IN THE FINAL 10 DAYS OF THE RAMADAN FAST, the lights will burn through the night at mosques and other community centers serving more than a billion Muslims around the world. In these last 10 nights of Ramadan, Islamic communities mark the central celebration of the month-long fast: Laylat al Qadr. Most commonly translated into English as “Night of Power,” the Arabic phrase sometimes is translated as “Night of Destiny” or “Night of Value.” This year, some English-language editions of newspapers from Muslim countries are calling it “Night of Majesty” or “Night of Glory.”
What is Laylat al Qadr,
the Night of Power?
“Most commonly, people see it translated as Night of Power in English, but the term means much more than just power as we might think of it in the world today. It refers to the all-encompassing glory of God. We are reflecting on and honoring God’s throne and God’s majesty because this is a day of reconciliation on so many levels,” says Najah Bazzy, author of the book, The Beauty of Ramadan. “I like to think of it as a kind of spiritual new year.
“On this night, we believe the entire Quran was imprinted on the soul and heart of the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him. The actual recitation of each word of the Quran through the Archangel Gabriel came through in different periods after that. But in Laylat al Qadr, the entire Quran was revealed, was imprinted. That’s why we see such grandeur in this night. The entire divine scripture of the Quran was revealed at this moment.
“Muslims have written many tributes to this night of nights. You may hear this night described as worth more than 1,000 months. The Great Spirit descended upon Earth that night. It is said that, as the Quran was revealed, angels were everywhere. It’s said that there wasn’t so much as a pinhead of space on Earth that wasn’t occupied by angels on this night.”
What do Muslims do on Laylat al Qadr, the Night of Power?
Men and women among the billion Muslims around the world try to devote a long night to personal prayer and meditation in a mosque. In many cases, the faithful may spend an entire night in the mosque.
This is an especially challenging time for Muslim professionals who are U.S. citizens at home and abroad—generally, they are continuing to work full time as they fast and then try to mark this night of special prayers. The photo at right was provided by the U.S. Army, among many news stories and photos produced by the military to highlight Muslims serving in our armed forces.
SUNNI PRACTICE: “Sunnis don’t identify the specific Night of Power as closely as Shi’a would, so in Sunni communities people will be performing as many prayers as possible on various nights in the last 10 days of Ramadan. They know the Night of Power is somewhere in that period,” Bazzy says.
A news report in the Gulf News indicates that many Sunni communities will mark the Night of Power on the 26th or 27th of Ramadan this year.
SHI’A PRACTICE: “According to Shi’a practice, people mark three nights—the 19th, 21st and 23rd nights of the month of Ramadan. We will go ahead and perform all the prayers on the 19th and 21st nights, sometimes calling those the small and middle Nights of Power, but the 23rd night of Ramadan has the biggest emphasis. This way of marking the date among Shi’as has to do with traditions that come down from the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, in his own references to when the Night should be marked. He did not specify a date, but the Shi’a believe it is one of those three dates and probably the 23rd,” Bazzy said in an interview with ReadTheSpirit.
When does Ramadan end this year?
EID AL FITR celebration, Tuesday, August 30: The Muslim calendar is based on lunar cycles and continues to “move earlier” each year, when compared to the international standard calendar. The Islamic Society of North America and the Fiqh Council of North America—two groups representing most Muslim centers across the U.S.—have calculated upcoming moon sightings to place the Eid al Fitr on the morning of Tuesday, August 30, 2011.
However, many Muslims adjust their personal fasting schedules to coincide with family members in other countries or to include extra days of fasting for various reasons. The result is that many larger Muslim centers, especially those that serve an ethnically diverse population, may have a couple of mornings set aside for the festive Eid prayers.
If you live near a Muslim center, these end-of-Ramadan prayer times are first thing in the morning and Muslim families often fill up local restaurants for brunch with friends and family.
Care to read more about Ramadan?
Holiday Column on the Start of Ramadan: Here is our opening story on the month-long fast in 2011. The story includes even more links to other fascinating stories.
Originally published at readthespirit.com, an online journal covering religion and cultural diversity.