وَمَا أَدْرَاكَ مَا لَيْلَةُ الْقَدْرِ
Wamā adrāka mā laylatul-qadr
And what will make you comprehend what the night of power is?
(Sūratِ al-Qadr, No 97, Āyat 2)
The Night of Qadr is a night unlike any other. To comprehend its true significance is difficult. The Quran itself describes it as better than a thousand months (Q 97:3). Qadr in Arabic means measure and limit or value of something or destiny. Reasons behind the naming of the night as al-Qadr include:
1) The annual destiny of every person will be determined by God.
2) If you stay awake on this night you will reach a high state.
3) It is called al-Qadr because it is a grand and high-value night.
Other names such as Layla al-‘Azama (night of the greatness) and Layla al-Sharaf (night of honor) have also be mentioned for this night.
To understand a little of the greatness of the night we must keep the following in mind:
1) It is the night on which God’s final message was revealed to humanity. It brought with it the tools for perfection which would remain till the end of time in the world. New discoveries over time would reveal the truth of its messages.
Ibrahim, one of the companions of Imam Ja‘far al-Sadiq ‘alayhis salām said that he once asked the Imam about how the Quran was revealed during Laylatul Qadr although it took more than twenty years to reveal. The Imam answered: The Quran was revealed as a whole during the month of Ramadan at the ancient House (Bayt al-Ma‘mūr), then from there it was revealed along the span of more than twenty years. (Bihār, v.94, p.25). The night is thus a special grace of the Almighty and is celebrated through prayers and supplications. It is a festival for the soul.
2) It is the night on which the decree for the year is established. This means that every event that will occur in the year for each of creation is decreed on this night. A hadith of Imam al-Ridhā (a) says: Laylatul Qadr is the night when Allah, the most Exalted, the most Great, decrees what will take place from one year to another of life or death, good or evil, or regarding sustenance, and whatever He then decrees is sure destiny (‘Uyūn Akhbār al-Ridhā, 1:182).
‘Allāmah Tabātabā’ī in Tafsīr al-Mīzān explains that matters in the decree of Allah are of two types: a) Abstract and obscure and b) Distinct and separate. On the Night of Qadr the affairs leave the first state and enter the second one. On the night of Qadr the Quran was taken from its abstract state and sent down for human beings. Sending down is not a physical direction but a change of state, so that human beings can understand it. The matters of the human being are also made distinct on that night. All that will happen in the coming year are separated from the rest of a human being’s affairs and sent down for implementation.
3) Good deeds are multiplied significantly on this night. Supplications are accepted and sins are forgiven. Imam Muhammad al-Bāqir ‘alayhis salām says: The good deeds from prayers, alms and other good deeds [on this night] are better than all the deeds performed during one thousand months, in which there is not a Night of Qadr. Had Allah, the Blessed and Exalted, not multiplied [the good deeds] for the believers, they would not achieve [the required ranks] but Allah increases for them their good deeds for the sake of our love (Sharullāh fil-kitāb wal-sunnah, p. 403, H. 613)
History shows that the Prophet sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa-sallam and the holy family stayed awake during the night of Qadr and encouraged their families and friends to do so. Lady Fatima ‘alayhas salām worshiped God during the entire night. She helped her children and family do the same by eating less and sleeping during the day.
Welcome this night with awe for its almost incomprehensible significance. Prepare for it and plan to maximize your worship and reflection on this night. The chance to do so is a gift from God.
Sources: ‘‘Allāmah Tabātabā’ī, Tafsīr al-Mīzān; Tafsīr al-Mizan; Āyatullāh Nāsir Makārim Shirāzī (Ed.), Tafsīr-e Namūneh