God has ordained that we fast during the month of Ramadan, every day from dawn to dusk, during which time we abstain from eating, drinking and sex. The Prophet (peace be upon him) also recommended us to spend part of the time during the night in voluntary worship.
This is done after we have prayed Isha, offering more prayer every night throughout the month. This is known as Taraweeh prayer, which consists of either eight or 20 rak’ahs, or any lesser number. People who maintain that it is eight rak’ahs only rely on the Hadith that states that the Prophet never offered more than a total of 11 rak’ahs on any night, in Ramadan or at other times. Those who prefer to do 20 rely on the action of some of the Prophet’s companions. Whichever view we take is acceptable.However, the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم used to spend more of the night in voluntary worship during the last 10 days of Ramadan. Ayesha reports: “When the last 10 days (of Ramadan) arrived, the Prophet would be more diligent, staying up the nights and waking up the people in his household.” (Related by Al-Bukhari).
Ayesha tells us that the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم did certain special things in the last ten days in Ramadan. These are the best nights of the year to spend in worship.
One thing was to wake up members of his family to encourage them to allocate time for night worship.
He did not make this obligatory, but whereas on other nights he left them to decide whether they wanted to wake up for night worship, he did wake them up in the last third of Ramadan.
Needless to say, he only woke up those who were willing and able to offer night worship. Since this is voluntary, he would not compel anyone to do anything unless it be their own choice.
Another thing that he did was to be more diligent. In the Arabic text of the Hadith, Ayesha uses a metaphor, saying that the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم would “tighten his robes.” Most scholars suggest that this means that he abstained from having sex with his wives during those 10 nights. There is no prohibition on that, but this was the Prophet’s choice.
Moreover, the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم “stayed up the nights” offering worship. According to most scholars, this means that he spent more time in worship during these 10 nights than on other nights. It does not mean that he would spend the whole night, because that would be too exhausting. Moreover, it would mean that we sleep long during the following day, which reduces the feelings of fasting.
What is special about the last 10 days of Ramadan is that they include the Night of Power. This is the night described in the Qur’an as “better than a thousand months,” which means that spending this night in worship earns greater reward than worshipping at night for a thousand months. It is a special, blessed night, because it witnessed the revelation of the Qur’an from on high to Prophet Muhammad صلى الله عليه وسلم . In other Hadiths we are told that dedication to worship on that night ensures that our slate is wiped clean and we are free of all sins. They are all forgiven by God. Hence, we should be keen to spend that night in worship.
When is the Night of Power? It has not been mentioned specifically, either in the Qur’an or by the Prophet. However, the Prophet tells us to seek it on the odd nights of the last third of Ramadan. Thus, it could be any night on 21, 23, 25, 27 or 29 of Ramadan. In Islam, the night precedes the day, which means that it is the night that begins after sunset on 20, 22, etc. of Ramadan. If we dedicate several hours of that night for worship, we feel a great relief and happiness for the effort making us keen to repeat the experience every year.
– By Adil Salahi