Commentary of Surah Qadr – an extract from from al-Ghunya li-Talibi Tariq al-Haqq
– by Sayyidina Ghawth ul Aazam, Shaykh ‘Abd al Qadir al Jilani
Sayyidina ibn ‘Abbas (may Allah be well pleased with him and with his father) was offering an interpretation also proposed by other authorities, when he gave the following commentary on:
“Behold, We sent it down on the Night of Power.” [Qur’an 97:1]
“• This means: ‘We sent Jibra’il down with this surah, and with the whole of the Qur’an – on the Night of Power [Laylat al Qadr] – to the recording angels. Then it came down after that, by installments [najman najma], to Allah’s Messenger (Allah bless him and give him peace), during a period of twenty-three years, and in all the months, days, nights, and moments of time.’”
As for His statement (Exalted is He): “..On the Night of Power.”
• This means: “on a tremendous or stupendous night [laila ‘azima],” or as some have maintained: “on the Night of the Divine Decree [Laylat al-Hukm].” It is called the Night of Power [Laylat al Qadr] in order to proclaim the immensity of the night itself, and to emphasize its potency [qadr], because it is then that Allah (Exalted is He) predetermines [yuqaddiru] how things are to be throughout the year, until the same night of the year that lies ahead.
Then He has said (Exalted is He): “What is the Night of Power? [Qur’an 97:2]
• In other words: “O Muhammad, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, if it were not for the fact that Allah has made you realize its tremendous importance, [how could you have known]?” For the fact is that, in every instance where the question posed in the Qur’an is in the past tense – “and what has made you know [wa ma adra-ka]?” – Allah had already imparted the relevant knowledge to him. On the other hand, whenever the question posed therein is in the future tense – “and what will make you know [wa ma yudri-ka]?” – the implication is that He had not let him know, and had not imparted the relevant knowledge to him.
Next, He has said (Almighty and Glorious is He): “The Night of Power is better than a thousand months.” [Qur’an 97:3]
• In other words, good deeds therein are better than [those performed in] a thousand months that are without a Night of Power. It is said of the Companions (may Allah be well pleased with them) that they never felt so happy about anything, as they felt about His words (Exalted is He): “better than a thousand months [khairun min alfi shahr].”
The story behind this goes as follows:
One day, Allah’s Messenger, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, was telling his Companions about four of the Children of Israel [Bani Isra’il], and how they worshipfully served Allah for eighty years, without disobeying Him for one single twinkling of an eye in all of that time. The four he spoke about were Job [Ayyub], Zacharias [Zakariyya], Ezekiel [Hizqil], and Joshua the son of Nun [‘Yusha ibn Nun] (peace be upon them all).
The Companions of Allah’s Messenger, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, were greatly amazed at all of this, so Jibra’il (peace be upon him) came to him and said: “O Muhammad, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, it seems to have come as a great surprise to you and your Companions, to learn that these individuals were devoted to worshipful service for eighty years, without disobeying Allah (Exalted is He) for one single twinkling of an eye in all of that time. So now Allah has sent down to you something even better than that!”
Then he recited to the Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him:
“Behold, We sent it down on the Night of Power And what has made you know what is the Night of Power? The Night of Power is better than a thousand months. In it the angels and the Spirit come down by their Lord’s permission, on every errand. Peace it is, the rising of dawn.” [Qur’an 97:1–5]
Jibra’il (peace be upon him) then said to him: “This is even more excellent than that which you and your Companions found so amazing.” Needless to say, the Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, was highly delighted.
Let us now consider the significance of each element in His saying (Exalted is He):
In it the angels and the Spirit come down by their Lord’s permission, on every errand. Peace it is, the rising of dawn.” [Qur’an 97:4–5]
• What is meant by “the angels come down [tanazzalu ’l-mala’ikatu]” is that they come down in succession, from the setting of the sun until the rising of dawn.
• “The Spirit [ar-Ruh]” means Jibra’il (peace be upon him).
According to ad-Dahhak, it was Sayyidina ibn ‘Abbas (may Allah be well pleased with him and with his father) who said: “The Spirit [ar-Ruh] is in the shape of a human being with a gigantic physical build, and he is the one to whom Allah (Almighty and Glorious is He) was referring when He said: “And they will ask you about the Spirit.” [Qur’an 17:85]
“He is the angel who will stand in the company of the angels, when they line up in rows on the Day of Resurrection [Yawm al-Qiyama], but in a rank by himself.”
According to al-Muqatil: “He is the most noble of all the angels in the sight of Allah (Exalted is He).”
Someone else has said: “He is an angel whose face is shaped like that of a human being, while his body is the body of the angels. He is the most enormous creature in the presence of the Heavenly Throne [‘Arsh], so he will stand in a row all by himself, when the angels stand arrayed.” The last part of this statement is, of course, a reference to the words of Allah (Exalted is He): “On the day when the Spirit and the angels stand arrayed.” [Qur’an 78:38]
• “In it [fi-ha]” simply means: “in the Night of Power [fi Laylat al Qadr].”
• “By their Lord’s permission [bi-idhni Rabbi-him]” means, in effect: “by their Lord’s command [bi-amri Rabbi-him].”
• “On every errand [min kulli amr]” is a way of saying: “for every good purpose.”
• “Peace it is [salamun hiya]” has exactly the same meaning as: “It is peace [hiya salamun],” which signifies that it is perfectly safe and wholesome [salima]. No sickness or disease can break out in the course of it, nor can it be disturbed by any kind of hocus-pocus [kahana].
It has also been maintained that “salamun [peace]” means the greeting of peace, with which the angels salute the true believers [salamu ’lmala’ ikati ‘ala ’l-mu’minin] among the people of the earth, for they say to them: “Peace, peace, until the rising of the dawn [salamun salamun hatta matla’i ’l-fajr]!”
• As for the phrase “until the rising of the dawn [hatta matla’i ’l-fajr],” we should note the existence of an alternative reading for the Arabic word matla’. By substituting the vowel ‘a’ for the vowel ‘i’ after the consonant ‘l’, we arrive at the form matli’. The matli’ of the dawn means the rising [al-tulu‘] thereof, while matla’ denotes the place or point at which it rises [yatlu’u].
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