Moroccans will celebrate Islam’s holiest night today, May 20.
Laylat al-Qadr is a night of many names but is most commonly known in English as the Night of Power or the Night of Decree. Falling on the 27th night of Ramadan, the Islamic holy month, Laylat al-Qadr marks the night when God revealed the Quran to Prophet Muhammad.
According to Islamic tradition, the Prophet used to retreat every year to the cave of Hira, located in the Jabal an-Nur mountain outside Mecca in modern-day Saudi Arabia. In the cave, the Prophet would meditate in isolation for approximately one month.
Muslims believe the angel Gabriel visited the Prophet one night in the year 610 and revealed to him the first verses of the Quran: “Recite in the Name of thy Lord Who created, created man of a blood clot. Recite! Thy Lord is most noble, Who taught by the Pen, taught man that which he knew not” (Surah al Alaq, ayats 1-5).
Laylat al-Qadr is one of the most important days in Islam as it created an everlasting bond between Prophet Muhammad, the ummah (Muslim community), and the holy text of the Quran.
Muslims believe Prophet Muhammad continued to receive revelations of the Quran for the next 23 years, providing him and other believers with guidance and solutions to the challenges facing the emerging Muslim community.
In Surah al Qadr, ayats 3 to 5, God says, “The Night of Power is better than a thousand months. The angels and the Spirit descend therein, by the leave of their Lord, with every command; peace it is until the break of dawn.”
In describing the descent of the angels and the spirit, the verse illustrates how God’s grace and mercy were multiplied on the night of the revelation. Because Laylat al-Qadr marks the introduction of the Quran to mankind, a single good deed on this night brings the blessings of a thousand months.
A hadith, or teaching from Prophet Muhammad, encourages Muslims to spend Laylat al-Qadr in devotion and seek God’s forgiveness: “Whosoever establishes the prayers on the night of Qadr, out of sincere faith, and hoping to attain Allah’s rewards, then all his past sins will be forgiven” (Bukhari Vol 1, Book 2:34).
Because the exact date of the Prophet’s revelation is unknown, many Muslims dedicate the final 10 evenings of the holy month to extra prayers and recitations of the Quran.
Laylat al-Qadr encourages Muslims to reflect on and enhance their faith by performing extra prayers, offering supplications from the Quran, engaging in dhikr (remembrance), or giving to those in need. Muslims believe rewards for such piety will reap untold benefits, leading many to perform zakat, or charitable giving, on Laylat al-Qadr.
Muslims may give zakat to those in need directly, through Islamic organizations, with volunteer work, or even through acts of kindness.
On Laylat al-Qadr, some Muslims are especially careful about reciting all 100 remembrances of God, inviting others to break the fast, giving to the poor, performing non-obligatory prayers, and seeking pardon from God.
Laylat al-Qadr under lockdown
The COVID-19 pandemic has sadly put traditional celebrations of every religion and culture on pause.
Many Muslims around the world will be unable to worship at mosques on Laylat al-Qadr, give directly to the needy, or break fast with their families and friends due to preventive public health measures. However, Muslims can still uphold their prayers and supplications without interruption and even engage in charitable giving online.
Some Muslim countries such as Jordan and the UAE have already begun easing lockdown measures ahead of Eid al-Fitr, the celebration marking the end of Ramadan. Other Muslim countries, however, have either doubled down on restrictions or extended confinement periods to enforce social distancing during the holiday.
Saudi Arabia, Oman, and Algeria have all heightened COVID-19 curbs as Eid looms, fearing the emergence of new virus outbreaks if families are permitted to gather.
Movement restrictions, education and commerce closures, and a night curfew will remain in place in Algeria until May 30. In Saudi Arabia, all cities and regions in the kingdom will be subject to a 24-hour “complete curfew” from May 23-27. The Omani government banned all Eid gatherings yesterday after a jump in cases.
While many Muslims will have to spend Laylat al-Qadr under lockdown and with fewer loved ones than usual, the special evening is best spent in close proximity to God—something not even a global pandemic can disturb.
Read also: What You Should Know About Eid Al-Fitr