The Night of Decree (2): verse-by-verse

[Bahasa Indonesia]

In the name of God, the Gracious, the Compassionate.

We have sent it down in the Night of Decree.
Do you know what the Night of Decree is?
The Night of Decree is better than one thousand months.
The angels and the Spirit come down in it by their Lord’s leave to carry out every matter.
It is peaceful until the coming of dawn.

QS Al Qadr (97):1-5

These verses become most popular during the Ramadhan month, as a popular exposition of the verses is that the Night of Decree (Arabic: lailatul qadr) happens on the odd dates of the last ten days of Ramadhan (so 21, 23, 25, 27, 29).

While I do not doubt the possibility of obtaining the blessing of Night of Decree during those dates, I do believe that the verses carry a universal, deeper and more expansive meaning to all human being, regardless of our background and beliefs.

What I am about to write is a personal reflection and sharing of personal thoughts based on a conversation I had this morning.

(QS97:1) We have sent it down in the Night of Decree.
(QS97:2) Do you know what the Night of Decree is?

We – The Koran sometimes uses “We” (first person plural) for God when it wants to emphasize the involvement of creation in the verse. This means that (1) there needs to be an effort from the creation (read: human) side and (2) it happens when duality becomes one. Only when we realize that there is only His Being, that our Being is truly His, that this would happen.

It – The verse does not explicitly say “Koran”. It says “it”. Some scholars says this “it” implies “Koran”, and some says that it refers to “The Truth”. Whichever meaning we apply, the Moslems do believe that the Qur’an as a perfect reflection of the Truth, a complete, ultimate guide of life.

Night – a spiritual symbol for silence and stillness.

– God’s degree.

God would send down The Truth to His creations who are in silence and stillness, allowing the creations to know what God has decreed on themselves or others. Only those whose heart is in silence and stillness would be able to know His Decree.

QS Ali Imran (3):189-191 provides explanation on those who are in stillness and silence.

(QS3:189) To God is the sovereignty of heavens and earth, and God is capable of all things.

This is an affirmation of the fact that it is God who governs heavens and earth. Hence, decrees and powers are His as well. If we are to live in this world, then we need to abide by His Decrees.

(QS3:190) In the creation of heavens and earth, and the difference between night and day, are signs for those with intelligence.

The words for what’s usually translated into “those with intelligence” are “Ulil albaab”. The word albaab is plural for lubb, the kernel of the heart, the deepest part of the heart. Only those who live by the kernel of their heart can truly understand the signs (of God).

Who are they?

(QS3:191) Those who remember God while standing, and sitting, and on their sides, and they ponder over the creation of the heavens and the earth: “Our Lord you did not create this without purpose, be You glorified, and spare us the retribution of the fire!”

They are those who remember (zikr) God literally all the time, who never take their gaze off God, those who contemplate over the universe. Note that the contemplation comes after the remembrance of the heart.

Such contemplation and remembrance will lead to the awareness of the reality behind all creation, to see things as they are. It would bring about realization that nothing is created without a purpose, that all is but a movement of love, His.

These hearts could not help but glorifying God, to negate Him from all negative supposition. And these hearts’ greatest and only fear is to be distanced, to be away, from Him and hence to see mere creation without being able to see the reality behind it.

These hearts would know the true meaning of “wherever you turn, there is God’s presence” in QS Al Baqarah (2):115.

(QS2:115) To God belongs the east and the west, so wherever you turn, there is God’s presence. God is Encompassing, Knowledgeable.

To these hearts, shirk is not just worshiping other ‘gods’ (other than the one that we believe in), it is to even think that we exist per se as independent individuals and to see any creation without acknowledging God’s presence there.

Let’s return to QS 97.

(QS97:3) The Night of Decree is better than one thousand months.

If the stillness and silence, the realization, were to be experienced, it would be better than any other moments in life put together. It is a moment of union.

After that, life in this plurality would be seen with different eyes. Our greeting and interaction with life would have a different color, different quality.

(QS97:4) The angels and the Spirit come down in it by their Lord’s leave to carry out every matter.

Angels – a symbol of goodness.

Spirit – Spirit of God. The kernel of our self, the Godly qualities within us.

Our life would be filled with goodness. The godly qualities would be dominant in our thoughts, feelings, words and conducts.

(QS97:5) It is peaceful until the coming of dawn.

And if this is so, then salaam, peace of perfection. Such peacefulness, happiness would continue on until one day, everything would be clear, enlightenment. Then what we do would be based on what is right, not on like or dislike. Everything would be with complete permission from Him. We cannot help but do what is right, and what is right is what has been Decreed.

Although the above obviously describes about the special of the special, Koran is guidance to all. Hence, it is for us as well.

In these verses, there is an invitation to increase our remembrance of God (zikrullah), to accept His decree, not to judge as all is His, and to ask Him for guidance every step of the way: ask Him, how would he see this? What would you like me to see in this? And God willing, the Night of Decree would be ours to experience. I do believe this is possible. He is that compassionate. Amen.

The word “qadr” has the root: Qaf-Dal-Ra = to measure/decree/determine/stint/straiten, to have power, to be able, a measure, means, ability, a term/decree, doom, destiny, measured, decreed.

The word “taqdir” shares the same root as qadr and means: knowledge, law, measuring decree, judgment, ordering.

Source: Study Qur’an.

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