‘ITIKAAF By Mufti Waseem Khan (Hafizahullah)
‘Itikaaf literally means seclusion and in Islaam it means to seclude oneself to the Masjid in worship in order to achieve the pleasure of Allaah (with the clear intention of ‘Itikaaf). ‘Itikaaf in the month of Ramadhan is an emphasized and strong practice of the Prophet (S.A.W), who continuously performed ‘Itikaaf of the last ten days of Ramadhan from the year he entered Madinah until he left this world. As such, spending the last ten days of Ramadhan in ‘Itikaaf is a strong and emphasized Sunnah of the Prophet (S.A.W)
‘Itikaaf is indeed a very virtuous and rewarding act of ‘Ibaadah and the fact that the Messenger of Allah (S.A.) never missed it shows us its greatness. In reality it is actually leaving the world aside and grasping on to the house of Allah. Haafiz ibn Qayyim states that the objective and purpose of ‘Itikaaf is that a person connects his heart to his Lord and Creator Allah Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aala. In other words he leaves all other things and turns his concentration and attention to Allah alone. He leaves aside all his business and busies himself with the ‘Ibaadah and remembrance of Allah. Now, his focal point is not his job, his wealth nor his family but it is to Allaah, his loving Creator. It is for this reason the scholars have written that if ‘Itikaaf is done with sincerity then there can be no sweeter action than it, since the heart has been turned away from the worldly life and entrusted onto the worship of Allah. It is evident that sometimes the Messenger of Allah (S.A.) performed the entire month of Ramadhan in ‘Itikaaf.
‘Itikaaf of males can be performed in any Masjid (once it is accepted in Sharii’ah to be a Masjid) while females can perform ‘Itikaaf in a room in their house. Ibn Abbaas (R.A.) states that the Messenger of Allah (S.A.W) said, “The person performing ‘Itikaaf remains free from sins and he is indeed given the same reward as those people who do righteous deeds (in spite of not having done these deeds) as a result of having been secluded in the Masjid.” (Ibn Maajah)
In another tradition the Messenger of Allah (S.A.W) said, “Whoever performs ‘Itikaaf for one day seeking the pleasure of Allah, Allah will place between him and the fire of Hell three trenches, the width of each trench being greater than the distance between the skies and the earth.” (Tibraanii, Baihaqii).
With these virtues in mind we should try our best to spend at least the last ten days of Ramadhan in ‘Itikaaf.
LAWS RELATING TO ‘ITIKAAF
The last ten days of ‘Itikaaf begins before the sunset of the 20th day of fasting. In other words it begins before the 21st night of Ramadhan and continues until the moon of Shawwaal is sighted. It is therefore necessary for those performing ‘Itikaaf that they should be in the Masjid before the sunset of the 20th day of fasting.
If someone did not fully prepare his provisions before this time then he should still go to the Masjid at the correct time and have his bags etc. brought to him.
The entire last ten days is the Sunnah ‘Itikaaf. As such if someone makes an intention to spend less than ten days, then the Sunnah ‘Itikaaf will not be fulfilled. He will get the rewards of Nafl or optional ‘Itikaaf.
Some people make the intention in the following manner, “I am performing five days of ‘Itikaaf and if all goes well then I will perform the other five.” In this manner the person will not receive the blessings of the Sunnah ‘Itikaaf but he will get the blessings of only the Nafl ‘Itikaaf.
After making the intention to perform ‘Itikaaf for ten days it should be fulfilled.
The person performing the ‘Itikaaf should spend his entire time in the Masjid and should not go out of the Masjid without a valid reason. He should value his time in the Masjid and spend his time in ‘Ibaadah to Allah by performing Nafl Salaah, reciting the Quraan, remembrance of Allah etc. The purpose of ‘Itikaaf is not to sleep in the Masjid but it is to spend one’s full time in devotion to Allah. In order to achieve the maximum benefits from the ‘Itikaaf a person should make a proper programme for himself which he should follow. In this manner he will not waste his time in idle or unnecessary talk.
RULES CONCERNING THE MASJID DURING ‘ITIKAAF
During the course of ‘Itikaaf it is permissible to eat and drink in the Masjid. Similarly it is permissible to sleep and take rest in the Masjid. Trade and business will not be permissible in the Masjid while a person is in ‘Itikaaf, however buying and selling can occur in words when goods etc. are not brought to the Masjid.
It is permissible to carry Islamic books and read them in the Masjid, however it is prohibited to carry non-Islamic material.
It is not permissible to spend one’s time in idle and unnecessary talk, backbiting, slandering, joking, laughing aloud etc.
Writing letters etc. which are deemed necessary is permissible.
To wash one’s clothes which is deemed necessary is permissible.
It is permissible to comb the hair, beard, to trim the nails and to apply oil to the head, beard or body in the Masjid while in ‘Itikaaf, however one should be careful that these things do not fall in the Masjid.
One is allowed to come out of the Masjid only for valid reasons, such as answering the call of nature, performing Wudhu, Ghusl and washing one’s clothes when necessary. If the Muadh-dhin is in ‘Itikaaf and the place of calling the Adhaan is out of the Masjid, then it is permissible for him to leave the Masjid for this reason. Similarly if a person performs ‘Itikaaf in such a Masjid where there is no Jum’ah, then it is permissible for him to come out for the sake of Jum’ah on that day and time only.
It is allowable for one to come out of the Masjid for the sake of getting one’s meals etc., however the food should be brought into the Masjid to be eaten.
Coming out of the Masjid means coming out of the assigned area of prayer or Salaah area. The open hall where Salaah is not held, the downstairs of the Salaah area, the Wuduu Khaana etc. are all considered to be out of the Masjid for those who are in ‘Itikaaf.
THINGS WHICH RENDER THE ‘ITIKAAF
NULL AND VOID
To come out of the Masjid for a bath which is not essential or Sunnah or to come out for something which is not necessary will render the ‘Itikaaf invalid. If at the time of leaving, a person expresses his intention of attending a Janaazah or visiting the sick, then his ‘Itikaaf will not be affected. Similarly if before beginning the Sunnah ‘Itikaaf a person made it clear in his intention that he will come out for visiting the sick, attending a Janaazah, taking an optional bath or going out for learning, then his ‘Itikaaf will not be affected when he comes out for those things which he had specified.
While in ‘Itikaaf it is not permissible to come out to purchase unnecessary things. ‘Itikaaf will be invalid if this happens. Similarly it is not permissible to come out of the Masjid simply to rinse the mouth or wash the hands. These also will render the ‘Itikaaf invalid.
It is allowed to come out for Wudhu even if it is for Nafl Salaah or recitation of the Quraan. In these cases ‘Itikaaf will not be affected.
It is not permissible to come out of the Masjid to work, lecture or teach while a person is in ‘Itikaaf. These things will render the ‘Itikaaf invalid.
‘Itikaaf will also be broken if a person comes out of the Masjid to go to another Masjid in order to attend Khatam Quraan (completing the Quraan).
If the Muadh-dhin is in ‘Itikaaf then it is not permissible for him to come out of the Masjid to clean the Wuduu Khaana, sweep the outside, etc. This will cause his ‘Itikaaf to be broken.
One who is in ‘Itikaaf is not allowed to come out of the Masjid in order to listen to lectures or listen to the Quraan in another Masjid. This will cause the ‘Itikaaf to be broken.
Even for those reasons which are considered to be valid for coming out of the Masjid, if a person stays longer than is required for the completion of these actions, then according to some scholars his ‘Itikaaf will be broken.
It is not proper to come out of the Masjid for anything unnecessary whether it is for a short time or for a long time, intentionally or forgetfully. According to some scholars ‘Itikaaf will be broken.
If for some reason the fast of the person in ‘Itikaaf is broken or he could not keep the fast, then his ‘Itikaaf will be broken whether his fast was broken for a valid reason or not.
If a person in ‘Itikaaf had sexual relations with his wife, (e.g. after visiting home for a valid reason), then his ‘Itikaaf will be broken. It is also not proper for a person in ‘Itikaaf to kiss or passionately touch his wife. If someone did this and thereafter ejaculated, then his ‘Itikaaf will be broken.
‘ITIKAAF FOR WOMEN
It is Makruuh Tahriimi (stongly disliked) for women to perform ‘Itikaaf in the Masjid. Instead they are encouraged to perform ‘Itikaaf in their homes which is more rewarding. When a woman performs ‘Itikaaf in her home she is asked to seclude herself in a room of the house and should not move about to the other places of the house. Instead she should engage herself in Salaah, recitation of the Quraan, Tasbiih, Dhikr etc.
As for those women whose husbands are with them, then it is necessary for them to seek permission from their husbands to perform the Sunnah ‘Itikaaf. In the absence of the husbands’ permission, their ‘Itikaaf will not be proper.
Unmarried women should seek permission of their guardians, while divorced women, matrons etc. need not seek permission from anyone.
A woman whose husband is sick and needs her attention should not sit in ‘Itikaaf, but should render the services for her husband. This is more rewarding for her. Similarly women who must look after their small children and must take care of them should not sit in ‘Itikaaf.
One of the conditions for a woman’s ‘Itikaaf is that she should be free from menses and Nifaas. If during the course of her ‘Itikaaf, menses begin then her ‘Itikaaf will be broken.
When a woman secludes herself in her room with the intention of ‘Itikaaf, then all the rules pertaining to coming out of the Masjid will be applicable to her coming out of her room.
HOW SHOULD THE ‘ITIKAAF BE SPENT
‘Itikaaf is a very blessed and great act of ‘Ibaadah and since a person has been granted the ability by Allah to engage himself in ‘Itikaaf, then he should use every minute of his time in good actions. He should observe all his Salaah with Jamaa’ah, perform all his Sunnahs, both emphasized and non-emphasized and perform all the Nafl Salaahs of the day and night. He should try his best to perform Tahajjud every morning and engage himself in Tasbiih, Dhikr, recitation of the Quraan, Daruud Shariif and making much Istighfaar and Du’aa to Allah. He should not overburden himself with too many things but should be moderate in all his actions so as not to feel exhausted, tired and weary. He should also try to take some rest so that he will be able to perform his ‘Ibaadah with full devotion and concentration. He should be extra careful to spend all the last five odd nights in ‘Ibaadah since there is a very high possibility of one of the nights being Lailatul Qadr. If one is unable to wake up for the entire night then he should spend as much time as possible in ‘Ibaadah.
THE BENEFITS OF ‘ITIKAAF
– It is the best manner to achieve the blessings of Lailatul Qadr.
– The entire time in which a person is engaged in ‘Itikaaf is considered to be ‘Ibaadah whether he is asleep or awake.
– The person engaged in ‘Itikaaf is safe from many sins.
– Through the Sunnah ‘Itikaaf the person engaged in ‘Itikaaf achieves a nearness to Allah which is not achieved through other forms of worship.
– It is the best way of seeking forgiveness for sins
– It is the best medium of achieving the pleasure and love of Allah.
– In the state of ‘Itikaaf a person is at the doorstep of his Creator. As such his status is elevated and he is in the best position to gain mercy, forgiveness and honour from Allah.