[Yusufali 97:1] We have indeed revealed this (Message) in the Night of Power:
[Yusufali 97:2] And what will explain to thee what the night of power is?
[Yusufali 97:3] The Night of Power is better than a thousand months.
[Yusufali 97:4] Therein come down the angels and the Spirit by Allah's permission, on every errand:
[Yusufali 97:5] Peace!...This until the rise of morn!
97:1-5 (Listen to Recitation by Husain Saifuddin DM)
On Laylatul Qadr, I spent awake engaged in prayer. We arrived at the masjid for maghrib prayer around 6:30pm and did not leave until 5:00am, after a sehri feast. According to the Fatimid calendar and various hadith, we interpret the night of Power as occurring on the 23rd of Ramadan, the climax of an increasingly auspicious sequence of nights (the 19th and the 21st).
The logistics of preparing for the night are numerous. We buy new toys and coloring books for the kids, and make a snack run at the grocery so everyone in the family has a little bag of goodies to munch on all night long (and for once, any craving for particular candies are indulged, regardless of nutritional merit). New clothes are bought in advance for the night, ridahs for the ladies and perrin (a kind of kurta that reaches the ankles, and with cloth buttons) for the men. The clothes are specially washed (made namazi), starched (for the men) and imbued with bukhoor (incense). During the day, everyone takes a nap in the late afternoon to ensure adequate rest.
Arriving at the masjid, rows of folded masallahs are already in place, and with space constraints it is not uncommon for two or even three people to share. Maghrib prayers are offered, and the fast is broken with a communal meal. After that, for a few hours there is a downtime in which many people return home to take a nap or change clothing, whereas others (especially those who have traveled a longer distance) simply stay at the masjid and recite Qur'an. As the time of Isha namaz approaches the masjid gradually fills and fills until a half hour before, the masjid is teeming with people and their sociable chatter. Then, the imam arrives for Isha and the night begins in earnest.
Between Isha and Nisful Layl, there are numerous short prayers offered on behalf of the various Ahlul Bayt and other luminaries, notably including Fatema Zahra AS, the daughter of the Prophet, Ali ibn Talib AS, and of course the Prophet himself. There are beautiful duas that were written centuries ago by Ali Zayn al-Abedin (SA), son of Imam Husain who was martyred at Karbala. After nisful layl there is also a recitation of munajaat, an intimate poetic conversation with Allah written anew each year by the Dai ul Mutlaq of the community, Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin TUS. The night concludes with the shafa, witr and julus prayers, and then the devout break ranks to eat and then go home - and collapse into bed for whatever rest they can scrounge until the demands of work or school the next day.
This night was two nights ago and I can still feel the strain on my body - and the nourishment of my soul. After Ramadan ends it will be just a memory, but Allah's grace is such that we are given this night every year in which to renew.