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Islamic Voice Logo

DECEMBER 1999

MONTHLY    *    Vol 13-12 No:156    *   DECEMBER 1999/ Ramadan 1420H
  email: editor@islamicvoice.com

UNDERSTANDING QUR'AN


The Night Of Power

The Night Of Power

In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful

We revealed it (the Qur’an) on the Night of Power. Would that you knew what the Night of Power is like. Better is the Night of Power than a thousand months.
On that night the angels and the Spirit descend by their Lord’s permission, with all His decrees. That night is peace, till the break of dawn. (Surah: Power, al-Qadr:97)

Commentary: Sayyid Qutub,
Translation: A.A.Salahi & S.A.Shamsi


This surah speaks about the promised great night which the whole universe marked with joy and prayers. It is the night of perfect communion between this world and the Highest Society. It is the night which marked the beginning of the revelation of the Qur’an to Muhammad (Pbuh), an event unparalleled in the history of mankind for its splendour and the significance it has for the life of mankind as a whole. Its greatness is far beyond human realisation. “We revealed it on the Night of Power. Would that you knew what the Night of Power is like. Better is the Night of Power than a thousand months.”

The Qur’anic statements which relate this great event radiate with Allah’s clear and shining light: “ We revealed it on the Night of Power.” There is also the light of the angels and the Spirit moving between the earth and the Highest Society.” On that night the angels and the Spirit descend by their Lord’s permission with all His decrees.” In addition, there is also the light of dawn which the surah represents as perfectly harmonious with the light of the Qur’an and the angels as well as with the spirit of peace: “That night is peace, till the break of dawn.”

The night in question here is the same night referred to in surah 44, (“Smoke”): “ We revealed it (the Qur’an) on a blessed night, for We would warn (mankind), on a night when every precept was made plain as a commandment from us. We have ever sent forth messengers as a blessing from your Lord, who hears all and knows all.” It is established that it is a night in the month of Ramadhan, as stated in surah 2, “The Cow”): “ In the month of Ramadhan the Qur’an was revealed, a book of guidance distinguishing right from wrong.” This means that the Night of Power marked the beginning of the revelation of the Qur’an to the Prophet and his charge of conveying it to mankind.

Ibn Ishaq related that the first revelation, consisting of the opening of surah 96,

(“The Blood Clots”), took place in the month of Ramadhan, when the Messenger of Allah was at his devotion in the cave of Hira.

A number of traditions specifying this night have come down to us: some stress that it is the twenty-seventh of Ramadhan, others the twenty-first; a few others say it is one of the last ten days and some others do not go beyond saying that it is in Ramadhan.Its title “The Night of Power” may be taken to mean assignment, designation and organisation, or it may mean value, position and rank. Both meanings are relevant to that great universal event of the revelation of the Qur’an and the assigning of the message to the Prophet. For it is the greatest and most precious of all events which the universe has witnessed. It is also the event which explains more clearly than any other the place of assignment, designation and organisation in the life of mankind. This night is better than a thousands months. The figure here and elsewhere in the Qur’an does not signify its precise number. It simply denotes a very high number. Many thousand months and many thousand years have passed without leaving behind a fraction of the changes and results brought about in that blessed and happy night.

This night of an essence too sublime to be understood by human intellect: “Would that you knew what the Night of Power is like.” There is no reason to attach any value to the legends circulating among the masses concerning this night. It is great because Allah has chosen it for the revelation of the Qur’an, so that its light may spread throughout the universe, and Divine peace may spread in human life and conscience. That night is great because of what the Qur’an includes: an ideology, a basis for values and standards and a comprehensive code of moral and social behaviour, all of which promote peace within the human soul and in the world at large. It is great because of the descent of the angels, and Jibril in particular, by their Lord’s permission carrying the Qur’an which was first sent down on that night. They fill all the space between heaven and earth in such a splendid, universal celebration, vividly portrayed in this surah.

When we look today in retrospect, after the lapse of numerous generations, at that glorious and happy night, and imagine the fascinating celebration the world witnessed on that night, and ponder over the essence of revelation and its far-reaching effects on human life and its values, we appreciate the greatness of this event. We can then understand, to some extent, why the Qur’anic reference to that night is made in such an equivocal way: “Would that you knew what the Night of Power is like”.

On the night every matter of significance was made plain and distinct; new values and standards were established; the fortunes of nations were determined; and values and standards were sifted.

Humanity, out of ignorance and to its misfortune, may overlook the value and importance of the Night of Power. When humanity ignores all that, it loses the happiest and most beautiful sign of grace which Allah bestowed on it. It loses the real happiness and peace gifted to it by Islam, namely, the peace of conscience, family and society. What it has otherwise gained of material civilisation cannot be adequate compensation for its loss. Humanity is miserable in spite of higher production levels and better means of existence. The splendid light which once illuminated its soul has been put off; the brilliant touch of happiness which carried it high up to the Highest Society has been smothered; the peace which overflowed in the hearts and minds has disappeared. Nothing can compensate for the happiness of the soul, the heavenly light and the elevation to the loftiest ranks.

We, the believers in Islam, are commanded not to forget or neglect this event. The Prophet has taught us an easy and enjoyable way to commemorate that night, so that our souls may always be in close communion with it and with the universal event which took place in it. He has urged us to spend this night of each year in devotion. He said, “Seek the Night of Power in the last ten nights of Ramadhan.” “ He who spends the Night of Power in worship, with a pure motive of faith and devotion, will have all his past sins forgiven.” Islam is not mere formalities. Hence, the Prophet specified that the consecration of that night must be motivated by faith and devotion. This would make its consecration by an individual an indication of his full awareness of the far-reaching effects of what took place in that night.

The Islamic method of character building links worship with faith and the truth it establishes in the heart and conscience of the individual. In this method, worship is considered a means for maintaining full awareness of this truth, its clarification and firm establishment in one’s mind, heart and soul. This method has been proved to be the best for the revival of this truth so that it may have a constant influence on men’s consciences and behaviour. The theoretical understanding of this truth cannot, on its own and without worship, establish it or give it the necessary impetus for its operation in the life of the individual or the life of the society. This link between the anniversary of the Night of Power and its consecration in faith and devotion is a part of the successful and upright method of Islam.

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