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Surah Al-Qadr: Night of Decree and the revelation of the Quran

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Allah the Almighty said:

In the name of Allah, the Most Merciful, the Most Compassionate. Indeed, We sent it [the Qur’an] down during the Night of Decree. And what can make you know what is the Night of Decree? 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.

The Merits of Reciting Surah Al-Qadr

Numerous traditions highlight the virtues of reciting Surah Al-Qadr, among them:

  1. Imam Sadiq (peace be upon him) said: “Whoever recites ‘Indeed, We sent it down’ during one of the obligatory prayers, a caller will call out: ‘O servant of Allah, your past sins have been forgiven, so resume your deeds afresh.'”[1]
  2. Imam Baqir (peace be upon him) stated: “Whoever recites ‘Indeed, We sent it down during the Night of Decree’ aloud is like one who unsheathes his sword in the path of Allah, and whoever recites it silently is like one who is covered in his blood in the path of Allah. Whoever recites it ten times, Allah will erase a thousand sins from him.”[2]
  3. The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him and his family) said: “Whoever recites it is given the reward as if they fasted during the month of Ramadan and spent the Night of Decree in worship.”[3]

The Place of Revelation

It is widely held by interpreters that Surah Al-Qadr is a Meccan surah, though some have suggested it might be Medinan.

Meaning of Al-Qadr

In language, “Qadr” denotes something that is equal without increase or decrease. “Qadr” by divine decree refers to Allah determining the affairs with wisdom according to a precise measure.

Meaning of the Night of Decree

The Night of Decree is named as such because it is the night in which Allah decrees and ordains what will happen for the entire year, including life, death, good, evil, happiness, and sustenance. This is indicated in the verse:

“On that night is made distinct every precise matter – [every] matter [proceeding] from Us. Indeed, We were to send [a messenger].”[4]

The “precise matter” refers to the precise and wise determination of events and their execution in that night as a mercy from Allah to His servants.

Some say that “Qadr” means status or importance, and the Night of Decree is named for its significance and the elevated status of those who engage in worship during it. Reviving it with prayer, almsgiving, and acts of goodness is better than a thousand months without the Night of Decree. Without Allah’s multiplication of rewards for the believers, they would not reach such heights, but Allah multiplies good deeds for them as a mercy.

Imam Baqir (peace be upon him) was asked about Allah’s saying: “Indeed, We sent it down during the Night of Decree.” He replied: “Yes, the Night of Decree occurs every year in Ramadan during the last ten nights. The Qur’an was revealed only on the Night of Decree. Allah says: ‘On that night is made distinct every precise matter.'”[5]

Imam Amir al-Mu’minin (peace be upon him) said: “The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him and his family) said to me: ‘O Ali, do you know the meaning of the Night of Decree?’ I said: ‘No, O Messenger of Allah.’ He said: ‘Indeed, on this night Allah has decreed what will happen until the Day of Resurrection, including your guardianship and the guardianship of the Imams from your progeny until the Day of Resurrection.'”[6]

Imam Sadiq (peace be upon him) was asked how the Night of Decree could be better than a thousand months. He replied: “Good deeds performed on this night are better than those performed over a thousand months without the Night of Decree.”[7]

Determining the Night of Decree

The Quran does not specify which night is the Night of Decree, except that it is in the month of Ramadan. Its exact identification is based on various traditions and narrations. Hassan ibn Abi Ali said: “I asked Imam Sadiq (peace be upon him) about the Night of Decree, and he said: ‘Seek it on the nineteenth, twenty-first, and twenty-third nights [of Ramadan].’[8]

The narrations from the Ahl al-Bayt (peace be upon them) unanimously agree that the Night of Decree recurs every year and falls in the month of Ramadan, specifically on one of the three aforementioned nights. This is why the Shia community refers to these nights as the Nights of Decree.

Zurara reported: “I asked Imam Baqir (peace be upon him) about the Night of Decree, and he said: ‘It occurs on two nights: the twenty-third and twenty-first.’ I asked him to specify one for me, and he replied: ‘What harm is there if you perform worship on both nights?’[9]

Imam Sadiq (peace be upon him) stated: “The determination [of affairs] is made on the nineteenth night, the confirmation on the twenty-first night, and the finalization on the twenty-third night.”[10]

Imam Sadiq (peace be upon him) also said: “When the last ten nights of Ramadan began, the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him and his family) would tighten his belt, avoid relations with his wives, revive the nights, and devote himself to worship.”[11]

Ali ibn Abi Hamza reported: “I was with Abu Abdullah (peace be upon him) when Abu Basir said to him: ‘May I be sacrificed for you! Which night is the one from which blessings are hoped?’ He replied: ‘The twenty-first and twenty-third nights.’ Abu Basir asked: ‘What if I cannot endure worship on both nights?’ He said: ‘What an easy task it is to seek what you seek over two nights!’ I said: ‘Sometimes, we see the crescent moon at our place and receive news of a different sighting from another region. What should we do?’ He replied: ‘It is easy to seek over four nights.’ I asked: ‘May I be sacrificed for you, is the twenty-third night the night of al-Juhani?’ He said: ‘That is what is said.’ I asked: ‘May I be sacrificed for you, Suleiman ibn Khalid narrated that on the nineteenth night, the pilgrims’ group is recorded.’ He replied: ‘O Abu Muhammad! The pilgrims’ group is recorded on the Night of Decree, as well as the deaths, calamities, and sustenance until the same night next year. Seek it on the twenty-first and twenty-third nights. Pray a hundred units on each of these nights, stay awake until dawn if you can, and perform the ritual washing (ghusl).’ I asked: ‘What if I cannot perform all this while standing?’ He said: ‘Then pray while sitting.’ I asked: ‘What if I cannot do even that?’ He said: ‘Then on your bed.’ I asked: ‘What if I cannot do even that?’ He said: ‘It is okay if you take a little nap at the beginning of the night. The gates of the heavens are opened in Ramadan, the devils are chained, and deeds are accepted. Indeed, Ramadan is a blessed month; it was called the “blessed month” during the time of the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him and his family).’[12]

From the collection of narrations, it is understood that the twenty-third night is most likely the Night of Decree.

The exact time of the Night of Decree is not specified to prevent it from being undervalued by sinful acts and to encourage people to engage in worship throughout all the nights of Ramadan—the month of obedience—hoping to attain it. Similarly, Allah has hidden the middle prayer among the five daily prayers and the hour of acceptance within the hours of Friday, among other examples.

Characteristics of the Night of Decree

Among its characteristics:

  • It is a night with a pleasant fragrance.
  • If the weather is cold, it becomes warm.
  • If the weather is hot, it becomes cool.
  • The sun rises the next morning without rays.

Al-Hasan narrated that the Prophet (peace be upon him and his family) said about the Night of Decree: “It is a gentle night, neither hot nor cold, and the sun rises the next morning without rays.”[13]

The Virtue of the Night of Decree

Numerous narrations highlight its virtues, among them:

  1. The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him and his family) said: “Whoever stands [in prayer] during the Night of Decree with faith and in hope of reward, Allah will forgive their previous sins.”[14]
  2. The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him and his family) said: “The devil does not come out on this night until its dawn shines, and he cannot cause any harm, illness, or any kind of corruption. The magic of magicians has no effect.”[15]

Blessings, goodness, and mercy descend upon the believers who remember Allah in various forms. Allah multiplies their good deeds and blessings as a mercy to His servants. It is a night of peace until the break of dawn.

  1. The angels and the Spirit (Gabriel) descend to the earth to hear praises of Allah, recitations of the Quran, supplications, and other forms of remembrance. They greet the believers who are engaged in worship and recitation of the Quran with the permission of Allah. The angels convey peace upon the allies of Allah and His obedient servants, greeting them whenever they encounter them throughout the night.

There are numerous recommended acts for this blessed night, including:

  • Performing the ritual washing (ghusl).
  • Reciting the Quran.
  • Remembering Allah.
  • Reciting specific supplications, such as the long supplication of Joshan al-Kabeer and the supplication of lifting the Quran.
  • Engaging in all forms of worship.
  • Visiting Imam Hussein (peace be upon him).
  • Showing humility and supplication to Allah until dawn breaks.

The Concealment of the Night of Decree

The prevailing belief is that the concealment of the Night of Decree among the nights of the year or within the nights of Ramadan serves to encourage people to value and strive in worship throughout all these nights. Similarly, Allah has hidden His pleasure among all types of obedience to direct people towards all acts of worship. He has concealed His wrath among all sins to deter people from committing any sins. He has hidden His close friends among the people to ensure respect for everyone. He has hidden the hour of acceptance among all supplications so that all prayers are recited. He has hidden the Greatest Name among His names so that all His names are revered. He has hidden the time of death to keep people always prepared. This rationale appears to be acceptable.

The Revelation of the Quran

According to several scholars, the Quran was revealed to the Prophet (peace be upon him and his family) in two stages:

  1. First Revelation: It was revealed to him in its entirety on the Night of Decree, in a summarized form.
  2. Second Revelation: It was revealed to him gradually, in detailed form, over the period of his mission from his prophethood until his death.

The summarized revelation refers to the divine knowledge and the grand secrets contained within the Quran being sent down to the Prophet’s heart, filling his soul with the light of Quranic wisdom, as stated:

“Indeed, We sent it down during the Night of Decree.”

The detailed revelation refers to the specific words and verses being revealed over time, often in response to incidents and events during the prophetic mission, aligning with the verse:

“Alif, Lam, Ra. [This is] a Book whose verses are perfected and then presented in detail from [one who is] Wise and Acquainted.”[16]

Benefits of Gradual Revelation

  1. Adaptation to Circumstances: The Prophet (peace be upon him and his family) and the message of Islam went through various phases over twenty-three years, experiencing hardships, victories, challenges, and progress. While an ordinary person might be influenced by such events, the Quran consistently maintained its elevated tone, free from human emotional fluctuations.
  2. Continuous Spiritual Support: The gradual revelation provided ongoing spiritual support to the Prophet (peace be upon him and his family). As stated:

“And those who disbelieve say, ‘Why was the Quran not revealed to him all at once?’ Thus [it is] that We may strengthen thereby your heart. And We have spaced it distinctly.”[17]

Renewing the revelation in every incident strengthened the Prophet’s heart, brought reassurance, and reinforced his resolve in the face of trials.

Thus, we find the Quran at times commanding the Prophet (peace be upon him and his family) to be patient, as in the verse:

“And be patient over what they say and avoid them with gracious avoidance.”[18]

And at other times forbidding him from grieving, as in the verse:

“And let not their speech grieve you. Indeed, all honor belongs to Allah. He is the All-Hearing, the All-Knowing.”[19]

  1. Comprehensive Human Transformation: The Quran’s goal is not just to educate but to transform humanity completely—intellectually, spiritually, and morally. Building a nation and establishing a civilization is a gradual process. Therefore, the Quran was revealed step by step to facilitate this comprehensive development, eradicating the remnants of pre-Islamic ignorance with wisdom and patience. The gradual prohibition of alcohol serves as a prime example.
  2. Addressing Queries and Challenges: The Islamic message faced numerous challenges, accusations, and questions from disbelievers. The Prophet (peace be upon him and his family) needed appropriate responses and explanations, which could only be provided gradually. This gradual approach was necessary to address the evolving nature of these challenges, as highlighted in the verse:

“And they do not come to you with an example except that We bring you the truth and the best explanation.”[20]

The Reason for Revelation on the Night of Decree

The Night of Decree, as known, is the night when the destinies of humans for the entire year are determined, fitting for each individual. The Quran, being the guide that shapes humanity’s future and leads them to happiness and guidance, appropriately descends on the Night of Decree—a night of destiny determination. This profound connection between the Quran and the Night of Decree is beautifully significant.


[1] Tafsir Majma’ al-Bayan, Volume 10, Page 403.

[2] Ibid

[3] Ibid

[4] Surah Ad-Dukhan, Verses 4-5.

[5] Thawab al-A’mal, Page 67.

[6] Ma’ani al-Akhbar, Page 315.

[7] Man La Yahduruhu al-Faqih, Volume 2, Page 158.

[8] Tafsir Majma’ al-Bayan, Volume 10, Page 407.

[9] Ibid.

[10] Tafsir Nur al-Thaqalayn, Volume 5, Page 627.

[11] Man La Yahduruhu al-Faqih, Volume 2, Page 156.

[12] Ibid, Volume 2, Page 159.

[13] Tafsir Majma’ al-Bayan, Volume 10, Page 409.

[14] Ibid

[15] Ibid.

[16] Surah Hud, Verse 1.

[17] Surah Al-Furqan, Verse 32.

[18] Surah Al-Muzzammil, Verse 10.

[19] Surah Yunus, Verse 65.

[20] Surah Al-Furqan, Verse 33.

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1 Comment
  1. Trit Mohammed Omar says

    Qur’an is a criteria that distinguished the right and the wrong. (Qur’an 2:185)

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