English Translation and Commentary of the Holy Quran (2010)
by Maulana Muhammad Ali
Chapter 97: Al-Qadr — The Majesty (Revealed at Makkah: 5 verses)
The very first revelation of the Holy Quran in ch. 96 is suitably followed in arrangement by this chapter which relates when the revelation began. It was on the Night of Majesty, one of the last ten nights of the month of Ramadan, after which this chapter is named. Its coming on that night indicated that the most majestic of all revelations was now being granted to the world and that the majesty of this revelation, as well as of its recipient, would be established in the world. The chapter is unquestionably one of the very earliest revelations.
In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful.
97:1 Surely We revealed it on the Night of Majesty1 —
97:2 And what will make you comprehend what the Night of Majesty is?
97:3 The Night of Majesty is better than a thousand months.2
97:4 The angels and the Spirit descend in it by the permission of their Lord — for every affair3 —
97:5 Peace! it is till the rising of the morning.4
- Lailat al-Qadr, literally the Night of Majesty or Grandeur or Greatness, is a well-known night in the last ten days of the month of Ramadan, being more probably the 25th or 27th or 29th night of the month. See 44:3 where it is called the blessed night. From 2:185, it appears that the Quran was revealed in the month of Ramadan, and from the above it appears to have been revealed on the Lailat al-Qadr; by revelation of course being meant the commencement of its revelation, because the whole was revealed in portions during twenty-three years; and the word “Quran” is applicable as well to a portion as to the whole. That the reference is here to the commencement of the revelation is also clear from the arrangement of the chapters, the opening verses of the last chapter being admittedly the first revelation to the Prophet. In fact, Lailat al-Qadr owes its importance to the fact that it was on this night that the most blessed and perfect of all revelations was given to the world. Moses’ fasting for forty days before receiving revelation (Exodus, 34:28), and Jesus’ keeping fast for the same number of days before he began preaching (Matthew, 4:2), show that Divine blessings are associated with fasting. Hence Muslims are required to fast every year for thirty days, and special Divine blessings are promised to them in the last days of the fasts. ↩
- A thousand months may be taken as the equivalent of a very long time. Numerically they are equal to about 83 years, leaving 17 years to complete a century. There is a saying of the Holy Prophet according to which a mujaddid, or a reformer, will appear among the Muslims at the commencement of every century. The Lailat al-Qadr being a time of great spiritual blessing may also signify the time during which the Prophet worked in person, being actually a period of twenty-three years, or the time during which a mujaddid would ordinarily work, which period is more blessed spiritually than the rest of the century. (Editor’s Note: A thousand months may represent the period of a person’s lifetime. In an entire lifetime, but spent without Divine light, he cannot find the deep Divine truths, nor make the moral and spiritual progress, that he can by even a short contact with the spiritual blessings that descend with a man appointed by Allah.) ↩
- The Spirit here may signify the Divine Spirit, which is really the force through which the regeneration of humanity is brought about, or it may mean Divine inspiration. The descent of the angels and the Spirit also shows that Lailat al-Qadr, as hinted at in the last note, has a deeper significance, for though a particular night in the month of Ramadan may be characterized by great Divine blessings, it is more especially in connection with the mission of one appointed by Allah for the regeneration of the world that “the angels and the Spirit” come down from heaven, turning people’s minds to the spiritual values of life. See also 44:3 footnote. ↩
- “Peace” is the distinctive mark of Lailat al-Qadr. This peace comes to the hearts of the true devotees in the form of a tranquillity of mind which makes them fit to receive Divine blessings. But it is also through one commissioned by God that the basis of peace among people is laid. ↩