Tafseer Surah Al-Qadr
بِّسْمِ اللَّـهِ الرَّحْمَـٰنِ الرَّحِيمِ
إِنَّا أَنزَلْنَاهُ فِي لَيْلَةِ الْقَدْرِ ﴿١﴾ وَمَا أَدْرَاكَ مَا لَيْلَةُ الْقَدْرِ ﴿٢﴾ لَيْلَةُ الْقَدْرِ خَيْرٌ مِّنْ أَلْفِ شَهْرٍ ﴿٣﴾ تَنَزَّلُ الْمَلَائِكَةُ وَالرُّوحُ فِيهَا بِإِذْنِ رَبِّهِم مِّن كُلِّ أَمْرٍ ﴿٤﴾ سَلَامٌ هِيَ حَتَّىٰ مَطْلَعِ الْفَجْرِ
Surely We revealed it on laylatu-Al Qadr. And what will make you comprehend what is laylatu-Al Qadr? Laylatu-Al Qadr is better than a thousand months. The angels and Jibreel descend in it by the permission of their Lord for every affair, Peace! it is until the break of morning.
This surah is called سُورَةَ الْقَدْرِ and سُورَةَ لَيْلَةِ الْقَدْرِ. Most of the scholars have said it is a Makki surah but some have claimed that it is a Madani surah.
The surah has many objectives, amongst them are: to refute those who deny that the Qur’an is revelation from Allah, high position of the its revelation in لَيْلَةِ الْقَدْر , descension of the angels in لَيْلَةِ الْقَدْر every year and to inspire the Muslims to worship in the blessed night of Al-Qadr.
In this tafseer we explore the linguistic marvels of this wonderful chapter of the Qur’an which is a special gift from Allah to the believers in the month of Ramadan.
1- The relationship between Sura Al-Qadr, Al-Alaq and Al-Bayeenah
This surah is preceded by Allah’s saying:
كَلَّا لَا تُطِعْهُ وَاسْجُدْ وَاقْتَرِب
No indeed! Do not obey him, but prostrate and draw near.
The connection and suitability with this verse is clear and apparent since this night of Al-Qadr is the night for prostration and drawing nearer to Allah.
The connection with what is mentioned at the beginning of Surah Al-Alaq is also appropriate because the surah opens with:
اقْرَأْ بِاسْمِ رَبِّكَ الَّذِي خَلَقَ
Read in the name of your Lord Who created.
‘That is as if he said: Read what we have revealed upon you of our speech.’ [Al Bahrul Al Muheet]
In this surah the pronoun of who is the revealer and what was revealed was mentioned, which is in Allah’s saying:
إِنَّا أَنزَلْنَاهُ فِي لَيْلَةِ الْقَدْرِ
Surely We revealed it on the Laylatul Al-Qadr.
The pronoun [نا] is the pronoun referring to the revealer, which is Allah, and the attached object pronoun [ه] is the pronoun referring to what was revealed which is the Qur’an.
The surah after is Surah Al-Bayyinah which explains who it was revealed upon [المنزِل عليه] and who is the revealer [المنزَل] and what was revealed [المنزِل].
رَسُولٌ مِّنَ اللَّـهِ يَتْلُو صُحُفًا مُّطَهَّرَةً فِيهَا كُتُبٌ قَيِّمَةٌ
a Messenger from Allah reciting purified texts containing upright precepts.
So Allah’s saying: رَسُولٌ مِّنَ اللَّـهِ ‘a Messenger from Allah’ is the one who it was revealed upon [المنزِل عليه]
His ﷻ saying: مِّنَ اللَّـهِ ‘from Allah’ clarifies the pronoun of the revealer [المنزَل] in His ﷻ saying: إِنَّا and أَنزَلْنَاهُ.
His ﷻ saying: صُحُفًا مُّطَهَّرَةً فِيهَا كُتُبٌ قَيِّمَةٌ ‘purified texts containing upright precepts’ explains the attached object pronoun [ه] in أَنزَلْنَاهُ.
Surah Al-Bayyinah therefore explains who is the revealer, who it was revealed upon and what was revealed. So, the connection between Surah Al-Qadr and Surah Al-Bayyinah is clear.
2- Significance of the numbers of verses, words and letters
In this surah, there are five verses which may be referring to the five odd nights in the last ten days of the month of Ramadan. Imam Al-Razi mentioned about the phrase لَيْلَةِ الْقَدْرِ that it is made up of nine letters, and it was mentioned three times which points to the twenty-seventh night (9 x 3).
It was transmitted from Ibn Abbas (ra) that the pronoun هِيَ mentioned in the verse: سَلَامٌ هِيَ حَتَّىٰ مَطْلَعِ الْفَجْرِ is the 27th letter which alludes to the night of Al-Qadr. It is an interesting observation but it can’t be used as an evidence. Rather we must rely on the sahih hadith from the Messenger of Allah ﷺ to know when the night of Al-Qadr may occur.
Al-Bukhari recorded from Ibn `Abbas that the Messenger of Allah ﷺ said,
«الْتَمِسُوهَا فِي الْعَشْرِ الْأَوَاخِرِ مِنْ رَمَضَانَ فِي تَاسِعَةٍ تَبْقَى، فِي سَابِعَةٍ تَبْقَى، فِي خَامِسَةٍ تَبْقَى»
Seek it in the last ten (nights) of Ramadan. In the ninth it still remains, in the seventh it still remains, in the fifth it still remains.
Many have explained this Hadith to refer to the odd nights, and this is the most apparent and most popular explanation.
3- The Greatness of the Qur’an
إِنَّا أَنزَلْنَاهُ فِي لَيْلَةِ الْقَدْرِ
Surely We revealed it on the laylatu-Al Qadr.
Allah mentioned the pronoun of majesty ‘we’ in إِنَّا and emphasised with the particle of emphasis إِنَّ. He also mentioned the ‘we’ of majesty in أَنزَلْنَاهُ ‘We have revealed it’.
It is customary in the Qur’an that when the pronoun of majesty ‘we’ is mentioned then it will point to the meaning of the singular either before or after it to remove any doubt in the mind about polytheism, and to inform that this pronoun of majesty is for honouring.
Therefore, to indicate the meaning of ‘we,’ Allah clarifies afterwards: بِإِذْنِ رَبِّهِم ‘with the permission of their lord’ who is one by use of the singular رَبِّ which points to the meaning of ‘we’.
In addition, what points to the greatness of this night is Allah’s saying: أَنزَلْنَاهُ ‘We have revealed it’ i.e. Al-Qur’an. The Qur’an was referred to by the pronoun ‘it’ because the meaning was known and there was no need to mention the Qur’an explicitly. This is similar to Allah’s saying: مَا تَرَكَ عَلَىٰ ظَهْرِهَا مِن دَابَّةٍ ‘He would not leave on the back of it any creature’ [35:45] and His saying: مَّا تَرَكَ عَلَيْهَا مِن دَابَّةٍ‘He would not leave on the earth a single creature’ [16:61]. The pronoun [هَا] is referring to the earth.
4- Meaning of لَيْلَةُ ٱلْقَدْرِ
Indeed this night is called the night of Al-Qadr. One of the meanings of Qadr is honour الشرف and high rank المكانة. Therefore, the meaning of لَيْلَةُ الْقَدْرِ is the night of honour and high rank.
Allah has also honoured the Qur’an from three angles as mentioned in Al-Kashshaf of Al-Zamakhshari: “He has venerated the Qur’an by (1) attributing its revelation specifically to him, (2) by mentioning the pronoun instead of the noun as a testimony to its nobility and dispensing from alluding to it, (3) and by raising the value of the time of its revelation.”
It was mentioned in Ruhul Al-Maani: “In the expression with the third person pronoun without mentioning before it is a reverence for it – what an honour! That is because it alludes to its high status as if it is present with everyone; therefore it has power just by its mentioning. Also in the attribution of its revelation to the royal ‘nun’ (i.e. royal we) twice and in the emphasis of the sentence.”
From another meaning of Al-Qadr is Al-Taqdeeraat (decrees) which Allah decrees. This meaning is understood from Allah’s saying:
إِنَّا أَنزَلْنَاهُ فِي لَيْلَةٍ مُّبَارَكَةٍ ۚ إِنَّا كُنَّا مُنذِرِينَ فِيهَا يُفْرَقُ كُلُّ أَمْرٍ حَكِيمٍ
We sent it down on a blessed night; We are constantly giving warning. During it every wise decree is specified
It was mentioned in Al-Kashshaf: “And the meaning of لَيْلَةُ ٱلْقَدْرِ is the night of determination of matters and its judgments and [this] is from His ﷻ saying: فِيهَا يُفْرَقُ كُلُّ أَمْرٍ حَكِيمٍ ‘During it every wise decree is specified’ [44:4], and it was said: it was called that because of its dangers and its honor over the rest of the other nights”
It was mentioned in Al Bahrul Al Muheet: “It was called لَيْلَةُ ٱلْقَدْرِ because lifespans, provisions and all worldly events would be determined in it, and the angels will be pushed for its implementation as said by Ibn Abbas, Qatadah and others. Al–Zuhri said: its meaning is the night of great power, honour, greatness like the statement: a man who has greatness رَجُلٌ لَهُ قَدْرٌ.”
Therefore, لَيْلَةُ ٱلْقَدْرِ is the night of honour, power, and night of decrees which Allah has determined for the coming year.
5- Meaning of وَمَا أَدْرَاكَ مَا لَيْلَةُ الْقَدْرِ
وَمَا أَدْرَاكَ مَا لَيْلَةُ الْقَدْر
And what will make you comprehend what is laylatu-Al Qadr?
What is intended by this expression is emphasis and veneration of لَيْلَةُ ٱلْقَدْرِ. This style is similar to Allah’s saying:
الْقَارِعَةُ مَا الْقَارِعَةُ وَمَا أَدْرَاكَ مَا الْقَارِعَةُ
The terrible calamity! What is the terrible calamity! And what will make you comprehend what the terrible calamity is?
In other words what thing will make you know the nature of its grandness and importance.
It came in Al-Kashaaf: “It means: your knowledge will not reach the extent of its virtue and the full extent of its value. Then it was explained by ‘better than a thousand months’.”
It came in Ruhul Al Maani: “For what is in of indication is for its elevation outside the domain of knowledge the creation, no one except the most knowledgeable knows it”
Therefore the meaning of وَمَا أَدْرَاكَ مَا لَيْلَةُ الْقَدْرِ is: ‘And what will make you comprehend what is لَيْلَةُ ٱلْقَدْرِ!’
Mentioning لَيْلَةُ الْقَدْرِ by its name instead of by its pronoun (هي) i.e. وَمَا أَدْرَاكَ مَا لَيْلَةُ هيis to increase its greatness. Suggesting the noun is more emphatic than the pronoun, a principle in the language that is well known.
For example, compare and contrast the mentioning of the noun vis-a-vis the pronoun in Surah Al-Qari’a and Surah Al-Humazah when describing the hellfire.
فَأُمُّهُۥ هَاوِيَةٌ وَمَآ أَدْرَىٰكَ مَا هِيَهْ نَارٌ حَامِيَةٌۢ
His refuge will be an abyss. And what can make you know what that is? It is a Fire, intensely hot.
In the above verse, Allah mentioned the pronoun instead of the noun: وَمَآ أَدْرَىٰكَ مَا هِيَهْand He did not say: وَمَآ أَدْرَىٰكَ مَا الهَاوِيَة.
Whereas in Surah Al Humzah the noun was repeated instead of the pronoun for added emphasis.
كَلَّا ۖ لَيُنۢبَذَنَّ فِى ٱلْحُطَمَةِ وَمَآ أَدْرَىٰكَ مَا ٱلْحُطَمَةُ
No! He will surely be thrown into the Crusher. And what can make you know what is the Crusher?
[Al Humzah, 104:4-5]
This is to indicate the enormity and intensity, and Allah further described it as:
نَارُ ٱللَّـهِ ٱلْمُوقَدَةُ ٱلَّتِى تَطَّلِعُ عَلَى ٱلْأَفْـِٔدَةِ إِنَّهَا عَلَيْهِم مُّؤْصَدَةٌ فِى عَمَدٍ مُّمَدَّدَةٍۭ
The kindled Fire of Allah reaching right into the heart. It is sealed in above them in towering columns.
[Al Humzah, 104:6-9]
Contrast this with what was mentioned in Surah Al-Qari’a where it was not described further beyond: نَارٌ حَامِيَةٌۢ ‘a Fire, intensely hot’.
6- Meaning of لَيْلَةُ ٱلْقَدْرِ خَيْرٌ مِّنْ أَلْفِ شَهْرٍ
لَيْلَةُ ٱلْقَدْرِ خَيْرٌ مِّنْ أَلْفِ شَهْرٍ
Laylatu-Al Qadr is better than a thousand months.
Allah further explains that لَيْلَةُ ٱلْقَدْرِ is better than a thousand months, i.e. better than and more than eighty-three years.
When asking the question about what is لَيْلَةُ ٱلْقَدْرِ, the past tense verb was used. It was said by the scholars of tafseer that when the expression وَمَا أَدْرَاكَ is used then Allah will give the answer, and when the present tense is used as in وَمَا يُدْرِيكَ لَعَلَّهُۥ يَزَّكَّىٰٓ ‘But how do you know? Perhaps he would be purified’ [80:3] then He ﷻ does not give the answer. [Al Bahr Al Muheet and Ruhu al Maani]
In the case of وَمَا أَدْرَاكَ مَا لَيْلَةُ الْقَدْرِ Allah mentioned the answer by referring to the noun instead of the pronoun. The noun was repeated in the question and the answer.
Allah said: لَيْلَةُ الْقَدْرِ خَيْرٌ مِّنْ أَلْفِ شَهْرٍ and He ﷻ did not answer with: هي خَيْرٌ مِّنْ أَلْفِ شَهْرٍ
Generally in the Qur’an, the noun which the question is being asked about is not usually repeated in the reply, except in the answer to the question about لَيْلَةُ ٱلْقَدْرِ. This style is another form of emphasis and veneration of لَيْلَةُ ٱلْقَدْرِ.
For example, Allah said:
وَمَآ أَدْرَىٰكَ مَا ٱلْحُطَمَةُ نَارُ ٱللَّـهِ ٱلْمُوقَدَةُ
And what can make you know what is the Crusher? The kindled Fire of Allah
[Al Humzah, 104:5-6]
And He ﷻ did not say: ٱلْحُطَمَةُ نَارُ ٱللَّـهِ ٱلْمُوقَدَةُ
In another example, Allah said:
وَمَآ أَدْرَىٰكَ مَا ٱلطَّارِقُ ٱلنَّجْمُ ٱلثَّاقِبُ
And what will convey to you what the Night-Comer is? The Piercing Star!
And He ﷻ did not say in the reply: ٱلطَّارِقُ ٱلنَّجْمُ ٱلثَّاقِبُ
In another example, Allah said:
وَمَآ أَدْرَىٰكَ مَا ٱلْقَارِعَةُ يَوْمَ يَكُونُ ٱلنَّاسُ كَٱلْفَرَاشِ ٱلْمَبْثُوثِ وَتَكُونُ ٱلْجِبَالُ كَٱلْعِهْنِ ٱلْمَنفُوشِ
What will convey to you what the Crashing Blow is? It is the Day when mankind will be like scattered moths and the mountains like tufts of coloured wool.
And He ﷻ did not say: ٱلْقَارِعَةُ يَوْمَ يَكُونُ ٱلنَّاسُ كَٱلْفَرَاشِ ٱلْمَبْثُوثِ
It came in Ruhul Al-Maani: “In the mentioning of لَيْلَةُ ٱلْقَدْرِ in both places, it is an emphasis of greatness and reverence which is not hidden.”
Additionally, there is another reverence for the night which is that it is better than a thousand months.
7- Meaning of تَنَزَّلُ الْمَلَائِكَةُ وَالرُّوحُ فِيهَا بِإِذْنِ رَبِّهِم مِّن كُلِّ أَمْرٍ
تَنَزَّلُ الْمَلَائِكَةُ وَالرُّوحُ فِيهَا بِإِذْنِ رَبِّهِم مِّن كُلِّ أَمْرٍ
The angels and Jibreel descend in it by the permission of their Lord for every affair
Allah said: تَنَزَّلُ and He did not say: تَتَنَزَّلُ. One of the تَ has been omitted, because this descending happens once every year. So by shortening the verb it indicates the scarcity of the occurrence. Contrast this with Allah’s saying:
إِنَّ ٱلَّذِينَ قَالُوا۟ رَبُّنَا ٱللَّـهُ ثُمَّ ٱسْتَقَـٰمُوا۟ تَتَنَزَّلُ عَلَيْهِمُ ٱلْمَلَـٰٓئِكَةُ أَلَّا تَخَافُوا۟ وَلَا تَحْزَنُوا۟ وَأَبْشِرُوا۟ بِٱلْجَنَّةِ ٱلَّتِى كُنتُمْ تُوعَدُونَ
The angels descend on those who say, ‘Our Lord is Allah,’ and then go straight: ‘Do not fear and do not grieve but rejoice in the Garden you have been promised.
In the above verse, the verb is with two تَ, and that is because this descending is continuous throughout the year, every hour in fact, and in every moment. Therefore when the descending التنزل increases then the form of the verb increases.
8- Meaning of الرُّوحُ
It was said: It is the archangel Jibril (as) and it was a creation from the creation of Allah.
9- Meaning of بِإِذْنِ رَبِّهِم
Allah said: بِإِذْنِ رَبِّهِم and it was said: it means ‘by the command of their lord’.
It came in Ruhul Al-Maani: “In that, there is an indication that they (angels) are seeking the permission of their lord, so He ﷻ gives them permission to descend.”
“It has been said that it is an indication that they (angels) desire to meet the people of earth from the believers and are longing for them, so they seek permission and then permission is granted to them”
10- Meaning of مِّن كُلِّ أَمْرٍ
It came in Ruhul Al-Maani: “It was said: Descension (of the angels) is because of every amr (decree) connected to decrees in that year to the next, and He ﷻ had manifested it to them. So the particle مِّن is in the meaning of laam al Ta’leeliya (particle of reason) connected to تَنَزَّلُ …It was said: Indeed مِّن كُلِّ أَمْرٍ is connected with His ﷻ saying سَلامٌand it is in the meaning of السَّلَامَةِ ‘security or peace’.”
11- Meaning of سَلَامٌ هِيَ
It came in Al-Kashaaf: “It was said: The meaning of salam here is ‘greetings’. The angels give salutation upon every believer; therefore they do not meet any believing men and women except that they give salutations upon them that night.
It is also mentioned in Al-Kashaaf: “It was said: The meaning of salam here is safety “Allah ﷻ did not decree in that night except safety and good, and it necessitates in other than it (other nights) both tribulation and safety, or it is nothing but salam (greetings) because of the frequency of what they (angels) do of greetings upon the believers.”
The word سَلَامٌ is the predicate brought first, and هِيَ is the subject delayed. The bringing of the predicate first is for restriction. i.e. there is nothing but salam and bringing the predicate in the form of the masdar (verbal noun) is for hyperbole’. [Ruhul Al-Maani]
It was said: Indeed the assumed speech is: It is salam (safety) from every matter: i.e. every feared matter ‘amru makufin and His ﷻ saying: مِّن كُلِّ أَمْرٍ is connected to سَلَامٌ هِيَ . [Bahrul Al-Muheet]
It was said: the assumed speech is: هِيَ حَتَّىٰ مَطْلَعِ الْفَجْرِ when you stop at the word سَلَامٌ.
So the possible meanings based on the above mentioned points are:
1 – تَنَزَّلُ الْمَلَائِكَةُ وَالرُّوحُ فِيهَا بِإِذْنِ رَبِّهِم مِّن كُلِّ أَمْرٍ ﴿٤﴾ سَلَامٌ
So the speech is completed at His saying: سَلَامٌ and new speech starts after this with His saying: هِيَ حَتَّىٰ مَطْلَعِ الْفَجْرِ
2 – تَنَزَّلُ الْمَلَائِكَةُ وَالرُّوحُ فِيهَا بِإِذْنِ رَبِّهِم مِّن كُلِّ أَمْرٍ
The new speech starts after this with His saying: سَلَامٌ هِيَ حَتَّىٰ مَطْلَعِ الْفَجْرِ
3 – تَنَزَّلُ الْمَلَائِكَةُ وَالرُّوحُ فِيهَا بِإِذْنِ رَبِّهِم
The speech is completed when He says: بِإِذْنِ رَبِّهِم, and it begins a new speech after His saying: مِّن كُلِّ أَمْرٍ ﴿٤﴾ سَلَامٌ هِيَ حَتَّىٰ مَطْلَعِ الْفَجْرِ
The meaning is that it is safety from everything that is feared until the rising of the dawn.
All meanings are intended and are possible based on the different understanding of the Arabic grammar.
12- Meaning of حَتَّىٰ مَطْلَعِ الْفَجْرِ
Allah did not say: ‘until its end’ using the particle إِلَى in case part of the night does not get included for salam ‘peace or safety’.
So to include all of the night the particle حَتَّىٰ was used.
Allah said: مَطْلَعِ and did not say طلوع to rise. The word مَطْلَعِ includes the meaning of the verbal noun (rising) and noun of time (Ism al Zaman). So the meaning will be: ‘Peace’ until the rising of the dawn and the time of its rising. It was also said: the place of its rising.
It came in Nazm al-Durar fi Tanasub al-Ayi wa al-Suwar: “Salam and blessing will continue in it until the rising of the dawn, i.e. its rising, time of its rising and the place of its rising, there is no evil in it as in the other nights… and that is in the recitation of Al-Kisai [with Kasra] – Allah knows best. And the expression with حَتَّى instead of إِلَى is to give the understanding the rule (hukm) of what is before it is the hukm after it, therefore the rising [الْمَطْلَعُ] has the hukm of the night.”
May we take advantage of the blessed night of Al-Qadr.
Imam Ahmad recorded that Abu Hurayrah “When Ramadan would come, the Messenger of Allah ﷺ would say,
«قَدْ جَاءَكُمْ شَهْرُ رَمَضَانَ، شَهْرٌ مُبَارَكٌ، افْتَرَضَ اللهُ عَلَيْكُمْ صِيَامَهُ، تُفْتَحُ فِيهِ أَبْوَابُ الْجَنَّةِ، وَتُغْلَقُ فِيهِ أَبْوَابُ الْجَحِيمِ، وَتُغَلُّ فِيهِ الشَّيَاطِينُ، فِيهِ لَيْلَةٌ خَيْرٌ مِنْ أَلْفِ شَهْرٍ، مَنْ حُرِمَ خَيْرَهَا فَقَدْ حُرِم»
(Verily, the month of Ramadan has come to you all. It is a blessed month, which Allah has obligated you all to fast. During it the gates of Paradise are opened, the gates of Hell are closed and the devils are shackled. In it there is a night that is better than one thousand months. Whoever is deprived of its good, then he has truly been deprived.)”
An-Nasa’i recorded this same Hadith. Aside from the fact that worship during the Night of Al-Qadr is equivalent to worship performed for a period of one thousand months, it is also confirmed in the Two Sahihs from Abu Hurayrah that the Messenger of Allah ﷺ said,
«مَنْ قَامَ لَيْلَةَ الْقَدْرِ إِيمَانًا وَاحْتِسَابًا غُفِرَ لَهُ مَا تَقَدَّمَ مِنْ ذَنْبِه»
(Whoever stands (in prayer) during the Night of Al-Qadr with faith and expecting reward (from Allah), he will be forgiven for his previous sins.)
It is recommended to supplicate often during all times, especially during the month of Ramadan, in the last ten nights, and during the odd nights of it even more so. It is recommended that one say the following supplication a lot: “O Allah! Verily, You are the Of the Pardoning, You love to pardon, so pardon me.” This is due to what Imam Ahmad recorded from `A’ishah, that she said, “O Messenger of Allah! If I find the Night of Al-Qadr what should I say” He ﷺ replied,
«قُولِي: اللْهُمَّ إِنَّكَ عَفُوٌّ تُحِبُّ الْعَفْوَ فَاعْفُ عَنِّي»
Say: “O Allah! Verily, You are the Of the Pardoning, You love to pardon, so pardon me.”