What is the night of destiny?

Deemed ‘worth a thousand months’, Laylat Al Qadr is the night the first Quranic verses were revealed.

A man washes his face before afternoon prayers at a mosque in Kalutara, Sri Lanka. Dinuka Liyanawatte / Reuters
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The night of destiny – or Laylat Al Qadr as it is known to Muslims – is one of the odd numbered nights during the last 10 days of Ramadan during which the first verses of the Quran were revealed to Prophet Mohammed.

While Sunni Muslims overwhelmingly believe it to be the 27th night, common belief is that it can fall on any of the odd nights.

Shiite Muslims, by contrast, limit the possibilities to the 19th, 21st and 23rd nights of Ramadan.

Within their creed, the latter is the most likely night of destiny.

An entire chapter is devoted to the night of destiny in the final part of the Quran, within which that night is described as “better than a thousand months” where the angels and the holy spirit Gabriel engulf the Earth.

Reclusion is advised as it is deemed a period of peace where the earth’s energy is in sync with the divinity of the night.

This night is the highlight of Ramadan for thousands around the globe who flock to mosques to be in reclusion. In fact, many worshippers go into reclusion for the entire 10-day period in conformity with a hadith whereby the Prophet Mohammed advised members of his family and companions to observe silent meditation in this period.

During that time, he would meditate on ways to abolish idolatry and moral abominations.

The Grand Mosque at Mecca in Saudi Arabia has an influx of pilgrims and local worshippers so huge that many end up having to pray on the upper levels of the circular marble walkways built for the pilgrimage.

There are varying opinions about how many times the Quranic verses were revealed. Some accounts speculate that Laylat Al Qadr was the “immediate revelation”, which was to be followed by incremental revelation thereafter, while others say that the words of God were revealed in their entirety on that one night to Gabriel but then revealed to Prophet Mohammed over a period of 23 years upon orders by the Creator.

In addition to “serenity prevailing until dawn”, legend has it that other supposed characteristics of the night include having no shooting stars, moderate temperatures and the moon shining without rays.

Thousands over the years have also observed that the subsequent sun appears as a disk with no beams of light coming out of it.

Laylat Al Qadr has not been made a public holiday in countries such as Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom or the United States but Muslim organisations and some businesses in the West alter their opening hours to accommodate employees wishes to practice reclusion or join community members in group reclusion at local mosques.

Images from around the globe often show the faithful in tears with their hands held towards the sky as the imams lead the prayers during the last third of the night before dawn prayers.