Islamic Wisdom: The Spiritual Significance of A Great Sunnah Itikaf
Itikaf is a way to cure the wounds of the soul. Allah has blessed us with the month of Ramadan and then in Ramadan, he bestowed us with Itikaf for our spiritual retreat. Itikaf (seclusion in the mosque during the last ten days of Ramadan) is for the completion of the benefits of fasting.
Hello, readers and followers, I hope all’s well. Today’s story, I’ll cover everything about spiritual signification of itikaf in Islam.
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The last ten days are here and Ramadan is also drawing to a close. Itikaf is very relevant at this time and it is good to know the rules of seclusion so as to avoid what can invalidate. We have lots of our brothers and sisters observing Itikaff in various masjids while some are still willing to observe.
The Importance of Itikaf:
Itikaf (seclusion in the mosque during the last ten days of Ramadan) is for the completion of the benefits of fasting. Itikaf is an Arabic words which means to isolate oneself or adhere to something.If a person has remained denied of inner peace and tranquility and has been unable to concentrate on prayer and supplication during the earlier part of Ramadan, he can make amends for it through itikaf.
In Ramadan, many Muslims perform Itikaf by spending the last 10 fast’s days and nights in mosques by isolating themselves from people and the matters of the world while sticking to Ibadah.
The Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) always observed itikaf and the Muslims have, on the whole, adhered to it.
It is performed in the last 10 days of Ramadan which are dedicated to the freedom from hellfire as well as the night of Qadar is also present in these days. Laylat ul qadar is the night on which God had sent down the Quran-e-Hakeem from heavens to our Prophet (PBUH). The night which is better than 1000 other nights.
Types of Itikaf:
There are three types of Itikaf which are mentioned below:
- Wajib Itikaf: This Itikaf becomes compulsory when someone makes it obligatory upon himself/herself. It is like when a person makes a vow to Allah Almighty that if Allah fulfills a certain wish of his/her, he/she will undertake to perform so many days Itikaf. In this case, the moment his wish is fulfilled, Itikaf becomes compulsory. This becomes a Wajib duty on him/her from that moment onward until performing Itikaf.
- Sunnah Itikaf: This was the general practice of Prophet Muhammad (SAW) and it means to seclude oneself inside the Masjid for the last ten days of Ramadan. It should be for at least 3 days or maximum 10 days during last ten days of Ramadan.
- Nafil Itikaf: There is no specific time or number of days for Nafil Itikaf. A person may form the Niyyah for any number of days at any time of the year.
The Virtues of Itikaf:
The main purpose of itikaf is to remove yourself from distractions and focus solely on the worship of Allah, and, with it, one attains inner composure and equanimity; preoccupation with the mundane things of life ceases, and the state is reached in which all fears, hopes, and apprehensions are superseded by the love and remembrance of Allah; every anxiety is transformed into the anxiety for Him; every thought and feeling is blended with the eagerness to gain His nearness and to earn His good favor, and devotion to the Almighty is generated instead of devotion to the world.This is the provision for the grave where there will be neither a friend nor a helper. This is the high aim and purpose of itikaf, which is the specialty of the most sublime part of Ramadan, that is, the last ten days.
Renewing Your Relationship With Allah:
Itikaf is a time to renew your relationship with Allah without the distractions of daily life. It is like a spiritual retreat to renew and energize your soul. In fact, another purpose of itikaf is so that you may fall in love with worshiping Allah such that you will carry that feeling with you once your itikaf is over. In other words, it helps to strengthen your faith in Allah and helps to further perfect your worship of Him.
The Heart Is the Core of Deeds:
The core of all deeds is the heart, as the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said:
“In the body there is an organ which if it is sound, the entire body will be sound, and if it is corrupt, the entire body will be corrupt. That organ is the heart.” [Bukhari 52 and Muslim 1599]
In this hadith record of the traditions or sayings of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) the message speaks of the heart as being the core of all of our actions. This world has many temptations, trials, and tribulations. It can influence the actions of our heart.
Itikaf allows you to take a timeout from the world and focus on constant worship of Allah to remind us that we are here to worship and please Allah.
Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) Said;
He who observes the ten days Itikaf during Ramadan will obtain the thawab of two Hajj and two Umrah. [Bayhaqi]
It helps us keep our heart good and on the straight path as we go out in the world. Itikaf can help one to strengthen one’s shield against the tricks and temptations of shaitan (evil spirits).
The mosques in which the Itikaf is to be performed:
itikaf in the mosque is a means to the attainment of peace of mind and purification of the heart, and it affords an excellent opportunity for forging an identity with the angels and having a share in the blissfulness of Laylat Al-Qadr (the Night of Decree), and for devoting oneself to prayer and meditation, Allah has set apart the last ten days of the month of Ramadan for it and made it a sunnah for His pious and virtuous slaves.
A’ishah (may Allah be pleased with her) relates that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) regularly observed itikaf during the last ten days of Ramadan till the end of his life. After him, his wives followed (Al-Bukhari and Muslim).
There is a difference of opinion among the jurists concerning what mosques are acceptable for Itikaf. According to Abu Hanifah, Ahmad, Ishaq, and Abu Thaur, 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: “Every mosque that has a caller to prayer and an imam is acceptable for I`tikaf.” (Related by Ad-Daraqutni, but the Hadith is Mursal and weak and cannot be used as a proof.)
Malik, Ash-Shafii, and Dawud say that it is acceptable in any mosque, as there is no proof that restricts it to any particular mosques. The Shafiyyah say it is better to perform Itikaf in a congregational mosque, 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 Friday prayer, then one must perform it in the congregational mosque in order not to miss the Friday prayer.
The person making Itikaf may make the call to prayer if the place from whence the call is made is either the door of the mosque or its interior courtyard. He may also go to the roof of the mosque, as all of that is considered part of the mosque. If the place for the call to prayer is outside of the mosque, and the Mutakif makes the call, he will void his Itikaf. The exterior courtyard is considered part of the mosque according to the Hanafiyyah and Shafiyyah and one narration from Ahmad. According to Malik and another narration, it is not part of the mosque and the person making I`tikaf should not go there.
Most scholars say that it is not correct for a woman to make Itikaf in the mosque in her house (that is, the special place of her house where she performs her prayers) because the mosque in her house usually does not fall in the category of mosques and can be sold. There is no difference of opinion on this point. The wives of the Prophet always performed their Itikaf in the Prophet’s mosque.
All the schools of jurisprudence are agreed that itikaf is not obligatory but a sunnah (recommended act). According to the Hanafi school, it is a sunnah mu’akkadah (according to the Hanfis, sunnah mu’akkadah is a religious practice which, though not obligatory, was observed regularly by the Prophet and one is liable to be questioned for neglecting it without a valid reason) and sunnah kifayah (meaning such religious practices which, if they are observed by a few persons, are considered to have been observed by all). It has become a regular feature of the month of Ramadan and a confirmed practice with the devout and the faithful.
The Time and Duration of Itikaf:
There seems to be varying opinions on the time and duration of itikaf, depending on which school of thought you follow.
For nafl and wajib itikaf, it is agreed that the duration depends on your intent and can begin at any time of the day or night. So if you plan or vow to Allah to be in itikaf for one day, then do so for one day; if for two days, then do so for two days, etc. Some scholars say that if one cannot do the entire 24-hour period, then it is permissible for a person to make the intention for the set amount of time for itikaf.
During the last 10 nights of Ramadan, many try to spend the entire time in itikaf so they will not miss out of the rewards of Laylat al-Qadr. It is not known which night Laylat al-Qadr will occur, except that it will occur on an odd number night. Some choose to spend their days and nights in itikaf only on the odd number days of the last 10 days of Ramadan, making their itikaf intentions with each time they enter the masjid.
As far as when a person should begin his or her itikaf, there seems to be a variance in opinion as well. There are a few hadiths that mention that the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) would begin his itikaf at the time of Maghrib prayer, and many hadiths that mention that he would begin his itikaf at the time of Fajr prayer. So it depends upon the believer and his or her intentions.
“When the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) wanted to observe itikaf, he would pray Fajr then enter his place of itikaf.” -Aisha [Bukari 1928 and 2041, Muslim 1173, al-Tirmidhi 791]
If the intention is there to do so, itikaf could last only a few hours. For example, it is encouraged, but not mandatory, to be in a state of itikaf during the time of Fajr until the sun rises and to be in a state of itikaf from Maghrib until the end of Isha prayer.
And do not have relations with them as long as you are staying for worship in the mosques. These are the limits [set by] Allah, so do not approach them. Thus does Allah make clear His ordinances to the people that they may become righteous.
[Quran Surat al-Baqarah 2:187]
The Conditions of Itikaf:
- Being Muslim: The first condition to performing itikaf is that the person be Muslim. Also, note that children who have not reached an age of discernment (sin at-tamyiz) do not participate in itikaf. The child must be able to eat, dress themselves, and wash themselves without assistance. For those who follow the Hanafi school of thought, this is typically around the age of seven for boys and around the age of nine for girls.
- Must be of sound mind: What this means is that a person must be able to make reasonable and rational thoughts and decisions. To explain further, a person may not be drunk or under the influence of drugs that may alter their state of mind. Also, a person who has a mental illness where they cannot make decisions on their own does not perform itikaf.
- Niyyah: This means intention. One must have the intention to participate in itikaf for the sake of Allah, not for the sake of being seen by others. Your intention must be pure and focused on worshiping and pleasing Allah.
- Permission: Women need to ask permission from their husbands before performing itikaf.
- Performed in masjid: It is mentioned in Surat al-Baqarah 2:187 that itikaf is performed in a masjid. While some may say it is okay to perform itikaf at home, especially for women, most scholars agree that this is simply not the case at all, because the Qur’an says otherwise.
- State of wudu: One must be in a state of wudu (purification/cleanliness) to participate in itikaf. If a person’s wudu is nullified, such as using the bathroom, then the person must wudu before continuing itikaf. Although, if during sleep, one has what is called a wet dream, one’s itikaf is not nullified but one must ghusl (full body purification) before continuing itikaf.
- Fasting: By most schools of thought, fasting is a requirement to perform itikaf. Itikaf is mentioned in the Qur’an in conjunction to the fasting of Ramadan. The Prophet Muhammad (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) would always fast during the time of his itikaf. However, some believe that if a person has a medical condition, such as diabetes, that prevents him or her from fasting, that it is still permissible for that person to participate in itikaf. Please note that a medical condition differs from being ill, such as with fever or nausea.
The Sunnah for the person who is in Itikaf is that he should not visit the sick or attend funerals, or touch his wife or have intercourse with her, or go out for any but the most pressing of needs. There is no Itikaf except with fasting, and there is no Itikaf except in a Masjid.
[Abu Dawood 2473]
Things bring to Itikaf:
- Hadith books
- Books on tafseer
- Materials on tajweed
- Notebook and pencil or pens
- Change of clothing
- Food for suhoor and iftar
- Pillow and blanket
Things Do During Itikaf:
- Five daily prayers: It is prescribed that all Muslims pray five daily fard (obligatory) prayers, so this is obviously expected during itikaf. It is also suggested that Muslims pray the sunnah prayers with each of the fard prayers.
- Taraweeh: This is the prayer that occurs after Isha prayer during Ramadan. It can be 8 to 20 rakah (units of prayer), depending on who is leading Taraweeh. By participating in Taraweeh, you will hear/recite the whole Qur’an during the month of Ramadan.
- Nafl prayers: During itikaf, it is a good time to pray nafl (voluntary) prayers.
- Read and memorize Qur’an: Another act of worshiping Allah is to read and study the Qur’an. Don’t just read the Qur’an, study the tafseer (interpretation) of the Qur’an. Also, take this time to try to memorize and focus on tajweed (proper pronunciation) as much of the Qur’an as you can.
- Read and memorize hadiths: Also spend time learning and even memorizing sahih (authentic) hadiths. Also, reflect on their meaning and how to apply them to your daily life.
- Make du’a: Be sure to make plenty of du’a (prayer of worship). Compile a list of du’a to learn and recite daily.
- Make dhikr: Also spelled zikr, dhikr translates to remembrance. Itikaf is all about remembering Allah and raising your level of taqwa (piety/consciousness of Allah).
- Teaching and learning: Although social conversations should be kept to a minimum, there is great reward in not just learning the Qur’an and ways to better worship Allah, but there are also great rewards for anyone who spends time teaching and helping another person perfect their acts of worship and knowledge.
Acts Nullify Itikaf:
- Wrong intentions: Itikaf is supposed to be a spiritual retreat to bring one closer to Allah through devout worship for an extended period of time. If one is only participating in itikaf so that friends, family, and other peers may see them do so, then the itikaf is null and void and will not be accepted.
- Leaving the masjid: Once you have made the intention to stay at the masjid for itikaf, you cannot leave without a good reason. However, it was noted that the Prophet Muhammad (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) would stick his head outside the masjid so that Aisha may comb his hair. But if you step outside completely, meaning your entire body, without a good reason, then your itikaf will be nullified. You may leave the masjid without nullifying your itikaf if you must use the bathroom. Although most masjids have food available during itikaf, if this is not the case, you may also leave the masjid if you need to get food, such as for suhoor (early morning meal) or iftar (meal after sunset).
- Sexual intercourse: Although sexual intercourse with a spouse is permissible outside the duration of fasting, such as after one has broken their fast and before fajr prayer, sexual intercourse and masturbation is not allowed at all during the period of itikaf. Also, no kissing, holding hands, or any other form of pleasure from the opposite sex is permitted during itikaf. In Islam, sexual intercourse is only allowed between a husband and wife. However, if one has sexual intercourse outside of marriage then one’s itikaf will not be accepted.
- Menstruation or post-childbirth bleeding: If a woman is experiencing post-childbirth bleeding or is on her menstrual cycle, she is not allowed to participate in itikaf. If a woman begins her menstrual cycle during itikaf, she must quietly leave the mosque and not return until her menstruation is finished.
- Not of sound mind: This could be due to being under the influence of a substance that would cause drunkenness or that would inhibit one’s reasoning. It could also be an onset, whether temporary or permanent, of insanity or mental illness that interferes with one’s reasoning.
- Being ill/sick: If a person is sick or becomes ill during itikaf, the person must discontinue itikaf, because it will no longer be valid or accepted. That person should stay home or return home to recover from illness.
- Becoming a disbeliever: If one becomes a disbeliever in Islam or associates partners with Allah in any way (placing others as Allah’s equal), then the itikaf is nullified, and he or she needs to leave the mosque.
- Arguing: It is not permissible to discuss matters of the world, such as politics, because it may cause an argument due to possible differing opinions. It is advised against not to have faith-based arguments either. Although, it is the duty to every Muslim to destroy any falsehoods and educate in truth — just be careful how it is done. There is no need to raise one’s voice in anger or insult the other person. Faith-based discussions are permissible if done so in a calm, rational manner.
- Perfume/cologne: Perfume and cologne worn with the intent to derive pleasure from it by either the person wearing or by the people around the person is said to nullify itikaf. It isn’t the wearing of perfume or cologne that nullifies itikaf, it is the possibility of committing or causing someone else to commit an act of sin. It is advised not to wear perfume at all, because even if the wearer does not have the intention of wearing it for pleasure, some people around him or her may derive pleasure from it, which may nullify their itikaf.
- Any sinful act: No matter how minor, all sins, both major and minor, must be avoided during itikaf. If one commits any kind of sinful act, the itikaf is nullified.
- Business transactions: This is not a time to conduct business transactions. Itikaf is designed to focus on Allah and to leave worldly desires and dealing outside the masjid.
Going for Namaz-e-Janazah:
Before sitting in Itikaf, if a person made Niyyah (intention) to attend any Funeral Prayer while sitting in Itikaf, he may go. Otherwise, he shall remain in his place.
Some Answers about Itikaf:
Itikaf is a great Sunnah of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and is rewarding, an act that we should strive to perform at least once in our lifetime. It is the practice of secluding oneself during the final 10 days of Ramadan, in a Masjid for men or at home for women with the intention of solely dedicating your time to the worship of Allah (swt).
One of the most rewarding acts during Ramadan and particularly in the last ten days is giving charity but this can’t be done whilst on Itikaf so it’s a really good idea to ensure you’ve made all your donations before you go to Itikaf.
Stay Focused on Your Intentions and Be Free of Distractions
Remember Itikaf starts after sunset on the 20th of Ramadan and ends when the moon for Eid is sighted so make sure your donations have been paid ahead of starting Itikaf. This includes Zakat Ul Fitr (Fitrana) which must be paid before the Eid prayer.
I hope you believe and grasp how faith impacts your life. Prayer, reciting Sacred text according to your religion like Quran in Islam about spiritual growth and will help you walk out your faith day by day.
It turns out that regular participation in faith-based activities is good for the body and mind, too.
May Allah bless you all
Finally, I pray to Allah to benefit those who read this article and others, grant me truthfulness in what I say and do, preserve my thoughts and my pen from deviation and guide me in all my affairs.
And all praise and thanks are due to Allah, without Whose help and guidance nothing can be accomplished. May Allah bless you with happiness, success, guidance, health, and knowledge. May Almighty Allah give us the strength to follow the Sunnah of our beloved Prophet Muhammad (P.B.U.H) and make us part of the group who is among the most righteous! Ameen.
Be patient with yourself. And Keep learning!!
Always start your day by renewing your intention that everything you do for yourself and your community, whether it be your acts of worship or daily chores. It all has to be merely for the sake of Allah (SWT) and also, I ask Allah (SWT) to make my work dedicated only to him and forgiveness from Allah (SWT), if I have got anything wrong. It is He who is the Hearing, the knowing.
I will be calmer, I will spread love as long as I can, I will live a spiritual life, I will do what I please no matter what and I will prove my theories.
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