Gaining benefit from the blessed month of Ramadan and attempting to understand the true reality of the spirituality which this month can foster is one of the most important necessitates in self-purification and spiritual training, both on the personal, as well as social levels. It is one of the key points in attaining piety and the spiritual atmosphere of the ‘Nights of Destiny’ in particular holds great importance in the life of human beings. In order to understand this issue in greater depth, let us take further inspiration from the valuable thoughts and ideas of Ayatollah Makarem Shirazi. Let us see the different foundational facets related to the Nights of Destiny, as well as the various practical ways in which we can strengthen our spirit of servitude during these most valuable nights:
The Night of Destiny and its Connection with Imam Ali (‘a)
There is no doubt that the Night of Destiny is interwoven with the name and remembrance of Imam Ali (‘a) since it was during these nights when he was martyred. Ayatollah Makarem Shirazi has explained this connection between the Night of Destiny and Imam Ali (‘a) in the following manner: ‘One of the particularities of this night is that it is interconnected with Imam Ali (‘a). It is as if Allah wished to open the doors of his mercy on this night and allow the people to have the intercession of a pure soul such as Imam Ali (‘a).’
The Night of Destiny is a night which is worth the equivalent of a thousand months. Since this night is interwoven with the name of Imam Ali (‘a), we can implore him to intercede with Allah on our behalf on this night and pray for the resolution of the problems which the Muslim world is currently facing. Ayatollah Makarem Shirazi considers the Night of Destiny to be such a night where one should both feel a sense of happiness and a sense of sadness. They should feel happy in regards to the coming of a most spiritual night which possesses many valuable virtues and blessings.
This is a night which is the equivalent of one thousand normal months and so any acts of worship performed on this night hold the weight of one thousand months of that same worship. We must realize the true value of this night and make use of this great opportunity. At the same time, we will also feel sad in light of the martyrdom of Imam Ali (‘a). Perhaps these two events have taken place near one another because Allah has wished that the people implore to this great Islamic figure to pray for them so that they will be granted nearness to Allah.
The Realities of the Night of Destiny and the Specific Importance of the Twenty Third Night
Ayatollah Makarem Shirazi has delved in to the importance of the twenty third night of the month of Ramadan and he has explained: The Infallible Imams (‘a) have not specified the exact night which is the Night of Destiny; they have left the exact date slightly ambiguous, only mentioning that it is one night amongst three specific nights (It is either the 19th, the 21st, or the 23rd). The reason behind this slight ambiguity is so that the believers engage in acts of worship throughout all three nights, gaining a special state of spirituality which is notpossible otherwise.
While this is the case, the scholars have researched the traditions in regards to the Night of Destiny and they have determined that the 21st or 23rd nights have a higher possibility of being the Night of Destiny. In addition, numerous traditions from the Ahl al-Bayt (‘a) seem to emphasize the 23rd night as being the Night of Destiny. This is while the traditions transmitted in the Sunnite references emphasize the 27th night as being this special night. In light of the Shia traditions which emphasize the 23rd night, we must take advantage of this great opportunity and utilize it in the way it was meant to be utilized. Allah has created certain times and places which are special in the potential which they have towards spiritual growth; the Nights of Destiny are amongst these special times and we must seek proximity towards our Lord and stand firm against our carnal desires.
Repentance is one of the Most Important Necessities of the Night of Destiny
It is evident that gaining access to the spiritual realities of the Night of Destiny is conditional upon the performance of various acts of worship which are particular to this night. Therefore, we must strive hard in performing these special acts of worship in order to strengthen ourselves and gain proximity towards our Lord. We must commit to our spiritual training and self-purufucation so that we can realize a state of true piety. According to Ayatollah Makarem Shirazi, repentance is one of the key opportunities during the Night of Destiny towards returning from a state of sin and seeking the divine mercy of Allah.
From this perspective, Ayatollah Makarem Shirazi has stated that: The Night of Destiny is more important than one thousand ordinary months. Among the recommendable acts of worship which we should perform on these nights, is the recitation of Surah ʿAnkabūt and Surah Rūm. The reason behind this recommendation is that these two chapters mention many issues related to monotheism and seeking repentance from Allah. If we end up implementing the contents of these two chapters in our day to day lives, then it will suffice us for the rest of our lives.
Similarly, Ayatollah Makarem Shirazi has explained the importance and position of the Night of Destiny in receiving forgiveness for the sins which we have committed. The Ayatollah has mentioned: We must make use of the opportunity given to us on the Night of Destiny and repent from both our lesser and greater sins. By examining the general body of traditions, one realizes that there are many traditions which emphasize the necessity of fearing for our lesser sins, let alone our greater sins. The reason behind this emphasis is that the lesser sins can sometimes remain unnoticed or people feel that they are not very important. When these lesser sins are ignored, people begin to commit more of them and they begin to accumulate and weigh upon the human soul.
When the lesser sins are considered as being nothing, it is clear how they can accumulate and at some point, the individual is seen as not caring about what Allah has prohibited. Due to this reason, the best act which one can perform on the Night of Destiny is to repent and turn away from one’s sins. The Night of Destiny is one of the best nights for being forgiven by Allah. Therefore, when one stays awake on these nights and engages in acts of worship, they must ask Allah for forgiveness for both their greater sins, as well as their lesser sins.
It has also been mentioned that, on the Night of Destiny, the destiny of human beings is determined for the coming year. This is based upon the actions which the people have performed and their worthiness in relation to how they have acted. Accordingly, it is necessary that people remain awake of this night, repent from their sins, and engage in spiritual training. They must turn towards Allah and they must change themselves for the better so that they can be worthier for his mercy and grace.
The truly lucky ones are those who find themselves worthy of achieving a higher rank on such a night and who have the divine grace of worshipping Allah and supplicating him. Blessed are those who spend this night weeping and seeking forgiveness from Allah. These are the ones who make themselves worthy of Allah’s mercy and grace, and they are able to achieve a very lofty rank as a result.
The Connection of the Night of Destiny with the Quran
Ayatollah Makarem Shirazi has explained a certain key point in regards to the connection which exists between the Night of Destiny and the Quran. He has stated: It has been clearly explained in Surah Qadr that the Quran was revealed on the Night of Destiny. When we contemplate these few verses, we realize that the point which the Quran is bringing across is a very deep and powerful one. It is certainly not by coincidence that the night where the destiny of men is decided for the coming year is the same night when the Quran was revealed upon the pure heart of the Prophet of Islam (s).
Isn’t this really telling us that our very destiny is made in accordance with the contents of the Quran? This is indicative of the fact that our spiritual lives, as well as our material lives are interconnected with how well we follow the teachings found in this divine book. This is a connection which cannot be separated. Our victory over our enemies, our honor, our freedom, our independence, the development of our cities and everything else in our lives is interconnected with this issue. Our success is found in how well we implement the teachings of the Quran. It has been heavily emphasized in our religious traditions that people should not sleep on this night. A person who is asleep is being neglectful in regards to his duties and this sleep shows that he doesn’t hold this night in much importance. There is no question that such a person will have a sorrowful destiny.
The Night of Destiny is a Night of Divine Favor to the Muslim Community
From the viewpoint of Ayatollah Makarem Shirazi, we must consider the Night of Destiny as a great blessing which Allah has given to the Muslim community. In reality, the Night of Destiny is a night filled with light, mercy, goodness, blessings, health, and felicity; it is an opportunity which is incomparable to anything else! This is an issue which is further explained in the Quranic commentary of Ayatollah Makarem Shirazi as well. The apparent meaning of the verses in Surah Qadr show us that the Night of Destiny is not something particular to the time of the revelation of the Quran or the time of the Prophet (s) alone; it is rather something which will continue to take place until the end of this world.
As far as the Arabic grammar is concerned, the way the Night of Destiny has been discussed in Surah Qadr indicates that this is an event which will continue to happen until the end of time. The fourth verse of Surah Qadr uses the Muḍāriʿ tense (future tense), which connotates an event which repeats and continues to take place. Similarly, the grammatical properties of the last verse also show that this event will continue to take place until the end of the world. In addition to all this, we have many traditions (some which can even be considered as widely transmitted traditions) that also confirm this view.
One question which some people may ask in this regard is whether this was something which existed in previous nations or whether it is something that is particular only to the Muslim community. The Islamic traditions in this regards clearly indicate that the blessings of the Night of Destiny are a divine favor to the Muslim community alone and they were never bestowed upon any of the past nations. In a tradition narrated from the Prophet (s), it has been mentioned that: ‘Allah bestowed the Night of Destiny on my nation and none of the past nations were given this blessing.’[4,5]
Ayatollah Makarem Shirazi has further explained this divine blessing in the following way: When Prophet Abraham (‘a) was thrown in to the fire by Nimrod, the angels came and greeted him, and the fire turned in to a garden. In light of this reality, can it not be said that the fire of hell will become cold and peaceful through the greetings of the angels upon the believers on the Night of Destiny? This is a sign of the greatness of the people of Prophet Muhammad (s) that the angels descended upon Prophet Abraham (s) during past times, but today, they descend to greet the Muslim believers.
Ayatollah Makarem Shirazi has mentioned the importance of praying for the resolution of the problems of the Muslim world on this great night and he has stated: When faced with difficulties, it is necessary that we pray to Allah and seek his help. In fact, supplications are an essential key to the resolution of our problems. This is particularly true during specific times and places which have been mentioned as being special, such as the holy month of Ramadan.
Other examples of these holy places and times are the Kaaba and the Night of Destiny. We must pray during these special times and in these special places for the resolution of our personal problems, as well as our social ones. We must pray for our domestic problems (within our homeland), as well as for the entirety of the Muslim community worldwide. This is a great opportunity which should not be missed.
Ayatollah Makarem Shirazi has also mentioned that in addition to all this, the Night of Destiny is a night which is filled with health. It is a night which is filled with goodness and divine grace. From the very beginning of this night to the very end, it is a source of great blessings. The special mercy of Allah is sent down on this night and the angels and the Spirit descend . It is a night where one’s destiny in the coming year is shaped based on the one’s worthiness and the worship of this night is considered to be better than a thousand months.
A Final Word
We must be aware that sometimes, a single moment is enough to change our destiny for the better or for the worse. This single moment can have such a profound effect on us that the very path which we are taking will alter and shift forever. The Night of Destiny can have this effect on us and, by taking control of our carnal desires we can open the door to Allah’s vast mercy and change our destiny for the better.
. Refer to: Iqbāl, p. 167.
. تَنَزَّلُ الْمَلائِكَةُ وَ الرُّوحُ فيها بِإِذْنِ رَبِّهِمْ مِنْ كُلِّ أَمْرٍ.
. : ان اللَّه وهب لامتى ليلة القدر لم يعطها من كان قبلهم
. Surah al-Qadr, Verse 5.
. Durr al-Manthūr, vol. 6, p. 371.