This is post #25 in our series on Tafseer of Juz ‘Amma (click the link to see all posts in this series).
Reason of Revelation
The Messenger of Allah (salallahu alayhi wa sallam) told the companions about a man of the previous nations; a man who lived and fought jihad for over 1000 months (roughly 83 years, 4 months). (In case you didn’t know, the previous nations lived longer than us–like Prophet Nuh (alayhi salaam), who did da’wah for nearly 1000 years.)
The companions were amazed, and they said: how can we compete with him?
And subhanallah, this is a gem. Look at the companions. They prioritized and competed for the akhirah. Subhanallah to the point that, they don’t just try to do “some good deeds before I die;” not enough. They competed with each other–but even that was not enough. Rather, they competed with all of the Muslims, ever, starting from the time of Prophet Adam, until the Day of Judgment.
We need to really look at ourselves and see, how much are we like them? Or are we just vying for bigger houses, better cars–more dunya?
O son of Adam! Dunya will avail you nothing when you’re dead. You go to your cold, dark grave, alone, with only one thing: your deeds. So be like the companions, and race to do good deeds.
So they asked, how can we compete with this man? And Allah revealed Surah Qadar:
إِنَّا أَنزَلْنَاهُ فِي لَيْلَةِ الْقَدْرِ
وَمَا أَدْرَاكَ مَا لَيْلَةُ الْقَدْرِ
لَيْلَةُ الْقَدْرِ خَيْرٌ مِّنْ أَلْفِ شَهْرٍ
تَنَزَّلُ الْمَلَائِكَةُ وَالرُّوحُ فِيهَا بِإِذْنِ رَبِّهِم مِّن كُلِّ أَمْرٍ
سَلَامٌ هِيَ حَتَّى مَطْلَعِ الْفَجْرِ
Translation: Indeed, We sent the Qur’an down during the Night of Decree (Laylatul-Qadar). 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.[Surah Qadar]
Striving For Laylatul-Qadar
Mujahid (rahimahullah), one of the prominent mufassireen of the tabi’een said: the prayer and fasting on this day is like continuous prayer and fasting for 1000 years.
So if you live the average age that Rasulullahi (salallahu alayhi wa sallam) said his ummah will live, 63 years, and reach puberty at 15 (which is the latest), you can get roughly 40,000 years worth of good deeds just through Laylatul-Qadar. Subhanallah, this is the mercy of Allah to our ummah.
The key of this whole surah is that we should vye for Laylatul-Qadar. If I recall correctly (someone please double-check this and post a comment), there are hadith narrating that Laylatul-Qadar is:
- One of the last ten nights
- One of the last seven nights
- One of the last odd nights (eg. 21, 23, …)
- The 23rd
- The 25th
- The 27th
- The 29th
So the point is not to know, and pray extra one night; the point is to do so for the last ten nights. And since there are always at least two groups of Muslims, one starting after the other, you never know which opinion is right–so it could be any of the last ten nights, not just the last ten odd nights.
So if you’re a student–get your assignments done early, and budget ahead so you can focus on ‘ibaadah the last ten nights. If you work, try and take vacation days in the last 10, 5, 3, nights–whatever you can manage.
Three Points From the Tafseer
The tafseer of this surah is expansive, so I’ll just touch briefly on some points insha’Allah that you may not know.
- Revealed in Laylatul-Qadar: Allah says: We revealed it in Laylatul-Qadar. It, meaning Al-Qur’an. But wait; wasn’t it revealed gradually over 23 years? So what does this verse mean? Scholars say, based on other ahadith, that it means Allah revealed the Qur’an, in totality, to Baytul-Izza, a secure place somewhere in the dunya. From there, Jibreel (alayhi salaam) would bring it down piecemeal to Rasulillah (salallahu alayhi wa sallam) on-demand.
- Angels = Mercy: Angels are a sign of Allah’s mercy—mercy which He sends down this night. Rasulullahi (salallahu alayhi wa sallam) said: “The angels do not enter a house which contains a picture, a dog, or a man who is in janaabah. [Sunan Abu Dawud] [source] With pictures, some people say “well, I don’t need angels in my house.” But, realize that angels are a sign of Allah’s mercy. If angels are gone, Allah’s mercy is also gone. Who can live without that? Can you even take a breath without Allah’s mercy? So don’t be so quick to dispose of it. And besides, that only leaves one other group of unseen agents to “help” you–the shayateen.
- Peace: In the last verse, regarding the world salam–peace–there are some scholars who mention that this means that Allah does not decree anyone going into Hellfire on this day. And there are scholars who mention that this means that Allah will not cause any earthquakes, plagues, or other natural disasters on this day. What a great day!
Signs of Laylatul-Qadar
One question that might arise is, “how do I know if it’s laylatul-qadar?” You don’t!–the point is to work hard in the last ten nights. But here are is one sign to point you in the right direction:
Abu Hurayrah mentions (radiallahu ‘anhu): We mentioned laylatul-qadr to the Messenger of Allah (salallahu alayhi wa sallam) and he said: Which of you remembers when the moon rises and it is like half a bowl? [Saheeh Muslim] [source]
What are other signs of laylatul-qadar? Post them in the comments insha’Allah, and link back to the text of the hadith that mentions it.
Tonight’s the Night!
‘Aisha (radiallahu ‘anhaa) asked the Messenger of Allah a very smart question: “if we know that tonight is laylatul-qadar, what should we do?” How can we maximize our deeds this great day? What’s the one, best thing to say or do?
And he responded: Say: “Allahumma innaka ‘afuwwun, tuhibbu al-‘afwaan, fa’affuw ‘anniy.” (اللهم انك عفو تحب العفو فاعف عني) Meaning? O Allah, YOU are Al-Affuw–the one who obliterates sins and leaves not even a trace of them–and you love Al-Afwaan, the ones who ask for ‘affaw; so ‘affuw (obliterate, destroy, disintrigrate, remove, annhialate) my sins. [Bukhari] [source]
Arabic Word Analysis
It’s been a while since we did word-for-word in-depth, so we’re going to do it this time insha’Allah. Again, the focus is on grammar; and this is all my understanding–I didn’t verify in the books of Tafseer, I only compared to the Saheeh International translation (since they use groups of scholars for their translation).
- Inna (إِنَّا): Inna is a particle of emphasis. Inna belongs to a group of words called “Inna and it’s sisters” (literally: inna wa akhawaatuhaa). Inna changes the mubtada to ismu-inna, and the khabar to khabru-inna; grammatically, khabru-inna is mansoob (usually with fatha); this is how you know what’s being emphasized.
- Anzalnaa hu (أَنزَلْنَاهُ): We revealed it. Anzalnaa comes from nazala, which means to descend or go down; anzalnaa is “we sent down” (the original is anzala). Hu, it, is the maf’ool, the recipient of the anzala–the “what” we sent down. We know this because it’s marfoo’; it’s not “huwa,” it’s “hu.” And what is this it? Nothing less than Al-Qur’an Al-Kaeem.
- Fiy (فِي): In. Fiy is a prepositon (hafu-jarr); the thing it modifies becomes majroor, usually with kasra. Prepositions change in meaning depending on context, but here, and generally, fiy means “in.”
- Laylatul-Qadar (لَيْلَةِ الْقَدْرِ): Literally, the night of Al-Qadar. Scholars say it means that it means the night that Allah ordains the qadar of people for the next year. (It’s a mudaf/mudaf-ilayh combination; evidenced by the single tanween on layl, and the kasra on qadar)
- Wa maa adaraaka, maa (وَمَا أَدْرَاكَ مَا): This phrase means, “and what will make you know, what [blank] is?” maa is ismu-istifhaam, the interrogative particle (aka a question-mark). This phrase, when it appears, means: “And you will NEVER understand what [blank] is. But here’s a taste …” so an explanation follows.
- Khayrun (خَيْرٌ): Khayr means good; or it can be ism tafdeel, the comparative/superlative; in this case, it’s the comparative–better, not best. We know this, since it’s used with “min.”
- Min (مِّنْ): Mean usually means “from.” When used with ism tafdeel, it means “than.” i.e. “x min y”, x is better than y. Also, a tip from the realm of tajweed: notice the shaddah on the meem? That’s because you use yarmaluwn when you recite khayrun–noon with double-tanween, followed by one of the letters of yarmaluwn. This is why I love the Saudi mushaf–it gives you these helpful hints.
- Alf (أَلْفِ): Alif means 1000. It’s majroor (with kasra), and it comes after min, so we know it’s the majroor of min, and the thing we’re comparing to. “Better than 1000 …” But wait. Why does it have single tanween, not double (i.e. alfi, not alfin)? The answer is … look at the next word.
- Shahr (شَهْرٍ): Sharh means month. Notice the double-tanween kasra here; combined with the single-kasra on alfi, makes us conclude that this is a mudaf/mudaf-ilayh pair (possessive case). But actually, it’s complicated–it’s how the number system works at 1000. The number digit is the possessor, and the thing we’re counting (months) is plural and the possessed (mudaf), hence the kasra.
- Tanazzalu (تَنَزَّلُ): You can see the root-word here–nazala. Nazala means “descend,” nazzala (shaddah on the za) means a more intense form of descending. The ta hints that it might be fi’l mudaari’, the present-/future-tense. The “ta” also hints that the doer is either you (second-preson) or she (third-person); let’s see who’s doing the descending.
- Al-Malaaikah (الْمَلَائِكَةُ): The angels. It means, literally, it means “the angel” (malaikah is single); but using alif-lam with a singular sometimes means the whole species of something. Like An-Naas; naas is a singular word, but An-Naas means the human species. It’s the faa’il (doer), because of the damma (it’s marfoo’). It’s the one doing the descending.
- Wa Ar-Ruh (وَالرُّوحُ): Ar-Ruh literally means, “the spirit.” Sometimes it refers to Jibreel (alayhi salaam). It’s also marfoo’, so it’s also the faa’il, and it’s descending.
- Fiyhaa (فِيهَا): Fiy, we know; haa, is the majroor/mansoob of “hiya.” It means here, “in it.” What it? Laylatul-Qadar. (Layl is also feminine; so we know it’s that.)
- Bi (بِ): Another harfu-jarr. Usually means “with.”
- Idhn (إِذْنِ): Permission.It’s majroor (with kasra) because of bi. The single tanween hints at another idaafah (possessive) case; which is right. It’s also the mudaaf.
- Rabbihim (رَبِّهِم): Rabb means, Allah; Allah is Ar-Rab, the creator/owner/sustainer of everything; and also, in this case, the owner of idhn, the permission. Also, “rabbihim” is itself an idaafah case; rabb has single tanween, and him is the mudaf. “With the permission of their lord.” Or literally, “with the permission of the lord of them.”
Min (مِّن): From. See earlier comments.
- Kulli (كُلِّ): Every. It’s majroor because of min.
- Amr (أَمْرٍ): Command. Or, affair (as in, our matter). Root verb is amara, to command.
- Salaam (سَلَامٌ): Peace. Ikhtilaaf about what it refers to in this verse. It’s also the khabr. But then again, isn’t an indefinite khabar not allowed in Arabic grammar? Well, Allah can do whatever He wants. Don’t be too hardcore about grammar.
- Hiya (هِيَ): She. Or it. Here, “it”–laylatul-qadar.
- Hatta (حَتَّى): Until. A particle of time. So it makes the thing it’s talking about, majroor. See next word.
- Matla’ (مَطْلَعِ): A noun of some sort. I’m going to hypothesize here and say that the “ma” implies, as it sometimes does, the place of something (eg. masjid–the place of sujood). That would make the root verb would be tala’a, which means to emerge, or to rise, or something along those lines. Again, notice the single tanween–idaafah. And why is it majroor? Because of hatta.
- Al-Fajr (الْفَجْرِ): Al-Fajr refers to the time at which the darkness of night starts receeding–dawn. Salat-ul-Fajr, therefore, is the salah of the time Al-Fajr. The root word is fajara, which means to split open, break open, break though; because the dawn breaks through the darkness of night.
- Touched by an Angel: Tafseer of Juz ‘Amma. By Muhammad Alshareef. 2009.