When were Special Religious Nights called "Candle Nights" First Celebrated?Nebi Bozkurt, PhD
The Prophet Muhammad's (pbuh) birthday, Raghaib, Mi‘raj, The Night of Salvation (Bara'a) and the Night of Power are special nights celebrated and considered to be holy by Muslims. Because these nights were first celebrated during the reign of the Ottoman sultan, Selim II (1566-1574), by illuminating the mosques with candles on the minarets, these nights were called "candle nights." Thedates of celebration for these nights were determined in this way according to the Lunar Calendar: the Prophet's birthday on the 12th of Rabi'al-awwal, Raghaib on the first Friday night of Rajab, Mi‘raj on the 27th night of the same month, Bara'a on the 15th night of the month of Shaban, and the Night of Power on the 27th night of Ramadan. The dates mentioned always belong to the next day following that night.
Although some of them are classified as weak or fabricated, the reports related about the virtues of the month of Rajab make it clear that the Prophet gave a distinct importance to this month. In time Muslims favored the first Friday of the three holy months and began to celebrate it.
The other night celebrated in the month of Rajab is Mi‘raj. According to the report of Abdullah ibn Masud, five times of prayer was made mandatory for this night and the Prophet gave the good tidings that as long as the ummah does not ascribe partners to Allah, He would forgive their sins. (Muslim, Faith 279)
Bara'a night gets its name from Allah's forgiveness of sinners. It is reported that the Prophet encouraged Muslims to keep busy with worship on this night and to fast during the day.
The most important holy night Muslims celebrate is the Night of Power. The surah carrying the same name (97/23) states that this night on which the Qur'an began to be revealed is better than a thousand months. Although there are different views regarding the time of the Night of Power, the view that it falls on the 27th of Ramadan is well-accepted.
These five "candle nights" are perceived in various ways by different Muslims societies, like the holiness of Raghaib and Bara'a not being definite, and sound knowledge in sources regarding what worship should be made was not found. Undoubtedly, the Prophet's birthday is an important event. Mi‘raj is fixed both with verses and historical records. However, there are no references to the effect that these events were celebrated during the time of the Prophet or the Companions. The verse of the same name which explains the good qualities of the Night of Power emphasizes the Qur'anic revelation and, consequently, the birth of Islam. In this respect, among the five "candle nights' the Night of Power should be given the most importance.
It is natural that Muslims participate in some activities other than Friday and the religious holidays to commemorate some religious-historical events and to refresh their enthusiasm. However, performing some forms of worship based on unsound or fake narrations cannot be sanctioned. Religious life is a mental and emotional inclination requiring continuity and determination. Living a religious life and repeating certain behavior several days or nights a year do not produce the worldly and other-worldly results of being religious. When looked at from this respect, activities made on the occasion of "candle nights" are not a command or recommendation of Islam, but traditions of various Muslim societies.