Saturday, June 17, 2017

'I'tikaaf' and the Blessings of 'Laila-tul-Qadr'

“In the name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful. 

Indeed, We sent the Qur’an down during the Night of Decree. And what can make you know what the Night of Decree is? 
The Night of Decree is better than a thousand months. 
The angels and the Spirit descend therein by permission of their Lord for every matter. Peace it is until the emergence of dawn.” (Al-Qadr 97: 1-6).

Like you all know, we have already entered the third part of the month of Ramadan, whereby in one of these nights there is a extremely special night which is worth more than a thousand months of blessings which we usually receive through our Ibaadat (all acts of worship) in normal times.

Like mentioned in a Hadith, our Noble Prophet Hazrat Muhammad (pbuh) has said: “This is a month, the first part of which brings Allah’s Mercy, the middle of which brings Allah’s forgiveness, and the last part of which brings emancipation from the hellfire.” (Bukhari). In another Hadith, Hazrat Anas bin Malik (ra) narrated that the Messenger of Allah stated about the month of Ramadan: “This month (of Ramadan) has begun and therein is a night better than one thousand months. So, any one deprived of its blessings is actually deprived of all goodness. Indeed, He is truly deprived who is kept away from its good.” (Ibn Majah, Mishkat).

Behind the Divine Scheme on Laila-tul-Qadr

In the light of these verses of the Quranic Chapter Al-Qadr (the Destiny/Decree) and the Hadiths which I have put before you today, it shall be good if I explain to you once again how these verses were revealed. Years come and go but the words and teachings of Allah and those of His Messenger (Rasul) shall ever remain flawless and whole, and it is my duty to repeat these teachings to you for all this forms part of our history as Muslims, such a history which needs to remain alive till the Day of Judgement, such a history which shall encourage all Muslims to give their time, means and lend their helping hands to enable Islam to shine in the world.

So, one day, the Holy Prophet Hazrat Muhammad (pbuh) was relating the life of a pious man by the name of Shamsun (ra) who used to live among the Children of Israel. From what we understand, he was someone who used to pray a lot and struggle hard for the cause of Allah for the duration of a thousand months. When the companions of the Holy Prophet (pbuh) heard that, they became sad upon thinking that they would never be able to surpass Hazrat Shamsun (ra). As an encouragement, Allah said that if the Community of the Prophet of Allah (pbuh) indulge in acts of worship during the Night of Decree (Laila-tul-Qadr), therefore their prayers would earn rewards better than a thousand months of worship.

Therefore, the Night of Decree is a night filled with blessings and is very valuable. It is a great divine favour upon the Ummah of our beloved Prophet, Hazrat Muhammad (pbuh) whereby Allah has manifested such a night wherein His devoted and sincere servants can worship Him (and reap countless blessings). That is, during the Night of Decree (Laila-tul-Qadr), they shall reap blessings in such great amount as to worth more than the blessings of a thousand months of worship. For the communities of the past prophets, there were no such designed night reserved for the descent on earth of Hazrat Jibreel (as) - i.e. the Holy Spirit (Ruh-il Quddus) - and the angels except for the Muslims whereby they send the divine peace on the Muslims absorbed in any act of worship and thus these angels pray for them and ask forgiveness for them. In His wisdom, Allah has hidden that special night in the last ten holy nights of Ramadan so that the Muslims make efforts to seek it. In this way, their courage increase and they spend these nights in worship for Allah so as to reap the blessings concealed in the Night of Decree. They sacrifice their time, sleep etc. for Allah, so as to obtain the multiple good/ blessings/ favours of that (particular) Night.

In a Hadith reported by Hazrat Aisha (ra), the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) used to double his efforts in worship/prayer during the last ten nights (of Ramadan) compared to other nights. (Muslim, Mishkat). According to different other Hadiths, the Night of Decree is found in the odd nights of Ramadan (21, 23, 25, 27 & 29). In the light of these Hadiths, the Night of Decree is the night wherein the first revelations of the Quran came down on the Holy Prophet (pbuh). Even Hazrat Muhammad (pbuh) has not given a precise date for this special night, but he indicated that it was found among the odd nights of the last ten nights of Ramadan.

On the 27th night of Ramadan

There have been great scholars of Islam who commented on the Night of Decree, whereby they are of opinion that this special night was the 27th night of Ramadan. Scholars, like Hazrat Ibn Abbas (ra), Hazrat Ubayy ibn Ka’b (ra), Hazrat Imam Abu Hanifa and even Hazrat Muhyi-ud-Din Sheik Abdul Qadir Jilani (ra) have commented on the greatness of number 7, such greatness which is not commonly found in the odd numbers like 3, 5 or 9. They corroborate their analysis through the following reasons:

1. There are 7 heavens and 7 earths.
2. In a week, there are 7 days and 7 nights.
3. We need to perform 7 circumambulations (tawaf) around the Holy Ka’aba.
4. We run 7 times between Mounts Safa and Marwa.
5. There were 7 companions in the Cave (Kahf), i.e. those people mentioned in the Quranic Chapter Al-Kahf. Despite the fact that the exact number of the companions were not mentioned in the Quran, but according to analysis and researches in history which has been preserved through the centuries, these scholars reached the conclusion that there were indeed 7 companions in the Cave (the 7 Sleepers).
6. And still through their profound analysis, Hazrat Yusuf (as) remained in prison for 7 years.
7. The dream which Hazrat Yusuf (as) interpreted for the King (found in Surah Yusuf) mentioned 7 fat cows and 7 thin cows.
8. We perform 17 cycles (Rakat) of Obligatory prayers in 24 hours.
9. For each Salat (prayer), there are 7 obligatory conditions so that our prayer may be considered complete.

For these reasons, according to them the number 7 is greater in worth than the other odd numbers. The word “Laila-tul-Qadr” (Night of Decree) is made of 9 (Arabic) letters, and it appears 3 times in the Surah Al-Qadr. Therefore 3 multiply by 9 gives 27.

Du'ah for Divine Reward

According to the Holy Quran and cited Hadiths, we can see the worth and greatness of that grand night, and the density of the blessings it contains. Hazrat Abu Huraira (ra) narrated that Hazrat Muhammad (pbuh) said: “Whoever keep the fast of the month of Ramadan out of sincere Faith (i.e. belief) and hoping for a reward from Allah, then all his past sins will be forgiven, and whoever stood up in prayers during the night of Qadr out of sincere Faith and hoping for a reward from Allah, then all his previous sins will be forgiven.” (Bukhari).

In another Hadith, Hazrat Aisha (ra) reported that she asked the Messenger of Allah (pbuh):
“O Messenger of Allah! What if I knew which night Lailatul-Qadr was, then what should I say in it?” 

He said: “Recite (this prayer a lot): ʻAllaahumma innaka ‘affuwwun tuhibbul ‘afwa fa’fu ‘annee’.” 
(O Allah, You are forgiving and You love to forgive, so forgive me).” (Mishkat, Ibn Majah & Tirmidhi).

I'tikaaf: Spiritual Retreat in Ramadan

Now briefly on the subject of I’TIKAAFI'tikaaf means a spiritual retreat by staying in the mosque with the intention to pray and remember Allah a lot. When someone makes the intention to observe the I’tikaaf (spiritual retreat), he needs to say the following: Nawaito Sounnatal Itikaafi Lillaahi Ta’ala (I make the intention to observe the I’tikaaf (Spiritual Retreat) which is a Sunnah (practice of my beloved Hazrat Muhammad (pbuh)) for Almighty God (Allah)).

Hazrat Aisha (ra) narrated that the Holy Prophet (pbuh) used to observe the I’tikaaf during the last ten days of Ramadan till the year he died, and afterwards his wives observed it (the I’tikaaf) after him. (Bukhari & Muslim)

Abu Huraira (ra) narrated that the Messenger of Allah used to observe the I’tikaaf each year and the year in which he died, he remained in I’tikaaf for 20 days. (Bukhari).

And during the last Ramadan of the life of our beloved and noble prophet Hazrat Muhammad (pbuh), Hazrat Jibreel (as) - i.e. the Archangel Gabriel - came to visit him and made him recite the entire Quran twice. (Bukhari).

Therefore, O my disciples and all Muslims, remember well the paramount importance to follow the Quran and Sunnah, especially when Allah has enabled you to witness yet another month of Ramadan. Do not let these days and nights go in vain. Maximize your time in Ibaadat and keep hope that you shall receive (the blessings of) Laila-tul-Qadr. When you have hope, and a firm faith in Allah, then Allah puts His blessings in your hope and makes you recipient of His grace, blessings, forgiveness in great amount, and He even gives you protection against hellfire. And this protection against hellfire is bestowed upon you when you control your nafs (ego, passions) and Allah thus pours down upon you His Mercy and makes you succeed in fighting against all Shayateen (Satans) which are found in you. Follow the example of our master, Hazrat Muhammad (pbuh). Let us make the Satan which is found in us become Muslim. And through this means, the door of hell shall remain ever close for us, and the door to the Heavens shall ever remain open for us, Insha-Allah. Ameen.

Bear in mind also that the era in which you are living is in itself a Laila-tul-Qadr, and fortunate is the one who has gotten the golden opportunity to remain in the company of the one upon whom the Ruh-ul-Quddous has descended upon to give you all the divine message, to bring peace in the world and to re-establish the unicity of Allah in the hearts of the people.

So, I wish you all, all Muslims, and all my disciples, Laila-tul-Qadr Mubarak! May Allah give you the double blessings of Laila-tul-Qadr, one by being a living witness and disciple of a Messenger of Allah and the other, by being a recipient of the blessings of the Laila-tul-Qadr of the month of Ramadan. Insha-Allah, Ameen.

---Friday Sermon of 16 June 2017 (21 Ramadan 1438 AH) delivered by Khalifatullah Hadhrat Munir Ahmad Azim Saheb (atba) of Mauritius.