by Shaykh Ali Al Timimi
(May Allah SWT have mercy on Him and ease His suffering, Ameen)
My dear brothers and sisters! It is reported in as-Sahihayn that ‘A’isha – may Allah be pleased with her – informs that when the last ten nights began Allah’s Messenger (sallallahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) would ‘tighten his izar’, keep awake during the night, and awaken his family. In Muslim’s report she said that Allah’s Messenger (sallallahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) would exert himself during the last nights to a greater extent than at any other time.
The Prophet (sallallahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) would emphasize the last ten nights of Ramadan what he would not emphasize at any other time during the month by performing specific acts that he would not perform at any other time during the month. The scholars who have studied the Prophet’s Sunnah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) have identified six specific acts that he would do unlike the other nights of Ramadan:
He would keep awake during the night.
This could imply that he would keep awake throughout the whole night. For it is reported in al-Musnad upon ‘A’isha that the Prophet (sallallahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) would combine the [first] twenty nights [of Ramadan] with prayer and sleep, but if the [final] ten nights began he would ‘pull up and tighten his izar.’
Or this could imply that he would keep awake most of the night. Some of the earliest scholars have stated whoever keeps awake half the night, has kept awake all the night.
He would awaken his family for prayer.
Abu Dharr – may Allah be pleased with her – that Prophet (sallallahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) led them in [night] prayer during the night of the twenty-third, the twenty-fifth, and the twenty-seventh.
It is mentioned that he called his family and his women [to pray] during the night of the twenty-seventh in particular.
This shows that it is stressed to awaken them during the more emphasized odd nights which laylatul-qadr is sought.
Sufyan ath-Thawri would say, “It is so beloved to me if the last ten nights begin for someone to pray tahajjud and exert oneself and awaken one’s wife and children to pray if they can endure that.”
He would ‘tighten his izar.’
This Arabic expression means he would stay away from his wives. It is reported that he would not return to his bed until Ramadan ended. Anas reports he would roll up his bed and stay away from his wives.
The Prophet (sallallahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) would perform ‘itikaf during the last ten nights. It is forbidden for the one performing ‘itikaf to have sexual relations. The wisdom behind this is that while Allah permitted during the month of Ramadan sexual relations during the night, it was legislated that during the last ten nights for those seeking layatul-qadr to avoid sexual relations so that they might not miss it. For this reason those engaged in ‘itikaf are prohibited from sexual relations.
He would delay his breaking of his fast until his predawn meal.
It is reported upon ‘A’isha and Anas that he the Prophet (sallallahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) would delay his dinner until sahur. This is because dhikr for those who know Allah suffices them from food and drink.
He would wash himself between maghrib and ‘isha’.
Ibn Abi ‘Asim reports that ‘A’isha has reported this. Ibn Jarir says the earliest Muslims used to like to wash every night of the last ten. Some of them would wash and perfume themselves. Hammad ibn Salama said that Thabit and Humaid would wear their best clothes and perfume themselves and perfume the mosque during those nights which one would expect laylatul-qadr.
So it is preferable during these last ten nights, and especially those which one expects laylatul-qadr, to beautify oneself by cleaning oneself, wearing perfume and one’s best clothes. One does not truly beautify oneself outwardly unless one beautifies oneself inwardly by repentance and remorse. For outer beauty with inner ugliness is worthless.
He would perform ‘itikaf.
‘A’isha said that the Prophet (sallallahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) used to engage in ‘itikaf during the last ten nights of Ramadan till Allah took him, and then his wives followed this practice after his death. This reported by al-Bukhari and Muslim.
Seclusion for worship is legislated in the masajid so that neither the congregational nor the jumu’a prayers are missed. To seek seclusion elsewhere is a reprehensible innovation.
My brothers and sisters! We have been commanded to seek to perform as many good deeds, be they obligatory or just praiseworthy. At the same time, we are ordered to avoid as many evil or reprehensible deeds. Those whom Allah has decreed eternal happiness in the Hereafter will find performance of good deeds and avoidance of evil deeds easy for them, while those whom Allah has decreed eternal sorrow in the Hereafter will find themselves unable to accomplish any good deeds nor avoid any evil deeds.
With that we should always remember that what we ultimately seek is that our deeds are accepted, not just mere physical exertion of our bodies. For as the earliest Muslims would say, “How many of those who are awake in prayer are denied Allah’s mercy (mahrum), while those who are asleep are shown it (marhum)?”
 I.e., al-Bukhari and Muslim.
 In other words not have sexual relations.
 Women are not allowed to perfume themselves when going out in public.