It used to be the general practice of the Messenger of Allah to perform Itikaaf in the Holy month of Ramadhan. At times he used to remain in the masjid for the whole month and in the year of his demise, he was in Itikaaf for twenty days. Because he usually secluded himself in the masjid for the last ten days of Ramadhan, the ulama consider itsunnah muakkadah to perform Itikaaf for that period.
Ibn Abbas relates that the Messenger of Allah said, "The person performing Itikaaf remains free from sins and he is indeed given the same reward as those who do good deeds (in spite of not having done these deeds). (Ibn Majah)
This hadith mentions two great benefits of Itikaaf. The first is that the person performing Itikaaf avoids sins. The world around us is full of temptations and more often than not one falls into them. To commit sins in this blessed month is indeed a great injustice to ourselves. Through remaining secluded in the masjid, one completely avoids the temptation of doing a sin.
Another benefit is that when one is secluded in the masjid, one is apparently at a disadvantage by not being able to perform certain good deeds like joining in funeral prayers, attending burials, visiting the sick, etc. But according to this hadith, one is rewarded for even those deeds which he could not perform as a result of his Itikaaf.
The purpose of our creation is to worship our Creator.
And I (Allah) created not the jinn and mankind except that they should worship Me (alone). I seek not any provision from them nor do I ask that they should feed Me. Verily, Allah is the All-Provider, Owner of Power, the Most Strong. (Surah 51)
This verse is telling us that Allah created man for His worship, and that He will reward him fully for his obedience but will punish him for His disobedience. This verse also makes clear the fact that we are dependent upon Him for our survival while He has no need for us.
This point has also been made in a hadith, recorded by Ahmad in which the Prophet stated that Allah the Almighty says, "O son of Adam engage and devote yourself in My worship and I will fill your heart with contentment and I will fulfil your needs but (on the other hand) if you do not do this, I will fill your heart with concern and apprehension and nor will I provide for you."
One of the most effective ways of carrying out this command is by performing Itikaaf since it is one of the most efficient means of fulfilling the purpose of worship.
What Is Itikaaf ?
Mankind has been created to worship Allah. Islam has designated many forms of worship for the fulfilment of this aim. Itikaaf enjoys superiority over other methods of worship because it encompasses many other forms of worship within itself.
There are three types of Itikaaf.
1. Itikaaf during the last ten days of Ramadhan. This is sunnah.
2. Itikaaf on any other day is nafl (voluntary).
3. Itikaaf as a result of a vow (e.g. someone vowed that if a certain desire of his/her was fulfilled, he/she would perform Itikaaf for two days.). The performance of this Itikaaf is waajib (necessary).
Benefits Of Itikaaf
A person doing Itikaaf (mutakif) will be able to perform his salat on time with congregation hence acquiring the reward of salat with congregation, which is twenty-seven times more than performing it alone. On the other hand the layman outside will not attain this great reward with such consistency because of distractions and preoccupation especially in this modern age.
1. Itikaaf makes it easy to perform salat with full devotion because the mutakif breaks all ties with the outside world and is in a state of tranquillity, where he is free from everything that diverts him from Allahs remembrance. This leaves him to focus his mind solely towards Allahs obedience and happiness.
And seek help in patience and As-salat (the prayer) and truly, it is extremely heavy and hard except for Al-Khaashi’un (i.e. the true believers in Allah – those who obey Allah with full submission, fear much from His punishment, and believe in His Promise and in His Warning). (They are those) who are certain that they are going to meet their Lord, and that unto Him they are going to return. (Surah 2)
Successful indeed are the believers. Those who offer their salat (prayers) with all solemnity and full submissiveness. And those who turn away from Al-Laghw (dirty, false, evil vain talk, falsehood, and all that Allah has forbidden). (Surah 23)
2. More voluntary prayers will be performed by a mutakif because his aim is to worship his Lord and to build up a close tie with Him and the best way of achieving this is by performing salat.
Abu Hurairah narrates that the Messenger of Allah said, "The bondsman is closest to his Lord while he is in prostration, so increase your supplications." (Muslim)
Ubaadah ibn Saamit narrates that he heard the Messenger of Allah saying, "Whenever a bondsman prostrates before Allah, He has a good deed written down for him and a sin wiped off and raises him a rank higher, so prostrate as much as you can." (Ibn Maaja)
3. Another benefit of Itikaaf is that the mutakif can perform his prayer in the first row. It is very easy for him to derive the full benefit of offering prayer in this row.
Abu Hurairah narrates that the Messenger of Allah said, "Had the people known the reward of azaan and the first row, they would most certainly draw lots (to decide who should give the azaan and stand in the first row). (Bukhari)
4. The mutakif gains the reward of waiting for salat. The Prophet said, "You will be regarded as performing salat while you are waiting for salat and the angels supplicate saying, O Allah forgive him and have mercy on him as long as he does not leave his prayer place or break wind." (Bukhari)
5. One benefit of Itikaaf is that it makes a person accustomed to staying in the masjid for a long period and creates an attachment between him and the masajid.
The Prophet said, "From amongst the seven whom Allah will give shade to on the day when there will be no shade except His shade, will be that person whose heart was attached to the masjid." (Bukhari)
6. It becomes easy to perform the Tahajjud prayer. Normally, this is very difficult for a person because Satan tries hard to stop a person from offering this prayer and deprive him of its great reward.
Rules And Regulations Of Itikaaf
1. The performance of Itikaaf during the last ten days or Ramadhan is a sunnah muakkadah alal kifaya (a sunnah which has to be observed by at least one person from the locality for its fulfilment or else the entire locality will be sinful for negligence of this sunnah).
2. Itikaaf should be done in a masjid where the five times daily prayers are held.
3. A woman can designate a place for salat in her house and observe Itikaaf there and she will acquire the same reward as one performing Itikaaf in the masjid.
4. One should refrain from idle talk during Itikaaf.
5. One performing Itikaaf should not unnecessarily go outside the boundaries of the masjid as this will nullify his Itikaaf.
6. One can go outside to answer the call of nature or for a necessary bath (e.g. because of a wet dream etc). Similarly if there is no one to bring food from home, one can go home to eat.
7. A person can go to perform Jumah prayer in another mosque if it is not held in the mosque in which he is observing Itikaaf. He will have to return as soon as he has completed his Jumah prayer.
8. If a person accidentally leaves the masjid in which he is observing Itikaaf, this will nullify his Itikaaf.
9. To indulge in unnecessary worldly activities during Itikaaf is makrooh-e-tahrimi (close to forbidden)
10. To remain completely silent during Itikaaf is not permissible. If one remains silent after zikr and recitation, this is fine. Remaining silent is not a form of worship.
11. The sunnah of observing Itikaaf during the last ten days of Ramadhan will only be fulfilled, if the mutakif enters the masjid with the intention of Itikaaf before the sun-set of the twentieth of Ramadhan
12. Fasting is a prerequisite of Itikaaf. The nullification of the fast will result in the nullification of the Itikaaf.
13. The intention of Itikaaf can be made in the heart but it is better to do it with the tongue.
Where And When Can Itikaaf Be Performed ?
Can Itikaaf only be done during the last ten days of Ramadhan or can it also be done during the first and middle ten days of Ramadhan?
The observance of Itikaaf is not restricted to the last ten days of Ramadhan. A person wishing to perform Itikaaf during the entire month of Ramadhan is at liberty to do so, as this is also a sunnah. To clarify this matter, Imam Bukhari, entitled a chapter in his celebrated book, Bhukhari .
The chapter on performing Itikaaf during the middle ten days of Ramadhan. Under this chapter, he has narrated a hadith from Abu Hurairah that the Prophet did Itikaaf for twenty days, in the year of his demise. (Bukhari, Fathul Baari, Umdatul Qari).
Shaykhul Islam Hafiz ibn Hajar and Allaama Badrud-din-Ayni (commentators of Bukhari) have remarked that Imam Bukhari wants to point out that although observance of Itikaaf is much more preferable during the last ten days of Ramadhan, yet it is not restricted to that period. It can also be done during the middle ten days of Ramadhan, as this has been established from the Prophet
A hadith recorded by Bukhari and Muslim mentions that the Prophet did Itikaaf during the entire month of Ramadhan.
The hadith is as follows:
Abu Saeed Khudri narrates that the Prophet (once) did Itikaaf during the first ten days of Ramadhan, continuing it in the Turkish tent during the middle ten days. (One day) he stuck his head out (of the tent) and said, "I did Itikaaf during the first ten days, searching for this night (laylatul-qadr). I continued it (the Itikaaf) into the middle ten days (for the same purpose). I was then approached (by an angel) and informed that this night occurs in the last ten days. So those who have done Itikaaf with me should continue it into the last ten days because I was shown this night and then made to forget it (but as an indication) the morning after this night, I saw myself prostrating on mud. This being the case, search for this night during the odd nights of these last ten days."
The narrator continues that it rained that night and the water leaked through the mosque as it was made out of twigs. On the morning of the 21st, I saw with my own eyes that there were traces of mud on the Prophets forehead. (Mishkaat on the authority of Bukhari and Muslim)
It is because of this tradition that the fuqahaa (Islamic jurist) have said that this is the sunnah. This is precisely why many of the scholars and saints have made it a habit to perform Itikaaf during the entire month of Ramadhan. However it must be pointed out that the observance of Itikaaf during the last ten days of Ramadhan is an emphasised sunnah (a sunnah which must be observed by at least one member of the locality or else the entire locality will be sinful). This is why special importance is attached to its observance during the last ten days.
Itikaaf is not only restricted to Ramadhan but can in fact be performed during the entire year. Imam Bukhari too has indicated towards this permissibility, by entitling a chapter, The chapter on performing Itikaaf during Shawwaal. (Fathul-Baari, p.284 vol,5. Umdatul-Qari, p.156 vol,11). We also learn from a tradition appearing in the Sihah Sittahthat the Prophet performed Itikaaf of ten days in the month of Shawwaal.
It is clear from this that Itikaaf is not fixed with any particular period of the year.
Is Itikaaf correct in the mosques of Britain (places of worship, where the five times daily prayers are held)?
Before answering this question, it would be of great benefit if we had insight into some basic issues.
If a locality does not have a purpose built mosque but the residents of that locality rent a place to perform prayers in congregation, it will be correct for a person to observe Itikaaf in this particular place. All the rules and conditions of a mosque will also apply to him. This issue has been clarified further by the following query which appears in Fataawa Alamghiri.
A woman can designate a spot in her house for doing Itikaaf instead of going to the mosque. This particular place will be a substitute for the mosque and in this spot she will be subject to all the rules and conditions which would normally apply to her in the mosque. For example the woman cannot leave this spot without a genuine cause e.g. to relieve herself.
In short, in this country it is correct to perform Itikaaf in a place which is treated like a mosque and where the five daily prayers are regularly held. The practice of our elders and scholars bear testimony to this. In fact if a person performs Itikaaf in such a place during the last ten days of Ramadhan, this will suffice the people of that locality from the Itikaaf which is sunnah muakkadah. On the other hand if no one performs Itikaaf then the entire locality will be sinful. This is also the view of the Grand Mufti of Gujraat. (Fataawa Rahimiyyah, p.209, vol,5)
Things which are forbidden in Itikaaf
- Going out of the mosque. Itikaaf becomes invalid if a person goes out of the mosque for no reason, because the Messenger not go out of the mosque except in the case of “human need” i.e., to eat or answere the call of nature.Food used to be brought to him in the mosque, because Saalim says: “As for his food and drink, it was brought to him where he was in his place of Itikaaf.”
- He also used to go out to purify himself from minor impurities and to do wudoo, as Aaishah (may Allaah be pleased with her) said: “The Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) used to put his head into my room whilst he was in the mosque, and I would comb his hair. He would not enter the house except in the case of need when he was in Itikaaf.” (Fath al-Baari, 4/808).
- Touching women with desire – including intercourse. This is something which invalidates Itikaaf, because it is clearly stated that this is not permitted, in the aayah (interpretation of the meaning): “And do not have sexual relations with them (your wives) while you are in Itikaaf (i.e. confining oneself in a mosque for prayers and invocations leaving the worldly activities) in the mosques” [al-Baqarah 2:187].
- Menstruation and post-natal bleeding. If a woman who is in Itikaaf starts to menstruate or experiences post-natal bleeding, she has to leave the mosque, so as to preserve the purity of the mosque. The same applies to anyone who is in a state of junub (impurity following sexual discharge) – until he does ghusl.
- To complete iddah. If the husband of a woman who is in Itikaaf dies and she is in the mosque, she has to leave the mosque so that she can do her iddah in her house.
Educational aspects of Itikaaf
- Implementing the concept of worship in a complete fashion:Itikaaf plants in the soul of the person who does it the concept of true enslavement to Allaah (uboodiyyah), and trains him in this important matter for which man was created. For Allaah (may He be exalted) says (interpretation of the meaning): “And I (Allaah) created not the jinn and mankind except that they should worship Me (Alone).” [al-Dhaariyaat 51:56]. For the person who is in Itikaaf has devoted his whole self and his whole time to worship Allaah, may He be glorified.
- His whole purpose is to earn the pleasure of Allaah, may He be exalted, so he strives with his body, senses and time for this purpose, by praying fard and naafil prayers, by making duaa and dhikr, by reading the Quraan’ and other kinds of acts of worship.Through this training during the best days of the month of Ramadaan, the person in Itikaaf trains himself to apply the concept of uboodiyyah or enslavement to Allaah in his public and private life, and he strives to put into practice the words of the aayah (interpretation of the meaning): “Say (O Muhammad): “Verily, my Salaat (prayer), my sacrifice, my living, and my dying are for Allaah, the Lord of the Aalameen (mankind, jinn and all that exists). He has no partner. And of this I have been commanded, and I am the first of the Muslims.” [al-Anaam 6:162-163]Al-Qurtubi said: “my living means, whatever I do in my life; my dying means what I advise you to do after my death; for Allaah, the Lord of the ‘Aalameen means, they are only for the purpose of drawing closer to Him.” (7/69).
- Seeking Laylat al-QadrThis was the main purpose behind the Itikaaf of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him). At first his Itikaaf lasted for the entire month, then he did Itikaaf during the middle ten days, seeking Laylat al-Qadr. When he learned that it is in the last ten days of the month of Ramadaan, he limited his Itikaaf to these blessed ten days.
- Getting accustomed to staying in the mosque
The person in Itikaaf has committed himself to staying in the mosque for a specific time period. Human nature may not readily accept such restrictions at the beginning of the Itikaaf, but usually this attitude quickly disappears because of the peace of mind that the Muslim soul develops from staying in the House of Allaah.
The person in I’tikaaf understands the importance of his staying in the mosque during his I’tikaaf from the following things:
- The person who stays in the mosque finds that the mosque becomes dear to him, and he understands the value of the houses of Allaah, may He be exalted. This love has a great value with Allaah, because those who love the houses of Allaah will be one of the groups whom Allaah will shade on the Day when there will be no shade except His shade.
- When a person stays in the mosque, whilst he is waiting for the prayer, he is rewarded as for praying, and the angels pray for forgiveness for him. According to the hadeeth narrated by Abu Hurayrah (may Allaah be pleased with him), the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “The angels will pray for blessings for any one of you as long as he stays in his place of prayer and as long as nothing happens to break his wudoo. [They say:] ‘O Allaah, forgive him, O Allaah have mercy on him.’ As long as any one of you stays in his place of prayer, as long as what is keeping him there is the fact that he is waiting for the prayer, and nothing is keeping him from going back to his family apart from his prayer.” (al-Bukhaari, 2/360 Fath al-Baari).
- Keeping away from physical luxuries. In Itikaaf a person reduces a lot of these things and becomes like a stranger in this world, so “give good news to the stranger.” For the sake of earning the pleasure of Allaah, he is content to stay in a corner of the mosque with usually no more than a pillow on which to lay his head and a blanket with which to cover himself, for he has left his comfortable bed and his usual habits for the sake of earning Allaahs pleasure.As for his food, this is a different story, if it is not what he usually eats. If he has food brought from his house, usually it will not be as much as he would eat at home, and he does not eat it at a table with his wife and children, as he would usually do. On the contrary, he eats like a stranger, like a poor slave who is need of his Lord. If he goes out to the market-place to get food, he tries hard to take what is available and he is not too fussy about what kind of food he gets, because he has to go back to his place of Itikaaf and not take too long to do these things. Thus he learns that he can get by with a little, for which his Lord will be pleased with him, just as he can live with much, for which his Lord will not be pleased with him – and the different between the two is immense.
- Giving up many harmful habits
In the light of the fact that the concept of Islamic education is lacking in many Muslim societies and in many homes in those Muslim societies, many habits have become widespread which go against the teachings of this pure religion. These evil habits have become so widespread that they have become almost acceptable and are not seen as having any harmful impact either on the religion or the individual. These habits include smoking, listening to music and watching scenes and events broadcast by satellite channels which go against the aqeedah (belief) of the Muslim and his sense of modesty and chastity, and other habits which affect the religion and the individual.
The time of Itikaaf gives the individual the opportunity to see the falsehood of these habits and the futility of the belief which many Muslims have, that they do not have the ability to rid themselves of these habits, because they have gained control over them.
During the period of Itikaaf, when he is alone with his Creator, the Muslim comes to understand the concept of worship in the most comprehensive sense and that he has to be enslaved to Allaah every hour of the day, in both his public and his private life. When he takes the pleasure and love of Allaah as the yardstick against which he measures all his actions, he will find that the habits we have referred to above, and many others, do not agree with that love of Allaah, and indeed they are the opposite. So he discovers that habits such as these take him out of the circle of sincere uboodiyyah towards Allaah. If this is the case, then he is obliged to rid himself of these habits as quickly as possible.
During the period of Itikaaf, the Muslim is not allowed to go out except in the case of definite needs which serve to facilitate his staying in the mosque for Itikaaf. Apart from that, he should not go out, even if it is for a permissible purpose. So – for example – he cannot go out and walk around in the market-place, even for a short time, to buy things that have nothing to do with his Itikaaf. If he goes out to buy siwaak, this will not affect his Itikaaf because it is something that is required for his prayer during his I’ikaaf. But if he went out to buy a gift for his wife or for one of his children, that would invalidate his Itikaaf, because the Messenger (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) did not go out except in the case of “human need”, as mentioned above. So how about if the person in Itikaaf goes out to do something haraam such as smoking cigarettes for example, or to watch a satellite TV show that he usually watches? Undoubtedly this would invalidate his Itikaaf.
So if he goes out to drink wine or to smoke, this invalidates his Itikaaf. In general, any going out for any invalid reason invalidates one' I’tikaaf, and more so if the purpose of going out is to commit a sin. Even when he goes out for a legitimate purpose, it is not permissible for him to light a cigarette on the way.
Itikaaf is an annual opportunity in which a person can get rid of these bad habits by repenting and turning to Allaah, and by weaning himself from these sins during the period of Itikaaf, not giving in to his desires, and getting used to this.
This continual worship of Allaah requires continual patience on the part of the person in I’tikaaf, which is a kind of training for a persons will and a kind of self-discipline for the soul which usually tries to escape this worship to turn towards other matters which it desires.
There is also the kind of patience which is required for dealing with the absence of things which a person may be used to, such as different kinds of food that he eats at home but which are not available in the mosque. So he puts up with having little for the sake of earning the pleasure of Allaah, may He be exalted and glorified.
And there is the kind of patience which is required for putting up with the place where he is sleeping, for he will not have a bed put in the mosque for him, or a comfortable mattress on which he could sleep. He sleeps on a very modest mattress or even on the carpets in the mosque.
And there is the kind of patience which is required for putting up with the conditions in the mosque, the crowds of people around him, the lack of peace and quiet such as he enjoys at home when he wants to sleep.
And there is the kind of patience which is required for suppressing his desire for his wife, with whom he is not allowed to have sexual relations if he goes home for any purpose; he cannot even kiss her or hug her, even though she is halaal for him. Thus the value of patience, strong will power and self-control is manifested. Through these practices and others, a person can train himself to delay many of the things he desires for the sake of things which are more important, so he puts off these psychological and material needs for the sake of earning the pleasure of Allaah, may He be glorified and exalted.
(9) Peace of mind
(10) Reading the Qur’aan and completing it
(11) Sincere repentance
(12) Qiyaam al-Layl (praying at night) and getting used to it
(13) Making good use of ones time
(14) Purifying one's soul
(15) Reforming one’s heart and focusing on Allaah.
We ask Allaah to help us to remember Him, thank Him and worship Him properly. And Allaah knows best. May Allaah bless our Prophet Muhammad.
Al-I’tikaaf Nadrah Tarbawiyyah, Dr. ‘Abd al-Lateef ibn Muhammad Baaltoo
Al-Ithaaf fi Bayaan Masaa’il al-I’tikaaf, Abu ‘Umar Haay al-Haay