Laylat al Qadr and Eid al-Fitr: Muslims observe holiest night, end of Ramadan

Group of Muslims kneeling in prayer, daytime, outdoors

Muslims in Iran holding Eid al-Fitr prayer. Photo by M. Hasan Miremadi, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

SUNSET SUNDAY, JUNE 10 and SUNSET THURSDAY, JUNE 14: The holiest night of the Islamic year arrives for Muslims worldwide with the Night of Power (Laylat al-Qadr). Known by many names—Night of Value, Night of Destiny, Night of Measure—Muslims note the anniversary of the night the Quran was first revealed to the Prophet Muhammad via the angel Gabriel. (Note: Muhammad did not reveal precisely when the Night of Power occurred, though the 27th day of Ramadan is a traditionally held date; however, as many of the odd-numbered nights in the last 10 days of Ramadan as possible are still observed.)

It is believed that on this sacred night, verses of the Quran were relayed to Muhammad in the year 610 CE, and angels descended to earth for the event. If a devoted Muslim prays in earnest for forgiveness of sins on Laylat al-Qadr and reads the Quran, it’s believed that the night is “better than 1,000 months.” Sins are forgiven and blessings are manifold.

Mosque lit up at night, people walking out of mosque and nearby

Photo by Sharonang, courtesy of pixabay

I’TIKAF & THE FINAL DAYS OF RAMADAN

Muslims who can afford to spend the final 10 days of Ramadan in the mosque may choose to observe a form of worship known as I’tikaf. A fast observed during the day is supplemented with intense prayer and Quran study both day and night. Nighttime meals are provided by most mosques to I’tikaf participants. Ten days of observance is ideal, but some participants follow the practice for shorter periods. Both men and women are encouraged to observe I’tikaf.

Note: Due to traditional moon sighting calculations, Muslim observances often vary by country or region.

THE END OF RAMADAN: HAPPY EID!

Sunrise-to-sunset fasting through some of the year’s longest, hottest days has ended for the world’s Muslims, and the Islamic community transitions from the month of Ramadan to Shawwaal with a joyous “Feast of the Breaking of the Fast,” called Eid al-Fitr. Islamic days start at sunset, and for 2018, official astronomers have predicted that sunrise on June 14 will open Eid al-Fitr.

Note: Spellings vary, and you may see the holiday spelled Eid ul-Fitr as well. The proper greeting for this festival is “Eid Sa’id!” (Happy Eid!)

For the grand holiday, Muslims around the world awaken early, heading to a nearby mosque (or, in some cases, an open square or field) and praying in unison, before feasting with families and friends. Government buildings, schools and businesses close in Muslim countries as everyone visits family and friends, dines on sweet treats and greets passersby with a “Happy Eid.” In many regions, festivities will continue for three days or more.

Did you know? The first Eid was observed by the Prophet Muhammad in 624 CE. 

Before sunrise on Eid al-Fitr, Muslims pray, bathe and put on their best clothing. A small breakfast—usually including dates—is consumed before heading to a nearby mosque, hall or open area. Zakat (charitable giving) has been completed, and adherents spend ample time enjoying the company of family and friends, attending carnivals and fireworks displays, giving gifts and expressing thanks to Allah.

From ground, rides at a fair

Eid al-Fitr fairs and festivals, such as this one in Amsterdam, are common. Photo by Charles Roffey, courtesy of Flickr

The grand holiday of Eid al-Fitr is referred to in many ways: the Sugar Feast, Sweet Festival, Feast of the Breaking of the Fast and Bajram, to name just a few.

EID AROUND THE WORLD

With nearly one-quarter of the world’s population observing the Islamic faith, countries around the world are preparing their banks, airlines, shops, business hours and public services for the major holiday. Unlike most Muslim holidays, which may or may not be observed by all Muslims each year, the two Eid holidays—Eid al-Adha and Eid al-Fitr—are always commemorated universally.

Did you know? In Egypt, Eid al-Fitr is an occasion for neighborhood carnivals; in Asia, the celebratory dish contains toasted sweet vermicelli noodles and dried fruit; in Saudi Arabia, wealthy families buy large quantities of rice and other staples and leave them anonymously on the doorsteps of those less fortunate.

Lailat al-Qadr: Muslims observe holiest of Ramadan, Night of Power

Mosque lit at night from exterior

For Laylat al-Qadr, Muslims spend the night in prayer and Quran study. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

STARTING SUNSET TUESDAY, JULY 7 (OR an odd-numbered night in the last 10 days of Ramadan): The holiest night of the Islamic year has arrives for Muslims worldwide with the Night of Power (Laylat al-Qadr). Known by many names—Night of Value, Night of Destiny, Night of Measure—Muslims note the anniversary of the night the Quran was first revealed to the Prophet Muhammad via the angel Gabriel.

It is believed that on this sacred night, verses of the Quran were relayed to Muhammad in the year 610 CE, and angels descended to earth for the event. (Learn more from On Islam.) If a devoted Muslim prays in earnest for forgiveness of sins on Laylat al-Qadr and reads the Quran, it’s believed that the night is “better than 1,000 months.” Sins are forgiven and blessings are manifold.

I’TIKAF & FINAL DAYS OF RAMADAN

Muslims who can afford to spend the final 10 days of Ramadan in the mosque may choose to observe a form of worship known as I’tikaf. A fast observed during the day is supplemented with intense prayer and Quran study both day and night. (Wikipedia has details.) Nighttime meals are provided by most mosques to I’tikaf participants. Ten days of observance are ideal, but some participants follow the practice for shorter periods. Both men and women are encouraged to observe I’tikaf.

Muhammad did not reveal precisely when the Night of Power occurred. The 27th day of Ramadan is a traditionally held date, but as many of the odd-numbered nights in the last 10 days of Ramadan are still observed.

IN THE NEWS:

A YOUTUBE LECTURE AND RAMADAN IN NIGERIA & MOROCCO

Muslims and non-Muslims can gain additional insight into Ramadan’s holiest night with this YouTube lecture by Dr. Zakir Naik, who explains Laylat al-Qadr. For an international perspective of Islam around the world, check out articles from AllAfrica and Morocco World News, explaining Nigerian Muslim views on Ramadan and Moroccans’ five most cherished Ramadan traditions.

Laylat al-Qadr: Muslims revere Night of Destiny, Night of Power

Open book of the Quran in dim lighting

Many Muslims stay awake the entire night of Laylat al-Qadr, reading the Quran and reciting prayers. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

WEDNESDAY, JULY 23 (or one of the last 10, odd-numbered nights of Ramadan): The holiest night of Ramadan is met by Muslims across the globe with great reverence and joy. It’s Laylat al-Qadr, the Night of Destiny, the Night of Power or the Night of Decree.

Most Muslims regard Laylat al-Qadr as the anniversary of the night the Quran was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad, and the Quran declares that observing this night is “better than one thousand months.” Though the Prophet Muhammad never specified the exact date of Laylat al-Qadr, Muslims are required to “search for it” among the last 10, odd-numbered nights of Ramadan.

Millions of adherents believe, generally, that Laylat al-Qadr occurs on the 27th day of Ramadan; however, many attempt to stay awake in prayer as much as possible during each of the odd-numbered nights during the final 10 of Ramadan, in case of error on the correct date. Those fortunate Muslims who can afford to do so spend the entirety of the final 10 days of Ramadan in the mosque, in the worship known as I’tikaf.

The traditional sayings of the Prophet assure the faithful that whoever prays in sincerity on Laylat al Qadr will be forgiven of sins.

Highly regarded is the belief that angels descend upon the earth on Laylat al-Qadr, due to the many blessings of the sacred night. (Read more from On Islam.) During the final 10 days of Ramadan, acts of charity and donations are increased—along with prayer and readings of the Quran. (Wikipedia has details.) Muslims teach that the complete revelation of the Quran to Muhammad took place over a total of 23 years; this transmission began in 610 CE at a cave near Mecca with this initial revelation of the holy text that is remembered on Laylat al-Qadr.

IN THE NEWS:
DATE CONSUMPTION INCREASING

Cover of Najah Bazzy Beauty of RamadanShopkeepers in Maharashtra, India, have been reporting increased sales in dates during Ramadan 2014, according to an article from Business Standard; the dates range in price from $.67 per pound to $33.32 per pound. Though dates have been popular for breaking fast during Ramadan for centuries, they now are available in flavors and from nations across the globe. The fasting of Ramadan will end on the first day of the next month—and with the grand festival of Eid ul-Fitr.

CHECK OUT ‘THE BEAUTY OF RAMADAN’! ReadTheSpirit Books publishes a complete guide to Ramadan, including the Night of Power, written by Najah Bazzy.

Laylat al-Qadr: Muslims pray, recite Quran on night worth 1,000 months

“The Night of Power is better than a thousand months. Therein come down the angels and the Spirit by Allah’s permission, on every errand: Peace! … This until the rise of dawn!”

Sura 97 (Al-Qadr), ayat 1-5

Rows of Muslims kneeling and praying inside a brightly lit mosque

Thousands of Muslims pray at the Imam Muhammad Ibn Abdul Wahab Grand Mosque, in Qatar, on Laylat al-Qadr 2012. Muslims pray through the sacred night in the belief that deeds are worth more tonight than in 1,000 ordinary months. Photo by Omar Chatriwala, courtesy of Flickr

SATURDAY, AUGUST 3: For many Muslims around the world, this is Laylat al-Qadr, the sacred night in the Islamic calendar described by Muslims as worth more than 1,000 months in its spiritual influence. The observance sometimes is called the Night of Power, Night of Destiny or Night of Measures. On this anniversary of the revelation of the first verses of the Quran to the Prophet Muhammad, many Muslims spend the entire night in steadfast worship.

Note: Muhammad never specified the date of Laylat al-Qadr, although he did indicate that it fell during the last 10 days of Ramadan. Observance dates vary by up to a week, based on Muslim traditions and regions around the world.

AN EVENT UNPARALLELED IN HISTORY

Mosque lit with ornamental lights at night

Faisal Mosque, the largest mosque in Pakistan, decorated with ornamental lights, on Laylat al-Qadr 2012. Photo by Muzaffar Bukhari, courtesy of Flickr

The year was 610 CE, in the Hira Cave in Mecca, when an event occurred that Muslims regard as unparalleled in history: Muhammad received the first revelation of the Quran, from the Archangel Gabriel. (Wikipedia has details.) Of note is that the first word uttered by Gabriel was Ikra, meaning “read,” considered remarkable by Muslims because Muhammad was illiterate. Muslims today take heed of Gabriel’s means of transferring the Quran to the Prophet—imprinting the words into his heart, rather than writing them down. The faithful literate continue attempts to “read” the Quran by thoroughly learning and gaining a deep understanding of its words. Throughout Ramadan and particularly on Laylat al-Qadr (and the last 10 days of Ramadan), Muslims pray, ask forgiveness and read or recite as much of the Quran as possible. (Get an insider’s view of Ramadan in Africa at AllAfrica.)

SPECIAL DEVOTION
IN FINAL DAYS OF RAMADAN

By refraining from food and water throughout the days of Ramadan, Muslims fulfill a major Pillar of Islam; by praying and reading the Quran, they gain a deeper faith in God and sincerity in worship. During the last 10 days of Ramadan, it’s reported that Muhammad commanded followers to strive the entire 10 nights to “look for” Laylat al-Qadr by engaging in extra worship. It’s believed that what distinguishes Laylat al-Qadr from other nights is Unseen by humans, so it is good practice to keep vigil all 10 nights.