The date of Laylatu’l-Qadr being unknown – “Perhaps that is better for you”: Ibn Kathir

Imam al-Bukhari records in his Saheeh:

أَنَّ رَسُولَ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم خَرَجَ يُخْبِرُ بِلَيْلَةِ الْقَدْرِ، فَتَلاَحَى رَجُلاَنِ مِنَ الْمُسْلِمِينَ فَقَالَ ‏ “‏ إِنِّي خَرَجْتُ لأُخْبِرَكُمْ بِلَيْلَةِ الْقَدْرِ، وَإِنَّهُ تَلاَحَى فُلاَنٌ وَفُلاَنٌ فَرُفِعَتْ وَعَسَى أَنْ يَكُونَ خَيْرًا لَكُمُ الْتَمِسُوهَا فِي السَّبْعِ وَالتِّسْعِ وَالْخَمْسِ ‏

The Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) went out to inform the people about the (date of the) Laylatu’l-Qadr, but a quarrel took place between two of the Muslim men. The Prophet (ﷺ) said, “I came out to inform you about (the date of) Laylatu’l-Qadr, but so-and-so and so-and-so quarreled, so its knowledge was taken away. And perhaps that is better for you. Search for it in the 7th, the 9th and the 5th (of the last 10 nights of Ramadan).”

[al-Bukhari #49]

In his famous book of tafsir, al-haafidh Abu’l-Fidaa’ Ismaa’eel ibn Kathir comments on the phrase, ‘perhaps it was better for you‘ by writing:

 وقوله : ” وعسى أن يكون خيرا لكم ” يعني : عدم تعيينها لكم ، فإنها إذا كانت مبهمة اجتهد طلابها في ابتغائها في جميع محال رجائها ، فكان أكثر للعبادة ، بخلاف ما إذا علموا عينها فإنها كانت الهمم تتقاصر على قيامها فقط . وإنما اقتضت الحكمة إبهامها لتعم العبادة جميع الشهر في ابتغائها ، ويكون الاجتهاد في العشر الأواخر أكثر . ـ

And his statement, ‘perhaps it is better for you‘ – i.e., the lack of it being specified for you. For since it was left uncertain, those who seek it exert themselves, aspiring for it in all places of the month, hopeful of finding it. So there is an increase in worship, in contrast to if its specific time were known, for then its significance would certainly lead to restricting the night prayers to it exclusively. And the wisdom of its being left uncertain results in worship being spread throughout the entire month in pursuit of it, and that effort is increased even more so during the last ten nights.

 ولهذا كان رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم يعتكف العشر الأواخر من رمضان ، حتى توفاه الله عز وجل . ثم اعتكف أزواجه من بعده . أخرجاه من حديث عائشة . ولهما عن ابن عمر : كان رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم يعتكف العشر الأواخر من رمضان . وقالت عائشة : كان رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم إذا دخل العشر ، أحيا الليل ، وأيقظ أهله ، وشد المئزر . أخرجاه . ولمسلم عنها كان رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم يجتهد في العشر ما لا يجتهد في غيره . وهذا معنى قولها : ” وشد المئزر ” .  ـ

It was for this reason Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) used to make ‘itikaaf during the last ten nights of Ramadan until Allah caused him to pass away. And then his wives made ‘itikaaf after him, as both al-Bukhari and Muslim recorded in the hadeeth of ‘Aa’ishah. And both also narrated from ibn ‘Umar that “the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) used to make ‘itikaaf during the last ten nights of Ramadan.” ‘Aa’ishah said, “When the last ten nights would come, Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) used to stay up at night, wake his family members, and tighten his waist-belt.” This was reported by both al-Bukhari and Muslim. Muslim also relayed from her that Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) used to strive during those ten nights the likes of which he did not strive during any others. And that is the meaning of her statement, “tighten his waist-belt”.

وقيل : المراد بذلك : اعتزال النساء . ويحتمل أن يكون كناية عن الأمرين ، لما رواه الإمام أحمد : حدثنا سريج ، حدثنا أبو معشر ، عن هشام بن عروة ، عن أبيه عن عائشة قالت : كان رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم إذا بقي عشر من رمضان شد مئزره ، واعتزل نساءه . انفرد به أحمد . ـ

It is also said that the meaning of this phrase is that he secluded himself from [sexual intercourse with] his wives. And this phrase can be held to carry both meanings due to what Imam Ahmad narrated … from ‘Aa’ishah that, “When only ten nights remained of Ramadan, Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) used tighten up his waist-belt and seclude himself from [sexual intercourse with] his wives.” And Imam Ahmad was alone in reporting this.

[Tafsir ibn Kathir 8/452]

For more Ramadan material, see our collection of Ramadan Articles.

See also: A Khutbah just before the last ten days of Ramadan: Imam al-Sa’di

See also: The wisdom of not disclosing the date of Laylatu’l-Qadr: Imam al-Baghawi

See also: The Meaning of “Laylah al-Qadr”: Sheikh ibn ‘Uthaymeen

See also: Chapter on Fasting in the Qur’an – part 3: Imam al-Sa’di

See also: Allah’s commendations for those who pray during the night

See also: “We are not able to perform qiyaam al-lail”: Responses from the salaf

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2 thoughts on “The date of Laylatu’l-Qadr being unknown – “Perhaps that is better for you”: Ibn Kathir

  1. Pingback: The wisdom of not disclosing the date of Laylatu’l-Qadr: Imam al-Baghawi | Tulayhah

  2. Pingback: The Meaning of “Laylah al-Qadr”: Sheikh ibn ‘Uthaymeen | Tulayhah

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