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Al-Qadr: The night of destiny

September 14, 2010 Leave a comment

There’s no point in me even trying to interpret this one without help. Here’s the text:

We sent him down on the night of destiny
And what can tell you of the night of destiny
The night of destiny is better than a thousand months
The angels come down—the spirit upon her—
         by permission of their lord from every order
Peace she is until the rise of dawn.

According to Michael Sells in Approaching the Qur’an: the Early Revelations, this “exquisite” sura recalls the night of the Prophet’s revelation, and how the spirit came down during or upon that night.

Here’s some more details from Sells:

Constructed around this Sura is the ritual of the night of qadr, one of the last odd-numbered nights of the holy month of Ramadan. The festival of the night of qadr is often the time for a child’s first attempt at fasting during Ramadan. It is also the occasion of a vigil during which the individual, family or community may stay up through the night in prayer and meditation. The night of qadr comes at the end of a month of celebration and fasting during which the normal rhythms of day and night, eating and sleeping are transformed. This night is one of the more mystical moments of Islamic life. It’s celebrants consider it a moment when the divine and human are particularly close to one another.

I'm also reading Karen Armstrong's new biography of Muhammad, and she states that the night of destiny is what Muhammad used to refer to the first night of his revelation, not just any night of revelation.