Laylat al-Qadr (Night of Power) is one of the holiest times in the life of Muslim Jerusalem. In normal times, hundreds of thousands of Muslims stream from all parts of Palestine and Israel to the Haram al-Sharif (the Noble Sanctuary, a spacious compound in the Old City that includes the Dome of the Rock and the al-Aqsa Mosque), to mark this holy night.
The night commemorates the first revelation of the Quran to Islam’s prophet, Muhammad. Coming toward the end of Ramadan, the month of fasting observed annually, Muslims in the Holy Land wait with anticipation for this night and aspire to spend it in prayer, study and community activity in the sacred compound. Laylat al-Qadr is described in the ninety-seventh chapter of the Quran as “better than a thousand months.” The Quran continues, “The angels and the spirit descend therein by the leave of their Lord with every command; peace it is until the break of dawn.” However, this year, when Laylat al-Qadr fell on May 8, 2021, there was no peace and the dreams of many were shattered by the renewed outbreak of violence that has engulfed much of Israel and Palestine.
Although outbreaks of violence do not surprise those who live at the heart of the untreated wound that is Israel-Palestine, this time the extent and intensity of the violence was remarkable.