Islamic scholars differ regarding the meaning behind the name of ‘Laylatul-Qadr’, as the word ‘Qadr’ can hold a variety of meanings, and each has its own theological significance.
Some scholars defined ‘Qadr’ in the context of this holy night as ‘destiny/decree’ (qadar). To them this meant that this was the night in which the destiny of each person was decided. It would be this night in which a person’s sustenance, lifespan, and other critical matters would be sealed for the coming year.
In support of this, ‘Abdullah ibn Abbas (may Allah be pleased with him) said: “It is written in Umm al-Kitab (the Heavenly copy of the Qur’an) during Laylatul-Qadr what shall come to pass in the following year of good and evil, sustenance, and lifespan. Even the pilgrimage of the pilgrim (shall be decided); it will be said ‘so-and-so will perform pilgrimage’ (on this night).”
Hasan Al-Basri (d. 110 H), Mujahid (d. 104 H) and Qatadah (d. 117 H)—three renowned early Muslim scholars—shared this view and were reported to have said that “all the affairs of lifespan, deeds, creation, and provision are decreed on Laylatul-Qadr in the month of Ramadan and will come to pass in the coming year.”
Imam Al-Nawawi concluded his discussion on Laylatul-Qadr by saying: “It was named Laylatul-Qadr, meaning: the night of judgment and discernment (in the affairs of men). This meaning is what is true and popular.”
Other scholars defined the meaning of ‘Qadr’ as ‘power,’ indicating the greatness of the honor and might of the night.Similar to this view is the interpretation of ‘Qadr’ as ‘power’ in that the righteous deeds performed during this night are far more powerful than they would be on any other night.
Ibn ‘Uthaymeen said: “A person would attain the reward of the night, even if he has no knowledge of it. This is because the Prophet said ‘whoever stands (in prayer) during Laylatul-Qadr, with faith and hope, will be forgiven,’ and the Prophet did not make knowledge of the night a condition of their forgiveness. And had knowledge of the night become a necessary factor, the Prophet would have made this clear.”
In this view, since knowledge of the night is not a prerequisite to prospering from the night, then it is not required for the worshipper to understand concepts of destiny or decree in order to achieve the rewards of worshipping on this night. All they need to do is perform acts of worship on that night.
Another meaning of ‘Qadr’ in the context of Laylatul-Qadr, involves the meaning of ‘restriction.’ This is understood to indicate that the earth becomes restricted as angels descend to the earth on the holy night, occupying the earth. This descent of the angels is referenced in the Qur’an, and since angels are typically associated with concepts such as light, guidance, and blessings, it is a symbol of how majestic Laylatul-Qadr is.Furthermore, since angels occupy the highest heavens, they are described in the Qur’an as ‘close to God’; yet on Laylatul-Qadr they are ‘seeking permission’ from God to descend to earth in recognition of the divine blessings that God places on earth during this night.In one narration, the Prophet ﷺ stated: “Truly the angels on this night are as numerous as the pebbles upon the earth”..
Laylatul-Qadr has also been described as a gift for the Prophet Muhammad’s community (ummah). In the Muwatta of Imam Malik, there is a hadith that states: “The Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, was shown the lifespans of the people (who had gone) before him, or what Allah willed of that, and it was as if the lives of the people of his community had become too short for them to be able to do as many good actions as others before them had been able to do with their long lives, so Allah gave him Laylat al- Qadr, which is better than a thousand months.”
In addition to the aforementioned significance related to Divine decree and providing the Prophet’s ummah with a unique opportunity for worship, there is also a special connection that Laylatul-Qadr has with the Qur’an. In Surah al-Qadr (97:1) and Surah al-Dukhan (44:3), it is mentioned that the Qur’an was revealed on this night. Ibn Abbas has explained this by mentioning on Laylatul-Qadr that the Qur’an was revealed in its entirety from the highest heaven to the lowest heaven, and placed in a special chamber called Bayt al-`Izzah (the House of Honor). From there, it was revealed gradually over the course of twenty three years to the Prophet Muhammad.This was in order to emphasize the lofty status of the revelation and to announce to the inhabitants of the Heavens that this was the final revelation.It is also mentioned by other scholars, such as Imam al-Sha’bi (d. 105 H), that the revelation of the Qur’an to the Prophet Muhammad began in the month of Ramadan on Laylatul-Qadr when Jibreel first descended to visit the Prophet Muhammad…..
This is Mansoor Raja from District Bandipore currently doing PG in Political Science at Kashmir university.