The last 10 days of Ramadan
It feels as if it was yesterday. But alas! We have now entered the climax in the spiritual season of the blessed month of Ramadan. Here I am referring to the last ten days of this glorious month; days in which the night of Majesty would occur; a night which is better than a thousand months spent in worshipping the Almighty. In other words, when the Almighty says “the night of majesty is better than one thousand nights” it is meant to call our attention to the fact that the night is equal in importance to 30,000 days of worship; it is equivalent to 83 years of complete devotion to the Almighty. To hold the night sacred, to consecrate the night to the worship of the Almighty, therefore, is to partake in such rare divine blessings as would not be seen again until next year.
Put differently, the night of majesty is that in which the affairs of the cosmos or the universe is reviewed; laylat al-Qadr, the night of Majesty, is the night in which your destiny and mine could be re-written for the better provided we avail ourselves of the opportunity therein. Yes! Have you forgotten what your lord and sustainer says in chapter 44 verses 1-5 of the Quran? Your lord says: Ha M’im; We swear by the Glorious Book; That We revealed this Qur’an in a blessed night (Layla-tul Qadr); for We wanted to forewarn mankind; In that night every matter is decided wisely by a command from us…”
When carefully contemplated, these verses appear to give some clues to some of the vexed issues which have constantly bothered humanity: the issue of destiny, the challenge of knowing the unknowable. Here the Almighty unveils part of the hidden to us all; we are being summoned to partake in divine politics if as such it may be described. When the Almighty says “In that night every matter is decided wisely by a command from us…”, it is like an invitation from His majesty to humanity to actively partake in a process which will ultimately lead to the distribution of divine blessings; the blessings of life, of wealth and health, of terrestrial and celestial successes.
Unlike our experience on earth where the so-called legislators appropriate the national resources at the beginning of each year by giving sole consideration to their prosperity, the night of Majesty open the celestial space to the poor and the rich, the mighty and the lowly to present their “proposals” to the Almighty. It is a night in which we are “invited to join” the angels in the process of “appropriating” earthly fortune; you are being asked, on the night of majesty, to have a say in how your future is going to look like.
In a statement credited to Prophet Muhammad (upon him be peace), he is reported to have said that on the night of Majesty “the number of Angels who will descend to the earth will be greater than the number of pebbles on the whole planet”!. But why would the earth play host to such an innumerable number of angels? Angels of the Almighty, you would remember, are luminous creatures; they are entities created by the Almighty from light; some of them bear two wings, others three, yet others four wings. The wings of the angels, I should remind you, are signifiers, the signified being divine authorities; the wings of the angels are metaphors for the unknowable features of those divine messengers. Again, angels are entities without freewill; they are incapable of rebelling, like humans, against the Almighty’s plans and will. Thus they would descend in abundance during the Night of Al-Qadr, in obeisance to the Almighty’s command and in celebration of the abundant blessings of the night; the same way they descend each time the Qur’an is being recited.
So how might you go about partaking in your own destiny during this night? This question was also posed by Aishah (upon her be peace), to Muhammad (upon him be peace and blessings of the Almighty). She said: “I said “O Messenger of the Almighty, if I know which night is Laylat al-Qadr, what should I say on that night?’ The Prophet then replied: “Say: Allahuma innaka ‘afuwwun tuhibbu al-’afwa fa’affu ‘anni” meaning “O the Almighty, you are oft-forgiving and You love forgiveness, so forgive me”.
In the course of preparing this sermon, I was struck by one other historical fact: that each time Ramadan enters the last ten days, the Prophet used to gird his loins. The phrase “gird his loins” is a metaphor for the Prophet’s preparation for “consolidated” acts of worship. In other words, during the last ten days of Ramadan the Prophet use to worship the Almighty more than the previous nights. He would forsake the bed of his wives, and resort to the hallowed precincts of the mosque in order to do I’tikaf-seclusion.
Now let it be remembered that Muslim women are not exempted from these spiritual caravan. A woman, having obtained the permission of her husband could also do I’tikaf in a central mosque, which has facilities that would protect her chastity and guarantee her spirituality. Women in their monthly cycles may not embark on seclusion. They are however, encouraged to engage in series of invocation and litanies. She could recite the supplication recommended by the Prophet to Aishah.
At a public lecture last weekend, a brother lamented his inability to read as many Quran as he would have loved because he has only recently started learning. He wanted to know the formula for reading the Quran such that he can complete the recitation of the glorious Quran at least four times in the month. My response to him was that it is not only the number of times we complete the recitation of the Quran in this month that matters but the number of times we read them carefully, contemplated their meaning and are blessed as a result. If you happen to be a slow reader of the Quran, be rest assured that the reward that would accrue to you would be commensurate to the intention you had when you set out to read the Glorious book.
What about the nawafil? This a treasure store of The Almighty’s bounties. Abu Hurayra narrated that the our Prophet said: whoever stands (in prayer) in Laylatul Qadr while nourishing his faith with self-evaluation, expecting reward from The Almighty, will have all of his previous sins forgiven.
As you set about to commune with the Almighty more closely during the last ten days of ramadan, ask yourself what you really want from the Almighty. Make a list of each and everything, no matter how small or how big it is, whether it deals with this world or not. The Almighty loves to hear from us. Once this list is ready, you can do three things: Ask the Almighty to give you those things; think about what actions you have taken to get those things; develop a work plan to get those things in future.
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