In the Name of Allah, the All-Merciful, the Compassionate.
We have sent it [the Qur'an] down on the Night of Al-Qadr.
And how will you know what the Night of Al-Qadr is?
The Night of Al-Qadr is better than a thousand months,
In it the angels and the Spirit come down by their Lord's leave, with all His decrees.
Peace it is, until the rising of the dawn.
[Surah Al-Qadr, the 97th Chapter of the Majestic Qur'an]
The Virtues of the Night of Al-Qadr
Allah informs us that He sent the Qur'an down during the Night of Al-Qadr, and it is a blessed night about which Allah says:
"We sent it down in a blessed night ... " [Al-Qur'an 44:3]
This is the Night of Al-Qadr and it occurs during the month of Ramadhan. This is as Allah says:
"The month of Ramadhan in which the Qur'an was revealed ... " [Al-Qur'an 2:185]
Ibn Abbas and others have said:
"Allah sent the Qur'an down all at one time from the Preserved Tablet (Al-Lawh al-Mahfuz) to the House of Might (Baytul-Izzah), which is in the heaven of this world. Then it came down in parts to the Messenger of Allah, upon whom be peace, based upon the incidents that occurred over a period of twenty-three years."
Then Allah magnified the status of the Night of Al-Qadr, which He chose for the revelation of the Mighty Qur'an, by His saying:
"And how will you know what the Night of Al-Qadr is?
"The Night of Al-Qadr is better than a thousand months ... "
Imam Ahmad recorded that Abu Hurayrah said:
"When Ramadhan would come, the Messenger of Allah would say, 'Verily the month of Ramadhan 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.' "
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 sahih collections, from Abu Hurayrah, that the Messenger of Allah, peace be upon him, said:
"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."
The Descent of the Angels and the Decree for Every Good during the Night of Al-Qadr
"In it the angels and the Spirit come down by their Lord's leave, with all His decrees."
Meaning the angels descend in abundance during the Night of Al-Qadr due to its abundant blessings. The angels descend with the descending of blessings and mercy, just as they descend when the Qur'an is recited, they surround the circles of dhikr (remembrance of Allah) and they lower their wings with true respect for the student of knowledge.
In reference to the Spirit, it is said that here it means the angel Jibril. Therefore, the wording of the ayah is a method of adding the name of the distinct object separate from the general group (in this case the angels).
Concerning Allah's statement:
" ... with all His decrees."
"It is security in which the Devil cannot do any evil or any harm."
Qatadah and others have said:
"The matters are determined during it, and the times of death and provisions are measured out (i.e., decided) during it."
"In that night every affair is wisely decided." [Al-Qur'an 44:4]
Then Allah says:
"Peace it is, until the rising of the dawn."
Ash-Sha'bi said concerning this:
"The angels giving the greetings of peace during the Night of Al-Qadr to the people in the masjid until the coming of fajr (dawn)."
Qatadah and Ibn Zayd both said:
"This means all of it is good and there is no evil in it until the coming of fajr (dawn)."
Specifying the Night of Decree and its Signs
This is supported by what Imam Ahmad recorded that the Messenger of Allah, peace be upon him, said:
"The Night of Al-Qadr occurs during the last ten (nights). Whoever stands for them (in prayer) seeking their reward, then indeed Allah will forgive his previous sins and his latter sins. It is an odd night: the ninth or the seventh, or the fifth, or the third or the last night (of Ramadhan)."
The Messenger of Allah, peace be upon him, also said:
"Verily, the sign of the Night of Al-Qadr is that it is pure and glowing as if there were a bright, tranquil, calm moon during it. It is not cold, nor is it hot, and no shooting star is permitted until morning. Its sign is that the sun appears on the morning following it smooth having no rays on it, just like the moon on a full moon night. Shaytan is not allowed to come out with it (the sun) on that day." [This chain of narration is good. In its text there is some oddities and in some of its wordings there are things that are objectionable]
Abu Dawud mentioned a section in his Sunan that he titled, "Chapter: Clarification that the Night of Al-Qadr occurs during every Ramadhan." Then he recorded that when question about the Night of Al-Qadr, the Messenger of Allah said:
"It occurs during every Ramadhan." [The men of this chain of narration are all reliable, but Abu Dawud said that Shu'bah and Sufyan both narrated from Ishaq and they both considered it to be a statement of the Companion Ibn 'Umar, and thus not the statement of the Prophet]
It has been reported that Abu Sa'id al-Khudri said:
"The Messenger of Allah performed i'tikaf during the first ten nights of Ramadhan and we performed i'tikaf with him. Then Jibril came to him and said, 'That which you are seeking is front of you,' so the Prophet performed i'tikaf during the middle ten days of Ramadhan and we also performed i'tikaf with him. Then Jibril came to him and said; 'That which you are seeking is ahead of you,' so the Prophet stood up and gave a sermon on the morning of the twentieth of Ramadhan and he said:
'Whoever performed i'tikaf with me, let him come back (for i'tikaf again), for verily I saw the Night of Al-Qadr, and I was caused to forget it, and indeed it is during the last ten (nights). It is during an odd night and I saw myself as if I were prostrating in mud and water.'
"The roof of the masjid was made of dried palm-tree leaves and we did not see anything (i.e. clouds) in the sky but then a patch of wind-driven clouds came and it rained. So the Prophet lead us in prayer until we saw the traces of mud and water on the forehead of the Messenger of Allah, which confirmed his dream."
In one narration it adds that this occurred on the morning of the twenty-first night (meaning the next morning). They both (Al-Bukhari and Muslim) recorded it in the their collections. Ash-Shafi'i said:
"This tradition is the most authentic of what has been reported."
It has also been said that it is on the twenty-third night due to a tradition narrated from 'Abdullah ibn 'Unays in Sahih Muslim.
It has also been reported that it is on the twenty-fifth night due to what Al-Bukhari recorded from Ibn Abbas that the Messenger of Allah said:
"Seek it in the last ten (nights) of Ramadhan. In the ninth it still remains in the seventh it still remains, in the fifth it still remains."
Many have explained this statement to refer to the odd nights, and this is the apparent and most popular explanation. It has also been said that it occurs on the twenty-seventh night because of what Muslim recorded in his Sahih from Ubayy ibn Ka'ab that the Messenger of Allah, upon whom be peace, mentioned that it was on the twenty-seventh night.
Imam Ahmad recorded from Zirr that he asked Ubayy ibn Ka'ab:
"O Abu'l-Mundhir! Verily, your brother Ibn Masud says whoever stands for prayer (at night) the entire year, will catch the Night of Al-Qadr." He (Ubayy) said: "May Allah have mercy upon him. Indeed he knows that it is the twenty-seventh night." Then he swore by Allah. Zirr then said, "How do you know that?" Ubayy replied, "By a sign or an indication that he (the Prophet) informed us of. It rises that next day having no rays on it - meaning the sun."
It has been said that it is the night of the twenty-ninth. The Messenger of Allah was questioned about the Night of Al-Qadr and he replied:
"Seek it in Ramadhan in the last ten nights. For verily, it is during the odd nights, the twenty-first, or the twenty-third, or the twenty-fifth, or the twenty-seventh, or the twenty-ninth, or during the last night."
The Messenger of Allah also said about the Night of Al-Qadr:
"Verily, it is during the twenty-seventh or the twenty-ninth night. And verily, the angels who are on the earth during that night are more numerous than the number of pebbles."
Abu Qilabah that he said:
"The Night of Al-Qadr moves around (i.e., from year to year) throughout the last ten nights."
And Allah knows best.
Supplication During the Night of Decree
It is recommended to supplicate often during all times, especially during the month of Ramadhan, 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 Oft-Pardoning, You love to pardon, so pardon me."
This is due to what Imam Ahmad recorded from 'A'ishah, may Allah be pleased with her, that she said:
"O Messenger of Allah! If I find the Night of Al-Qadr what should I say?"
"Say: O Allah! Verily You are the Oft-Pardoning, You love to pardon, so pardon me."
This is the end of this brief explanation of Surah Al-Qadr, and all praise and blessing are due to Allah.
(s) Tafsir Ibn Kathir, Dar-us-Salam Publications