Ramadan through the eyes of a non-Muslim -Day 27
Devotees pray in Jammu and Kashmir.
The exact day of Laylat Al Qadr remains a mystery for Muslims, who believe it falls on one of the odd nights of the last ten days of the holy month.
Monday marked the 27th of the holy month of Ramadan and what many think may be the holiest night of the entire month - the Laylat Al Qadr, or Night of Power. While I've mentioned this occasion in previous diary entries, in the days leading up to it I've received a flurry of e-mails from readers, eager to teach a non-Muslim something new.
To be clear, the exact day of Laylat Al Qadr remains a mystery for Muslims, who believe it falls on one of the odd nights of the last ten days of the holy month.
Many readers who've been in touch, however, vehemently insist that the 27th night of Ramadan is the most likely, and cite a statement from Ubay ibn Ka'b, a companion of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), in which he states that "I swear by Allah that I know which night it is.It is the night on the eve of the 27th of Ramadan. Its sign is that the sun will rise in the morning of that day white without exuding any rays."
A few days ago, I was told that the Laylat Al Qadr is considered better than "a thousand months" and in which angels come down "on every errand." I also understood that the first verses of the Holy Quran were revealed on this night. I was, however, still unclear what exactly this means for Muslims, or why it is considered so important to attend prayers at a mosque on this day.
In one hadith - the Sahih Al Bukhari - another companion of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), Abu Hurairah, reported that he said that "whoever is deprived of its good is really deprived (of something great)." The hadith goes on to state that "whoever stands in night prayer on Laylat Al Qadr out of solely his true faith and seeks the divine reward, his previous sins are forgiven."
These two statements explain why such massive crowds form for these particular last nights of Ramadan. To put things in an easier-to-understand perspective for fellow non-Muslims, the Laylat Al Qadr is equivalent to 83 years and four months of good deeds and religious devotion.
The levels of devotion being demonstrated for the last ten nights of Ramadan are unlike anything I've ever seen. For example, one reader predicted that many believers would gather at the Saud Mosque in Sharjah several hours early because it can "only" accommodate 1,000 people. Several thousand more, he said, will be outside in the courtyard, parking lot and nearby service roads and footpaths.
Short of a visit from the Pope himself, even in very religious parts of my own country, or elsewhere in Catholic Latin America, I don't recall seeing a crowd of churchgoers so massive that it overflows to such an extent.
On a different note, I recommend that non-Muslims living in the UAE at least be open to exploring the various hadith. Admittedly, until this Ramadan I never felt a need to, but I've found that the hadith represent - even in a non-religious sense - a very handy, explanatory guide for various Muslim traditions and practices.