I’tikaf in Ramadan
I’tikaf means staying in the mosque for a specific purpose, which is to worship Allaah. It is prescribed in Islam and is mustahabb (recommended) according to the consensus of the scholars. Imam Ahmad said, as was narrated from him by Abu Daawood: “I have not heard from any of the scholars that it is anything other than Sunnah.
Az-Zuhri said: “How strange the Muslims are! They have given up I’tikaf, despite the fact that the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, never abandoned this practice from the time he came to Madinah until his death.”
The benefits of I’tikaf
There are many hidden benefits in the acts of worship and much wisdom behind them. The basis of all deeds is the heart, as the Messenger of Allaah, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, said:“In the body there is an organ which if it is sound, the entire body will be sound, and if it is corrupt, the entire body will be corrupt. That organ is the heart.” (Al-Bukhaari and Muslim)
What corrupts the heart most is distractions and preoccupations – such as food, drink, sex, talking too much, sleeping too much and socializing too much, and other distractions – which divert people from turning to Allaah and cause the heart to be unfocused and unable to concentrate on worshipping Allaah. So Allaah has prescribed acts of worship, such as fasting, to protect the heart from the negative effects of these distractions. Fasting deprives a person of food and drink and sex during the day, and this denial of excessive enjoyments is reflected in the heart, which gains more strength for seeking Allaah and frees it from the chains of these distractions which take a person from thinking of the Hereafter by occupying him with worldly concerns.
|Just as fasting is a shield which protects the heart from the influences of physical excessive indulgence in food, drink and sex, so I’tikaf offers an immense hidden benefit, which is protection from the effects of excessive socializing. For people may take socializing to extremes, until it has a similar effect on a person to the effects of over-eating.
I’tikaf also offers protection from the evil consequences of talking too much, because a person usually does I’tikaf on his own, turning to Allaah by praying Qiyaam al-Layl, reading Quran, making Dhikr, reciting du’aa, and so on.
It also offers protection from sleeping too much, because when a person makes I’tikaf in the mosque, he devotes his time to drawing closer to Allaah by doing different kinds of acts of worship; he does not stay in the mosque to sleep.
Undoubtedly a person’s success in freeing himself from socializing, talking and sleeping too much will help him to make his heart turn towards Allaah, and will protect him from the opposite.
The connection between fasting and I’tikaf
No doubt when a person has all the means of purifying his heart by keeping away from all the things that can distract him from worship, this will be more effective in helping him to turn towards Allaah with devotion and humility. Hence the Salaf regarded it as mustahabb to combine fasting and I’tikaf. Imam Ibn al-Qayyim said: “It was not reported that the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, ever did I’tikaf when he was not fasting. Indeed, ‘Aa’ishah, may Allaah be pleased with her, said: ‘There is no I’tikaf except with fasting.’” (Abu Daawood(
Allaah did not mention I’tikaf except in conjunction with fasting, and the Messenger of Allaah, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, did not do I’tikaf except in conjunction with fasting.
The view that fasting is a condition of I’tikaf was narrated from Ibn ‘Umar and Ibn ‘Abbas. It was also the view of Malik, al-Awza’i and Abu Haneefah, and different opinions were narrated from Ahmad and Al-Shaafi’ee.
With regard to the words of Ibn al-Qayyim, “It was not reported that the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, ever did I’tikaf when he was not fasting”, there is some room for debate. It was reported that the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, did I’tikaf in Shawwaal (Al-Bukhaari and Muslim), but it was not proven that he was fasting on these days when he did I’tikaf.
The most correct view is that fasting is mustahabb for the one who does I’tikaf, but it is not a condition of his I’tikaf being valid.
I`tikaf is generally recommended at all times, for both men and women, as defined above for each. It is especially recommended in Ramadan, and even more so in the last ten nights, especially the odd ones.
2. Communal Sunna
It is a strongly emphasized communal sunna for at least some people in each community to make i`tikaf for the entire last 10 days of Ramadan, as this was from the communal guidance and practice of the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace). It is blameworthy upon the community as a whole not to arrange and implement this.
This is when one vows to make i`tikaf. Its minimum is an entire day (and night), and one must fast with it.
Two Important Conditions
Two important conditions for i`tikaf are:
a) that one intend it (and one should intend the general i`tikaf [spiritual retreat] every time one enters a mosque);
b) that one not be in a state of major ritual impurity (i.e. anything necessitating ghusl).
Things permitted during I`tikaf
Everything normally permissible, besides sexual relations, is permitted during i`tikaf, such as eating, drinking, and talk.
What to do during i`tikaf
One should busy oneself with the beneficial as much as one meaningfully can, such as:
1. Voluntary prayer,
2. Reciting the Book of Allah, with reflection, contemplation, and passion,
3. Remembrance of Allah, in all its forms,
4. Gaining beneficial knowledge, and listening to inspiring religious discourses (which is why it is wise to make i`tikaf in a mosque with people of learning, and good company to inspire one towards the good).
One should avoid simply wasting time in things bereft of benefit, let alone the haram, though there is nothing wrong in taking ‘breaks’ in which one relaxes with others, as a means of being able to return to one’s worship with vigor and devotion.
How does one’s i`tikaf end?
When one leaves the mosque or (for women) place of prayer, one’s i`tikaf ends.
During an extended i`tikaf (such as the communal sunna one), one may leave the mosque:
1. For a necessary ghusl.
2. To perform wudu (if such facilities are not found within the mosque),
3. To use the toilet.
Leaving for other reasons will end the i`tikaf.
I`tikaf for Women at Home
It is recommended for women to do i`tikaf (spiritual retreat) in a specific place in their house, a quiet room, for example, whenever they have the time and are able to do so without neglecting their family duties and other responsibilities.
Even when in one’s monthly period, it is recommended in the Hanafi school to sit in a designated place of prayer (musalla) at home, after having made wudu, and make dhikr for the time it takes to pray.
It is recommended for women to designate a place in their houses as their ‘masjid’. They can do i`tikaf there at any time, even for a brief period of time, [Radd al-Muhtar] and attain the great rewards mentioned in the hadiths for i`tikaf (as long as they fulfill their other worldly and religious duties, as is the case for men).
The full communal sunna i`tikaf is for the entire ten days (in the mosque, for men). This is not expected of those working or housewives, for that matter. If one is able to arrange things, and one’s husband agrees, one may perform i`tikaf for the entire 10 days.
However, the fiqh principle is that, “If something cannot be done completely, it should not be left completely.”
Thus, whenever free of pressing responsibilities, women should go to their place of worship, intending i`tikaf (spiritual retreat), even if only for a short amount of time, and keep themselves busy as much as possible in worship.
When she has to do something important, such as go to the kitchen or go shopping or visit a sick neighbor, she can leave her i`tikaf and return when able.
Such an i`tikaf is valid (and recommended) even outside Ramadan for women. In fact, it is best for them to intend i`tikaf every time they enter their place of worship (musalla) even for their daily prayers.
It is not valid for men to do i`tikaf in other than a mosque. [Durr]
The Prophet (Allah bless him & give him peace) said, “Whoever stands the nights of Ramadan in prayer out of faith and seeking reward shall have their previous sins forgiven.” [Bukhari & Muslim]
May Allah give us success to follow the guidance of His Beloved (S.A.W).Ameen!!