I’tikaf: A Means of Getting Closer to Allah

I’tikaf: A Means of Getting Closer to Allah


By: Khursheed Alam Dawood Qasmi

Email: qasmikhursheed@yahoo.co.in



Blessing His servants with the month of Ramadhan, the Almighty Allah gives them an opportunity to become dutiful and obedient to Him through worship, to associate with Him, to seek forgiveness from Him and to save themselves from the Hellfire. Therefore, every moment in the month of Ramadhan is a blessed and precious for a Muslim. The reward of a Sunnah act, in the month of Ramadhan, is equal to the reward of a Fardh in other months; while the reward of a Fardh act, in the month of Ramadhan, is equal to 70 Fardhs of other months. Only in the nights of Ramadhan, there is a golden opportunity for Allah’s servants to perform Taraaweeh Salaah. Allah the Almighty has made the first ten days of Ramadhan, as the days of mercy, the second ten days as the days of forgiveness and the last ten days as the days of deliverance from the hellfire. In the same last ten days, Allah made a night which is known as “Lailat-ul-Qadr” which is better than a thousand months. In the same last ten days, there is also a significant way of worship which is called I’tikaaf-Seclusion at Masjid. Among the purposes of I’tikaaf is to try, as much as possible, to gain the virtue of “Lailat-ul-Qadr”, to try to resemble an innocent creature: angel and try to get closer to the Almighty Allah. In this article, I am going to highlight the definition, rulings, virtues and some issues related to I’tikaaf.

Definition of I’tikaaf:“I’tikaaf” is an Arabic word that means to stay and confine oneself. In Shari’ah terminology, it refers to confine oneself from certain things within the Masjid (with the intention of I’tikaaf). (Qamusul Fiqh: 2/170) In another words, I’tikaaf is also defined as to enter the Masjid with the intention of staying inside the Masjid for a period of time to gain reward.

There are three types of I’tikaaf: (1) Wajib, (2) Sunnah Mu’akkadah Alal-Kifaayah and (3) Mustahab.

Wajib: There are two types of Wajib I’tikaaf: (1) A person makes a vow with a condition that if so and so work is done, he will make I’tikaaf. So, when his work is completed, it will be obligatory for him to practice I’tikaaf. This vow, in the term of jurisprudence, is called “Nazr Muayyin”. (2) A person vows to make I’tikaaf Mutlaqan i.e. without any conditions, for example, he makes it obligatory on himself to make I’tikaaf on such and such day, or makes the vow to perform I’tikaaf on so and so day; so even in this case, I’tikaaf will become Wajib upon him. Such a vow, in the term of jurisprudence, is called “Nazr Mutlaq”. There are two prerequisites for Wajib I’tikaaf. (1) This I’tikaaf will be made at least for one day and one night and (2) the person making Wajib I’tikaaf must observe fast.

Sunnah Muakkidah Alal-Kifayah: The I’tikaaf of the last ten days and nights of the month of Ramadhan is called “Sunnah Muqidah Ali Al-Kifayah” by Hanafi jurists. It means that if a person makes I’tikaaf in the Masjid of the town or the village, then the Sunnah is performed and it will absolve the responsibility of all the residents of the village and if no person makes I’tikaaf in the Masjid of the village or town, then all the members of the village or town will be sinful. Sunnah Muakkidah Alal Kifaayah I’tikaaf is performed in the last ten days and nights of the month of Ramadhan. A person who wants to perform this I’tikaaf, he should enter the Masjid with the intention of I’tikaaf on the 20th of Ramadhan before the sunset and stay in the Masjid until the moon of the month of Shawwal is sighted.

Mustahab I’tikaaf: It is an I’tikaaf that a person enters a Masjid, with the intention of I’tikaaf, though it is for a moment, then the Mustahab I’tikaaf is performed. There is no condition of fasting or a particular time for Mustahab I’tikaaf. Whenever a Muslim enters a Masjid, he should make the intention of I’tikaaf while entering and as long as he stays in the Masjid, he should refrain from chatting and engage himself in recitation of the holy Qur’an, chanting Tasbeeh or performing some Nafl Salaah etc., it will be counted as Mustahab I’tikaaf.

Wisdom behind I’tikaaf:Whatever worship is commanded in Islam or a worship which is encouraged to be done, All-Knowing and All-Wise Lord has placed great wisdom in it. I’tikaaf is also a kind of worship. The wisdom behind I’tikaaf is that the Mu’takif (one who is making I’tikaaf) should wait for congregational prayer, try to resemble himself to the angels and get the closeness to Allah. “One who makes I’tikaaf, in seeking the nearness of Allah in I’tikaaf, surrenders himself completely to the worship of Allah and keeps himself away from the worldly business, which prevents the nearness of Allah that the servant seeks, and in I’tikaaf, the Mu’takif is physically or mentally engaged in prayer throughout his time, because the main purpose of the legitimacy of the I’tikaaf is to wait for the Salaah with congregation and the Mu’takif tries to resemble himself to the angels, who do not disobey the commands of Allah, they follow what are they commanded and they chant Tasbeeh day and night and they do not neglect it.” (Mausuah Fiqhiyyah 5/310)

Place for I’tikaaf:It is necessary for men to perform I’tikaaf in the Masjid. As a result, I’tikaaf for men will not be valid in any place other than the Masjid. For I’tikaaf, the most virtuous Masjid is al-Masjid al-Haram, then al-Masjid al-Nabawi, then al-Masjid al-Aqsa (in Palestine), then the Jama Masjid of the city, then the Masjid of the mohalla where there is an arrangement for five-time congregational Salaah, it means a Masjid for which an Imam and Muazzin are appointed. If a female is married, after the permission of her husband, she can perform I’tikaaf at the same place in her house, where she performs Salaah daily. If she doesn’t pray at a fixed place every day, she should decide a fixed place temporarily and make I’tikaaf, Salaah, recitation of the Qura’n and chanting Tasbeeh etc. at the same place.

There is Even Making up (Qadhaa) for I’tikaaf:If a person was in a Wajib I’tikaaf and it was broken for a certain reason, so it is necessary for him to perform make up for I’tikaaf. In the make up for I’tikaaf, one will have to do again for all those days, as many days as he had made a vow; because continuity is necessary in it. If a person was in Sunnah I’tikaaf, in the last ten days of the month of Ramadhan and I’tikaaf was broken for a certain reason; then he will have to do make up only for one day and one night, the day on which I’tikaaf was broken. But the precaution is that he should make I’tikaaf for all ten days. After Sunnah I’tikaaf is broken, the I’tikaaf of remaining days will be counted as Nafl. It should be noted that Nafl I’tikaf ends as soon as one leaves the Masjid and it does not break, therefore, there is no need to perform make up for Nafl I’tikaaf.

Virtues of I’tikaaf:The virtues and rewards of I’tikaaf are too much. In the last ten days of the month of Ramadhan, Sunnah I’tikaf takes place. The blessings of I’tikaaf in the last ten days of Ramadhan can be understood through the fact that the Prophet (SAWS) used to practice I’tikaaf in the last ten days of Ramadhan every year from the time he (SAWS) migrated to Madinah, except for one year.

Sayyiduna Abdullah bin Umar (RA) narrates “Allah’s Messenger (SAWS) used to perform I’tikaaf in the last ten days of the month of Ramadan.” (Sahihul Bukhari: 2025)

Sayyiduna Abu Saeed A1-Khudri (RA) narrates Allah’s Messenger (SAWS) used to practise I’tikaaf in the middle ten days of the month of Ramadhan; once he stayed in I’tikaaf till the night of the 21st and it was the night in the morning of which he (SAWS) used to come out of his I’tikaaf. The Prophet (SAWS) said, “Whoever was in I’tikaaf with me should stay in I’tikaaf for the last ten days, for I was informed (of the date) of the Night (of Qadr), but I have been caused to forget it. (In the dream) I saw myself prostrating in mud and water in the morning of that night. So, look for it in the last ten nights and in the odd ones of them.” It rained that night (i.e. the 21st of Ramadhan) and the roof of the Masjid dribbled as it was made of leaf stalks of date-palms. I saw with my own eyes the marks of mud and water on the forehead of Allah’s Messenger (SAWS), in the morning of the 21st (of Ramadhan). (Sahihul Bukhair, 2027)

Allah’s Messenger (SAWS) said: “A person who performs I’tikaaf, for ten days of Ramadhan, is like the one who performed two Hajjs and two Umrahs (he will be granted the rewards of two Hajjs and two Umrahs).” (Shobul Imaan: 3680)

Allah’s Messenger (SAWS) said: “A person who practices I’tikaaf in a state of faith, hoping for reward, his past sins are forgiven.” (Faizul Qadeer: 6/74) There is a Hadith which speaks that as long as the Mu’tikif practices I’tikaaf, being in the Masjid would avoid many sins, which he could have committed outside the Masjid, and the actions he would have done outside the Masjid, such as: visiting the sick person and participating in the funeral prayer, but he could no longer do it due to I’tikaaf; so, even if he doesn’t do it, he will get rewards for it. It is narrated from Ibn Abbas (RA) that Allah’s Messenger (SAWS) said regarding the person practicing I’tikaaf: “He is refraining from sin and he will be given a reward like that one who does all kinds of good deeds”. (Sunan Ibn Majah: 1781)

Some Important Issues Related to I’tikaaf:(1) A person performing I’tikaaf should not go outside the boundaries of Masjid even for a moment without the natural and legal needs; because it breaks I’tikaaf. (2) It is permissible for a person making I’tikaaf to eat, drink and sleep in the Masjid. (3) If a person performing I’tikaaf eats or drinks knowingly in the day, along with his fast, his I’tikaaf will also break, and it is necessary for him to practice Qadhaa for the I’tikaaf. (4) If the husband has allowed his wife for I’tikaaf, then as long as she is in the I’tikaaf, the husband cannot have intercourse with her. (5) A Mu’takif for the natural needs — such as: urination, answering the call of nature, purification bath, if there is no one to fetch food, then to collect the food — is allowed to go outside Masjid. But he should not stay outside the Masjid more than required time and he should not stay on the way while coming and going to talk to someone. (6) If a person performs I’tikaaf in a Masjid, wherein the Friday Salaah is not offered, then it is permissible for him to go to Jama Masjid for Friday prayer. But he can stay in Jama Masjid as long as the “Tahiyyah al-Masjid, Sunnah prayer before Friday Salaah, Khutbah and Sunnah after Friday prayer” can be performed. It is not allowed for him to stay longer than that. If the Mu’takif goes outside the Masjid to call the Adhaan, it is allowed. All these are considered as “Shariah needs”. (7) If the person making I’tikaaf goes outside the Masjid for natural and religious needs and he meets a sick person on the way, he can ask him about his condition, while walking. In the same way, while walking on the way, he can greet someone and can ask the situation of that person. (8) For I’tikaaf, the woman must be pure from menstruation and Nifaas-Bleeding after childbirth. In the state of menstruation and Nifaas, the I’tikaaf is not valid. If menstruation starts in the state of I’tikaaf, the I’tikaaf will break. After the end of menstruation, she will have to make Qadha for I’tikaaf of one day.

Conclusion:A person who resides in the House of Allah (Masjid) with the intention of I’tikaaf should not waste his precious time. The Mutakif should be engaged in the recitation of the Holy Qura’n, Nafl Salaah, chanting Tasbeeh, making Istighfaar and studying the religious books etc. The Mu’takif should recite Durood frequently. If there is a gathering of teaching and learning or religious sermons in the Masjid, he can participate in it. By engaging in worship during the night, the Mu’takif should strive to get the virtue of “Lailatul Qadr”. In short, as long as the Mutakif is in the Masjid, he should try to get closer to Allah the Almighty in every way and whatever he wants to ask, he should stretch his hands and ask for the fulfillment of his needs. The one who stretches his hands before Allah, the Exalted, is never disgraced and never returns empty handed; but he is always successful. The one who stretches his hands before Allah, He accepts his supplications and fulfills his needs from the unseen. It is mentioned in a Hadith, “Truly Allah feels shy that His slave stretches his hands before Him asking Him for something good and He rejects them unsuccessfully.” (Musannaf Ibn Abi Shaibah, Hadith: 29555) Famous poet Akbar Allahabadi (may Allah have mercy on him!) said: Ask Allah for whatever you want, O Akbar – This is the door where none is disgraced. ●●●●

Khursheed Alam Dawood Qasmi is a notable freelancer. He has authored dozens of pieces on diverse topics such as politics, religion, Muslim World and society.