Shadia: Pursuing the 'night of power'

Something's been keeping me up at night.

I haven't had much beauty sleep in the last eight nights, and I'm not due for much more until the end of Ramadan, which is — sadly — on Saturday.

I've been up in search of "Laylat ul-Qadr," the night of power.

It lasts only for a few hours, from sunset to sunrise, but its significance and possibilities are so great that I cannot risk missing it.

It is a night tantamount to 1,000 months of contiguous worship.

It is the night when God first revealed the Koran to the Prophet Muhammad through the angel Gabriel more than 1,400 years ago.

It is the night when God continuously sends his angels, including Gabriel, to earth, so our planet is literally overflowing with the celestial beings.

The presence of angels is simultaneous with God's mercy, and so I cannot be asleep on such a night.

Many Islamic scholars believe the night of power falls on the 27th of Ramadan, but no one knows for sure.

What we know is that it falls on any one of the last 10 nights of Ramadan — likely rotating on those holiest days from one year to another — and there are signs in the atmosphere that indicate its presence.

Sounds grandiose, right?

It is.

The weather is even keel, not so hot and not so cold. The sky is also a bit brighter than usual, and when the sun rises, it's bright with no rays. There are also those — the most righteous among us — who tend to sense its presence.

Muslims believe that God offers this night as our chance to worship him beyond our capacity to live.

When the Prophet Muhammad became aware of the length of time people lived centuries ago, he wondered how Muslims could compete with that, Yasir Qadhi said in a recent sermon I watched online. Qadhi, who is working on his Ph.D in religious studies at Yale University, is the dean of academic affairs and instructor at AlMaghrib Institute, and a lecturer at Rhodes College's Department of Religious Studies.

Because we are not capable of living for hundreds of years, God provided this night for Muslims.

A thousand months of worship comes to about 83.3 years. And Muslims have the chance to do it every single year during the last 10 days of Ramadan in their lifetimes.

On that night, God also reveals to those angels their tasks on earth for the next year to come.

Qadhi said that each angel has a task, like those whose jobs it is to breathe life into the womb of mothers, or those whose duty is to increase someone's blessing, or even decrease it, among others, and on the night of power, each angel gets its schedule for the next year to come.

(I seriously cannot be sleeping on a night like this, not only because I'm a Muslim, but because I'm a very curious journalist).

When the prophet's wife, Aisha, asked him what would be the best thing to say if one was to catch the night of power, the prophet told her to say the following: "O God! Verily, you are the oft-pardoning, You love to pardon, so pardon me."

Because we don't know which night it is exactly, many Muslims stay up or get up early in the morning on each of the last 10 nights of Ramadan to make sure they don't miss it.

I'm not the only one who's been deprived of sleep in hopes of catching Laylat ul-Qadr this year; millions of devout Muslims — including my mom, Shadia, aunt Gannat, and Uncle Beautiful — are also on the hunt for this night, and we are each year, because one who worships God on this night is worthy of its blessings.

Most mosques have a night-long program on the 27th, which I attend with my mom and aunt and some friends each year.

There's much to gain on this night, and someday I'm hoping to sense its presence and recognize its signs when it arrives.

I can't really describe in words what it means for me to be able to catch this night or how I've been feeling these last few days.

But I can tell you that for as long as I live, I won't be asleep when this night is here.

And even if I fail to ever sense its presence or receive its blessings, pursuing it shall remain more than enough for me.

MONA SHADIA is a reporter for Times Community News. An Egyptian American, she was born and raised in Cairo and now lives in Orange County. Her column includes various questions and issues facing Muslims in America. Follow her on Twitter @MonaShadia.

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