I’tikaf

Salam Alaykum,Dear brothers and sisters,

The last 10 days of Ramadan has come. There is a great sunnah called: I’tikaf. 

Please remember us in your dua’as. 

Objects and Advantages of I’tikaf

The reward of “Itikaf is great. The mere fact that the Messenger of Allah (saw) always performed it is sufficient to explain the virtues that are attached to it. The example of the one that resides in the, masjid in I’tikaf is like the person who, having gone to a high personage to appeal for his needs, remains there until it is granted, He thus says to Allah: “0 Allah! I have placed my humble request before You and have faith in Your generosity; and I shall not move from here until my request is granted by You,” When someone comes begging at the door and then refuses to leave until his request is granted, it is certain that even the most selfish person will eventually accede to one’s request; and how much more Merciful is Allah.

In every moment of I’tikaf one remains in lbadah (worship), even when asleep, one is still in His service, striving for nearness to Him. Allah says, according to a hadith, 

“Whoever draws near to Me an arms length, then I draw nearer to him two arm lengths; and whoever draws nearer to Me by walking, I draw nearer to him by running.”

It is also deduced from the various narrations that one of the major objects of I’tikaf during Ramadan is to search for Laylatul Qadr (the Night of Power), What better manner can there be than to remain in ibadah at all times, whether one is awake or asleep, to obtain the reward of 1,000 months (over 83 years) of worship, Furthermore, in I’tikaf one is free from all daily tasks and thus has all the time to devote to dhikrullah (remembrance of Allah) and meditation.

Virtues of I’tikaf

Ibn ‘Abbas relates that the Messenger of Allah (saw) said: “The person performing I’tikaf remains free from sins and he is indeed given the same reward as all those who do righteous deeds (in spite of his not having done those deeds as a result of having been secluded in the masjid).”

Conditions of I’tikaf

The following are conditions for performance of I’tikaf: 

1. to be a Muslim. 
2. To be sane, 
3. To be clean from major impurity, monthly menses, and bleeding of childbirth, 
4. To perform I’tikaf in a masjid (for males only), 
5. To form the niyyah (intention) for I’tikaf.
6. To fast for wajib and sunnah I’tikaf (discussed below). 

Note: Women may observe I’tikaf in the home. It is also not necessary to have reached the age of puberty to observe I’tikaf; therefore an intelligent child (male or female) may observe I’tikaf.

Types of I’tikaf

There are three types of I’tikaf: 

1. Wajib, 
2. Sunnah, 
3. Nafl.

1. Wajib I’tikaf: I’tikaf becomes compulsory (wajib) when a person makes it obligatory upon himself. For instance, when a person makes a vow of thanks-giving to Allah that if Allah fulfills a certain wish of his, he will perform so many … days of I’tikaf. In this case, the moment his wish is fulfilled, I’tikaf becomes compulsory. Or, a person may merely make an unconditional vow whereby he makes I’tikaf compulsory upon himself for a certain number of days. This becomes a duty on him from that moment onwards.

A wajib I’tikaf cannot be for less than one day and one night and has to be performed while fasting, irrespective of whether the fast is specifically for this purpose or not. If the niyyah is for several days then the same number of nights will also have to be spent in I’tikaf. The I’tikaf will thus begin before sunset and terminate at sunset after the avowed number of days has been completed. The night proceeds the day in Islamic reckoning. The intention for this type of I’tikaf must be pronounced, mere mental niyyah is not sufficient.

2. Sunnah I’tikaf: This I’tikaf was observed by Rasulullah (PBUH) in every year of his stay at Madinah Munawwarah. This I’tikaf means to seclude oneself inside the masjid for the last ten days of Ramadan. This I’tikaf is Sunnatul-mu’akkadah ‘alal-kifayah: that is, if a few persons from the locality observe it, the rest will be exempted. If no one observes it then all the Muslims of that area will be sinful in neglecting this sunnah. The niyyah for Sunnah I’tikaf is that a firm intention should be made for this purpose before the sun sets on the 20th of Ramadan, in the masjid that is chosen for the I’tikaf. It terminates at sunset if the crescent is sighted on the 29th or on the 30th of Ramadan. There is no prescribed salah to be performed for this purpose. It is noteworthy that generally no Nafl salah should be performed after ‘Asr salah until Maghrib.

3. Nafl l’tikaf: There is no special time or specific number of days for Nafl l’tikaf. A person may form the niyyah for any number of days at any time of the year, even for his whole life. While Imam Abu Hanifah ® states that it cannot be for less than a full day, Imam Muhammad ® states that there is no limit as to the minimum period of time. It could even be for just a few seconds. The fatwa is on this latter view. There is no fast associated with this type of I’tikaf. .It is desirable for anyone entering a masjid to make the niyyah for I’tikaf as long as he will remain in the masjid. So, while he is in ‘ibadah (worship), he also gains the reward of I’tikaf.

It is advisable for everyone who comes to join the congregational prayers to form an intention of I’tikaf upon entering the masjid. This will mean that as long as he remains busy with salah, dhikr,’ listening to religious lectures, etc. He also receives the reward for I’tikaf.

Itikaf for Females

Females should perform I’tikaf in the room set aside for prayer inside their homes. Where, however, no such room exists, and the desire to observe I’tikaf is present, the room where salah is normally performed should be set aside for this seclusion. If salah is performed in the bedroom, I’tikaf could be performed there. The domestic duties should be carried out by the daughters or servants while the person in I’tikaf remains constantly in ‘ibadah in her room.

I’tikaf is a much easier task for women, for in fact, she remains in the confines of her room at home and receives the same great rewards of I’tikaf. It is very unfortunate that in spite of this ease, our womenfolk still remain deprived of the blessings of I’tikaf. Generally this Sunnah is neglected so much so that many have not even heard of it!

Additional Rules for Females in I’tikaf In addition to the general rules of I’tikaf that apply to men, there are some rules that apply to women only:

a. A woman may perform I’tikaf in the room that is used for her daily salah.
b. A woman must have the permission of her husband for I’tikaf. Once the husband has consented to his wife’s I’tikaf, he then cannot withdraw his permission.
c. If there is no person to serve her meals during I’tikaf, the woman is allowed to go to the kitchen to prepare a quick simple meal.
d. If, during the I’tikaf, the woman has her hadith (monthly menses) or nifas (bleeding after child birth), the I’tikaf is nullified. She has to observe make-up of the remaining days after she is pure again. This is if the I’tikaf was a wajib or Sunnah, in which the vowed number of days was fixed. In the case where the Itikaf was a wajib in which the days vowed for were not fixed in number, she will have to observe make-up of the full I’tikaf. e. A woman is allowed to sleep on her bed and use a chair while she is in Itikaf. She could also walk around in the room for a short while to relieve the stiffness in her limbs.

When a Mu’takif could leave the Masjid or place of Itikaf

The Mu’takif (a person in I’tikaf) could leave the defined masjid area for the following reasons only. If he/she leaves for any reason other than the under mentioned then the I’tikaf will terminate forthwith. When going out for these necessities do not spend more time than is absolutely required. Return as soon as possible and do not talk to anyone. If someone greets you, it is wajib to only answer. 

a. To answer the call of nature when necessary.
b. To perform wudu when the wudu’ terminates (breaks). It is not permissible to leave the masjid to perform wudu’ when one still has wudu’. When out of the masjid for these necessities it is permissible for one to greet others and to reply to their Salam.
c. To perform the wajib bath (due to a wet dream). If one leaves the masjid to have a shower to cool off on a hot day or a bath for Friday, the I’tikaf will be nullified. When going out for wudu’ it is permissible to have a wash while performing wudu’, provided it is done in the same time during which wudu’ is made.
d. To perform Jum’ah salah if it is not performed in that masjid. It is only permissible to leave for Jum’ah just prior to the commencement of the khutbah. One must return immediately after performing the Sunnah rak’at succeeding the Jum’ah.

When a Mu’takif cannot leave the Masjid or place of I’tikaf allowed to leave the defined masjid area for the under mentioned reasons. If he does leave, even though for a few seconds, either intentionally or unintentionally, his I’tikaf will be nullified.

a. Because of illness or fear. 
b. To visit the sick. 
c. To attend a Janazah salah. 
d. To extinguish a fire or save a drowning person outside of the masjid area. 
e. To wash hands, gargle, and brush teeth or to expectorate (spit). (These should all be done while performing wudu’). To fetch a glass of water.
f. To assist the caretaker in his duties outside the masjid area.

[Note: in situations (a) and (d) it will be permissible to leave the masjid but the I’tikaf will be nullified and for example, if it is a wajib I’tikaf, then quad will be necessary.]

What is allowed during Itikaf?

The following are allowed in the masjid during the Itikaf: 

a. To eat and sleep 
b. To change clothes. 
c. To clip the nails or trim the moustache. 
d. To recite the Our’an aloud or recite tasbih or dhikr with a raised voice if it does not disturb others. 
e. To have religious discussions and lectures and to speak about lawful matters.

What is disallowed during I’tikaf? 

The following are not allowed in the masjid during the I’tikaf: 

a. To talk about worldly affairs, backbite or tell an untruth. 
b. To remain silent and regard it as ‘ibadah. 
c. To shave the beard.

What to do during I’tikaf

All the time spent in I’tikaf should be beneficially used for ‘ibadah. This is the opportunity when one is able to observe all those devotions that could not be normally carried out. The fard salah should be performed with meticulous care and humbleness and without haste. The most virtuous act is reciting the Our’an, thereafter du’a, istighfar, and nafl salah.

There is undoubtedly a great link between the month of Ramadan and the Holy Our’an. Almost all Allah’s Divine Scriptures were revealed in this month. Therefore for those in sunnah I’tikaf the most virtuous act, after the farg salah, is the recitation of Allah’s final Book to humanity – the Our’an. An effort should be made to complete at least one khatam during the sunnah I’tikaf.

I’tikaf is the opportune time to communicate with Allah, to beseech of Him, to ask Him for forgiveness and to ask Him for all one’s needs. In the hadith it is said: “Du’a is the essence of’ ibadah.” For forgiveness of sins the Sayyidul-Istighfar should be recited as many times as possible.

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