INTRODUCTION TO I’TIKAAF ( ﺍﻋﺘﻜﺎﻑ )
Written and Compiled by; Assoutudeen Abu Mubaashir!
I’tikaaf refers to going into seclusion in the mosque for the sole purpose of worshipping Allah and attaching oneself and one’s heart to His worship for a certain number of days, and staying away from worldly affairs. A person observing I’tikaf ( ﻣﻌﺘﻜﻒ ) is expected to stay in a mosque for the duration of the I’tikaaf (except for certain things as described below in the prophetic sayings:
📘 Aa’ishah reported that when the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) observed I’tikaf, he did not enter the house except to relieve himself. Narrated by Muslim (297).
Aa’ishah (may Allah be pleased with her) said: The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) used not to enter the house except for things that a person needs when he was observing I’tikaf. [Al-Bukhari (2092) and Muslim (297)]
Ibn Qudaamah (may Allah have mercy on him) said that what is meant by things that a person needs is to urinate and defecate, because every person need to do that.
Similarly, he also needs to eat and drink. If he does not have anyone who can bring him food and drink, then he may go out to get them if he needs to. For everything that he cannot do without and cannot do in the mosque, he may go out for that purpose, and that does not invalidate his I’tikaf, so long as he does not take a long time doing it. (al-Mughni (4/466)
TYPES OF I’TIKAAF
I’tikaf is of two types: sunnah and obligatory.
1⃣ The sunnah i’tikaf is that which the Muslim performs to get closer to Allah by following the actions of the Prophet, upon whom be peace, especially during the last ten days of Ramadan.
2⃣ 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 said: “O Messenger of Allah, I made an oath to perform i’tikaaf one night in the mosque at Makkah.” The Prophet, upon whom be peace, said: “Fulfill your oath.”
THE MOSQUES IN WHICH I’HTIKAAF IS TO PERFORMED
There is a difference of opinion among the jurists concerning which mosques are acceptable for i
tikaf. According to Abu Hanifah, Ahmad, Ishaq, and At- Thawr, itikaf is valid in any mosque in which the five prayers are held and which has a congregation. This is based on the hadith of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him): “Every mosque that has a caller to prayer and an imam is acceptable for i`tikaf .” (Ad-Daraqutni)
Imam Malik, ash-Shafi
i, and Dawud say that it is acceptable in any mosque, as there is no proof that restricts it to any particular mosque. The Shafi followers say it is better to perform i
tikaf in a Jami mosque (in which the Jum
ah prayer is performed), as the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) performed itikaf in such a mosque, and because the number of those who attend the prayers in such a mosque is greater. If the period of i
tikaf includes the time for the Jumah prayer, then one must perform it in the Jami
mosque in order not to miss the Jumah prayer.
WHEN TO ENTER AND EXIT FROM I’TIKAAF
With regard to entering the place of i’tikaaf, the majority of scholars (including the four imams Abu Haneefah, Maalik, al-Shaafa’i and Ahmad, may Allaah have mercy on them) are of the view that the one who wants to observe i’tikaaf during the last ten days of Ramadaan should enter his place of i’tikaaf before the sun sets on the night of the twenty-first. They quoted several texts as evidence, including the following:
1⃣ It was proven that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) used to observe i’tikaaf during the last ten nights of Ramadaan (Agreed upon)
This indicates that the period of i’tikaaf is counted by the nights, not the days. Based on this, he should enter the mosque before the sun sets on the night of the twenty-first.
2⃣ They (the scholars) said that one of the greatest aims of i’tikaaf is to seek Laylat al-Qadr, and the night of the twenty-first is one of the odd-numbered nights in the last ten nights of Ramadaan, so it may possibly be Laylat al-Qadr, so he should be observing i’tikaaf on that night.
However, al-Bukhaari (2041) and Muslim (1173) narrated that ‘Aa’ishah said: When the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) wanted to observe i’tikaaf, he would pray Fajr then enter his place of i’tikaaf.
Scholars have interpreted this hadeeth that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) had started i’tikaaf before the sun set, but he did not enter the place for i’tikaaf until after Fajr prayer.
Shaykh Ibn ‘Uthaymeen said: The majority of scholars are of the view that i’tikaaf should begin on the night of the twenty first, not from Fajr of the twenty-first, although some of the scholars are of the view that i’tikaaf should begin from Fajr of the twenty-first, based on the hadeeth of ‘Aa’ishah (may Allaah be pleased with her) that was narrated by al-Bukhaari: “When he had prayed Fajr he entered his place of i’tikaaf”. But the majority of scholars responded by stating that the Messenger (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) withdrew from people in the morning, but the intention to observe i’tikaaf was formed at the beginning of the night, because the last ten nights start when the sun sets on the twentieth.
EXIT FROM I’TIKAÀF
The period of i’tikaaf during the (last) ten nights of Ramadaan ends when the sun sets on the last day of the month. If the mu’takif (ﻣﻌﺘﻜﻒ) chooses to stay until he has prayed Fajr and then depart from his place of i’tikaaf to the Eid prayer, there is nothing wrong with that. Some of the scholars regarded that as mustahabb.
Imam Maalik (may Allaah be pleased with him) said that he saw that some of the scholars who had observed i’tikaaf during the last ten nights of Ramadaan did not go back to their families until they had attended the (prayer of Eid) al-Fitr with the people. Maalik said: I heard that from the righteous people who have passed on, and this is the dearest to me of what I have heard about that.
Al-Shaafa’i and his companions said: Whoever would like to follow the example of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) in observing i’tikaaf during the last ten nights of Ramadaan should enter the mosque before the sun sets on the night of the twenty-first, so that he will not miss any of it, and he should come out after the sun sets on the night of Eid, whether the month is twenty-nine days or thirty. It is better for him to stay in the mosque on the night of Eid so that he can offer the Eid prayer there, or go out to the Eid prayer-place if they pray Eid there. If he goes directly from i’tikaaf to the Eid prayer, it is mustahabb for him to do ghusl and make himself look good before going out, because this is one of the Sunnahs of Eid.
BASIC GOALS OF I’TIKAAF
📘Al-Imam Muslim narrated that Abu Sa’eed al-Khudri (may Allaah be pleased with him) said:
The Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) observed i’tikaaf during the first ten days of Ramadaan, then he observed i’tikaaf during the middle ten days in a small tent at the door of which was a red mat. He took the mat in his hand and lifted it. Then he put his head out and spoke to the people, and they came close to him. He said: “I observed i’tikaaf during the first ten days seeking this night, then I observed i’tikaaf during the middle ten days. Then someone came and said to me that it is in the last ten days, so whoever among you wishes to observe i’tikaaf let him do so.” So the people observed i’tikaaf with him.
This hadeeth teaches us a number of things:
1⃣- That the basic goal of the i’tikaaf of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) was to seek Laylat al-Qadr and to prepare to spend that night in worship. That is because of the great virtue of that night of which Allaah says:
Surah Al-Qadr, Verse 3:
ﻟَﻴْﻠَﺔُ ﺍﻟْﻘَﺪْﺭِ ﺧَﻴْﺮٌ ﻣِّﻦْ ﺃَﻟْﻒِ ﺷَﻬْﺮٍ
The night of Al-Qadr (Decree) 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).
2⃣- The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) strove to seek that night before he was told when it is. So he started with the first ten days, then he observed it during the middle ten, then he continued to observe i’tikaaf during the last ten days, when he was told that it is in the last ten days. This is the utmost effort to seek Laylat al-Qadr.
3⃣- The Sahaabah (may Allaah be pleased with them) followed the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him), because they started i’tikaaf and continued with him until the end of the month, because they were so keen to follow his example.
4⃣- The Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) was compassionate towards his companions and showed mercy to them, because he knew that i’tikaaf was difficult for them. So he gave them the choice between staying with him or of leaving, and said: “…so whoever among you wishes to observe i’tikaaf let him do so.”
Other aims of itikaaf
1⃣- Being alone with Allaah and cutting oneself off from people if possible, so that one may focus completely on Allaah.
2⃣- Renewing oneself spiritually by focusing totally on Allaah.
3⃣- Cutting oneself off completely in order to worship Allaah with prayer, du’aa’, dhikr and reading Qur’aan.
4⃣- Protecting one’s fast from everything that may affect it of whims and desires.
5⃣- Reducing permissible worldly pleasures and refraining from many of them even though one is able to enjoy them.
PERMISSIBLE ACTS FOR THE MU’TAKIF
The following acts are permissible for one who is making i’tikaf:
1⃣ The person may leave his place of i’tikaaf to bid farewell to his wife
Safiyyah bint Huyàae reported: “The Prophet was performing i’tikaaf and I went to visit him during the night. I talked to him and then I got up to go. He got up with me and accompanied me to my house. (Her residence was in the house of Usamah ibn Zaid. Two men of the Ansar passed by them and when they saw the Prophet they quickened their pace.) The Prophet said: ‘Hold on, she is Safiyyah bint Hayayee.’ They said: ‘Glory be to Allah, O Messenger of Allah, we did not have any doubt about you].’ The Prophet, upon whom be peace, said: ‘Satan flows in the person like blood. I feared that he might have whispered some [slander] into your heart.'” This is related by al-Bukhari, Muslim, and Abu Dawud.
2⃣ Combing and cutting one’s hair, clipping one’s nails, cleaning one’s body, wearing nice clothes or wearing perfume
‘Aishah reported: “The Prophet was performing i’tikaaf and he would put his head out through the opening to my room and I would clean [or comb in one narration] his hair. I was menstruating at the time.” This is related by al-Bukhari, Muslim, and Abu Dawud.
3⃣ The person may go out for some need that he must perform
‘Aishah reported: “When the Prophet performed i’tikaaf, he brought his head close to me so I could comb his hair, and he would not enter the house except to fulfill the needs a person has.” This is related by al-Bukhari, Muslim, and others.
Ibn al-Munzhir says: “The scholars agree that the one who performs i’tikaaf may leave the mosque in order to answer the call of nature, for this is something that he personally must perform, and he cannot do it in the mosque. Also, if he needs to eat or drink and there is no one to bring him his food, he may leave to get it. If one needs to vomit, he may leave the mosque to do so. For anything that he must do but cannot do in the mosque, he can leave it, and such acts will not void his i’tikaf, even if they take a long time. Examples of these types of acts would include washing one’s self from sexual defilement and cleaning his body or clothes from impurities.”
4⃣. The person may eat, drink, and sleep in the mosque, and he should also keep it clean. He may make contracts for marriage if need be but must be out of sincerity, buying, selling, and so on are also reasonably allowed by the scholars.
Meanwhile, In this current (pandemic) situation where observing normal and compulsory solaah in congregation isn’t welcomed, observing iitikaaf in such standard masaajids may not be allowed as well as emphasized by some sets of scholars. We hope and expect that Allah will reward those who are used to observing iitikaāf before this pandemic in totality if they leave going to masjids to perform iitikaaf for His sake only. Therefore we enjoined us to increase in our Qur’an recitation most especially at the last ten nights of Ramadhan, observe unlimited nawaafil and other acts of worship even when we are not allowed to observe iitikaaf in our various standard mosques. May almighty Allah never deny us the complete reward in both worlds. (Aameen).
And Allah knows best!
©️ Assoutudeen Prophetic Medicine Foundation (APMF)