The Night in Which the Qur’an Descended

{We sent it down during a blessed night. We are ever warning. In it every wise matter is determined} (44:3-4).

The explanations of this verse give us two opinions:

1) That this night is the Night of Honor (Laylat al-Qadr), in which the Qur’an was revealed. Allah (most high) said: {We sent it down on the Night of Honor} (97:1)

This is the opinion of:

– Ibn Abbas

– Al-Hasan al-Basri

– Mujahid

-Ikrima

– Abu Abd al-Rahman al-Sulami

2) That this aya refers to the Night of Mid-Sha’ban.

This is the opinion of:

– ‘Ataa ibn Yasar, the Tabi’i who was the freed slave of our lady Maymuna, wife of the Messenger of Allah (may Allah bless him and his family and grant them peace). He studied under, and took from, our lady Maymuna, our lady Aisha, our master Zayd b. Thabit, our master Abu Hurayra, our master Ibn Abbas, and our master Ibn Mas’ud (may Allah be pleased with them all).

– Ikrima the freed servant of Abdullah ibn Abbas (may Allah be pleased with them all). He said,

“It is the night of mid-Shaban- in it Allah decides the affairs of the year. He moves the names of those who will die this year from from the records of the living to the records of the dead, and writes down those who will go to Hajj- their number will not increase or decrease (beyond what is written on that night).”

How could it be both?

How could our master Ikrima (may Allah be pleased with them), claim that the verse referred both to the Night of Honor and the Night of the 15th of Sha’ban? And why is there disagreement between the scholars among this?

It is not in fact a disagreement, since the Laylat al-Qadr in which the Qur’an was first sent down to the Lowest Heaven also happened to coincide with the Night of the 15th of Sha’ban.

But is not Laylat al-Qadr in Ramadan?

There are many different opinions on when Laylat al-Qadr takes place. The great hafiz Wali al-Din al-Iraqi counted 25 different opinions on the matter, and Shaykhul Islam Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani counted in Fath al-Bari 46 different opinions!

Abu al-Abbas al-Qurtubi said: “These opinions all go back to the salaf (righteous predecessors) and the scholars. The reason they disagreed is because of the different reports that exist.”

The opinion of the majority of the scholars is that the Night of Honor moves around. 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, Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal, and the majority of the scholars is that Laylat al-Qadr is not a specific night. Rather, it moves around.

As for Imam Abu Hanifa, one narration attributes to him the position that it moves around in Ramadan, while according to Qadikhan’s Fatawa Khaniyya, 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.

Commenting upon this, the great Hanafi scholar Ibn Abidin wrote,

“This is supported by what the Master of the Knowers of Allah Sayyidi Muhyiddin 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.

The opinion that the Night of Honor moved around and could fall in any night of the year was  also that of the Companions Ibn Mas’ud and Ibn Abbas, and the latter’s student Ikrima (may Allah be pleased with them all).

Those who held that the Night of Honor moves around, explained the hadiths of the Messenger of Allah (may Allah bless him and his family and grant them peace) instructing his Companions to seek this night in the last ten nights of Ramadan to refer to that particular year in which he (may Allah bless him and and grant him peace) was asked about it. It is also because the Night of Honor falls most often in Ramadan, and most often in the last nights of Ramadan; among the last nights of Ramadan, it occurs most often on the 27th.

The fact that the Night of Honor moves around explains the different reports about when it falls, which are as many as 46 reports.

But was not the Qur’an sent down in Ramadan?

Yes, it was first revealed to the Messenger of Allah (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) in Ramadan.

Shaykh Muhyiddin Ibn Arabi explains:

The night in which the Qur’an was sent down was the Night of Honor, which coincided that year with the Night of the 15th of Sha’ban, for the Night of Honor moves around the entire year. Allah sent down the Book as Furqan on the Night of Honor, on the Night of the 15th of Sha’ban, and then sent it down as Qur’an in the month of Ramadan; all of this was to the Lowest Heaven.  From there, it was sent down (to the Messenger of Allah) over the course of 23 years as Furqan like shooting stars, divided into Ayas and Surahs.

Note: Furqan and Qur’an are different names, expressing different realities, of the Book of Allah (most high). Furqan means detailed and divided. Qur’an, on the other hand, means gathered together as one whole.

The Virtue of the Night of the 15th of Sha’ban

The very first descent of the Qur’an then, in its reality of Furqan, to the Lowest Heaven, took place on the Night of the 15th of Sha’ban. This is among the great virtues of this night. There are many others, as taught by the Messenger of Allah (may Allah bless him and grant him peace).

On the authority of Mu‘adh b. Jabal (may Allah be pleased with him) who said: The  Prophet (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) said: ‘God looks at His creation during the middle night of Sha‘ban and forgives all of them, except an idolator and one who harbours rancour.’ (Narrated by Ibn Hibban).

On the authority of ‘Abd Allah b.‘Amr (may Allah be pleased with him) who said: The  Prophet (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) said: ‘God (majestic is He) looks at His creation on the middle night of Sha‘ban and forgives all of His slaves, save an idolater and a murderer.’ (Narrated by Ahmad ibn Hanbal).

On the authority of our lady Aisha (may Allah be pleased with her), who said: The  Prophet (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) said: ‘Allah, exalted is He, descends to the nearest heaven in the middle night of Sha‘ban and His forgiveness is greater than the number of hairs on the sheep [in the tribe] of Kalb.’ (Narrated by al-Tirmidhi and Ibn Majah).

For more on the virtues of this night, see: https://beneficialilm.com/2013/03/18/on-the-virtues-of-the-night-of-mid-shaban/

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