Bismillah AlRahman AlRaheem.
The Prophet, salallahu alaihee wa aalihee wa salam said, “Whoever revives an aspect of my Sunnah that is forgotten after my death, he will have a reward equivalent to that of the people who follow him, without it detracting in the least from their reward.” (Tirmidhi)
One of the Sunnah we hope to see revived in our times by Muslim men and women is that of the I’tikaf which was a well-known practice of the Prophet, salallahu alaihee wa aalihee wa salam. Here in the west alhamdullillah many of the massajid have adequate room for men and women to make I’tikaf is a safe and proper way and so there is definitely a chance to enjoy this sweet act of worship.
I’tikaf is a Sunnah that takes devotion and time and it is something to help us progress from doing the obligatory acts of worship into the mustahabaat (recommended acts of worship) and we should always seek to do more and be like those righteous Muslims who do more in their worship.
The great taabi‘ (student of the Companions) Imam Al-Hasan al-Basri said, “Whoever competes with you in the Deen then try to surpass him (compete with him), and whoever competes with you in the matters of this life then throw it back at him (ignore him).
I`tikaf means to remain with something or to stick to something, whether good or bad, and to block out everything else.
Allah says in the Qur’an in Surah Al-Anbiya verse 52:
مَا هَذِهِ التَّمَاثِيلُ الَّتِي أَنتُمْ لَهَا عَاكِفُونَ
“What then are idols that you pay devotion (akifun from I’tikaf) to them?” — that is, what they devoted themselves to in worship.
This is the aiyah Ali ibn Abi Talib radhi ullahu anhu once reminded a group of people he saw engaged in a chess game.
What is meant here is the seclusion and staying in the mosque with the intention of becoming closer to Allah.
Even though it is an act, which is done to get closer to Allah, there is no sound hadith
concerning its merits. Imam Abu Dawood states: “I said to Ahmad, ‘Are you aware of anything concerning the virtues of I`tikaf?’ He answered: ‘No, except for some weak (reports).'”
Narrated Abdullah bin Umar: “Allah’s Messenger used to practise I’tikaf in the last ten days of the month of Ramadan.” (AlBukhari)
I’tikaf is a great practice when one can sit in the masjid and focus on their worship – they can make prayers, read Quraan, make dhikrullah, call the adhaan for the prayer and so on.
As the Prophet, salallahu alaihee wa aalihee wa salam said, “The closest a person is to His Lord is when he is in prostration (sujood ).” (Muslim)
The best act to do in I’tikaf is praying except in Masjid Al-Haram in which tawaf would be the most noble act of worship to engage in. Allah subhanu wa ta ala says in Surah AlBaqarah verse 125,
أَن طَهِّرَا بَيْتِيَ لِلطَّائِفِينَ وَالْعَاكِفِينَ وَالرُّكَّعِ السُّجُودِ
“purify My House (the Ka’bah at Makkah) for those who are circumambulating it (tawaf), or staying ( I’tikaf), or bowing (ruku ) or prostrating (sujood) themselves (there, in prayer).”
I’tikaf is a time when one can be sure to engage only in positive and beneficial speech and try to avoid any vain or evil speech or any sinful conversations because the Muslim male or female in I’tikaf will remember that our Prophet, salallahu alaihee wa aalihee wa salam told us, “Whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day then let him speak only good or remain silent.” (AlBukhari)
Narrated ‘Aisha (the wife of the Prophet and the mother of the believers): “The Prophet used to practice i’tikaf in the last ten days of Ramadan till he died and his wives used to practice i’tikaf after him.” (AlBukhari)
Ibn Al-Qayyim said in Zaad al-Ma’ad that the I’tikaf of the Prophet, salallahu alaihee wa aalihee wa salam was “moderate and not harsh”.
Narrated Abu Huraira: “The Prophet used to perform I’tikaf every year in the month of Ramadan for ten days, and when it was the year of his death, he stayed in I’tikaf for twenty days.” (AlBukhari)
Some scholars say he did twenty days because he knew his death was near and he wanted to increase in good deeds and some say it may have been because he traveled much the year before and was unable to do more I’tikaf the previous year. In any case, it is confirmed that the Prophet, salallahu alaihee wa aalihee wa salam did twenty days the year before his death.
Some of the people in these times may feel that I’tikaf is too much. There are so many other Sunnan we can observe and so many other deeds for us to do that are easier and that may be true but this is a virtuous act and they should consider the words of Allah subhanu wa ta ala
إِنَّ اللَّهَ يُدْخِلُ الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا وَعَمِلُوا الصَّالِحَاتِ جَنَّاتٍ تَجْرِي مِن تَحْتِهَا الْأَنْهَارُ يُحَلَّوْنَ فِيهَا مِنْ أَسَاوِرَ مِن ذَهَبٍ وَلُؤْلُؤاً وَلِبَاسُهُمْ فِيهَا حَرِيرٌ
“Indeed Allaah will enter those who believe and do righteous and correct actions into Paradise, beneath which rivers flow. Wherein they will be adorned with bracelets of gold and pearls and their garments will be made of silk.” (Surah al-Hajj 22:23)
And the best example for us to follow when considering our worship is that of Rasulillah and his companions, and the scholars and righteous Muslims throughout the ages.
Fatima, the wife of the `Umar ibn `Abdil-Aziz said, “I have never seen a person offering a salah or fasting more than he did, or a person fearing the Lord more than him. After offering the Isha prayer, he would sit down and cry until he becomes sleepy, then he would wake up again and continue crying until sleep overtakes him.”
It was said by Abul-Mawahib ibn Sarsari said concerning the great Maliki scholar, Imam Abul-Qasim ibn Asakir , “I have never seen the like of him, and none had encompassed as many good characteristics as he did concerning his adherence to one way for forty years, making salah in the first row unless he had an excuse, i`tikaf during Ramadan and the ten days of Dhul-Hijjah, and the lack of desire to accumulate properties and build houses, as he forbade himself these. He turned away any position of imam or speaker, though they were offered to him, and he devoted himself to enjoin good and forbid evil, and he would not fear anyone in that.”
Ustadh Muhammad Alshareef explained in his fiqh ul-ibadah class regarding I’tikaf: “The Prophet, salallahu alaihee wa aalihee wa salam would make I’tikaf in a tent which Aisha radhi ullahu anha would setup for him and he would not leave the masjid except to go relieve himself in his home which was right next to the masjid.”
Most of the massajid nowadays usually have proper bathrooms right next to the masjid and so one would not have to leave to go home most probably and most people do not have a home as close to the masjid as Rasulillah’s was.
Ustadh Muhammad continues, “In the modern day, one should not leave I’tikaf to go to an iftar party or to a corner store to buy groceries and so on. I’tikaf is only to be made in the masjid for both men and women (this will be discussed more in a following post). The one making I’tikaf should make prayers, or tawaf if he is in the masjid al-Haram , and rukoo and sujood as Allah says in the Quran, and dhikr and so on. The person should seek layla tul-Qadar, especially in the last ten nights of Ramadan from the nineteenth onwards. I’tikaf is not a slumber party or a time when people should engage in excessive talking or socializing or become tempted even by the people who visit the masjid.”
Ibn AlQayyim said, “When he was in i’tikaf, the Prophet, salallahu alaihee wa aalihee wa salam did not (even) visit the sick or attend funerals. This was so that he could concentrate fully on conversing with Allah and achieving the purpose of i’tikaf, which is to cut oneself off from people and turn to Allah.”
‘Aisha said: The Sunnah is for the person in i’tikaf not to visit the sick or attend
funerals, or to be intimate with his wife. But there is nothing wrong with his going out for
essential needs. (Abu Dawood)
“…or to be intimate with his wife” means intercourse. This was stated by al-Shawkani in Nayl al-Awtar.
So if the person in I’tikaf is not to engage in some of the acts that are ordinarily halal and even recommended such as visiting the sick, attending funerals and being intimate with your own wife, the imagine the position towards engaging in vain and wasteful acts such as idle talk, gossip, joking, and leaving to attend things which are not essential or necessary.
Shaykh A’id Al-Qarni says in Thirty Lessons for those who Fast, “Among his practices also was that of retreat and seclusion during the last ten days of Ramadan. The Prophet did this in order to attune his heart ever more with Allah and to free his mind from the concerns of the world. The gaze of his heart thus became entirely focused in the heavens.”
The worshipped becomes free from the concerns of the world and his focus and engagement is fully upon his worship and seeking the hereafter!
Shaykh A’id continues, “During this time, he limited his contacts with people and intensified his supplication and prayers to Allah, the Lord of all Majesty and Glory. His heart, therefore, indulged purely in the contemplation of Allah’s attributes and qualities.”
Ibn Al-Qayyim said in Zaad al-Ma’ad: “All of this (which Rasulillah did in I’tikaf) to achieve the spirit and purpose of i’tikaaf, and is the opposite of what the ignorant do, whereby the place of i’tikaaf becomes a place of gathering and meeting with people and chatting to them. This is one thing, and i’tikaaf as observed by the Prophet salallahu alaihee wa aalihee wa salam is something else.
The best example is that of the Prophet Muhammad, salallahu alaihee wa aalihee wa salam and we hope to experience and revive his blessed Sunnah for following his Sunnah is the only way to achieving true success.
Written and Prepared By: Irtiza Hasan