Tafsir of Short Surahs: Surat al-Qadr

A summary of Habib Umar’s commentary on Surat al-Qadr, Ramadan 1436.

Allah says:

Indeed, We sent it down in the Night of Power

There are two meanings to Allah sending down the Qur’an. The first meaning is the first revelation which was revealed to the Prophet ﷺ in the Cave of Hira on Sunday night on the eve of the 17th Ramadan. That night was also Laylat al-Qadr. The second meaning is that on that same night Allah sent down the whole Qur’an in written form from the ‘Preserved Tablet’ (al-Lawh al-Mahfuz) to the ‘House of Glory’ (Bayt al-`Izzah) which is essentially the Ka’bah of the heavens. From there it was revealed piece by piece to Jibril, who then conveyed it to the Prophet ﷺ. This began when the Prophet ﷺ was aged forty and continued for twenty-three years until his death at the age of sixty-three.

Allah uses the pronoun “We” as an indication of His majesty. The pronoun “it” refers to the Qur’an. The Qur’an is referred to by only a pronoun here because it was already mentioned in the preceding surah (Surat al-Alaq). Also every Muslim knows that Allah is referring to the Qur’an here.  The Qur’an is on the mind and in the heart of the believer at all times and therefore does not need to be mentioned explicitly.

One of the meanings of Laylat al-Qadr is the night of decree or ordainment. In this night Allah decrees all things that will take place in the forthcoming year. Allah says in Surat al-Dukhan: Indeed, We sent it down during a blessed night. On that night every precise matter is made distinct.

“Qadr” can also mean honour and nobility. The person who stands in prayer on Laylat al-Qadr will be raised from a lowly state to a lofty state.

The Prophet ﷺ informed us that: “Whoever stands in prayer on Laylat al-Qadr out of faith and expectation (of Allah’s reward) will have his previous sins forgiven.”

What can make you know what the Night of Power is?

What will enable you to comprehend the greatness of this night and the divine bounty and forgiveness that is bestowed in it?

The Night of Power is better than a thousand months

Good actions on that night surpass the actions of a thousand months that do not contain Laylat al-Qadr.

The Prophet ﷺ informed the Companions of a man from Banu Isra`il who fought in the way of Allah for a thousand months, which is over eighty-three years. Another narration mentions that four men from Banu Isra`il spent a thousand months exclusively in the worship of Allah. The Companions were saddened by these accounts since they knew that their short lives would not allow them to attain the same reward as these people. Allah then granted them Laylat al-Qadr. This distinct night was only given to the nation of this Prophetﷺ. The Prophet ﷺ said: “We are the last (of the nations) but also the first (meaning we are the highest in rank).”

Allah multiples the rewards for actions according to certain criteria:

  1. The place in which they are performed. The Prophet ﷺ informed us that one prayer in his mosque (in al-Madinah) is better than a thousand prayers elsewhere, and one prayer in Masjid al-Haram (in Makkah) is better than 100,000 prayers elsewhere. One prayer in Bayt al-Maqdis (in Jerusalem) equals 500 prayers elsewhere. Likewise, Ramadan in Makkah is equivalent to 100,000 Ramadans elsewhere.
  1. The time in which they are performed, such as on Laylat al-Qadr. On this night, praying one single unit of prayer is better than praying 30,000 units on another night, and giving one dirham in charity is better than giving 30,000 dirhams on another night.
  1. The individuals who perform them. The Prophet ﷺ said that the Companions who believed in the early days before the Muslims took Makkah have a higher station than those who believed after that. A small amount of charity from those early Companions is greater than a huge amount from those who came later. There are some people for whom every night is Laylat al-Qadr.

Allah multiplies all good deeds between ten and seven hundred times, except for fasting about which He says: “It is Mine and I will reward people for it Myself.”

Allah tells the angels to record the reward for all the various actions except for fasting. One meaning of this is that when a believer has wronged someone else, the person that he has wronged will take from his good deeds to make up for the wrong that has been done. That person will not, however, be able to take from his fasting. Allah will preserve the reward for his fasting and give the person that has been wronged other good deeds to make up for it.

Sayyidah `A’ishah asked the Messenger of Allah ﷺ what she should ask for if she knew that it was Laylat al-Qadr. This is an indication that the Companions were aware of this special night.

He replied: “Say: O Allah, truly You are all-Pardoning and You love to pardon, so pardon us.”

The angels and the Spirit descend therein by permission of their Lord for every matter

The angels that descend to the earth on that night are more numerous than the trees and stones.   One meaning of “qadr” is “constriction,” since the earth becomes crowded or constricted due to the vast number of angels that descend. The people of the heavens and the earth intermingle on this night. This is the only night on which these angels descend to the earth and they join the angels who are already on the earth seeking out gatherings of remembrance. They give greetings to the believers, pray and remember Allah with them and say “amin” to their supplications.  When the believers shake hands with each other, the angels shake hands along with them.

It has been narrated that if someone breaks another person’s fast on food from a halal source, the angels will ask for blessings to be bestowed upon him every night in Ramadan and Jibril will ask for blessings to be bestowed upon him on Laylat al-Qadr. Another narration with a good chain of transmission states: “Jibril will shake his hand on Laylat al-Qadr and if Jibril shakes hands with someone, his heart will be softened and he will weep in abundance.”  These are the effects of being in the company of Jibril.

“The Spirit” is Jibril, peace be upon him. This is the correct opinion, although some scholars said that what is meant here is a specific category of angels or one great angel.

By permission of their Lord for every matter

Obviously nothing occurs except by His leave, but this is a specific permission which expresses Allah’s contentment with the Ummah of Muhammad ﷺ and His desire to pour His gifts upon them.

The angels are pleased to find people on that night in a state of obedience who had been in a state of disobedience the previous year. Likewise they are sad to see people who are in the opposite situation.

The majority of the scholars believe that Laylat al-Qadr comes in Ramadan, in the odd nights of the last ten nights. Some are of the opinion that it is always on the 27th night, but the correct opinion is that it is on a different night each year. Some say that if any of the odd nights fall on Thursday night, then it is more likely to be Laylat al-Qadr. The pious of the Ummah are aware of its arrival. Some feel the increased presence of the angels and others witness the trees and rocks in prostration to Allah. The Prophetﷺ informed us that it is a tranquil night and it is neither extremely cold nor extremely hot. The sun rises the following morning without any rays because of the vast amount of angels ascending.  After the angels have prayed Fajr with the believers, they are commanded to depart from the earth.

Peace it is, until the rising of the dawn

On that night there is safety and peace from until types of harm and evil until dawn. The day which follows Laylat al-Qadr has the same status as the preceding night. The reward for acts of worship on the day is the same as it is during the night.

May Allah bestow upon us the gifts and blessings of Laylat al-Qadr without measure and may none us of be deprived of these blessings.