On the 27th day of Ramadan, Muslims traditionally celebrate the Night of Destiny, or Laylat al Qadr, to commemorate the night the Quran was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad.
Each year, more than a billion Muslims observe a month-long fast and time of reflection called Ramadan. The month of Ramadan begins with the new moon and changes each calendar year, falling 11 or 12 days earlier to coordinate with the moon-based Islamic calendar. Near the end of Ramadan, the fast enters a ten-day period of heightened devotion and performing of good deeds. And somewhere during those final days, falls the Laylat al Qadr.
The Birth of Islam
In year 610 of the Common Era, Muhammad was an ordinary man, looking for connection with the One God. He was a hard worker and passionate about finding truth, and his friends called him the Trustworthy One, al-Amin. He was upset by the polytheistic culture surrounding him, but as an uneducated man, he did not believe he was qualified to do anything but pray.
One night as he was praying in a cave in the mountains, the angel Gabriel appeared to Muhammad and told him to read God’s word. Then a fiery scroll appeared to Muhammad there in the cave, and suddenly he found he could understand the words! He took the words to heart and spent the rest of his life traveling around Arabia as a prophet, sharing his ongoing messages from the One True God, Allah.
Eventually all Muhammad’s teachings were gathered into one place and turned into the holy book of Quran. Laylat al Qadr celebrates this historic event, and has become imbued with even more meaning over the centuries.
The Night of Destiny
The name of this holiday literally translates to Night of Destiny. According to the Quran, on this night the angels descend from heaven to be shown which people will die in the coming year. It is hoped, by proper observance of the Night of Destiny, that all of one’s previous sins may be forgiven.
Interestingly, the exact date of Laylat al Qadr, even relative to Ramadan, is somewhat difficult to identify. Muhammad instructed his followers to seek this night of destiny, and indicated that the best time to find it was during the last 10 days of Ramadan, most likely on the odd numbered nights. To guard against seeking it on the wrong night, some recommend observing it on all of the last ten nights.
In the United States and around the world, Laylat al Qadr is considered the most beneficial night of the year to pray for salvation and for blessing from Allah. Some Islamic owned businesses in the US may alter their hours of operation for this day or the day following, because many visit their mosque for special services in the evening. Although mosques may host prayers until midnight, the faithful stay up praying through the night, asking for mercy, forgiveness, and a chance to set their destiny for the coming year.