x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Emirati Life: Laylat al Qadr is a night better than a thousand months

The meaning of the last 10 days of Ramadan and the beauty of Laylat al Qadr.

On Sunday night, the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi was fully packed, with no place to park. Although my mother and I had set out early for the night prayer, which starts at 1.30am, we still couldn't find a parking spot near the mosque. Finding a place to pray was an even bigger struggle. The two halls dedicated for females were at capacity, so we prayed outside, alongside many other women.

It's the same case for mosques across the world at this time, in the last 10 days of Ramadan, when Muslims are meant to do more acts of worship than at any other time of the year. Night prayers are being held in every mosque and in every home, both because of the importance of these last 10 days, as well as in anticipation of Laylat Al Qadr, known as the most holy and blessed of nights.

Our good deeds and our prayers on this night are worth 1,000 months of good deeds and prayers, which translate to 83 years and four months - practically a lifetime. Prophet Mohammed used to worry that his Muslim nation would have short lives and that they wouldn't be able to worship God for as long a period as other nations, which had much longer lifespans. To that end, Laylat Al Qadr, as it is described in the Quran, or the Night of Decree or Destiny or Value, as it translates, came as a gift from Allah to all Muslims.

The knowledge of the exact date of the Night of Decree is hidden from us, but we are certain that it is one of the five odd nights in the last 10 nights of Ramadan - so the 21st, 23rd, 25th or 29th of the Holy Month. The fact that we do not know the exact night of decree removes us from some blame. Imagine if we had prior knowledge of when the Night of Decree would fall, then ignored it? Instead, we are meant to supplicate often during all of Ramadan and in the last 10 days, even more so.

For the past seven days, the staff at the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque have been facing a difficult time disciplining the crowd coming from all over the emirate. But as soon as the clock hit 1.30am for the night prayer, and the imam declared "Allahu Akbar" - God is the Greatest, which is the opening declaration of every Islamic prayer - everyone begins the prayer. This one phrase is sufficient to calm and unite the throngs of worshippers.

Sunday was the most emotional night for some of us. As soon as the imam raised his hand to supplicate for forgiveness, beg for cures from all sickness and seek guidance in this life and after death, the majority of the attendees, including the non-Arabic speakers, could not help themselves; they began weeping, tears streaming down humbled faces. The lady standing next to me was shaking with sobs, and was seeking forgiveness for herself, for her family and for her dead parents, out loud.

It is wonderful being in the crowd in this blessed month and hearing the cries coming from all over the places when the imam cries upon supplicating. I know those cries are not seeking worldly goods or material things, but seeking the pleasure of the hereafter, which is unseen. It always fascinates me how Muslims stand in prayer next to each other, irrespective of nationality, background, social status, race or language. It was amazing listening to the recitation of the Quran from the imam; its exquisiteness and beauty made me shiver.

Asmaa Al Hameli co-writes the My Year at the National blog, where this piece was originally published

aalhameli@thenational.ae

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