Hidden Seasons of Forgiveness

Hidden Seasons of Forgiveness

Author: Dr. Mahfooth Khayri

Since the Wisdom of Allah, The Exalted, entailed that the path to Paradise and earning His Pleasure should be fraught with forms of hardship that are disliked by the human self and require that it strives against its lusts, He designated blessed spiritual seasons during which He generously bestows His abundant blessings and bounties upon His Slaves. Whoever succeeds in availing himself of those seasons gets to enjoy their blessings for the rest of his life (in this world and in the Hereafter). Allah divided these blessed seasons of forgiveness into two categories:

First: Known specified seasons identifiable by fixed indications and cosmic signs perceived by people from all walks of life and backgrounds, like the last third of every night, for example, during which Allah, The Exalted, descends – in a manner that befits His Majesty and Greatness – to the nearest heaven and Says to His Slaves: “Who is there to ask of Me so that I may give him? Who is there to supplicate Me so that I may answer him? Who is there to beg forgiveness from Me so that I may forgive him?” Another example is the blessed month of Ramadan which Allah, The Exalted, rendered an annual blessed season for the Muslim Ummah during which He raises to higher ranks those who draw closer to Him and emancipates them from Hellfire by deeming it forbidden for them. Other examples are the Day of ‘Arafah (the 9th day of Thul-Hijjah) and the first ten days of Thul-Hijjah.

Second: The blessed seasons that Allah, The Exalted, made hidden within their surrounding religious rituals and times and moments so that they would be won only by the resolute people who sincerely seek the forgiveness of their Lord, spare no effort and utilize all the available means to achieve this objective. They keenly adhere to the path to deliverance despite its rugged terrain and do not display false reliance on Allah, The Exalted, without harnessing the available means, because they know the high value of the attainment to which they are aspiring. An example of such hidden blessed seasons of forgiveness is the “middle prayer” whose merit Allah, The Exalted, noted in two consecutive commands in the same context. He Says (what means): {Maintain with care the [obligatory] prayers and [in particular] the middle prayer, and stand before Allah, devoutly obedient.} [Quran 2:238] Scholars proposed five different interpretations for the reference to “middle prayer” in the verse, all revolve around the five obligatory prayers. The ultimate conclusion (of their opinions) is that the reward for observing the “middle prayer” cannot be earned with certitude except by those who regularly perform all five obligatory prayers. The same is true of the hour on Friday during which a believer does not ask Allah, The Exalted, for anything but He gives it to him, and also Laylatul-Qadr (the Night of Decree) during which the reward for worship is made greater than the reward for devoting oneself entirely to worship for eighty-three years and three months, which is almost the longest human lifespan in present times.

Al-Munaawi  may  Allah  have  mercy  upon  him said: “The splendors of such abundant blessings and bounties are perceptible from the openings in the gates to the treasures of the divine munificence and grace during the blessed times in which Allah, The Exalted, showers His Slaves with ample shares of His Mercy. Whoever avails himself of them with a firm resolve and an attentive heart receives, all at once, a generous share of blessings that exceeds that of the blessings that may be conferred upon people throughout long periods of their lives. As for the recompense of righteous deeds, the (divine) treasures of reward are distributed in due measure, but the rewards of a single blessed season from the treasures of the divine grace are granted on a piecemeal basis, and they are not granted as a fixed recompense in specific measures and times. The exact times of such blessed seasons and hours are (conveniently) hidden and unknown to people so that they should earnestly seek after them and continue to search for them, like Laylatul-Qadr and the hour on Friday (during which supplications are answered). Their exact times are meant to remain unidentified so that we should earnestly seek them in all times and states, even while tending to our worldly affairs. The one who diligently devotes himself to worship throughout his life would most likely avail himself of such blessed seasons during which the treasures of the divine grace are opened and, accordingly, would get to relish eternal bliss.”

If we focused on Laylatul-Qadr, we will find that worshiping Allah, The Exalted, on that single night is considered better than devoting oneself entirely to worship for one hundred years, assuming that such person attained puberty at the age of seventeen. Undeniably, this night is a rare opportunity, or rather a truly once-in-a-lifetime chance, during which the doors to forgiveness are made wide open before all the sinners and neglectful people to return to Allah and make up for all the wasted years and moments of their lives. It is no wonder that Allah, The Exalted, concealed the exact date of that night from His Slaves so that it would be attained only by the diligent seekers; pearls are hidden in the heart of oyster shells at the bottom of the sea, and therefore they are only found by those who seek them at all times and prudently search for them in all possible places. Perhaps this is the underlying wisdom behind concealing its exact date; namely, to urge people to show diligence in seeking it throughout the last ten days of Ramadan, and so that they would devotedly strive in worship, supplication, and Thikr (mention of Allah), contrary to the situation if its exact date was identified; they would have settled for devoting themselves to worship on that particular night only and neglect the rest of the nights.

The well-versed scholar Al-Haafith Ibn Hajar Al-‘Asqalaani  may  Allah  have  mercy  upon  him thoroughly scrutinized the texts and sayings narrated on the authority of the righteous predecessors about the specific date of Laylatul-Qadr, and he briefly concluded: “Scholars held significantly different opinions regarding the specific date of Laylatul-Qadr, and more than forty opinions in this regard reached us. This is quite similar to the difference of opinion among scholars about the hour on Friday during which the supplications are (most likely) answered. Both are similar in being hidden to urge people to seek after them resolutely and diligently.” He then listed forty-six opinions about the exact date of Laylatul-Qadr, in a valuable statement that abounded in intellectual inferences, juristic preponderance of the opinions under discussion, and the objections to each opinion. He attributed each opinion to the righteous predecessors and Companions who held it and cited therein the respective sources and chains of narration. This invaluable investigation was delineated by Al-Haafith Ibn Hajar  may  Allah  have  mercy  upon  him in more than fifteen pages in his huge encyclopedia, Fat-h Al-Baari Sharh Saheeh Al-Bukhari. He summarized therein all the relevant sayings about the specification of the exact date of Laylatul-Qadr and concluded his statement by saying: “The most preponderant of all of the opinions in this regard is that it falls on an odd-numbered night during the last ten nights of Ramadan and that it moves within the last ten nights, as understood from the Ahaadeeth in this regard. It most likely falls on the odd-numbered nights of the last ten ones, and most likely on the twenty-first or twenty-third night according to the opinion of the Shaafi‘i scholars, and on the twenty-seventh night according to the view of the majority of scholars.”

Regardless of which of these opinions is the correct one, it was authentically reported that the Prophet  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allah exalt his mention ) said to his Companions: “I came out to inform you of (the exact date of) Laylatul-Qadr, but so-and-so persons were quarrelling, so the knowledge of it was taken away; yet that might be for your own good. So, seek it on the 29th, 27th and 25th night (of Ramadan).” [Ahmad in his Musnad and Al-Bukhari in his Saheeh]

This Hadeeth explicitly states that the Prophet  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allah exalt his mention ) was made to forget its exact date. He  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allah exalt his mention ) did not know the exact date of Laylatul-Qadr, and neither did the Companions and the following generations with greater reason. The Hadeeth also explicitly stated that concealing the exact date of Laylatul-Qadr is good for us. Whoever reflects on the reported texts in this regard realizes that although some of them indicated that Laylatul-Qadr falls on the middle night of the last seven nights, or in the odd-numbered nights of the last ten, or in the last seven nights, or in the last ten ones, the same narrators of these Ahaadeeth authentically reported that the Prophet  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allah exalt his mention ) used to tighten his belt (i.e., a metaphor for abstaining from sexual relations with his wives), earnestly devote his nights to worship, and wake his household up to join him in worship throughout the last ten nights of Ramadan, both the odd-numbered and the even-numbered nights. He  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allah exalt his mention ) rather encouraged Muslims to show diligence in worship throughout the whole month of Ramadan and underlined the abundant rewards for doing so.

It is becoming of a Muslim, who keenly follows in the footsteps of his Prophet  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allah exalt his mention ) to show diligence in worship, strive to perform many acts of obedience at all times and accustom himself to devotion to worship, especially during the month of Ramadan, with a special emphasis on the last ten nights. The Prophet  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allah exalt his mention ) whose past and future sins were forgiven, used to devote his nights to worship and tighten his belt, aspiring to win the generous rewards of Laylatul-Qadr. At the beginning, he  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allah exalt his mention ) used to observe I‘tikaaf (seclusion in the mosque for the purpose of worship) on the first ten nights of Ramadan, in his earnest pursuit of Laylatul-Qadr, and then on the middle ten nights. Afterward, he was informed through revelation that it falls on later nights, meaning in the last ten nights of the month. The least we should do, given our sinfulness and neglectfulness, is to consider all the last ten nights of Ramadan to be Laylatul-Qadr, and, if we can, consider the whole month of Ramadan or even the whole year to be Laylatul-Qadr. It is better to be prudent in seeking the great virtues and merits of this great night, being such a profitable deal in all cases. This further explains the statements of our righteous predecessors in this regard; for it was reported that Imaam Maalik ibn Anas and Ibn Al-Mubaarak  may  Allah  have  mercy  upon  them said: “Seek Laylatul-Qadr throughout the last ten nights of the month, the odd-numbered and even-numbered alike,” and ‘Abdullaah ibn Mas‘ood, may Allah be pleased with him, said: “Whoever devotes himself to worship all year long will certainly win the rewards of Laylatul-Qadr!”

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