Holy Qur'an (edited by Malik Ghulam Farid), 1994
Date of Revelations and Context
Some Commentators of the Qur'an think that this Surah was revealed at Medina. This, however, is a mistaken view, being against all historical data. It is definitely a Meccan Surah and belongs to the very early years of the Call. Such eminent and respected authorities as Ibn Abbas, Ibn Zubair and Aishah subscribe to this view. Noldeke places it after Chapter 93, which was one of the earliest Chapters to have been revealed at Mecca. The preceding Surah had opened with the Divine command to the Holy Prophet to recite the Qur'an and preach and proclaim its Message to the world. The present Surah deals with the high status, dignity and excellence of the Qur'an itself which is declared in the opening verse to have been revealed in Lailat al-Qadr, i.e., the Night of Decree (or Dignity). This Night of Decree or Destiny has been described elsewhere in the Qur'an, as the "Blessed Night" (44:4). The Surah has only five little verses, excluding the Bismillah and yet its meaning and contents are of very deep spiritual significance.
3394. Qadr means worth; sufficiency; dignity; decree; destiny; power (Lane). In view of the different meanings of Qadr and Lailah the verse may be interpreted as follows: The Qur'an has been revealed in a night which had been specifically set apart for the manifestation of special Divine powers; or in a night which is equal in worth to all the other nights put together, or in a night of dignity, majesty and honour; or, in a night of sufficiency, i.e., the Qur'an fully meets all moral and spiritual human needs and requirements. Or, the meaning is that God has revealed it in the Night of Decree or Destiny, i.e., the Qur'an was revealed at a time when man's destiny was decreed, the future pattern of the universe was settled, and the right principles of guidance for humanity were laid down for all time to come. The time of the appearance of a great Divine Reformer is also called Lailat al-Qadr because at that time sin and vice hold widespread sway and the powers of darkness reign supreme. It has also been taken to mean the particular night among the odd nights in the last ten days of Ramadan when the Qur'an first began to be revealed. Or, it may signify the whole period of 23 years of the Holy Prophet's ministry when the Qur'an gradually was being revealed.
3396. Alf (a thousand), being the highest number of count in Arabic, signifies a number beyond count, and the verse means that the Night of Decree or Destiny is better than countless number of months, i.e., the period of the Holy Prophet is infinitely better than and superior to all other periods put together. The verse embodies an illusion to the appearance of Divine Reformers among the Muslim when the latter would stand in need of them. One thousand months roughly make one century and the Holy Prophet is reported to have said that God will continue to raise from among His followers, at the head of every century, a Divine Reformer who would regenerate Islam and give it a new life and new vigour (Majah).
3397. Al-Ruh here signifies a new spirit, awakening, zeal or determination. In the Night of Decree the angels of God descend to help the Divine Messenger or Reformer to promote and further the cause of Truth and his followers are inspired with a new life, and a new awakening to spread and propagate the Divine Message.
3398. In the time of a Prophet or Divine Reformer a peculiar kind of mental peace descends upon the believers amidst hardships and privations. The heavenly happiness, which inspires them at that time, transcends all material and sensuous joys.