Is Laylatul Qadr on the 27th night of Ramadan? Are there signs to look for?

Short Answer

No. The Prophet did not tell us exactly what night it is, so we should strive on the last ten nights like he did. One Companion, Ubayy ibn Ka`b insisted that it is on the 27th because he thought he saw one of the signs where the Prophet had hinted about it, but other Companions strongly criticized his overconfidence and said it cannot be known for sure.

What the Qur’an Said

“We sent this ˹Quran˺ down on the Night of Glory. What will make you realize what the Night of Glory is? The Night of Glory is better than a thousand months. That night the angels and the ˹holy˺ spirit descend, by the permission of their Lord, for every ˹decreed˺ matter. It is all peace until the break of dawn.” (97:1-5)

What the Prophet Said

“Look for Laylat ul-Qadr in the last ten nights of Ramadan.” (Sahih Muslim #1169)

“Look for Laylat ul-Qadr in the odd nights of the last ten nights of Ramadan.” (Bukhari #2017; Muslim #1169)

Aishah said about the Prophet, “When the last ten came (of Ramadan), he would stay up at night (for worship), wake up his family (and encourage them to worship more), and tighten his belt (put in extra effort and avoid intimacy).” (Bukhari #2024, Muslim #1174)

“Whoever stays up and prays on Laylat ul-Qadr with faith (believing in the reward) and hope of reward (by worshipping), his previous sins will be forgiven.” (Bukhari #1901; Muslim #760)

Ubadah ibn us-Samit said that the Messenger of Allah came out with the news of Laylat ul-Qadr (to tell people about what day it is), but two men among the Muslims started arguing. He said: “I came out to tell you about Laylat ul-Qadr, but so and so and so and so started arguing, so (that knowledge) was taken away. Perhaps that will be better for you. So seek it on the (twenty-) seventh and the (twenty-) ninth and the (twenty-) fifth.” (Bukhari #49)

What the Scholars Said

Ibn Hajar Al-Asqalani mentions forty different views of scholars on what the exact night is then concludes: “The words of Imam al-Bukhari (in his chapter title) “Seeking Laylat ul-Qadr among the odd numbered nights of the last ten nights (of Ramadan)” indicate that it is most likely that Laylat ul-Qadr cannot be in any month other than Ramadan, and is in the last ten nights thereof, and is one of the odd-numbered nights, but not on any particular night. This is what is indicated by a number of the reports (hadiths) narrated about it.” (Fath ul-Bari 4:260)

Ibn Hajr Al-Asqalani: “The scholars said: The reason why Laylat ul-Qadar has been concealed is so that people will strive to seek it, because if its timing was known, they would limit their efforts to that night only as we have explained previously about the time on Friday (when prayers are answered).” (Fath ul-Bari 4:266)

Imam an-Nawawi said: “The statement of Ubayy ibn Ka‘b says that he used to swear it was the night of the twenty-seventh, but this is just one of several opinions about it. Most of the scholars say it is an unknown night among the last ten nights of Ramadan, and it is most likely to be on an odd-numbered night, and the most likely night is the night of the twenty-seventh or the twenty-third or the twenty-first. Most of them are of the view that it is a specific night that does not move. However, some scholars said that it does move, so in one year it may be the night of the twenty-seventh, and in another year it may be the night of the twenty-third, and in another year it may be the night of the twenty-first, or some other night, and this is more likely to be correct. In this way we may reconcile among the different hadiths.” (Sharh Sahih Muslim, 6:43)

Advice

The reason why the night was not specified and was “hidden” is so people are encouraged to strive to do more throughout the last ten nights and not take a chance that it is just one specific night. There is much reward in Ramadan and the other nights should not be neglected, as is common for some people to do.
There are many narrations from the Prophet about laylat ul-qadr which appear to give contradictory information. This causes lots of confusion for people who read these reports individually. Hadiths, even if highly authentic, should not be read in isolation, rather, all the hadiths on the same subject should be studied together. This is done by expert scholars and their conclusion is that the general principle is to strive in the last ten nights of Ramadan, rather than trying to isolate one statement attributed to the Prophet over another one attributed to him, without knowing the full context in which it was said, interpreted by the different Companions, etc. There is a significant level of ambiguity in the hadiths about laylal ul-qadr so the non-scholar should not try to “play detective” by thinking they can piece together the whole story with 100% certainty, since expert-scholars have not even been able to do that. People should be content with knowing what to do on these nights rather than getting frustrating about solving the puzzle of reconciling authenticated reports.

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Shaykh Mustafa Umar