If people are tired of their day to day life or boredom occupies them or fed up of worldly life or want to keep themselves away from family burdens and responsibilities or hurt and bitten by injustice or their nature demand them to take lonely places and meditate, they flee to the quiet places to have peace and tranquility. Sometimes their flight takes them to the jungles and mountains and makes them sages or monks. Sometimes their abodes become temples and churches in search of peace. In this way they keep themselves away from society and human beings. Actually such people deceive themselves; they gain neither pleasure of life nor can please their Lord instead they waste their lives. The reason is their Lord did not create them to be away from the society and worship Him by sitting in one place day and night leaving their duties and obligations.
No doubt the Lord of the Universe created human beings for worship but He gave them a perfect system of worship, the system has prayers at prescribed times and other acts of worship according to the needs and situations. If they follow the way He showed, even the struggle in fulfillment of their personal needs will become worship. In this way life’s every moment become worship and one can gain the rewards of continuous worship.
Man is gregarious by nature. He cannot live in isolation permanently. To flourish fully he must live in society but every human being like to spend some time in serenity, peace and calmness, in other words he wants to meditate, wants to spend few moments with himself and his creator. So Allah the Creator provided him the chance to do so. He knows the nature of human beings and provided the facilities for isolation in the month of Ramadan that is called I’tikaf.
Let’s know what I’tikaf is and how it should be performed.
Allah says in the Qur’an:
“What are these images to which you are devoted (akifoon)?”
I’tikaf is an Arabic word it means to stick to something whether good or bad. It also means seclusion, retreat or Withdrawal for prayer, study and meditation.
It means staying in the mosque with the intention of becoming closer to Allah.
Prophet (SAWS) would perform I’tikaf for ten days every Ramadan. In the year that He died, he performed it for twenty days. (al-Bukhari, Abu Dawud, and ibn-Majah)
The Prophet’s companions and wives performed i’tikaf with him and continued to do so after his death.
There are two types of I’tikaf.
1) Sunnah 2) Obligatory.
The Sunnah I’tikaf is that which the Muslim performs to get closer to Allah by following the actions of the Prophet(peace be upon him), especially during the last ten days of Ramadan.
The obligatory I’tikaf is that which the person makes obligatory upon himself.
(This may be done, for example: By an oath: ‘For Allah I must make i’tikaf,’ or by a conditional oath: ‘If Allah cures me, I shall make i’tikaf)
In Sahih al- Bukhari it is reported that the Prophet, upon whom be peace, said: “Whoever makes an oath to obey Allah, should be obedient to Him. “Umar (RA) said: “O Messenger of Allah, I made an oath to perform i’tikaf one night in the mosque at Makkah. “The Prophet, upon whom be peace, said: “Fulfill your oath”.
The length of i’tikaf: The obligatory i’tikaf is to be as long as the oath states it to be. If one makes an oath to make i’tikaf for one day or more, he is to fulfill that length of time.
The Sunnah or preferred i’tikaf has no specific time limit. It can be fulfilled by staying in the mosque with the intention of making i’tikaf for a long or short time. The reward will be according to how long one stays in the mosque and then returns.
One who is performing the non-obligatory i’tikaf may end his i’tikaf at any time. Even if it is before the period he intended to stay.
The conditions for i’tikaf:
1. Islam and sanity, in case of women, cleanliness from menstruation and postnatal bleeding.
Cleanliness from sexual defilement is required from all.
(I’tikaf is not acceptable from an unbeliever, a non-discerning child, a sexually defiled person, a menstruating woman or with post- childbirth bleeding)
2. A person in retreat shall not depart from his willed retreat, except for a need, for a doctor, or for washing and cleanliness.
3. Intention of becoming closer to Allah is obligatory.
The Prophet said, “Deeds are judged by the intent.”
If the one who retreats leaves the mosque, he must renew the intention.
The person making itikaf may make the call to prayer if the place from where the call is made is either the door of the mosque or its interior courtyard. He may also go to the roof of the mosque as all of that is considered part of the mosque. If the place for the call to prayer is outside of the mosque, and the Mutakif (the person who is retreat) makes the call, he will void his itikaf.
Beginning and Ending of I’tikaf: Voluntary i’tikaf does not have any specific time period. Whenever a person enters the mosque and makes the intention of becoming closer to Allah by staying there, he will be performing itikaf .
During the last ten days of Ramadan, he should enter the mosque before the sun has completely set and may leave after the sun has completely set at the end of the month- regardless of whether it is Ramadan or otherwise.”
The preferable acts for the person who is making i’tikaf are:
To perform supererogatory acts of worship and to occupy himself with prayers, reciting the Qur’an, glorifying and praising Allah, extolling His oneness and His greatness, asking His forgiveness, sending salutations on the Prophet, upon whom be peace, and supplicating Allah that is, all actions that bring one closer to Allah. Included among these actions is studying and reading books of tafsir and Hadith, books on the lives of the Prophets, upon whom be peace, books of fiqh, and so on. It is also preferred to set up a small tent in the courtyard of the mosque as the Prophet did.
It is disliked for one to engage himself in affairs that do not concern him.
Fasting while performing I’tikaf: It is good for the person performing I’tikaf to fast but not obligatory to do so.
Permissible Acts for the Mu’takif:
1. The person may leave his place of I’tikaf to bid farewell to his wife.
2. Combing and cutting hair, clipping nails, cleaning one’s body, washing clothes, wearing nice clothes or wearing perfume are all permissible.
3. The person may go out for some need that he must perform.
(Like answering the natural calls, for vomiting, for eating and drinking if he does not have any one to bring him his food, for anything that he must do but cannot do in the mosque, he can leave and such acts will not void his I’tikaf, even if they take a long time.
4. The person may eat, drink, and sleep in the mosque, and he should also keep it clean. He may make contracts for marriage, buying, selling and so on.
Actions that nullify the Itikaf:
If a person performs one of the following acts, his I’tikaf will be nullified:
(1) Intentionally leaving the mosque without any need to do so, even if it is for just a short time.
(2) Abandoning Islam, this would nullify all acts of worship.
(3) Losing one’s reason due to insanity or the onset of menstruation or post child bleeding.
(4) Sexual intercourse.
Making up I’tikaf:
If an individual intends to perform a voluntary i’tikaf and then ends it before he completes it, he should make up that I’tikaf later.
Making a vow to perform I’tikaf in a Specific Mosque:
If someone makes a vow to perform I’tikaf in the Masjid al-Haram (in Makkah), the Prophet’s Mosque (in Madinah), or in the Aqsa Mosque (in Jerusalem) he is to fulfill his vow.
If someone vows to perform I’tikaf in another mosque, it is not obligatory on him to fulfill it and he may perform that I’tikaf in any mosque, for Allah did not specify any particular place for His worship.
The Purpose of Retreat, In particular, the last ten days of Ramadan.
There is wisdom in God’s wish to conceal the precise timing of the night of Al-Qadr, and in not specifying which particular night is the night of al-Qadr. The purpose is to accord equal enhancements to all the latter ten days of Ramadan, in accordance with a saying of the Prophet upon whom be peace: “Seek it in the latter ten days of Ramadan.”
1. To seek to ascertain the night of al-Qadr which Allah, the Most High has described as (the night of al-Qadr is better than a thousand months.
i.e. worshipping Allah in that night is better than worshipping Him a thousand months, i.e. 83 years and 4 months). And the Prophet said: “He who stays up the night of al-Qadr out of deep faith and fear of God, God shall forgive him all his former sins” Bukhari and Muslim)
2. To devote full time to the worship of God, and to distance oneself from engaging in the affairs of this temporary world, and in order to enliven the houses of God, with remembrance and obedience to God,
In these blessed days.
On the authority of ‘Aisha, May God be pleased with her, she said,
“The Prophet, if the ten latter days ushered he urged us to stay up the nights, wake up his household, and put on the garment.”
The happy one is he whom God has guided to stay up the night of al-Qadr, to be engaged in reciting remembrances of God, and obedience to Him. And the accursed is he whom Satan has precluded him from benefitting from the blessings of worship during it. For a person does not know whether he would be alive to receive a coming Ramadan, or would be amongst the dead.
May Allah lead us to follow his guidance.