You might notice that many Muslims are spending a bit of extra time in prayer, meditation, recitation of the Qur’an, and other acts of charity in these last ten nights of Ramadan.
The reason is because of the occasion of Laylat al-Qadr, Night of Destiny, Night of Power.
According to the Qur’an, the Qur’an perhaps descends down during these sacred nights. While the Night of Power/Destiny is wrapped in some mystery, it is said in the Qur’an to be more blessed than a thousand months:
In the Name of God the Compassionate the Caring
We sent him/it down on the night of destiny
And what could tell you of the night of destiny
The night of qadr 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
The great scholar Michael Sells has done a beautiful job of examining the literary structure of this chapter, which relies on the interplay of gendered words, sound, and meaning. For some learned talks on the Night of Power, see this by Shaykh Yasir Qadhi and this by Shaykh Hamza Yusuf.
We are told that the Night of Power is one of the last odd nights of Ramadan. It could be the 19th, the 21st, the 23rd, or even another of the odd nights. Whereas Muslims tend to engage in some polite pulling-out-of-our-collective-hair over the ambiguity of the start (and end) of Ramadan, the ambiguity over the Laylat al-Qadr is almost universally celebrated. Why?
The reason is that this ambiguity is actually a subtlety, a mercy.
By not connecting the Night of Power to any one concrete night, there is the realization that any night could be the Night of Power. And perhaps, if we live in that realization of the potential sanctity of each night, each day, each breath, any night is the Night of Power.
This is precisely what the great Muslim sage Rumi says:
God, just like the Night of Power, is hidden amidst the other nights
So that the soul will go on seeking every night.
Oh young one, not every night is the Night of Power
And yet, not every night is bereft of the Night of Power
[Masnavi, book 2, line 2935]
Yes, God is “hidden”, so that the soul will go on seeking–every night.
This is perhaps the great blessing of Ramadan: the realization that God is always present.
It is we, human beings, who are absent.
We are absent from God.
We are absent from our own true selves.
We are absent from what it means to be truly human.
Perhaps, just perhaps, if we realized that God is hidden, and we went to search for God—each and every night, each and every day, each and every breath—then each and every night would be better than a thousand nights.
Let us know the value and worth of each breath.
It is as Attar said: There is a jewel hidden inside each breath.
And this is the great mystery of Islam, and indeed of every spiritual path: we go on a quest, seeking God, and then we realize: God has been there all along, with us, in us, around us.
Ramadan Mubarak, friends.
May the last ten nights be blessed.
May life be blessed.
May each breath be blessed.
May the jewels inside each breath be blessed.