All About Itikaaf
Today I would like to discuss on itikaaf, Inshaa’Allah.
For easy reading, I am presenting this in 15 separate points.
PS: Scroll down to download as pdf
1. The word itikaaf إعتكاف comes from the Arabic root ع ك ف ‘a-ka-fa.
‘akafa means to adhere, cling, stick, to give oneself over, apply oneself, devote oneself. It also means to seclude oneself, isolate oneself, withdraw, retire to a place, to hold back, to restrain.
If you apply the meanings of this verbal root akafa to itikaaf, Subhanallah, a myriad of meaning emerges!
In simple terms “itikaaf is to seclude oneself to the devotion of one and only Almighty Allah.
The question ‘where to seclude oneself’ is answered in ayah no. 187 of Surah al Baqarah. In a masjid!
I take the liberty to translate the word itikaaf as ‘to disconnect oneself from everything to connect with Allah in His very house, the masjid’.
The person in itikaaf is called as ‘aakif (singular) and ‘aakifoon (plural) عاكف – عاكفون He is also called as Mu’takif معتكف
2. One must make his intention clear: To please Allah and none else!
As it is eloquently clear from the word meaning itself, the purpose of itikaaf must be to devote oneself, fully and exclusively, for the devotion, remembrance and worship of Allah Tabarak Wa Ta’ala.
One must be online with Allah as He is always available hotline!
It is sensible not to connect to the internet in the masjid during itikaaf!
3. Is there any special masjid to perform itikaaf?
Itikaaf can be performed in any masjid where congregational Salah is offered.
4. Itikaaf is better performed in Ramadhaan than in any other month.
Itikaaf has to be done in the last ten days of Ramadhaan as it was the usual practice of the Messenger of Allah, Prophet Muhammad صلّى الله عليه وسلّم (Go to this link for related ahadeeth)
5. Itikaaf is optional or obligatory, you may ask.
Itikaaf is optional. It is reported from authentic ahadeeth that the Prophet صلّى الله عليه وسلّم once abandoned itikaaf in Ramadhaan and did it in Shawwal!
Had itikaaf in Ramadhaan been Fardh (obligatory) how could the Prophet abandon it?
So it is clear that itikaaf is Sunnah, the way of the glorious Messenger of Allah.
6. Is it only for men? or Can women also perform itikaaf?
There is no gender bias. Iti’kaaf can be performed by both, men and women. In case of married woman, her husband’s permission is necessary.
Please note that even women must go to the masjid if they want to observe iti’kaaf. A woman does not have the right to observe i’tikaaf in her house, because Allah says “while you are in Iti’kaaf (i.e. confining oneself in a mosque for prayers and invocations leaving the worldly activities) in the mosques”, and because the wives of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) asked him for permission to observe iti’kaaf in the mosque, and he gave them permission. (For a different opinion visit this)
7. Three conditions control the act of itikaaf.
a. Niyyah (Intention as discussed before)
b. To be in a state of purity
c. Staying in a masjid.
8. It is compulsory that one should stay in itikaaf for all ten days?
Islam is an easy religion and it never makes things difficult for people.
So if someone is desirous to perform itikaaf and is not in a position to devote all ten days at a stretch, then it allowed to perform itikaaf even for a day or two.
Itikaaf can be even for some hours!
Just go to the masjid, spend some hours in the dhikr, remembrance of Allah, and come back. You will get the reward of performing itikaaf.
As itikaaf is a preferred Sunnah and the Prophet صلّى الله عليه وسلّم used to sit in itikaaf during the last ten days of Ramadhaan, it is better to complete all the ten days, by those who have the means to do so.
9. Beginning and the end of itikaaf
According to the Sunnah, Itikaaf begins with one having the intention to observe it and it ends when the period intended ends.
It is desirable to begin Itikaaf after the Fajr Prayer of the twenty-first day of Ramadhaan, following the example of the Prophet صلّى الله عليه وسلّم . This is based on the hadeeth of ‘Aishah رضي الله عنها
(Note: Some of the famous scholars including Imam Abu Hanifa, Malik, Ash-Shafi’e , and Ahmad see the same hadeeth in a different way and are of the opinion that it should begin before sunset in order to complete ten days and ten nights; that is, itikaaf should begin before the Maghrib salah of the 20th day of Ramadhaan. For details see here)
10. Three things nullify an I’tikaaf:
1. Leaving the mosque intentionally without any genuine reason
2. Conjugal relations
3. Loss of purity by menstruation in case of women
11. The person in itikaaf, is he or she allowed to leave the masjid?
The one who observes Itikaaf should keep to the place of their itikaaf, and should not go out except for answering the call of nature or for bringing food, if there is no one to provide it for them.
It is authentically reported that `Aishah (may Allah be pleased with her) said, “The Sunnah for the Mu‘takif is not to visit a patient, attend a funeral, touch or be intimate with his wife, or go out for anything unless it is an absolute must”.
12. Eat, drink and sleep but do keep the masjid clean!
Cleanliness of the masjid and caution against things that might dirty it, such as remnants of food, have to be taken into consideration. The Prophet صلّى الله عليه وسلّم said, “I was shown the rewards of my Ummah (for their different deeds) even for a speck of dirt that someone removes from the masjid”.
Itikaaf or no itikaaf, no Muslim is allowed to spoil the sanctity of a masjid by spreading the litter around!
13. Avoiding unnecessary talks is very important
It is better for the one who observes Itikaaf not to talk much with people. Rather, they should keep to the `Ibadah and obedience. However, if a man is visited by some of his brothers or a woman is visited by Muslim sisters or some of her Mahram relatives (unmarriageable relatives) and has talks with them, there is nothing wrong in that.
14. What are the commendable things in Itikaaf?
1. To recite the Qur’an and ponder over its meanings.
2. To engage oneself in the Zikr (remembrance) of Allah.
3. To seek forgiveness for one’s sins. Sayyidul Istighfaar is the best form of seeking forgiveness from Allah.
4. To invoke blessings upon Prophet Muhammad صلّى الله عليه وسلّم
5. To offer as much of Nawafil (extra) prayers as possible.
6. To perform Qiyaamul Layl/Tahajjud prayers.
7. To memorize the chapters (surahs) or aayaats (verses) of the Qur’an.
8. To memorize the ahadeeth.
9. To read any good book on Seerah.
10. To seek Laylatul Qadr preferably in all the nights (of the last ten days)
11. Include this du’aa compulsorily:
اللهم إنك عفو تحب العفو فاعفُ عني”
“O Allah! You are Forgiving, You love to Forgive, So Forgive Me”
15. Do you know what an vowed Itikaaf is?