Saturday, August 11, 2012

Ramadan and the “Lay-latul-Qadr”

The month of Ramadan is that which the Quran was revealed.” (2: 186). The holy month of Ramadan carries with it the Divine promise of a thousand blessings for the believers. Believers seek to attain nearness to Allah the Most High in this holy month by engaging in a lot of Zikr, Tilawat Quran and Salaat / Namaz (both Farz and Nawafil). In his Friday Sermon of 10 August 2012, the Khalifatullah Hadhrat Munir Ahmad Azim Sahib (atba)of Mauritius explained the special blessings of Ramadan by linking it with Surah Al- Qadr, the 97th Chapter of the Holy Qur’an. The Khalifatullah, then, explains the Holy Prophet’s practice of offering Tarawih prayers in Ramadan and clarifies its relation with the Tahajjud prayers and also the number of Rakaat in Tarawih prayers by describing the historical/special circumstances in which Hadhrat Umar (ra) asked for additional prayers to be offered in Ramadan.    

Read the Extracts from the Friday Sermon:

“In the name of Allah, the Gracious, the Merciful. Surely We revealed it on the Night of Majesty; And what will make you understand what the Night of Majesty is? The Night of Majesty is better than a thousand months. The angels and the Spirit descend therein by the permission of their Lord for every matter. Peace it is until the emergence of dawn.” (97: 1-6)

In this Qur’anic chapter Al-Qadr (97), it is stated that the period when the Holy Quran was being revealed was a time of great blessings and the reward for worship, righteous actions and other efforts for the sake of religion that could have been attained at that time cannot be paralleled in any other age. The pronoun “hu” (it) in anzalnahu (we revealed it) refers to the revelation of the Holy Quran on the Night of Majesty.

Elsewhere in the Holy Quran it is mentioned: The month of Ramadan is that which the Quran was revealed.” (2: 186). This tells us that the Night of Majesty is in the month of Ramadan. According to the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him), it is one of the odd nights of the last ten days of Ramadan, that is, it is either the 21st, 23rd, 25th, 27th or 29th night. It has been called the Night of Majesty because it is a great grandeur and honour and which man should value with total respect and reverence. There is no doubt that the night in which the Holy Quran was revealed – an extraordinary gift and an incomparable Book of guidance to mankind – should be regarded with the highest honour and respect.

This night receives its eminence from the fact that the Holy Quran was revealed in it and the reminiscence of the revelation of the Holy Quran on this night has been laid down for all times as a night of great blessings and honour, so that every year when that night comes, Allah opens the doors of His mercy and blessings for His servants. This is not just a mere reminiscence of the descent of the pure and everlasting revelations of Allah years back, for just as the rivers of Allah’s mercy gushed forth on that sublime night when the first revelation of the Holy Quran came, so too, the believers has got the unique opportunity to obtain the same thing blessings every year on that particular night when Allah showers His mercy and blessings on the hearts of all those who endeavour to seek His grace.

And what is even more sublime is that the blessings of Allah are multiplied even more in the times of a Messenger of Allah who comes in the footsteps of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) for the revival of Islam and to make the teachings of the Book of Allah which has been casted aside by the people revive in practice, not just theory! Such blessed times are also a lengthening of the Night of Majesty, whereby the life of that prophet-reformer/Khalifatullah become in itself the Night of Majesty, and as long as he is alive, the Holy Spirit stays with him to deliver the revelations of his Rab (Allah).

Sometimes an objection is made that the whole Quran was not revealed on that night. The answer to that is that the word Quran has been used in reference to the entire Quran or to a part of it or even to a single verse as we read: “When the Quran is being recited, listen to it.” (7: 204). Here the whole Quran cannot be meant, but we are commanded to listen attentively when a part or a verse of the Quran is being recited. Thus when it is said that the Quran was revealed on that Night of Majesty, it does not necessarily mean that the whole of the Quran should have been revealed.

And as I have just told you, the lifetime of a Messenger of Allah is a Night of Majesty, and just as the period of the lifetime on earth, from the call to prophethood of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) till his last breath as the Elect of Allah is a Night of Majesty, therefore all the revelations of the Quran, from the first revelation till the last one (that is, the last verse of the Holy Quran) are verily descended like the Chapter 97 stipulates during the Night of Majesty. Therefore, here also, it is not just one night which is meant but the whole lifetime of our beloved Holy Prophet Hazrat Muhammad (peace be upon him).

Moreover, even if one verse was revealed, the statement would still have been true that the Quran was revealed on the Night of Majesty. The fact remains that the revelation of the Holy Quran extended over a period of twenty three years and its verses were revealed in various places and on different occasions, and that during the blessed lifetime of a Prophet of Allah. Hazrat Muhammad (peace be upon him) was not just a Prophet of Allah, but the most perfect of man and Messenger of Allah. Thus, that night when the first verses of the Holy Quran were revealed will always be considered as the night in which the Quran was sent and his whole life as Messenger of Allah (that is, twenty-three years since his call to prophethood) shall be the representation of the Night of Majesty which is worth a thousand months of blessings. The reason for this is that before that night there was no Quran on earth and with the advent of the Best of Mankind Hazrat Muhammad (peace be upon him), this period became so much blessed that one would be fortunate to relive that period again, but this time during the advent of another prophet who is at the same time the sincere follower of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).

Like in the next two verses it is mentioned: Wa maaa ‘adraakamaa Laylatul-Qadr? Laylatul - Qadri khayrum-min ‘alfi shahr

“And what will make you understand what the Night of Majesty is? The Night of Majesty is better than a thousand months”.

In other words, a person lives on an average at the age of 83 years old, that is, a thousand months. He can have a much shorter life or a longer one than the average mentioned in the Holy Quran. Therefore, such blessings are witnessed really during the lifetime of that person who is fortunate enough to recognise a Messenger of Allah. He therefore obtains the thousand months blessings due to his attachment and acceptance of the Messenger of Allah of his time. He gets to obtain not only the blessings of the Night of Majesty in the blessed month of Ramadan like the ordinary Muslim who has not got the good fortune of living in the times of a Messenger of Allah or Khalifatullah, but he also gets the blessings of the living the times of the Divine Manifestation of his time.

How fortunate is he then who lives in the times of a Messenger of Allah, recognises him, takes the oath of allegiance on his hands, and stay firm along with him like the firm of faith in the times of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). If Ramadan is a month of blessings for the true believer, but for the companion of a Messenger of Allah, this month is not only representation of the forthcoming intense sacrifice which awaits him in life, but it is also the representation of his allegiance to Allah and His Elect with the help of the Holy Spirit who inspires him to stay firm along with Allah and His Messenger and to sacrifice his food, drink, marital relations, time, honour and even life for the sake of Allah.

In ordinary times (that is, when no advent of a Messenger of Allah is known to occur), therefore the believer, the sincere one is to perform worship and do acts of righteousness on that night which shall bring for him more reward that he would get in a thousand months. Here the word “thousand” is used also to signify a very large number and what is meant is that countless blessings will accrue to the devotee if he fulfils the conditions.

It is recorded that in the month of Ramadan, the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him) was extremely generous and at night he engaged in extra devotional prayers, especially in the last ten nights when his worship reached the topmost peak of perfection. In the latter part of the night he used to read ten Rakaat of prayer in two’s and then all one Rakaat called (Witr) in the latter part of the night.

The Holy Prophet (peace be upon him) used to read eleven Rakaat of prayer called the Tahajjud prayer. This name was given to it because Tahajjud means getting up from sleep. But if a person should stay awake all night and keep on performing prayer throughout, that prayer according to the definition of the Shariah (Islamic law) cannot be called Tahajjud. So the eleven Rakaat of prayers that the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him) used to read in the latter half of the night was called Tahajjud because he used to read them after waking up from sleep and he used to add the ‘Witr’ prayer so as to make the number an odd one. This is the prayer that is also called Tarawih in the month of Ramadan because after every two Rakaat of the prayer a short rest is permitted and it is because of this short rest that this prayer is named Tarawih. Thus the Tarawih prayer in the month of Ramadan is really the Tahajjud prayer and not an additional or separate one, and for ease and convenience it is read in an earlier part of the night rather that in the later part.

To read twenty Rakaat of Tarawih prayer with three ‘Witr’ added, making a total of twenty-three Rakaat is not in accordance with the Sunnah of our beloved Prophet (peace be upon him). This came about because in the time of the caliph Umar (May Allah be satisfied with him), people were sitting one night in the mosque and engaging in idle talk. The caliph passed by them and asked them what they were doing. On receiving the reply that they were just enjoying some small talk, he asked a Hafiz (person who knows the Quran by heart) to gather the people into a congregation and lead them in twenty Rakaat of supererogatory prayer. The idea was that the whole Quran should be read in the Tarawih prayer during the month of Ramadan. This then became the accepted practice, but this was not the custom of the companions of the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him).

So my dear brothers, sisters, and children seize these golden opportunities of Ramadan, the month of Allah with a lot of Zikr, Tilawat Quran and Salaat/Namaz (both Farz and Nawafil). Prayer for the believer is like a sweet spring that is situated close to him and with which he can satisfy himself whenever he so desires. Just as a fish cannot exist without water, so the ‘water’ of a believer is prayer without which he cannot exist. The greatest achievement that can be attained through prayer that a human being becomes close to God Almighty and attracts Him towards himself. When the prayer of a believer is filled with complete sincerity and displays a total spiritual separation (from the selfish and worldly elements) then it is that God takes pity on such a believer and God becomes his protector and provider.

All the objectives that we wish to achieve will be achieved only through the means of prayer for there is great power in prayer. Prayer is a strange and wonderful thing but it is regrettable that many who make requests for prayers are not familiar with the ‘rules’ that underline such requests. Moreover, in this age many among those who offer prayers are not acquainted with the ways that lead to acceptance of prayer. It is among the necessary requirements of prayer that the heart melts and the soul flows like water, falling at the feet of the noblest Lord, with feelings of love, pain and anguish within. In addition, a person should not be impatient, seeking quick results. He should persevere in prayer with patience and steadfastness. It is only then that one can hope and expect that the prayer may be answered.

Time has gone and I have not yet finish with the explanation of Surah Al-Qadr (The Majesty). Insha Allah, by the grace of Allah I will continue my sermon on this Surah with many more explanations next Friday. Insha Allah. Ameen.