Qadr is an Arabic word which refers to measure and destiny. The Night of Destiny or Qadr (laylat al-qadr) is the night of revelation of the Quran and designation of a human being’s affairs of a year. This night is the most superior night of the year and the night of God’s mercy and of forgiveness. On this night the angels descend to the earth and, according to some Shiite narrations, they present human beings’ affairs of the coming year to the Imam of the time.
The exact date of the Night of Destiny is not clear; however, according to many narrations, it occurs in the month of Ramadan and is most probably one of the nights of the 19th, 21st, or 23rd of this month. Shiites place more emphasis on the 23rd night while the Sunni sect places more on the 27th might.
Following the example of the Infallibles (peace be on them), the Shiites stay awake on these nights, recite the Holy Quran, supplications, and perform other acts of worship. That Imam Ali (peace be on him) was struck with a sword on the head and his martyrdom on these nights has also increased their importance for the Shiites and mourning is also one of the acts that accompany the acts of worship of these nights.
Position and Importance
The Night of Destiny is the best and most important night in Islamic culture. According to a narration from the Holy Prophet (peace be on him and his progeny), the Night of Destiny is one of God’s gifts on the Muslims and none of the previous people were bestowed with this gift. In the Quran, a whole chapter has been dedicated to the description and praise of this night and is called Surat al-Qadr (the chapter of al-Qadr (destiny)). In this chapter, the Night of Qadr is considered to be more valuable than a thousand months, that is, according to Imam al-Baqir (peace be on him) “good actions on the Night of Destiny such as prayers, paying zakat, and other good actions are better than actions that are performed in a thousand months in which there is no Night of Destiny”. The first 6 verses of the chapter, al-Dukhan, of the Quran also talk about the importance and events of the Night of Destiny.
In a narration from Imam al-Sadiq (peace be on him), he states that the best month is the month of Ramadan and the heart of the month of Ramadan is the Night of Destiny. Similarly, the Holy Prophet (peace be on him and his progeny) has narrated that the Night of Destiny is the chief of nights. According to narrative and jurisprudential sources, the days following the Nights of Destiny are as superior and valuable as the nights.
In some narrations it has been stated that Lady Fatima (peace be on her) is the secret of the Nights of Qadr. Regarding the position and rank of Lady Fatima, the Holy Prophet (peace be on him and his progeny) has stated that she is a branch from the tree of my existence and, therefore, her happiness and sadness is my happiness and sadness and whoever persecutes her, persecutes me and if someone makes her happy, he has made me happy; similarly, God’s wrath and pleasure is the pleasure and wrath of my daughter Fatima. This narration shows the greatness of Lady Fatima (peace be on her).
Therefore, whoever seeks to perceive the Night of Qadr must beseech Lady Fatima and one of the things that pleases her is for a person to be bound with Ashura because Ashura is the means for the connection of believers to Amirul Muʾmineen Imam Ali (peace be on him).
The occurrence of certain events such as the martyrdom of Imam Ali (peace be on him) in the third part of the month of Ramadan has increased the importance of these nights for the Shiites and besides performing the recommended acts of worship of these nights, they also mourn for this Imam.
The Revelation of the Quran
The first verse of the chapter of al-Qadr and the third of the chapter of al-Dukhan indicate that the Quran was revealed on the Night of Destiny.
The Quran was revealed in two ways:
1_ Revelation all at once on a specific night
2_ Gradual revelation over a period of the twenty three years of the Holy Prophet’s prophethood (peace be on him and his household)
Allamah Tabatabai, one of the greatest exegetes of the Holy Quran, believes the following regarding the all-at-once and gradual revelation of the Quran: “the Quran has two existences: the exoteric in the form of words and expressions and the esoteric in its actual position (the Quran has another existence and reality that is hidden behind the veil of the exoteric existence and is hidden from normal sight and perception. In its esoteric existence, the Quran is void of all kinds of divisions and separations). On the Night of Qadr, the Quran was revealed all at once in its esoteric and actual existence to the heart of the Holy Prophet (peace be on him and his progeny). Then it was gradually revealed in its separated and exoteric existence in intervals of time and in different circumstances and events during his prophethood.”
The Determination of Affairs
Imam al-Baqir (peace be on him) explains verse four of the chapter of al-Dukhan by saying that every year on this night the destiny of the coming year of every person is written. Allamah Tabatabai also states: “Qadr refers to destiny and measure and God determines affairs such as the life, death, sustenance, happiness, and misfortune of human beings on this night.”
Therefore, since the Nights of Destiny have a major impact in determining the fate of human beings, believers are advised to strive to change the fates of the Night of Qadr in their favor through effective factors such as supplications, worship, and performing good deeds.
The Descent of Angels
According to the verses of the chapter of al-Qadr, from the first day of creation till the end of the of the world, every years angels and the Spirit (rūh) descend to the earth on the Night of Destiny and, according to some narrations, they go to present the fates of the coming year to the Imam of the time. Thus, in every age there must be an infallible Imam so that the angels may present the fates to them. The proof of God on the earth in the present times is Imam Mahdi (may Allah hasten his reappearance). It is he who is God’s proof and the successor of the Holy Prophet (peace be on him and his progeny) and he is infallible from all sins and impurities and, therefore, he is the master of the Night of Destiny.
Forgiveness of Sins
According to Islamic sources, the Night of Destiny is especially for God’s mercy and forgiveness of sins and Satan is chained on these nights and the doors of the heavens are open for the believers. The Holy Prophet (peace be on him and his progeny) states the following in the commentary of the chapter of al-Qadr: “whoever stays awake on the Night of Qadr and is a believers and believes in the Day of Judgment, all his sins will be forgiven.”
The Acts of Worship and Rituals of the Night of Qadr
Muslims in Islamic and non-Islamic countries spend more time in the mosques on these nights. Every year they perform the acts of worship recommended to be performed on the Nights of Qadr in mosques, places of worship, shrines of the Imams and their children and progeny, hussaiynias (places of congregation for worship and religious rites), and their homes and spend the night awake and in worship till before dawn. They speak to God and recite supplications, seek forgiveness, and recite the supplication of Ashura, a prayer which includes great and elevated contents and has been emphasized to be recited.
Organizing lectures by religious scholars, congregational prayers, reciting specific supplications like the supplication of Jawshan al-Kabīr , holding the Quran on one’s head, and praying for the reappearance of the savior, Imam Mahdi (may Allah hasten his reappearance) and the solving of the problems of God’s creations are some of the most important acts that are performed publicly on these nights.
The supplication of Jawshan al-Kabīr has been narrated from the Holy Prophet (peace be on him and his progeny) and consists of a 1000 sections and 1001 names and attributes of God. At the end of every section, there is an expression whose content is the glorification of God and bearing witness to His oneness and uniqueness and also seeking liberation from the fire of Hell: “Praise be to You, there is no god but You, [I beseech you for] relief, relief, Protect us from the Fire, O Lord.”(duas.org)
In this supplication, most of God’s names and other expressions have been taken from the Quran and they have been placed beside one another in such a way that apart from being rhythmic and eloquent, the names and attributes are also of the same form and similar in most instances in terms of the last letters.
Giving iftar (the breaking of the fast at night) and sahari (eating a meal before dawn and the call to the morning prayers), offering one’s vows, and doing good on behalf of those who have passed away, feeding those in need, and freeing the prisoners who have committed involuntary crimes or their crimes are forgivable are also some of the secondary actions of these nights.