Heavenly Food – All you want to know about Laylatul Qadr
‘Aisha (may Allah be pleased with her) narrated:
With the start of the last ten days of Ramadan, the Messenger of Allah (peace be on him) used to tighten his belt and used to stay up all night, and he would also wake his family. (Bukhari)
When the 10 nights start the Prophet (peace be on him) tightened his belt and stayed awake and he would wake up his family.
There are three things mentioned here:
1- That the Prophet (peace be on him) would tighten his belt, which is an indication that he stayed away from his home and his wives, as he did ei’tikaf in the mosque, where Aisha would erect a tent made from reed mats and bamboos for him. We often think he used to do ei’tikaf in the open in the mosque, but in fact he stayed in a tent in the mosque for the last ten nights. The Prophet (peace be on him) would remain in ei’tikaf until Eid.
2- He would stay awake almost all night.
3- Wake up his family.
Now that we are in self-isolation, we know, to some extent, how it feels to be isolated from the world around you. Though we have been forced to do this, there is divine wisdom (hikmah) in Allah’s destiny, even if we don’t understand it.
The last ten nights are not like other nights
In the last ten nights, the Prophet (peace be on him) would do things he didn’t normally do in this particular manner. He didn’t do ei’tikaf on other nights outside of this time.
In the very beginning of the obligation of Siyam in Ramadan, when the Prophet (peace be on him) was introduced to the knowledge of Laylatul Qadr, which Jibril taught him, he started searching for it in the first ten nights, but Jibril informed that that it was later in the month. So he did ei’tikaf in the middle ten nights, but Jibril came again and told him it was later still, and then he sought it in the last ten nights.
Abu- Sa`id Al-Khudri (may Allah be pleased with him) said:
Once Allah’s Messenger (peace be on him) performed ei`tikaf (seclusion) on the first ten days of the month of Ramadan and we did the same with him. Jibril came to him and said, ‘The night you are looking for is ahead of you.’ So the Prophet (peace be on him) performed the ei`tikaf in the middle (second) ten days of the month of Ramadan and we too performed Ei`tikaf with him. Jibril came to him and said, ‘The night which you are looking for is ahead of you.’ In the morning of the 20th of Ramadan the Prophet (peace be on him) delivered a sermon saying, ‘Whoever has performed ei`tikaf with me should continue it. It’s in the last ten nights. (Bukhari)
Intimacy in the last ten nights
When you read the verses of siyam (fasting), in Surah Baqarah (verses 183-187), we are told:
…And do not have relations with them as long as you are staying for worship in the mosques. (2:187)
This means that it is not allowed to have intimate relations with your wife while you are in ei’tikaf in the mosque. It nullifies ei’tikaf. We all know that the technical definition of fasting means refraining from eating and drinking and intimacy from fajr til maghrib with the intention. This applies to the day, not the night. However in the last ten nights, intimacy is not allowed in ei’tikaf. This is because it is a special time dedicated to Allah Almighty alone. Nothing else should compete with your connection with Him. You give priority to Allah in everything at this time.
Ei’tikaf at home
We can’t access the mosques during this time, but we can do ei’tiqaf in a room of our home. Try your best not to communicate with anyone outside your room. But if you are living on your own, your whole house is your room, because you have no one to communicate with.
Focus on your ibadah. It is time for deep reflection and getting closer to Allah Almighty. It is time to look at your record for the year – your salah and ibadah as well as your character and behaviour and work. When we take the time to review ourselves, it helps us improve and makes us more self-aware.
The Prophet (peace be on him) used to be given food in his tent and occasionally he would come to the wall adjoining his house, where Aisha would comb his hair while he was in ei’tikaf. He spent his time in salah, recitation and dua. He would also have some naps and rest. The time was free of worldly distractions.
Can women do ei’tikaf?
In general, women are permitted to do ei’tikaf. Practically, it depends on the availability of space in the mosque. They can do ei’tikaf at home.
Minimise time in the kitchen
My recommendation for the last ten nights is to not to devote your time on what you will eat for iftar and suhoor. I’m not saying don’t eat, but don’t make this your main focus. Some people might not like this, but I recommend getting food delivered on the last ten nights so that women are freed from the kitchen, from all the preparation of the food, and then cleaning up afterwards. Ramadan is not just for men but for men and women alike.
I know of a woman who never attended tarawih prayers because she was stuck in the kitchen year after year preparing food for her family and in laws. This year, for the very first time in 30 years, she has been able to taste the sweetness of having time to do ibadah in Ramadan because she got divorced. Look at the injustice in our culture. Men and women are equal in their ibadah, so they should both have the opportunity to spend time in ibadah during Ramadan.
Have pure intention
Aisha (May Allah be pleased with her) asked if it was permissible for her to do ei’tikaf in the mosque? So she put up her tent, however several other tents popped up beside hers. And the Prophet (peace be on him) was angry, realising that the other wives out of jealousy had done the same. He asked them if they had done this for Allah’s sake? This is where shaytan comes in. The Prophet (peace be on him) did not resume his ei’tikaf that year. He resumed it in Shawwal, because he had committed to do it. I was very surprised when I read this. The Prophet (peace be on him) was teaching them and us how to be sincere to Allah and not allow anything to interfere in their ibadah, including jealousy.
It was narrated that ‘Aishah said:
When the Messenger of Allah (peace be on him) wanted to observe ei’tikaf, he would pray Fajr then enter the place where he wanted to observe ei’tikaf. He wanted to observe ei’tikaf during the last ten days of Ramadan, so he commanded that a Khiba’ (tent) be pitched for him. Then Hafsah ordered that a Khiba’ be pitched for her, and when Zainab saw her tent she ordered that a Khiba’ be pitched for her too. When the Messenger of Allah (peace be on him) saw that he said: ‘Is it righteousness that you seek?’ And he did not observe e’tikaf in Ramadan, and observed ei’tikaf for ten days in Shawwal (instead). (Nasa’i)
Stay awake during the night
As the Prophet (peace be on him) tightened his belt, metaphorically it means he rolled up his sleeves. He would stay awake during the night. Does this mean he stayed up all night or the majority of the night? He would sleep a bit in the night, but it is a special time.
We need special lenses to see what is in these nights. Allah Almighty has given us a glimpse. When he said inna anzalnahu fi lailatil 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. (97:1-3)
Better than 1000 months means better than 83 years of worship. Wow! One night.
When is Laylatul Qadr
We have a big discussion on this point. There are various narrations and interpretations. But the majority agree that it is in the last ten nights, and probably the odd nights and most likely the night of the 27th.
The reason behind the mystery is that the Prophet (peace be on him) was given the knowledge but it was then taken away. He was about to go out from his house to tell the companions about the revelation when is it, but as he was coming out two men were quarrelling and raised voices, and they acted disrespectfully the Prophet (peace be on him) came out and said I was going to tell you when Laylatul qadr was, but the knowledge has now been lifted, seek it in the last ten nights.
‘Ubada bin As-Samit narrated:
Allah’s Messenger (peace be on him) went out to inform the people about the (date of the) night of decree (Al-Qadr) but there happened a quarrel between two Muslim men. The Prophet (peace be on him) said, ‘I came out to inform you about (the date of) the night of Al Qadr, but as so and so and so and so quarrelled, its knowledge was taken away (I forgot it) and maybe it was better for you. Now look for it in the 7th, the 9th and the 5th (of the last 10 nights of the month of Ramadan).’ (Bukhari)
This is Allah’s wisdom that He wants us to seek it in the last ten nights.
What to pray for
As Laylatul Qadr is a night of extra blessings, forgiveness, rahma and gifts. Aisha asked the Prophet (peace be on him) what she should ask for on this night. She said:
‘O Messenger of Allah! If I realise Laylatul Qadr (Night of Decree), what should I supplicate in it?’
He (peace be on him) replied: ‘You should supplicate:
Allahumma innaka ‘afuwwun, tuhibbul-‘afwa, fa’fu ‘anni
اللهم إنك عفو تحب العفو فاعفُ عني
O Allah, You are Most Forgiving, and You love forgiveness; so forgive me.’ (Tirmidhi)
Why this dua?
Is that it? Just a simple line. Yes. It is so important because if you have Allah’s forgiveness you have secured akhirah.
On another occasion, Al-Abbas asked the Prophet (peace be on him) for a dua and he was taught to ask for wellbeing, al ‘afiyah, with which he seemed unsatisfied. So he returned to Prophet (peace be on him) and asked again. The Prophet (peace be on him) realised that Al-Abbas was not convinced that this was the best dua, so he explained the importance of well-being.
The importance of well-being
Your health is your wealth. If you are in pain, and you don’t have health and well-being it makes no difference how many millions you have, you do not have satisfaction.
Al-`Abbas bin `Abdul-Muttalib said:
I said: ‘O Messenger of Allah, teach me something that I may ask Allah, [Mighty and Sublime] for.’
He said: ‘Ask Allah for al afiyah (well-being.’
Then I remained for a day, then I came and said: ‘O Messenger of Allah, teach me something that I may ask Allah for.’
So he said to me: ‘O Abbas, O uncle of the Messenger of Allah! Ask Allah for al afiyah (well-being) in the world and in the Hereafter.’ (Tirmidhi)
This dua shifts our focus to the most important thing. With ‘Afiyah wellbeing we secure the Dunya. And with ‘Afw Allah’s forgiveness we secure the Akhirah. This is what gets us into Jannah. We have plenty of shortcomings, sins and mistakes, so without His forgiveness we are doomed. It balances our record in the akhirah. We are relying on His forgiveness and He will forgive us because He promised to answer the calls of the sincere. He said:
Call upon me and I will respond to you. (40:60)
We say, Ya Allah, we are calling upon You to grant us Your forgiveness.
Why did the Prophet (peace be on him) stay awake
This is what I want to delve into. What could he see through his own lenses?
He must have seen something special to make him stay awake all night. What did he experience that made him not miss any second of it. He wanted to accelerate his closeness with Allah and maximise the benefit of his time.
We are told in Surah Al-Qadr that all the angels and Jibril descend:
The angels and the Spirit descend therein by permission of their Lord for every matter. (97:4)
Jibril is the chief of the angels, and all the angels, so it is very special and the Prophet (peace be on him) experienced it. Many of us believe it is special but we don’t have these lenses to see it. Let’s seek the mercy and forgiveness of Allah in these nights and always.
The extra mile
Even though he was engaged in worshipping Allah Almighty throughout the year, the Prophet (peace be on him) made an extra effort at this time to deepen his connection with Allah Almighty through salah and dua, which are forms of worship.
We know for certain that even if we cannot see behind the scenes, we know from the practice of the Prophet (peace be on him) that he encouraged his family to witness the goodness of these nights. He did not want them to be left out, and witness it alone.
Share it with the family
He wanted them to share it with him, so he would go to Fatima and Ali’s house and knock very lightly with his nails, and call them to pray. Thus they could seize the opportunity which only came once a year.
Ali (may Allah be pleased with him reported:
The Prophet (peace be on him) visited me and Fatimah (may Allah be pleased with her) one night and said, ‘Do you not observe prayer (at night)?’ (Bukhari and Muslim)
He would prepare his family for it. And sometimes he would wake up his wife by sprinkling a bit of water on her face to wake her up with kindness.
Abu Hurairah (may Allah be pleased with him) reported:
The Messenger of Allah (peace be on him) said, ‘May Allah show mercy to a man who gets up during the night and performs Salat, awakens his wife to pray and if she refuses, he sprinkles water on her face (to make her get up). May Allah show mercy to a woman who gets up during the night and performs Salat, awakens her husband for the same purpose; and if he refuses, she sprinkles water on his face.’ (Abu Dawoud)
Abu Hurairah (may Allah be pleased with him) reported:
The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said: ‘For there are those whom Allah frees from the Fire.’ And that is every night ( in Ramadan). (Tirmidhi)
What does it mean to be freed from hell? It means Allah Almighty will facilitate it for you to do good, and be among people of Jannah, this is how you free yourself from hell. It is not that you do nothing and get your password for Jannah.
You need to do your bit and ask Allah for his rahma (mercy) and as we can see, the Prophet (peace be on him) would do a lot of supplication and prolonged recitation, stand for a long time in his salah and prolong his ruku and sujud. If you want to prolong your prostration Sujud you can.
Abu Hurairah (may Allah be pleased with him) reported that the Messenger of Allah (peace be on him) said:
‘A servant becomes nearest to his Rabb when he is in prostration. So increase supplications while prostrating. (Muslim)
Is it better to recite Quran or pray?
Praying is the highest form of worship, and reciting the Quran is also worship but a different kind. If you recite the Quran in your night prayers, that is combining the two. However you should only do this if your recitation is fluent, even though you are reading. It is not the time to practice your reading and be spelling out the words as you read in your salah.
Prepare what you will recite before hand. Read the translation in advance, or go through the tafseer so you know the meaning of the pages you will recite. When you recite, you will then get the meaning and more khushoo’. This is what we want to achieve to get tranquility inshallah.
Can I pray holding my Quran
If you want to hold your copy of the Quran, and may, but make sure you do not put it down on the ground, that is disrespectful. Place it on a table or chair beside you, if it’s on your phone a digital copy it’s different than the physical one.
Donating on Laylatul Qadr
There is a huge charity industry that has grown up in the last few years encouraging people to donate online and with tele-fundraisers during the last ten nights.
It was not the common practice of the companions to donate during the night. They generally donated during the day and spent the night in worship.
Though the Quran mentions donating during the night, this is a reference to donating publicly and privately, not specific to Ramadan or Laylatul Qadr.
Those who spend their wealth by night and day, by stealth and openly, verily their reward is with their Lord, and their shall no fear come upon them neither shall they grieve. (2:274)
The Prophet (peace be on him), who was the most generous person, would be in ei’tikaf and would be engaged in worship.
However due to the fact that people want to maximise their giving during Ramadan they have been given the impression that donating on a particular night will increase their reward. As we have online giving it is possible to automate giving and to donate during the night.
There no evidence that this was the practice of the Prophet (peace be upon him) or his companions in such a manner.
It would be wrong however to make this a condition of Laylatul Qadr or to make people feel guilty if you have not given on the night you thought it was, in particular. It may be that a Laylatul Qadr occurs on a different night within the month of Ramadan or even in the year as per the understanding of Ibn Mas’ud. In this case one should spread their giving throughout the entire year.
In any case it was not the practice of the companions to postpone giving to someone in need so that they could maximise their reward by giving it on a particular day. They would not say to somebody who is sick, ‘Wait. I will pay you next week when it is Laylatul Qadr.’
Though the reward of giving in Ramadan is increased, it is the sincerity of your intention when giving, which is more important than scheduling it to coincide with a particular date or time.
I am not discouraging people from donating or saying it’s haram to donate on that night, but it is wrong to give the impression to people as if it’s a Sunnah to do so.
Myths about Laylatul Qadr
There are some myths about Laylatul Qadr, such as if you see the trees doing sujud you know its Laylatul Qadr, this is not true. No authentic narrations to support this, even though I have been hearing it since I was a child. You also hear that if you look outside the window during the night it is as bright as day outside, it may be that this was the private experience of some people, but it does not mean that if we have not seen this it was not Laylatul Qadr.
Another common misunderstanding is to translate Laylatul Qadr as the Night of Power. This is wrong. It’s the Blessed Night.
إِنَّا أَنزَلْنَاهُ فِي لَيْلَةٍ مُّبَارَكَةٍ ۚ إِنَّا كُنَّا مُنذِرِينَ
Allah Almighty called it laylatun mubarakah, He stated:
We have revealed it on a Blessed Night. (44:3)
Truths about Laylatul Qadr
Some say the doors of supplication are open on this night. This is certain.
Abu Hurairah reported that the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said:
Our Lord descends to the lowest heaven in the last third of every night, and he says: Who is calling upon me that I may answer him? Who is asking from me that I may give him? Who is seeking my forgiveness that I may forgive him? (Bukhari and Muslim)
This happens every single night in the last third of the night, and the last ten nights of Ramadan are extra special, so the mercy is even more than that. Allah Almighty multiplies it. If we witness it, it is a shortcut to 83 years of ibadah. It is an encouragement to get more reward from him.
Allah Almighty descends
Scholars commented that when we read that Allah descends, these are from the Mutashabih unclear because we cannot compare it with any human understanding of ascending or descending. Allah stated in the Quran:
There is nothing such as Him (42:11)
Nothing resembles Allah, so we cannot compare the word yanzilu (descends) with our understanding of movement. According to one school of thought, known as tafweed, we delegate the meaning to Allah Almighty, without comparing it to our understanding. Another school of thought, says we should understand it as a metaphor, meaning that His mercy is in abundance during that special time.
We ask Allah Almighty to enable us to witness this night and for Him to grant us its blessings and gifts and forgiveness. Ameen.
Delivered by Shaykh Haytham Tamim on 14th May 2020 to the Thursday Halaqa
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