Answered by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani
When is Laylat al-Qadr?
The Prophet Muhammad (Allah bless him and give him peace) said, “Whoever prays on Laylat al-Qadr out of faith and sincerity, shall have all their past sins forgiven.” [Bukhari and Muslim, from Abu Hurayra (Allah be pleased with him)]
The Prophet (Allah bless him & give him peace) also said, “Seek it in the last ten days, on the odd nights.” [Bukhari and Muslim from Abu Sa`id al-Khudri (Allah be pleased with him)]
The scholars affirm that it is the best of nights, [al-Fatawa al-Hindiyya, quoting Mi`raj al-Diraya, 1.216] because of Allah Most High’s words,
“Lo! We revealed it on the Night of Power.
Ah, what will convey unto thee what the Night of Power is!
The Night of Power is better than a thousand months.
The angels and the Spirit [Jibril] descend therein, by the permission of their Lord, will all decrees.
(That night is) Peace until the rising of the dawn.”
(Qur’an, Surat al-Qadr: 97)
Imam Nawawi and others explain that ‘The Night of Power is better than a thousand months,’ means that it is better than a thousand months without it.
Given the tremendousness of this night, it is recommended to seek this night, and to worship Allah in it, with prayer, supplication (du`a), remembrance (dhikr), and other actions. [Ibn Abidin, Radd al-Muhtar, quoting Mi`raj al-Diraya, and Nawawi, al-Majmu`] Because obligatory acts are more beloved to Allah than supererogatory ones, the most important thing for men is to pray both Isha and Fajr at the mosque.
When is it?
There is great difference of opinion about this, because it is of the matters whose certain knowledge has been lifted by Allah Most High from this Ummah, for the wisdom that people strive to seek it:
In general, it is agreed that it is most likely to be in the last ten nights of Ramadan, with the odd nights being more likely. Of the odd nights, the night of the 27th (which is the night before the 27th of Ramadan, for the Islamic day starts with nightfall) is most likely. Imam Shafi`i said that it is most likely to be the 21st, then the 23rd, then the 27th. Imam Nawawi followed the position of Imam Muzani and Imam Ibn Khuzayma that it moves around within the last ten nights. [Nawawi, al-Majmu` Sharh al-Muhadhdhab, 6.488]
However, it could be outside the last ten nights within Ramadan. It may even be outside Ramadan according to both early and late scholars. This has been transmitted from many of the Companions of the Prophet (Allah bless him & give him peace), including Ibn Mas`ud (Allah be pleased with him). It is one of the reported positions of Imam Abu Hanifa, and also of many of the great knowers of Allah, including Ibn Arabi (whose position is quoted by Ibn Abidin with support), Abu’l Hasan al-Shadhili, Sha`rani, and many others.
May Allah give us the success of following in the footsteps of the inheritors of the Prophet (Allah bless him & give him peace), outwardly and inwardly, and may He make us of those whom He loves.
This is one of the many reasons why one should strive to establish the night vigil prayer (tahajjud), daily.
It has been reported that, “Once the last ten [days of Ramadan] started, the Messenger of Allah (blessings and peace be upon him, his family, and companions) used to spend the nights in worship, wake his family, strive, and tighten his belt.” [Bukhari and Muslim] Tighten his belt refers to determination.
The established position of Abu Hanifa and his two main companions, Abu Yusuf and Muhammad ibn al-Hasan (Allah have mercy on them) is that it is specific to Ramadan. Abu Hanifa said that it is not a fixed day but, rather, it moves around in the month. [Ibn Abidin, Radd al-Muhtar, from al-Bahr and al-Kafi] As for the hadiths about it being the night of the 27th, Ibn Abidin mentions that Abu Hanifa explained them as meaning a particular year.
Ibn Abidin quotes Ibn Nujaym’s Bahr al-Ra’iq that this is one transmitted position of Abu Hanifa. Another, mentioned in Qadikhan’s Fatawa al-Khaniyya, one of the most important works for fatwa in the school, is that the famous transmission from Imam Abu Hanifa is that it moves around the entire year; it could be in Ramadan, and it could be in another month.
Ibn Abidin said,
“This is supported by what the Master of the Knowers of Allah Sayyidi Muhyi al-Din Ibn Arabi mentioned in his Futuhat al-Makkiyya,
‘People differed about Laylat al-Qadr. Some said it moves around the entire year. This is my position, for I have seen it in the month of Sha`ban, and in Rabi`, and in Ramadan. I have seen it most, though, in the month of Ramadan, and, specifically, in the last nights. I saw it once in the second third of Ramadan, on an even night, and once on an odd night. Therefore, I am certain that it moves around the entire year, on both odd and even nights.’
And there are many opinions regarding this, which reach 46 different positions.” [Ibn Abidin, Radd al-Muhtar]
This is reported to be the position of Ibn Mas`ud (Allah be pleased with him) and other great Companions. [As mentioned by Bututi in his Kashshaf al-Qina`, and others; for the many narrations from the Companions and Followers about Laylat al-Qadr, see Ibn Abi Shayba’s Musannaf]
Imam al-Nafrawi al-Maliki mentions in his al-Fawakih al-Dawani fi Sharh Risalat Ibn Abi Zayd al-Qayrawani that the position of Imam Malik, Imam Shafi`i and Imam Ahmad, and the majority of the scholars is that Laylat al-Qadr is not a specific night. Rather, it moves around.
Imam Sarakhsi mentions in his Mabsut, a 30-volume masterpiece of Hanafi legal reasoning, proofs, and comparative fiqh that was mainly authored by dictation to students while unjustly imprisoned in a pot well, that the position of most of the Companions (Allah be pleased with him) was that it is on the night of the 27th. (3.127) This understood, others explain, to mean that its most likely night is the night of the 27th of Ramadan. [As in Ruhaybani’s Matalib Uli’n Nuha Sharh Ghayat al-Muntaha 2.225 in Hanbali fiqh]
And Allah alone gives success.