-Qadr - The Majesty) of the Holy Quran:
by Dr. Basharat Ahmad
Translated by Imam Kalamazad Mohammed


 


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Inna anzalnahu fi lailatul-Qadr

In this chapter, Al Qadr, it is stated that the period when the Holy Quran was being revealed was a time of great blessings and the reward for worship, righteous actions and other efforts for the sake of religion that could be attained at that time cannot be paralleled in any other age.

The pronoun hu (it) in anzalnahu (We revealed it) refers to the revelation of the Holy Quran on the Night of Majesty. Elsewhere in the Holy Quran it is mentioned: The month of Ramadhan is that in which the Quran was revealed (2:185). This tells us that the Night of Majesty is in the month of Ramadhan. According to the Holy Prophet (pbuh), it is one of the odd nights of the last ten days of Ramadhan [the 9th month of the Islamic/lunar calendar], that is, it is either the 21st, 23rd, 25th, 27th or 29th night. Another report puts it as one of these nights – either the 25th, 27th or 29th night.

It has been called the Night of Majesty because it is a night of great majesty and honour and which man should value with total respect and reverence. There is no doubt that the night in which the Holy Quran was revealed – an extra-ordinary gift and an incomparable book of guidance to mankind – should be regarded with the highest honour and respect. This night receives its eminence from the fact that the Holy Quran was revealed in it and the anniversary of the revelation of the Holy Quran on this night has been laid down for all times as a night of great blessings and honour, so that every year when that night comes, Allah opens the doors of His mercy and blessings for His servants. This is not just a mere anniversary, for just as the rivers of Allah’s mercy gushed forth on that sublime night when the first revelation of the Holy Quran came, so too, the same thing obtains every year on that particular night when Allah showers His mercy and blessings on the hearts of all those who endeavour to seek His grace.

Sometimes an objection is made that the whole Quran was not revealed on that night. The answer to that is that the word Quran has been used in reference to the entire Quran or to a part of it or even to a single verse as we read: When the Quran is being recited, listen to it (7:204). Here the whole Quran cannot be meant, but we are commanded to listen attentively when a part or a verse of the Quran is being recited. Thus, when it is said that the Quran was revealed on that night of Majesty, it does not necessarily mean that the whole of the Quran should have been revealed. Even if one verse was revealed, the statement would still have been true – that the Quran was revealed on the Night of Majesty. The fact remains that the revelation of the Holy Quran extended over a period of twenty-three years, and its verses were revealed in various places on different occasions. But that night when the first verses of the Holy Quran were revealed will always be considered as the night on which the Quran was sent. The reason for this is that before that night there was no Quran on earth.

Wa ma adraka ma lailatul Qadr,
Lailatul Qadri khairum-min alfi shahr
And what will make thee comprehend what the Night of Majesty is?
The Night of Majesty is better than a thousand months.

In other words, to perform worship and do acts of righteousness on that night will bring to the believer more reward than he would get in a thousand months. Here the word thousand is used to signify a very large number, and what is meant is that countless blessings will accrue to the devotee if he fulfils the conditions. It is recorded that in the month of Ramadhan, the Holy Prophet (pbuh) was extremely generous and at night he engaged in extra devotional prayers, especially in the last ten nights when his worship reached the topmost peak of perfection. In the latter part of the night he used to read ten rakahs (cycles) of prayer in twos and then add one rakah (cycle) called witr, thus making the whole prayer an odd number, that is, eleven rakahs (cycles) in all. People normally read three rakahs (cycles) of prayer (witr) in the latter part of the night.

The Holy Prophet (pbuh) used to read eleven rakahs (cycles) of prayer called the Tahajjud prayer. This name was given to it because tahajjud means getting up from sleep. So the prayer that people read after rising up from sleep is called Tahajjud. But if a person should stay awake all night and keep on performing prayer throughout, that prayer according to the definition of the Shar‘iah (Law) cannot be called Tahajjud.

So the eleven rakahs (cycles) of prayers that the Holy Prophet (pbuh) used to read in the latter half of the night was called Tahajjud, because he used to read them after waking up from sleep, and he used to add the witr prayer so as to make the number an odd one.

This is the prayer that is called Tarawih in the month of Ramadhan, because after every two rakahs (cycles) of the prayer a short rest is permitted, and it is because of this short rest that this prayer is named Tarawih. Thus, the Tarawih prayer in the month of Ramadhan is really the Tahajjud prayer, and not an additional or separate one, and for ease and convenience it is read in an earlier part of the night rather than in the latter part. To read twenty rakahs (cycles) of Tarawih prayer with three witr added, making a total of twenty-three rakahs (cycles), is not in accordance with the Sunnah of our Holy Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). This came about because in the time of the Caliph Umar (rta), people were sitting one night in the masjid and engaging in idle talk. The Caliph passed by them and asked them what they were doing. On receiving the reply that they were just enjoying some small talk, he asked a hafiz (person who knows the Quran by heart) to gather the people into a congregation and lead them in twenty rakahs (cycles) of supererogatory prayer. The idea was that the whole Quran should be read in the Tarawih prayer during the month of Ramadhan. This then became the accepted practice, but this was not the custom of the Companions (rta) of the Holy Prophet (pbuh).

As regards the Night of Majesty, Lady Ayesha (rta) once asked the Holy Prophet (pbuh) what du‘a (supplication) she should make if she ever experienced that extraordinary Night of Grandeur, and this is the prayer he gave to her:

"O Allah! Thou art the Forgiving and thou lovest forgiveness, so please forgive me."

 

Tanazzalul mala ‘ikatu wur-ruhu fiha bi ‘idhni Rabbihim min kulli amr.
Salamun hiya hatta matla ‘il fajr
The angels and the Spirit descend on it by the permission of their Lord for every affair.
Peace! It is till the rising of the morning.

Here many people infer from the expression min kulli amr (for every affair) that on this night all decisions for the following year regarding the administration and other affairs of the world are determined. This deduction is not correct. Kul (every) is a relative word, and its application depends on the context or the situation and covers only such matters that are under discussion. For example, if on the occasion of a feast it is said that all the people have arrived, it cannot mean that all the people in the world are present there. What it means, in fact, is that all the invited guests are present. Similarly, when Prophet Noah (pbuh) was given the following command in the chapter Hud: We (Allah) said: ‘Carry in it two of all things, a pair’, it did not mean that he had to take a pair of all the animals on earth, but the order extended only to those animals that he would need later on. So here the expression min kulli amr (for every affair) does not refer to all the affairs of the world, but only to such spiritual blessings and favours which are pertinent to that glorious and honourable night on which the Holy Quran was revealed.

Ar-Ruh (The Spirit) refers to those angels who descend with the word of Allah on the hearts of the righteous, infusing them with spiritual life. That is why they are called The Spirit.

The word salam means peace and freedom from every kind of fear or anxiety. In other words, everything that descends on that night is aimed towards the physical and spiritual blessings of man. Thus, if we study the Holy Quran which was revealed on that night of Majesty, we shall discover that it contains a message of complete peace, the chief objective of which is to save man from sin and evil, trials and tribulations, and make him attain a life of peace and tranquillity.

Therefore, if a person derives the benefit of this night and through worship and strenuous efforts towards goodness, he makes his heart worthy of spiritual blessings, then it is inevitable that the angels will bring divine communication and spiritual blessings to his heart with such force that his soul shall be freed from the straight-jacket of sins and shall enter the sanctuary of peace.

The question arises as to why the angels descend only on the heart of man. The fact is that it is always the heart of man which receives Divine communication and spiritual blessings through angels, as has been mentioned concerning the Holy Quran itself:

Say: Whoever is an enemy to Gabriel – for surely he revealed it to thy heart by Allah’s command (2:97).

This verse proves that it is the hearts of righteous people that receive spiritual blessings and Divine communications through the agency of angels, through whom Allah inspires righteousness. However, those people whose hearts are closed to spiritual blessings and who are under the sway of satanic forces will find it impossible to receive angelic inspiration.

The literal meaning of hatta matla’il fajr (until the morning) is that the spiritual blessings of that grand night extend till dawn. However, it also conveys a deeper meaning and that is, that the peace and blessings that descend on the heart of man on that night continue till the darkness of evil dissipates, and heavenly light suffuses the heart.

Lailatul-qadr is generally known as one of the odd nights of the last ten nights of Ramadhan on which the Holy Quran was revealed. But it has a deeper significance for it refers to the period of the prophethood of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) when the Quran was revealed. This period is called night because at that time the whole world was shrouded in darkness, misguidance and unbelief. It is also called Al Qadr (The Majesty) because the Holy Quran, that extraordinary heavenly book of Divine guidance, was sent down to man, and the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), that incomparable guide, was appointed on that night. There can be no doubt, therefore, that our Prophet’s time was greater than a thousand months and superior to all other ages. The blessings that came to a believer for worship and religious service in that age cannot be had in any succeeding age. In this regard, the Holy Prophet (pbuh) himself said that the recompense for giving a handful of barley in that period far exceeded the reward one would get in a later age for giving a heap of gold as large as Mount Uhud. This is because at a time of great need a little assistance merits greater reward than great help later on when the need is not demanding.

In our Holy Prophet’s time, Islam was faced with such monumental difficulties and calamities that the extent of the need for sacrifices by way of wealth and lives is beyond description. So the reward for the selfless service of those who sacrificed their lives and property for Islam in that precarious time, and never swerved an inch from the path of Allah, cannot be attained by those who came after when Islam had triumphed in the world and Muslims had at their command great wealth and power.

Our Prophet’s lifetime was the time when the angels and the spirit were descending on earth – on the one hand, the Holy Quran was being revealed, and on the other hand, the hearts of the believers were being suffused with spiritual life. For every act of sacrifice and selflessness there flowed a constant stream of assistance and support – angels descended, faith was revived and strengthened, hearts were invested with spiritual power – and even in the midst of all these dangers, the message of peace was silently working its way into the hearts of people to such an extent that eventually the dark cloud of unbelief was lifted, and the divine light of guidance spread its glorious rays all over the world.

The expression a thousand months embodies a subtle meaning – one thousand months amounts to almost eight-three years. Now, our Holy Prophet has said that at the turn of every century a mujaddid (reformer) will appear for the revival of the religion of Islam. As every mujaddid is a khalifah (successor) of our Holy Prophet (pbuh), therefore, his age is like a facsimile or reflection of the Prophet’s age, and bears a strong connection with it. And the seventeen years that make up the complete century bear superiority over the remaining eighty-three years, just as the Prophet’s age enjoyed supremacy over all other eras. In other words, a mujaddid’s dispensation extends on the average over a period of seventeen years and the remaining eighty-three years, are deprived, as it were, of a mujaddid. What a wonderful coincidence it is, therefore, that the Mujaddid and Promised Messiah of our century, Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, claimed to have received revelation for thirty years, but his claim to being the Promised Messiah amounted to exactly seventeen years!

As the time of the appearance of a mujaddid is a trying time for religion, and there is a crying demand for religious service, therefore the reward for worship and good actions in this period is correspondingly greater than in any other age, more so because sacrifice of wealth and lives is called for.

This is the time of the mujaddid of the fourteenth century when Islam is beset by all kinds of dangers and attacks. There is a preponderance of false creeds and the darkness of irreligion and misguidance has overspread the earth. Therefore, for this reason, the descent of Allah’s angels and His communications are respectively much more numerous and more powerful now than in the time of any other mujaddid and so, too, the deeper knowledge of the Holy Quran and the inspired truths that have been revealed.

Furthermore, the magnitude of blessings for divine service and sacrifice for religion in this age will never be equalled in later times when the darkness of misguidance will have been dissipated, thus allowing the sun of Islam to rise from the West and shed its rays over the whole world. Our Holy Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) himself has said in relation to this present age, that a sincere sajdah (prostration) to Allah now will be worth more than years of worship in another era.

Thus, in this period of godlessness, to put religion above the world and to sacrifice wealth and lives for Islam in these invaluable times, and to devote oneself to the worship of Allah in this atheistic age, will bring to the sincere devotee more blessings than what people will receive in later times, when the need for sacrifices for Islam will not exist and when the Oneness of Allah and true knowledge of Him will be prevalent throughout the world.

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Holy Quran Section > Commentary of the Holy Quran by Dr. Basharat Ahmad > Chapter 97 (Al-Qadr - The Majesty)


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