All praise is due to Allah, 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)
Allah, 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, Allah 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 Makkah 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 Allah 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, Allah 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.
By the dawn. And [by] ten nights. (89: 1-2)
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.” (Sahīh 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.” (Sahīh 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.
“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-Hasan al-BaSri was asked, “Does laylat'l-qadr come in every Ramadan?” He said, “Yes, I swear by Allah, 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 Muhammad said, “Whoever prays the night prayer on laylat'l-qadr for the sake of Allah, 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 Allah, as well as the reward, forgiveness, and multiplication of good deeds. Allah has made it better than one thousand months! (97:3). Allah 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 Allah 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 Allah upon this nation. The lifespans of our nation may be shorter than of previous nations, but Allah 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 Allah'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 Allah 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.” (Ahmad, 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-Rahmān al-Sulami, and many others from among the Salaf.
There are many different narrations regarding the specific timing of laylat'l-qadr. The hadīth 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 Allah's Apostle talking about the Night of Qadr?” He replied in the affirmative and said, “Once we were in i'tikāf with Allah's Apostle in the middle ten days of (Ramadan) and we came out of it in the morning of the twentieth, and Allah'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 Allah'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.” (Ahmad, Ibn Khuzaymah)
In the hadīth of 'Ubādah b. al-Sāmit 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-Hāfiz 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 Allah what she should say if she knew which night was laylat'l-qadr. He said: You should say, “Oh, Allah, You are the Most-Forgiving, and You love forgiveness, so forgive me.” (Ahmad)
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 hadīth recorded by Ibn Khuzaymah and al-Ṭabarāni. It is a bright night as reported in the hadīth mentioned by Ibn Hibbān. 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 Sahābah.
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 Allah 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 Allah 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, Cashmere, Afghanistan, Palestine, and elsewhere, that Allah 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.
[For the complete article on the last ten nights of Ramadan, see muslimmatters.org/2012/08/07/the-best-for-last-rulings-acts-of-worship-in-the-last-10-days-of-ramadan/ ]