Muslims : The ’Splainer: What is Laylat al-Qadr, Muslims’ ‘Night of Destiny’?

Muslims : The ’Splainer: What is Laylat al-Qadr, Muslims’ ‘Night of Destiny’?

The ’Splainer: What is Laylat al-Qadr, Muslims’ ‘Night of Destiny’?
Thousands of worshippers gathered in the Imam Muhammad Ibn Abdul Wahab Grand Mosque of Qatar on the 27th night of Ramadan on Aug. 14, 2012. The night is commonly known as Laylat al-Qadr, or Night of Power. Photo courtesy of Creative Commons/Omar Chatriwala

(RNS) The ’Splainer (as in “You’ve got some ’splaining to do”) is an occasional feature in which the RNS staff gives you everything you need to know about current events to hold your own at the water cooler.

The attack early Monday (June 19) at a mosque overflowing with worshippers in London, which injured 11 people — and which British Prime Minister Theresa May called a “sickening” terrorist attack — occurred during the last 10 days of Ramadan, the most intensive period of the Islamic holy month.

Security forces are on high alert, as many Muslims spend the 10-day period, known as the third and final “ashra,” at mosques, devoted entirely to prayer. And the supplications are particularly intense on Laylat al-Qadr, the holiest night of Ramadan – and of the entire year. What makes this night so special, and when does it occur? Let us Splain.

What is Laylat al-Qadr?

The Arabic term Laylat al-Qadr is most commonly translated to mean the Night of Destiny, Night of Power or Night of Decree. It is meant to mark the night that the Prophet Muhammad received the first revelations of the Quran.

The Quran doesn’t specify exactly when Laylat al-Qadr is. That, of course, means every Ramadan brings renewed quibbling over the date. The hadith, or sayings of the prophet as remembered by his companions, say Muhammad hinted at several possible dates within the last 10 days of the Islamic holy month. Most Islamic scholars say it falls on an odd-numbered day. That would limit it to the eve of the 19th, 21st, 23rd, 25th, 27th or 29th days of the Ramadan. (On the Islamic calendar, the day actually starts at nightfall.)  

Many Sunni Muslims tend to observe it on the 27th day; many Shiite Muslims believe Laylat al-Qadr falls on the 23rd day. This year, that would be June 22 and June 18, respectively.

How is it different from the rest of Ramadan?

The Quran passage for Laylat al-Qadr. Photo courtesy of Creative Commons/Umar Nasir

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