Question: "What is al-Qadr in Islam?"
Answer: The Islamic term al-Qadr is most often associated with Laylat al-Qadr, believed to be the evening Muhammad first received a revelation from Allah. Alternatively, the terms qadr and qadar refer to the Islamic version of predestination.
Laylat al-Qadr: Night of the Decree
According to Islamic belief, Muhammad began to receive the words of the Qur’an sometime in the last ten days of the month of Ramadan in AD 610. Muslims believe the recording of the Qur’an came through revelations brought from Allah by the angel Jibril (Gabriel). Within the Islamic community, there is no explicitly agreed-upon date for this event. The first revelations marked the beginning of a 23-year period of recitation by Muhammad, inspiring Muslims to set aside as holy the month of Ramadan.
The evening Allah sent the first decree to Muhammad is called Laylat al-Qadr, meaning “Night of Power” or “Night of the Decree.” The Qur’an’s 97th chapter is given the title al-Qadr in reference to this content and the use of the phrase in the chapter’s first verse.
Islamic tradition teaches that prayers are especially potent on Laylat al-Qadr. Since it is the “Night of the Decree,” it is believed this is when Allah issues orders for all of creation for the following year. These commands are carried by angels throughout the world. According to the Qur’an, Laylat al-Qadr is “better than a thousand months”; that is, acts of worship done on Laylat al-Qadr are rewarded as much as 1,000 times more than the same acts done on other dates.
The same root word found in references to Laylat al-Qadr forms the Islamic term for their version of predestination: qadar. As is the case in Christianity, Muslim views on predestination cover a spectrum from hard determinism to open theism. To the confusion of non-Arabic speakers, Muslims may differentiate between qadr, specifically meaning what Allah has willed via his power, and qadar in the more general sense of human destiny.
In principle, most sects of Islam view qadr/qadar/predestination as simple foreknowledge: Allah knows all that will occur, without interfering with free will. In practice, however, Islamic theology heavily implies that Allah used something akin to double predestination. Also, in practice, Muslims lean toward a belief that the broad strokes of a person’s life are purposefully arranged by the deliberate decisions of Allah.