Two-thirds of Ramadan has passed as the holy month of fasting enters its final and most important phase and heads towards the festivities of Eid al-Fitr.
The month of Ramadan is divided into three sets of 10 days with each called an Ashra, a word meaning ‘ten’ in Arabic.
According to Islamic theology, the last 10 days of Ramadan are considered to be some of the best days and best nights of the year.
In a famous Islamic narration, it is stated that: “God’s Messenger used to exert himself in the last 10 nights more than he would at other times.”
in 2021, the first of these final 10 nights was Sunday, May 2, for those who started Ramadan on the night of Sunday, April 12, and observed their first fast on Monday, April 13, based on the Saudi announcements.
For others who started Ramadan a day later, it will be the following night.
It is on one of the odd-numbered of the last 10 nights of Ramadan that the first verses of the Quran were originally revealed to the prophet Muhammad.
The night is mentioned in the Quran and is called Laylatul Qadr, also written as Laylat al-Qadr, Lailatul-Qadr, and similar variations. The name is often translated as the Night of Decree or the Night of Power.
But when is it and what does it mean?
What is so special about Laylatul Qadr?
The Quran states: “The night of al-Qadr (Decree) is better than a thousand months.”
In other words, deeds are multiplied and worshipping God on this night is considered equivalent to worshipping him for a thousand months.
In another excerpt from the Quran, it is understood by Islamic scholars, historians and qualified interpreters that the Night of Decree is the night when the first verses of the Quran came down from the heavens and were recited by the Angel Jibrael (Gabriel) to Muhammad.
So Muslims believe the Night of Decree comes with abundant blessings and the mercy of God.
Sins are forgiven, supplications are accepted and the annual decree of what will happen is revealed to the angels who carry it out according to God’s plan.
Muslims believe that only God can answer supplications, forgive humanity and answer their prayers. So on this particular night, they will actively pray to God, seeking forgiveness, and engage in various acts of worship.
Which night is Laylatul Qadr?
With regard to specifying which night of Ramadan is the Night of Decree, most Muslims point to a narration from the Prophet where he said: “Seek out Lailatul-Qadr in the (odd nights) of the last 10 days of Ramadan.”
So people take it as one of the odd-numbered nights in that period.
Although the exact date is unknown, it is widely believed to be the 27th night.
This year that will be the night of Saturday, May 8, 2021, for those who observed the first night of Ramadan on April 12.
What do Muslims do on Laylatul Qadr?
1. Praying through the night (Qiyam, night prayer)
It’s stated that Muhammad said: “Whoever stays up and prays on Laylatul Qadr out of faith and in the hope of reward, his previous sins will be forgiven.”
This indicates that it is prescribed to observe Laylatul Qadr by spending much of the night in prayer.
2. Making supplications (Dua)
It is also recommended to make extensive supplications (dua) on this night.
Scholars say that one of the best dua that may be recited on Laylatul Qadr is the one the Prophet taught his wife Aisha: “Oh Allah, you are forgiving and you love to forgive, so forgive me.”
3. Abandoning worldly pleasures for worship
Muslims are also urged to spend more time in worship during the nights on which Laylatul Qadr is likely to fall.
This calls for abandoning earthly pleasures in order to have the free time and thought to devote to worship.
Muhammad’s wife said the prophet used to spend the whole night awake in prayer.
4. Reading the Quran
Ramadan is seen as the month of the Quran so Muslims have traditionally put down all their other books to concentrate on reciting, memorising, understanding and studying its texts.
5. Small deeds count for a lot
The smallest deeds on this night can count for a lot. Sometimes the smallest deed can become a great weight on the scale of your deeds, scholars say.
In Islam, there are many historic stories narrated from the prophet, such as the prostitute who was forgiven her sins for feeding a cat or the man who was forgiven for feeding a thirsty dog some water. Any small deeds shouldn’t be overlooked, it is said.
How to know it’s Laylatul Qadr – what are the signs?
The prophet Muhammad described certain signs so that people could recognise the Night of Decree.
He said: “On the morning following Lailatul-Qadr the sun rises not having any rays, as if it were a brass dish, until it rises up.”
In another narration, he said: “Lailatul-Qadr is calm and pleasant, neither hot nor cold, the sun arises on its morning being feeble and red.”
After these final ten days, Muslims will have the annual Eid al-Fitr festivities to celebrate the end of Ramadan and their month of fasting.
What effect will lockdown have on Laylatul Qadr?
With the current restrictions, Muslims are having a very different Ramadan this year.
Social distancing and other Covid precautions mean numbers allowed into mosques are reduced to around a quarter or less of their usual size.
Typically, at Green Lane Mosque and Community Centre (GLMCC) – as with many other large mosques in the city and around the world – the congregation would swell to thousands during these nights.
In normal circumstances, many would spend the whole night in the mosque in congregational Taraweeh and Qiyam prayers, often staying until dawn and having their pre-dawn meal at the mosque too.
In the past, GLMCC would usually feed over 300 people every night for breakfast before the start of the fast.
On the busiest night, which is the 27th night of Ramadan, well over 2,000 worshippers would attend and the venue would feed over 1,000.
On the 27th night, many more people attend the mosque since they feel this is potentially the most likely to be the Night of Decree.
GLMCC usually raises about £300,000 from the local congregation for international humanitarian causes like its orphans project in Lebanon.
A spokesman said: “This year it may be difficult to raise this amount with the significantly reduced numbers due to social distancing.
“However our Taskforce team who manage all the international humanitarian fundraising have done a great job already and raised over £300k this month.
“A live appeal earlier this month on Islam Channel raised £130,000 and two live appeals on our local Unity FM radio station also raised another £50,000, which will help to feed, shelter and provide medical support to those in need.”