Dr Mohammad Manzoor Alam
As of writing these lines the second ashra (ten days) is coming to a close. The moment we get down to taking our iftaar of the 20th Ramadhan, the night of the 21st Ramadhan begins, as in the Islamic calendar a date is to be counted from dusk to dusk. The night of the 21st Ramadhan could be the most precious night of the month as it could be Lailatul qadr (the night of power), which Allah has described in the Quran as “better than a thousand months”.
The Lailatul qadr could fall on any of the odd nights of the ashra (21st, 23rd, 25th, 27th and 29th), the Prophet (PBUH) told his followers. Vigil and prayers at that night is equal to prayers of a 1,000 months, which comes to over 80 years. It is not certain on which of the above five nights it falls, it is better to look for it on all the five nights.
Keeping vigil ad offering prayers (reading from the Quran, offering salaat and dhikr are included). These are recommended at least on the 27th night by the Prophet (PBUH) for those who for reasons of health, old age or sloth, are not able to do it over all these five nights. Lailatul qadr is the heart of Ramadhan.
The Prophet (PBUH) was shown in his dream the exact date of Laitatul qadr, but when he woke up to tell his followers about it he saw two Muslims fighting. Trying to disengage them and make peace, the date slipped from his mind. However, he remembered that it was an odd number in the last ashra, as mentioned above.
There are two points to be noted here. First, that a fight among Muslims is ruinous not only for this world, but for the next world as well. The second is that Allah, in His Mercy, gave Muslims both an opportunity to benefit from the Lailatul Qadr and the opportunity to earn His Pleasure by allowing them to seek and find the blessed night on all the odd nights of the last ashra.
The special dua to be recited on these nights is: “Allahuma innaka afuwun tuhibbul afwa fa’afo anni, Ya Ghafooro, Ya Ghafooro, Ya Ghafooro”.
A broad meaning: O, Allah! The Pardoner, You love to pardon. Do pardon me; O, Pardoner, O, Pardoner, O, Pardoner.
The dua for the entire last ashra is: “Allahumma atqini minannaare, wadkhilni fil jannate Ya, Rabbal aalamin”.
A loose translation of this is : O, Allah! Save me from the Fire and put me in paradise, O, the Sustainer of the worlds.
Maulana Ashraf Ali Thanwi has suggested salaat, reading from the Quran, dhikr and listening to, or giving, a discourse on the relevant issues alternately. By doing these acts of prayer alternately, ennui and sleep can be kept at bay. In case one cannot control dozing off, he should take a short nap instead of fighting back sleep.
The last couple of hours before dawn break are extremely significant in this regard.
There are people who somehow have persuaded themselves to believe that Lailatul qadr is only about keeping awake all night, spending the time in irrelevant gossip, drinking endless cups of tea and coffee and roaming about in the streets. The tea and coffee are frequently taken supposedly to keep awake. But, keeping awake for what? Gossiping, roaming around and eating sweets? This is not what is prescribed for the blessed night. This is merely depriving oneself of sleep without any gainful purpose.
It is like just fasting during the day without prayers, without observing the don’ts like not speaking untruth, not backbiting, not looking at other women. It has been said in Islam that those who are not refraining from forbidden acts during fast are only starving without any spiritual merit.
A more disturbing aspect is burning noisy crackers, squibs and firing toy rockets which go up in the sky with a whoosh and burst spectacularly with a big bang before the burning debris falls to earth. This can be potentially dangerous. It also destroys the spirit of the blessed night. There are other noisy distractions like boys riding motorcycles at full speed in large gangs through the streets. This raucous nuisance sometimes becomes a law and order issue and the police have to step in.
Please do not destroy the noble spirit of the blessed night and focus on earning Allah’s Pleasure. May all of us learn to treasure these moments. Amen!