Throughout the year, our goal as Muslims must be to fully benefit from the rewards and opportunities of Ramadan and Laylatul Qadr (The Night of Decree). The beginning of Ramadan is a great time to prepare for the last ten days of this blessed month and to seek the rewards of that blessed night. While it is good to be fully immersed in our worship throughout the year and to savor each moment, Ramadan is also the perfect time to think about the future and what the condition of our souls will be on the Day of Judgment. This is why we focus on the Night of Decree, when the decrees for the coming year are decided and written down, as Allah says:
“Therein (that night) is decreed every matter of ordainments.”
(Surah Sl-Dukhaan, 44:4)
Because our fates are being decreed on that night, we should anticipate Laylatul Qadr like serious spiritual athletes training for the Super Bowl, World Cup, or Olympics of our faith. Our daily activities should all be directed toward the ultimate goal, and as we get closer to it, our worship should build in intensity. Our training should become harder. Our workouts, more targeted and refined. We should have a clear intention and stay focused.
This is the time to remember that as we refine and improve our worship during the year, the ultimate test of our efforts will be during Ramadan, specifically during Laylatul Qadr. It has all been building up to this moment.
We should eagerly anticipate the last ten days of the month, but to anticipate them is not just to expect that those days will soon occur. Rather, it is to have a feeling of excitement that something extraordinary is about to happen. It is to have a very pleasurable expectation. It is to picture those things occurring in our minds and to feel them in our hearts. Anticipation is not a passive emotion; it involves our whole being.
For those of us in countries that follow a Gregorian calendar, it is important to remember that Ramadan occurs eleven days earlier every year because follows a lunar cycle. It is the ninth month of the lunar year. It occurs after the month of Sha’ban and before the month of Shawwal. It should not come as a surprise. We should be prepared for it just as we would be prepared for the arrival of an important guest who visits once yearly.
Before Ramadan arrives, organize your schedule to devote more time to your worship during the month. Any daily tasks that might take time away from your worship should be done in advance, if possible. This includes shopping, meal preparation, and cleaning. Think about the things that normally divert your attention during the last ten days and brainstorm ideas for minimizing those distractions. Spread out the work of maintaining the household so that it does not all fall on one person.
Plan ahead to how you will accomplish your charitable and spiritual goals. Strive to do an act of charity each day. Pray on time each day. Consistency is key. Allah loves for his worshippers to show consistency, as evidenced by the verses:
“Be steadfast in prayer, practice regular charity, and bow down your heads with those who bow down (in worship)."
(Surah Al-Baqarah, 2:43)
"Be steadfast in prayer and regular in charity. Whatever good you send forth for your souls before you, you shall find it with Allah. For Allah sees well all that you do."
(Surah Al-Baqarah, 2: 110)
How Do We Anticipate the Last Ten Days?
Before Ramadan arrives, review the significance of the last ten days. Read and memorize more Quran. Listen to Islamic lectures. Visit the masjid more often. Cultivate a mindset of increased worship so that you will be ready when the last ten days arrive. The Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, used to strive hard (in worship) during the last ten days of Ramadan in a way that he did not strive at any other time (Muslim #1175).
We must think of ourselves as athletes who are in training and think of the first twenty days of Ramadan as the Play-offs or Semi-finals. We are close to finishing but have not yet reached the goal. The game is not over.
How Do We Anticipate Laylatul Qadr?
Laylatul Qadr, also known as The Night of Decree and The Night of Power, is the approximate night on which the Quran started being revealed to Prophet Muhammad. It is an approximation because although we can be certain based on sound evidence that it occurred during Ramadan, we cannot be certain of the exact date. The knowledge of that has been hidden from us by Allah in His Wisdom. He has proclaimed to the believers:
“Verily, We have sent it (this Quran) down in the Night of Al-Qadr (the Decree).
And what will make you know what the Night of Al-Qadr (Decree) is?
The Night of Al-Qadr (Decree) is better than a thousand months
(i.e. better than worshipping Allah for a thousand months or eighty-three years and four months). Therein descend the angels and the Ruh (Jibril) by Allah’s Permission with all Decrees,
(All that night), there is peace until the appearance of dawn.”
(Surah Qadr, 97:1-5)
Again, we cannot be certain of the exact night that it occurs each year. We do know, however, that it is most likely during the last ten nights and that it most likely occurs on an odd night. The Prophet said:
“Look out for Laylatul Qadr during the last ten nights of Ramadan.”
(Sahih Bukhari & Sahih Muslim)
Note that in the version that is in Sahih Bukhari, the Prophet stated:
"Look out for Laylatul Qadr during the odd nights of the last ten nights of Ramadan."
The ambiguity in our Prophet’s instructions to his followers is on purpose. Allah knows the nature of his creatures. Perhaps if we knew the exact date, we would leave off worship on other days. Perhaps we would grow lazy. The companion ‘Ubaadah ibn al-Saamit reported that the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, came out to tell us when Laylatul Qadr was, and two of the Muslims were arguing. He said:
“I came out to tell you when Laylatul Qadr was, and ‘So and So’ and ‘So and So’ were arguing, so it [the knowledge of when Laylatul Qadr was] was taken away from me. Perhaps this is better for you. So seek it on the ninth and the seventh and the fifth, i.e., on the odd-numbered nights.”
(Sahih Bukhaari #1919)
There are scholars, like Sh. Nasiruddin al-Albaani, who believe that the date of Laylatul Qadr is fixed every year. There are others, like Sh. Muhammad ibn al-’Uthaymeen, who believe that it changes. So, determining whether the fasting Muslims are observing an odd or an even day is not a very straightforward process.
Moreover, there are at least two methods of calculating which day of Ramadan we are observing, depending on how we interpret the wording in the hadith, and they both could yield different results. To calculate the odd nights, you could use one of the following methods:
1. Days Passed Method: Count the days that have already passed so that Laytul Qadr falls on the 21st, 23rd, 25th, 27th, or 29th night of Ramadan.” If you are on the 21st, 23rd, 25th, or 27th night, an even or an odd number of nights may remain.
2. Days Remaining Method: Count the remaining days, as the Prophet said, “Look out for the Laylatul Qadr during the remaining ten nights of Ramadan, on the night when nine, seven, or five nights remain.” (This was reported by Bukhari on the authority of Ibn Abbas, may Allah be pleased with him.)
According to the second method, if Ramadan consisted of thirty days (and only Allah knows if this will be the case) then Laylatul Qadr might fall on one of the even nights because the 22nd will be the night when nine remains, the 24th will be the night when seven remains and the 26th will be the night when five remains. This was the understanding of Abu Sa‘id al-Khudri (may Allah be pleased with him).
In Sahih Muslim, it is reported that Abun Nadhr asked:
“O Abu Sa‘id, you know more than us about (these) numbers. He said: Yes, indeed we have better rights than you. I said: What is this ninth, seventh, and fifth? He said: When 21 (nights are over) and the 22nd begins, it is the ninth. When 23 (nights) are over, that which follows (i.e. the 24th) is the seventh. When 25 nights are over, what follows (i.e. the 26th) is the fifth.”
(Sahih Muslim #1167f)
If, however, Ramadan consists of 29 days, then the results of these two calculation forms will be exactly the same. Most families, however, do not concern themselves with the calculations and opt to follow the schedule of their local masjid or national organization.
What is the Takeaway?
The lesson we take away from this process is this: We should treat every night of the last ten nights of Ramadan as if it could be Laylatul Qadr. This was how the Prophet would anticipate it.
Aishah, may Allah be pleased with her, said:
“With the start of the last ten days of Ramadan, the Prophet would tighten his waist sheet (i.e. he would work hard and refrain from sexual relations), pray throughout the night, and he would also wake up his wives.”
(Sahih Bukhari & Sahih Muslim in Majmu‘ Al-Fatawa, 25/284)
With that in mind, we should strive to exert ourselves in worship on all possible days. Hopefully, this religious vigor will create a mindset of motivation that will carry us throughout the year.
In addition, we can anticipate the last ten nights by preparing for i'tikaf, or seclusion in the masjid. During this seclusion, we leave off worldly affairs and focus on worship while living and sleeping at the masjid. Although i’tikaf may be observed at other times, it is highly encouraged during the last ten nights. Abu Hurayrah reported:
“The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, used to observe i’tikaf for ten days every Ramadan, and in the year in which he passed away, he observed i’tikaf for twenty days.”
(Sahih Bukhari in Riyad as-Salihin #1270)
Women can also observe i’tikaf. The Prophet encouraged his wives to observe it. 'Aishah (May Allah be pleased with her) reported:
“The Prophet used to engage himself in i'tikaf in the mosque during the last ten nights of Ramadan until he passed away; thereafter, his wives followed this practice after him.”
(Sahih Bukhari & Sahih Muslim in Riyad as-Salihin #1269)
We can also anticipate the last ten days of Ramadan by learning the prayers that are traditionally recited during Ramadan. Learn the Du’a Qunoot. Al-Hasan ibn ‘Ali, may Allah be pleased with him, said the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, taught me words to say in Qunoot al-Witr:
“Allaahumma ihdini feeman hadayta,
wa ‘aafini feeman ‘aafayta wa tawallani feeman tawallayta,
wa baarik li feema a‘tayta, wa qini sharra ma qadayta,
fa innaka taqdi wa la yuqda ‘alayk,
innahu laa yadhillu man waalayta,
tabaarakta Rabbana wa ta‘aalayta.”
O Allah, guide me among those whom You have guided.
Pardon me among those whom You have pardoned.
Turn to me in friendship among those to whom You have turned in friendship.
And bless me in what You have bestowed.
And save me from the evil of what You have decreed.
For verily, You decree, and none can turn back Your decree,
and he is not humiliated whom You have befriended.
Blessed are You, O Lord, and Exalted”
(Sunan of Abi Dawud, #1425)
Anticipate Laylatul Qadr by learning the recommended prayer for forgiveness.
Aishah, may Allah be pleased with her, narrated:
“I said, ‘O Messenger of Allah, if I know which night is Laylat al-Qadr, what should I say on that night?’ He said, ‘Say:
Allahumma innaka ‘afuwwun tuhibb al-‘afwa fa'fu ‘anni.
O Allah, You are the Most Forgiving, and You love forgiveness, so forgive me.”’
(Sunan of Ibn Majah #3850)
Ramadan is here. Be grateful. Take advantage of all of it, but anticipate the last ten nights with joy and hope. In those minutes and hours lie the keys to forgiveness and mercy. In it, we can find Laylatul Qadr. May we all benefit from it.
Candice “Sister Islaah” Abd’al-Rahim reverted to Islam in 1976, and considers herself a student of knowledge. She has deep education credentials which include an M.A. in Teaching, a Certificate of Advanced Studies (Post-Masters) in Administration and Supervision, a B.S. in English, and experiences as a principal (in fact the first hijab public school principal in Maryland), curriculum and staff developer, mentor, and classroom teacher of grades pre-K through 12. She is a former adjunct professor at Johns Hopkins University’s Graduate School of Education and is a doctoral candidate in Islamic Sciences at the International Online University. Islaah’s contributions to the field have earned her honors in the Who’s Who of Distinguished JHU Alumni. She is a wife, daughter, mother, and grandmother and is an active member of several Muslim communities in the Baltimore area.
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