According to the Almighty, there is a very special night that occurs during which He sends His decrees to Earth and during which all matters of importance are undertaken. It was during this blessed night that the glorious Qur’an was sent down.
“We have sent it down in the Night of Decree. And do you know what is the Night of Decree? The Night of Decree is better than one thousand months. The angels and the Spirit come down in it by their Lord’s leave to carry out every matter. It is peaceful until the coming of dawn.” (97:1-5)
“We have sent it down in a blessed night. Surely, We were to warn. In it, is a decree for every matter of wisdom.” (44:3-4)
The timing of this blessed night has been shrouded with some mystery and uncertainty, with the Sunnis claiming that it occurs during the 9th lunar month and that it specifically occurs during the last ten nights of Ramadhan, in one of the odd numbered days.
This short article will attempt to locate the exact occurrence of this blessed night using the clues that are given to us in the Qur’an and using the faculties of deduction and logic which our Lord has always encouraged (47:24).
Jesus is the key.
The birth of the Messiah, Jesus, is amongst the greatest miracles to occur in our history as he was conceived miraculously without having a father and he was able to speak to people from the cradle and was able to perform great miracles (with God’s permission) that included raising the dead and healing blind and the lepers.
Accordingly, the Qur’an gives us some clues regarding this great event, specifically in identifying the period/month in which the son of Mary was given birth to:
“And shake the trunk of this palm tree, it will cause ripe dates (Rutab) to fall upon you.” (19:25)
The term “Rutab” indicates an advanced level of date ripening:
Dates ripen in four stages, which are known throughout the world by their Arabic names kimri (unripe), khalal (full-size, crunchy), rutab (ripe, soft), tamr (ripe, sun-dried).
The known time for this stage of date development typically occurs in the Middle East at the end of the peak of hot season and dates are known as “Rutab” from the period ending in August till the period ending in September.
As such, it is with this clue that we can determine that the Messiah was given birth to in the period around September according to the climate of the Middle East.
September or December?
The birth of Jesus around September heralds a major event in the history of humankind. However, we will also explore the other end of the argument, looking at the ‘conception’ of Jesus as a possibility since the birth is merely the end result of an action that has been set in motion.
A normal pregnancy takes around 9 calendar months, which, working backwards, would take us to the period of December as being the month in which Jesus was conceived.
Although it is possible that the pregnancy of Jesus (since it is miraculous by design) did not last the normal 9 month period, there is no evidence found in the Qur’an which supports such an anomaly. In-fact, the evidence given regarding Jesus and his mother is that they were indeed very ‘human’:
“The Messiah son of Mary, is no more than a messenger; like whom messengers have passed away; and his mother was trustworthy, they used to eat the food. See how We clarify the signs for them, then see how they deviate.” (5:75)
The Spirits and the Angels Come Down.
The Night of Decree is unique in that the Angels and the Spirit are said to come down to carry out the commands of the Lord:
“The angels and the Spirit come down in it by their Lord’s leave to carry out every matter.” (97:4)
This is a very distinct feature since the Angels are said to come down at various times to carry out various acts (they help in battle, they deliver messages, they destroy evil communities, etc.). However, on the Night of Decree we have both the Angels and the Spirit coming down.
We cannot find any indication of the Angels or the Spirit in relation to the birth of Jesus, However, the conception of Jesus is a totally different matter…
“She took to a barrier which separated her from them, so We sent Our Spirit to her, and he took on the shape of a human being in all similarity. She said: ‘I seek refuge with the Almighty from you if you are a person of faith.’ He said: ’I am the messenger of your Lord, to grant you the gift of a pure son.’” (19:17-19)
“And the angels said: ‘O Mary, God gives good news of a word from Him. His name is the Messiah, Jesus the son of Mary. Honorable in this world and in the Hereafter, and from among those who are made close. And he will speak to the people from the cradle and to middle-age, and is from among the upright.’ She said: ‘My Lord, how can I have a son when no human has touched me?’ He said: ‘It is thus that God creates what He wills, when He decrees a command, He merely says to it ‘Be,’ and it is.’” (3:45-47)
It has always confused scholars and been a point of criticism by anti-Islamic groups how Mary can be spoken to by “The Spirit” (a single entity) and in another verse by “The Angels” (a plural). This distinction has been presented falsely as evidence that the Qur’an contains inaccuracies…The truth can be further from!
Night of Decree = Spirit + Angels
Conception of Jesus = Spirit + Angels
Night of Decree = Night of Jesus’ Conception
Now that the evidence has been presented to gauge the period of the Night of Decree, it is only reasonable to pursue the subject further and try to ascertain ‘which night’?
Throughout the Qur’an we are told that God favors the night for worship and for His messages:
- The Qur’an was sent at night (44:3, 97:1);
- God commanded Moses to wait for 40 nights (7:142);
- Worship is spoken of as occurring during the night (39:9, 73:20);
- Salat occurs with the beginning of night as well as its end (24:58);
- God took the Prophet on a special journey at night (17:1);
- The Qur’an is best studied at night (17:79);
- Zakariya was commanded to fast from speaking for three nights (19:10).
Since the night is more precious than the day, then it is only normal that we look at the days with the ‘longest’ nights as being possible candidates since we know that God in His mercy would want to give humankind the maximum benefit of His blessings and not anything lesser:
“Say: ‘If you were the ones possessing the vaults of my Lord’s mercy, you would have held back for fear of spending. And man was always stingy!” (17:100)
Interestingly enough, a little research reveals that there is indeed one day every year which, according to astronomy, is unique in being the day with the longest night. More interestingly, we find that this day occurs in non other than the month of December of each year!
The Winter Solstice, also known as Midwinter, occurs around December 21 or 22 each year in the Northern hemisphere. It occurs on the longest night of the year, sometimes said to mark the beginning of a hemisphere's astronomical winter.
Night of Decree = December 21st or 22nd each year
It can be concluded from the above information that the time of the Winter Solstice is indeed the blessed night of decree that the Qur’an refers to. This would mean than not only was Jesus conceived on that night, but also that the Qur’an and the Torah and all other major decrees were sent down in that same night respectively apart.
This night is not only a blessed night in itself, but it also would bless the period around it explaining why the fast has been commanded to occur in the month of Ramadhan in which the Night of Decree is contained:
“The month of Ramadhan, in which the Qur’an was revealed; as a guide to the people and a clarification of the guidance and the criterion. Therefore, whoever of you witnesses the month, then let him fast therein. And whoever is ill or traveling, then the same number from different days. God wants to bring you ease and not to bring you hardship; and so that you may complete the count, and glorify God for what He has guided you, that you may be thankful.” (2:185)
Have a blessed Night of Decree!
By Layth Al-Shaiban (firstname.lastname@example.org)