Sunday, October 7, 2007

A Precious Prophetic Pearl on Upholding the Night of Power / Decree (Part One)

Part One:

Assalamu 'alaykum warahmatuulahi wabarakatuh

عن أبي هريرة (رضي الله عنه) أنه قال: قَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم "مَنْ يَقُمْ لَيْلَةَ الْقَدْرِ إِيمَانًا وَاحْتِسَابًا، غُفِرَ لَهُ مَا تَقَدَّمَ مِنْ ذَنْبِهِ"

[It was reported on the authority of Abu Hurayrah (may Allah be pleased with him) that he said: The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) said: “Whosoever, upholds Laylatul-Qadr (the Night of Power / Decree) in a state of iman and ihtisab will have his previous sins forgiven”. (Compiled by al-Bukhari in the section of his Sahih Collection entitled “Upholding Laylatul Qadr is part of Iman”)]

The noble hadith employs a particular grammatical structure or device called الشَّرْطِيَّة (Conditionality). الشرطية is a situation where two events (both normally indicated by verbs) are connected in such a way so that the first event (referred to as the الشرط ) serves as a condition or pre-requisite (شرط) for the second event (referred to as the الجواب or الجزاء ). To put it differently, the second event (الجواب / الجزاء) follows or results from the first event (الشرط) . To make this connection of conditionality possible a third element is required called the أداة الشرط (conditional instrument or instrument of conditionality) which is a particle or noun placed before the conditional clause containing the الشرط . The أداة الشرط is of two types: a type that effects, in addition to conditionality, الجزم of the shart clause and jawab clause, and a type that only effects conditionality but not الجزم .

Now, in the blessed hadith, the أداة الشرط (conditional instrument) is "من" (whosoever) and is placed before the shart clause / verb which is يَقُمْ (stands, upholds) and the jawab clause is غُفِرَ (to have something forgiven). Moreover, this أداة الشرط effects الجزم which is clearly seen in the verb "يَقُمْ" which majzum with a sukun, as for the verb "غُفِرَ" , it occurs in the الماضي and therefore does not show the effect of الجزم . In other words, should one uphold the Night of Power / Decree in the manner described then the result would be that his / her previous sins will be forgiven. In other words, in order for one to have his / her previous sins forgiven (on that auspicious Night), there is a condition that must be met, and that condition is that he upholds Laylatul-Qadr, and upholds in the manner described in the hadith.

Having clarified the concept of ‘Conditionality’ and using the noble hadith to illustrate this concept, we now move on to what constitutes a شرط and a جواب / جزاء . Here we refer to Ibn Malik’s famous 1000 verse didactic poem on Nahw called the "al-Alfiyyah" (from the word "alf" meaning 'a thousand'). In dicussing the instruments of الجزم that effect conditionality he says:

فِعْلَيْنِ يَقْتَضِيْنَ شَرْطٌ قُدِّمَا * يَتْلُو الْجَزَاءُ وَجَواباً وُسِمَا
مَاضِيَيْنِ أَوْ مُضَارِعَيْنِ * تُلْفِيْهِمَا أَوْ مُتَخَالِفِيْنِ

[Two verbs do they (i.e. these conditional instruments) require: a شَرْط that is placed before (i.e. at the begining after the أداة الشرط ), followed by the الجزاء which is also called the الْجَوَاب ]
[You’ll find them (i.e. these two verbs) either both in the الْمَاضِيْ or both in the الْمُضَارِع or differently (i.e. الْمَاضِيْ + الْمُضَارِع or الْمُضَارِع + الْمَاضِيْ )]

In the case of the blessed hadith we find that the الشرط (conditional verb) – يَقُمْ - is مُضَارِع , and the الْجَوَاب or الجَزَاء (“result” verb) - غُفِرَ - is مَاضٍ . In other words, they are different, and not the same, with the الشرط being مُضَارِع and the الجزاء being مَاضٍ .

Now, to find out the significance of selecting the combination of الْمُضَارِع + الْمَاضَيْ from the four possible combinations, we turn to Balaghah, and more specifically the section called عِلْم الْمَعَانِيْ . While Nahw tells us that the four combinations are possible, it does not tell us why one combination is better than another based on the context. This is the domain of Balaghah and more specifically ‘Ilm al-Ma’ani.

Hence, the significance of the combination of الْمُضَارِع + الْمَاضَيْ is that the الْمُضَارِع – because it’s normally in the process of occurring or it has not occurred yet – there is a certain uncertainty about it. In other words, we do not know for certain how it is going to play out. The الْمَاضِيْ , on the other hand, is more certainty about precisely because it has already occurred, and there is nothing as definitive as the past. It’s the present and future that are somewhat uncertain.

Applying this to the hadith we see that the part which uses the الْمُضَارِع which is من يقم ليلة القدر is with reference to upholding the Night of Power, and we all know the element of uncertainty concerning Laytul-Qadr – which night of Ramadhan it is, and so on. So it is appropriate that the المضارع is used to denote an event that is shrouded in mystery, which makes us all the more anxious to find it lest it should pass us by without we even knowing it. As for when we do get the honour and privilege to uphold this highly auspicious Night, the forgiveness of our previous sins is assured, and there is absolutely no uncertainty about that. Therefore, the most eloquent of those who utter the Dad, the one who has been honoured with جوامع الكلم (i.e. the ability to speak volumes in just a few words) has in this one short hadith told us not merely the excellence and great virtue of upholding this Night but also the fact that the time of its occurrence is uncertain; but that the occurrence of forgiveness for one's previous sins is certain. At the same time he is telling us that to keep up the whole Ramadhan as Laylatul-Qadr could be in any of its nights. In another hadith he tells us to find it in the last ten nights, which to me also as the significance of making a special effort as the month comes to a close, as we are normally so energized at the beginning but than wane towards the end like the waning of the moon. By telling us to search for it in the last ten days, we approach the “final leg” of the month with renewed energy and vigour, such that we not only have a husn al-bidayah (good beginning) but also a husn al-nihayah / al-khatimah (good ending).

اللهم افتح لنا بالخير واختم لنا بالخير واجعل عواقب أمورنا بالخير بيدك الخير والعافية إنك على كل شيء قدير

In Part Two of our analysis of the hadith we will be focusing on the meanings of some of the words used in the hadith, insha Allah.

Allahu a'lam.

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