In each of the daily prayer we offer, we solemnly declare to Allah, "Iyyaka na'budu" (You alone do we worship). While the intelligent and committed believer realizes that his very lifestyle spells worship, he knows, remembering the words of our Prophet sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam that "Du'a' (supplication) is worship." [At-Tirmidhi, Abu Dawud] Allah, the Most Merciful, has encouraged the believers to take advantage of certain times during the year to make du'a'. Such an occasion presents itself annually during Ramadan — especially on the laylatu'l-qadr, the Night of Power. On this night, the single most important event in human history unfolded as, after the Glorious Qur'an was preserved in the Protected Tablet, Jibril descended with the blessed book to reveal it, upon Allah's command, to His Messenger sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam. Accentuating its significance, Allah says, "And how would you know (the value of the) Night of Qadr?" [Al-Qur'an 97:2]
"Allah's Messenger sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam used to exert more (in worship) on the last ten than on other nights."
So valuable is this Night of Qadr that the Qur'an devotes a special surah to it, "Laylatu'l-qadr is better than a thousand months." [Al-Qur'an 97:3] This one night surpasses the value of 30,000 nights. The most authentic account of the occurrence of the Night indicates that it can occur on any one of the last ten, odd numbered nights of Ramadan. The fact that the exact night is unknown reflects Allah's will in keeping it hidden. Indeed, the Prophet sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam was prevented from telling us its precise time. One day, he came out to tell the companions the exact night. On the way he saw two men arguing with each other. By the will of Allah, he sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam forgot and subsequently remembered it. Afterwards the Prophet sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam was instructed not to divulge this information. "Had I been allowed," he sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam remarked once, "I would have told you (of its exact time)." [Ahmad] The Almighty in His Wisdom kept this hidden from us for many reasons (wallahu 'alam). Perhaps He wants us to strive hard in our worship during the last ten days of Ramadan so that we don't become lazy, worshipping hard on just that one night and denying ourselves the benefit of doing the same on the other nights.
"Had people not left their salah except for that (one) night, I would have informed you (of its exact date)."
The sincere believer who worries day and night about his sins and phases of neglect in his life patiently awaits the onset of Ramadan. During it he hopes to be forgiven by Allah for past sins, knowing that the Prophet sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam promised that all who bear down during the last ten days shall have all their sins forgiven. To achieve this, he remembers the Prophet's sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam advice in different sayings wherein he used words like "seek", "pursue", "search", and "look hard" for laylatu'l-qadr. Moreover, Allah and His Prophet sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam provided us some signs of its occurrence.
Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala describes the night as " ... peace until the rise of the morn." [Al-Qur'an 97:5] In various sayings, the Prophet sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam described the night as serene, tranquil, and peaceful. The sun at sunrise would appear reddish and without its normal blazing and sharp rays. Ubayy radiallahu 'anhu said:
"On the morning of the night of Qadr the sun would rise without any beams; (it is like) a wash basin until it raises."
Abu Hurayrah radiallahu 'anhu said:
"We mentioned the night of Qadr to the Messenger of Allah and he said, 'Which of you remembers when the moon rises and it is like half a bowl.' "
Ibn 'Abbas radiallahu 'anhu said that the Messenger of Allah said:
"The night of Qadr is a night of generosity and happiness, it is not hot and neither is it cold. The sun comes up in its morning weak, reddish."
The Prophet sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam added that " ... the angel of earth on that night of Qadr will be more numerous than all the pebbles of the earth."
What should one do during the last ten days in pursuit of laylatu'l-qadr? The devoted servant of Allah makes these nights alive with prayer, reading and reflecting on Qur'an. The long qiyam prayer has been particularly recommended during the nights on which laylatu'l-qadr could fall. This is indicated in many ahadith, such as the following ...
Abu Dharr radiallahu 'anhu relates, "We fasted with Allah's Messenger sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam in Ramadan. He did not lead us (in qiyam) at all until there were seven (nights of Ramadan) left. Then he stood with us (that night - in prayer) until one third of the night had passed. He did not pray with us on the sixth. On the fifth night, he prayed with us until half of the night had passed. So we said, 'Allah's Messenger! Wouldn't you pray with us the whole night?' He replied:
'Whoever stands in prayer with the imam until he (the imam) concludes the prayer, it is recorded for him that he prayed the whole night.'…"
Abu Dawud mentioned, "I heard Ahmad being asked, 'Do you like for a man to pray with the people or by himself during Ramadan?' He replied, 'Pray with the people' I also heard him say, 'I would prefer for one to pray (qiyam) with the imam and to pray witr with him as well, for the Prophet sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam said, 'When a man prays with the imaam until he concludes, it is recorded that he prayed the rest of that night.'' " [Masa'il]
Abu Hurayrah radiallahu 'anhu narrated that the Messenger sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam said:
"Whoever stands (in qiyam) in laylatu'l-qadr [and it is facilitated for him] out of faith and expectation (of Allah's reward), will have all of his previous sins forgiven."
He makes du'a' to Allah, penitently beseeching Him for His forgiveness. He is inspired by the Prophet's sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam words:
"Our Lord, Most Exalted, Most High, comes down to the lowest heaven during the last third of each night and announces (reassuringly): Whoever makes du'a', I shall answer it. Whoever asks (for something halal) I shall grant it; and whoever seeks forgiveness, I shall forgive him."
The believer, conscious of Allah and their sins, will continue to beseech Allah, in and out of prayer, during his prostration.
'A'ishah, radiallahu 'anha, reported that she asked Allah's Messenger sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam, "O Messenger of Allah! If I knew which night is laylatu'l-qadr, what should I say during it?" And he instructed her to say:
"Allahumma innaka 'afuwwun tuhibbul 'afwa fa'fu 'anni - O Allah! You are forgiving, and you love forgiveness. So forgive me."
'A'ishah radiallahu 'anha said, "When the (last) ten started, the Prophet sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam would tighten his izar (i.e. he stayed away from his wives in order to have more time for worship), spend the whole night awake (in prayer), and wake up his family." [Bukhari and Muslim] For a time, the only concern will be cleansing oneself of the forgetfulness that this life propagates in one's heart, the sins that accumulate, darkening the heart, making it insensitive to disobeying Allah. He begs Allah to keep him away from misfortunes in this world, the punishment of the grave, and the torment of Hell. He asks Allah to make him patient and steadfast in struggling to maintain his Islam in this world and asks Him to overlook his shortcomings, periods of laziness and neglect. Sincere devotion on that night will render the believer forgetful of the time, until he is surprised by the adhan of fajr. After fajr, as the sun creeps above the horizon, reddish and weak in its appearance, without any rays, the effort at night will have been worthwhile. The believer rejoices, knowing that this was quite possibly laylatu'l-qadr and "Whoever stays up (in prayer and remembrance of Allah) on the Night of Qadr fully believing (in Allah's promise of reward for that night) and hoping to seek reward (from Allah alone and not from people), he shall be forgiven for his past sins." [Bukhari and Muslim]
It is narrated from 'A'ishah radiallahu 'anha that she said, "O Messenger of Allah, if I know what night is the Night of Qadr what should I say?" He replied:
"Say: O Allah you are pardoning and you love to pardon so pardon me."
It is also the Night when all ordainments for the year are decreed. Allah ta'ala said, which means:
"By the manifest Book (the Qur'an) that makes thing clear. We sent it (this Qur'an) down on a Blessed Night (i.e. the Night of Qadr) in the month of Ramadan. Verily We are ever warning [mankind that Our Torments will reach those who disbelieve in Our Oneness of Lordship and in Our Oneness of Worship]. Therein (that night) is decreed every matter (amran) of ordainment."
From Manar as-Sabil fi Sharh ad-Dalil, Al-Muntada al-Islami