By Sheikh Salman al-Oadah
The last ten nights of Ramadan are very special. The first of these nights occurs on the eve of the 21st day of Ramadan. In other words, it is the night that commences after the completion of the 20th day of fasting. Sometimes there are only nine nights, whenever the month of Ramadan lasts for only 29 days. Nevertheless, they are still traditionally referred to as “the last ten nights”.
The last ten nights of Ramadan are very special. These are the nights that the Prophet (peace be upon him) would spend in constant worship. Among these nights is Laylah al-Qadr – a night more blessed than a thousand months.
The Prophet (peace be upon him) used to single these nights out for worship and the performance of good deeds. He would exert himself in worship during these ten nights more than any other nights of the year.
`Â’ishah tells us: “During the last ten nights of Ramadan, the Prophet (peace be upon him) would tighten his waist belt and spend the night in worship. He would also wake up his family.” [Sahîh al-Bukhârî (1920)]
`Â’ishah also says: “I had never known Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) to read the entire Qur’ân in a single night, or to spend the whole night in prayer up until the morning, or to spend a whole month in fasting – except in Ramadan.” [Sunan al-Nasâ’î (1641) and Sunan Ibn Mâjah (1348)]
When we say that the Prophet (peace be upon him) spent the whole night in worship, we should qualify it. This is because he would spend some time eating dinner, partaking of his pre-dawn meal, and other similar activities. However, he would spend most of the night in worship.
Waking Up the Family
`Â’ishah informs us that the Prophet (peace be upon him) used to wake up his family during the last ten nights of Ramadan. Indeed, he used to wake up his wives for prayer throughout the year, but that was so that they could pray for a small fraction of the night.
We know this, because Umm Salamah relates that the Prophet (peace be upon him) woke her up one night and said: “Glory be to Allah. What has been sent down of trials during this night? What has been sent down of treasures, so that the denizens of the bedchambers will be awakened? O Lord! To be clothed in this world by naked in the Hereafter.” [Sahîh al-Bukhârî (1074)]
During the last ten nights of Ramadan, the Prophet (peace be upon him) would wake up his wives to pray for a much longer portion of the night than during the rest of the year.
Exerting Oneself in Worship
`Â’isha tells us: “The Prophet would exert himself in worship during the last ten nights more than at any other time of the year.” [Sahîh Muslim (1175)]
The great jurist, al-Shâfi`î declares: “It is Sunnah for one to exert greater efforts in worship during the last ten nights of Ramadan.” [al-Majmû` (6/397)]
When `Â’ishah tells us that the Prophet (peace be upon him) would “tighten his waistbelt”, she is speaking figuratively. The phrase means to set about to devote oneself fully and wholeheartedly to the task at hand.
Seeking Out Laylah al-Qadr
One of the greatest distinctions of these ten special nights is that one of them is Laylah al-Qadr – the Night of Decree. This is the greatest night of the year – better than a thousand months. This means that a Muslim can earn more rewards on Laylah al-Qadr than he would if – excluding this special night – he were worship his Lord for eighty-four years straight. This is one of the immense favors that Allah has bestowed upon the Muslim community.
Ibrâhîm al-Nakha`î says: “Good works performed on this night are better than those performed consistently for a thousand months.”
Abû Hurayrah relates that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “Whoever spends Laylah al-Qadr in prayer, believing in Allah and seeking His reward, will be forgiven all of his past sins.” [Sahîh al-Bukhârî (1802) and Sahîh Muslim (760)]
Belief in Allah, in this hadîth, means not only to believe in Allah, but to believe in the reward that we are promised for observing prayer on this night.
Laylah al-Qadr is on one of the odd nights. `Â’ishah relates that Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) said: “Seek out Laylah al-Qadr in the odd nights during the last ten nights of Ramadan.” [Sahîh al-Bukhârî (1913) and Sahîh Muslim (1169)]
It is most likely one of the last seven odd nights. Ibn `Umar relates that Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) said: “Look for it in the last ten nights. If one of you falls weak or unable to do so, then he should at least try on the seven remaining nights.” [Sahîh Muslim (1165)]
The most likely candidate for Laylah al-Qadr is the 27th night of Ramadan. This is indicated by the statement of `Ubayy b. Ka`b: “I swear by Allah that I know which night it is. It is the night in which Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) ordered us to observe in prayer. It is the night on the eve of the 27th of Ramadan. Its sign is that the Sun will rise in the morning of that day white without exuding any rays.” [Sahîh Muslim (762)]
A Muslim should seek out this special night by spending the last ten nights of Ramadan engaged in various acts of worship. These include reciting the remembrances of Allah, reading the Qur’ân, and begging Allah’s forgiveness.
It is best for us to strive hard on all ten nights, because the Prophet (peace be upon him) said: The way we “look for” Laylah al-Qadr is by engaging in extra worship.
When the Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “Look for it in the last ten nights” he did not mean that we should literally “look for” signs and indications that distinguish Laylah al-Qadr from other nights. The things that distinguish Laylah al-Qadr from other nights are part of the Unseen.
Allah says: ” Surely We revealed it on a blessed night. Surely We ever wish to warn (against evil) – On this night, every wise matter is made distinct.” [Sûrah al-Dukhân (3-4)]
Allah says: “Laylah al-Qadr is better than a thousand months. The angels and the Spirit descend therein, by the permission of their Lord, with every decree. (This night is) peace, until the rising of the dawn.” [Sûrah al-Qadr (3-5)]
These are the ways in which Laylah al-Qadr is special. They are not things that we can see with our eyes. No one after the Prophet (peace be upon him) can see the angels.
Observing a Retreat in the Mosque (I`tikâf)
Observing a retreat in the mosque is of the best things we can do during the last ten nights of Ramadan. `Â’ishah tells us: “The Prophet (peace be upon him) used to observe a retreat in the mosque during the last ten nights of Ramadan up until he died. His wives continued to observe this practice after his death.” [Sahîh al-Bukhârî (1922) and Sahîh Musli (1172)]
The practice of i`tikâf is a strongly recommended act. It is defined as remaining in retreat in the mosque for the express purpose of worship. The purpose of doing so is to devote one’s heart exclusively to Allah. The person engaging in i`tikâf keeps this intention close to mind and seeks Allah’s blessings. He should not forget the reason why he is observing this retreat.
A person observing i`tikâf does not leave the mosque except for what is absolutely necessary (like going to the bathroom). While in the mosque, he should busy himself with the remembrance of Allah. He should make sure to offer the remembrances of the morning and evening and the prescribed remembrances for the five daily prayers. He should perform all of the Sunnah prayers and all other recommended prayers, like the Duhâ prayer. He should read as much of the Qur’ân as he can.
He should spend less time eating and sleep as little as possible. He should avoid unnecessary talk. However, he should engage in advising his fellow Muslims and in enjoining them to truth and to patience.
It is encouraged for us to be extra generous during the last ten nights of Ramadan, without being extravagant or ostentatious in our giving. Ibn `Abbâs relates that: “Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) was the most generous of all people in doing good, and he was at his most generous during the month of Ramadan. Gabriel used to meet with him every year throughout the month of Ramadan, so the Prophet could recite the Qur’ân to him. Whenever Gabriel met with him, he became more generous than a beneficial breeze.” [Sahîh al-Bukhârî (1902) and Sahîh Muslim (2308)]
Al-Nawawî states [al-Majmû` (6/398)]:
Generosity and open-handedness are strongly encouraged in Ramadan, especially during the last ten nights. By doing so, we emulate the example of Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) as well as of our Pious Predecessors. Also, this month is noble, and good works carried out in this month are more blessed than they are at any other time. Also, during this month, people are preoccupied with fasting and worship, and this distracts them from their livelihood, so they might need some assistance during this time. END.
BY SHEIKH SALMAN AL-AODAH.