August 27, 2011 § Leave a comment
Q 97 In the Name of God, the Merciful, the Beneficient,
1 Verily We sent it (the Qur’an) down in the Night of Power.
2 And how canst thou tell the Night of Power?
3 The Night of Power is better than a thousand months.
4 The Angels and the Spirit descend therein, by the leave of their Lord, with every command.
5 Peace it is until the break of dawn.
Ibn ‘Abbas on 97:1: that is, We sent Gabriel with it (the Qur’an) to the scribes of the nether heaven, on this night of judgment and decree, on this night of forgiveness and mercy.
on 97:4: with every command, that is, every measure ordained, between this night and that of the year following.
Ibn ‘Abbas and Jalalayn on 97:5: Peace it is, that is, due to the profusion of angelic greetings of peace to those who fast and those who pray. The night’s merit and grace last until the rising of the dawn, when the angels return.
Tustari on 97:5: Peace it is, that is, safety against being cut off (qat’) from the time (lit. moments, awqat) of gnosis; in this night, better than a thousand months, is safety, perhaps through supplication, from being separated from the moments of gnosis, onward into the year to come.
These last ten days of Ramadan, culminating with the Night of Power/Decree but extending until the birth of the new moon, are our ten Days of Awe, our Days of Repentance, a neat parallel to those beginning with Rosh Hashanah (this year, because of rabbinic intercalation, falling a month later than Ramadan), the days in which teshovah, tefilah, and tsedakah seek to alter divine decree. Sound familiar? Through tawbah/repentance, salah/prayer, sadaqah/charity, to seek “a good inscription”, to be “sealed for a good year”, much as the Prophet taught that supplication can change what is apparently inscribed, even while the pen has been lifted and the ink has dried.
As we search for Laylat al-qadr this year, i’d like to note the intimacy of the Abrahamic bond that marks this month. Weak narrations relate that the Torah, Psalms, and Evangel were revealed in this month just as was the Qur’an; al-Tabari and al-Tha’labi even relate the occasion of revelation of this sura itself to a moment of Semitic fraternity, as the companions of the Prophet marveled at the striving of an Israelite (identified as Samson) who took up arms in the way of the Lord for a thousand months – and the companions were saddened, for they knew they could not reach similar heights…whereupon this sura was revealed, and in it a confirmation of Islamic in-dependence from that prior dispensation. The Qur’an and its revelation, as spiritual/poetic event, exceeds historical symmetries, just as the text cannot be contained by its reading. Here, the four modes of tafsir (echoing pardes) show themselves to be further refracted also through the theologico-political lens of the Abrahamic. Tradition and genealogy, together – and ending with the dawn, hatta matla’ al-fajr. In this case, then, and for this laylat al-qadr, two du’as: the Prophetic supplication of the Night of Power, Allahumma innaka ‘afuwwun tuhibbul-‘afw fa’fu’anna/O God, verily, Thou art forgiving and love to forgive, so forgive then us”, and k’tivah v’chatima tova to all, a good final sealing and inscription.