I’tikaaf … A way to spirituality

Written by: M Rashid Tabassum

One of the greatest worship in the Ramazan is I’tikaaf. It is an Arabic word which means to stay and at any place. Its general meaning is “keeping or continuing to do something.” In Shari’ah, it means to stay in the Masjid, as an act of worship, seeking to please Allah. Holy Prophet (SAW) used to practice I’tikaaf every year till he died. Once year Prophet Muhammad (SAW) could not make I’tikaaf due to any travel, so He made I’tikaaf of 20 days next year. Abu Huraira (RA) narrated that Prophet Muhammad (SAW) stayed in I’tikaaf for twenty days, when it was the year of his death.

It is practice (Sunnah) of Prophet Muhammad (SAW). It is not obligatory for every Muslim. Anyone who makes a vow to do it, in which case it becomes obligatory, because the Holy Prophet (SAW) said: “Whoever vows to obey Allah, let him obey Him, and whoever vows to disobey Him, let him not disobey Him” (Sahi Bukhaari). Umar bin Al-Khattab said, “O Allah’s Messenger! I vowed in the Pre-lslamic period to perform I’tikaaf in Masjid-al-Haram for one night.” The Prophet (SAW) said, “Fulfill your vow.” So, he performed I’tikaaf for one night (Sahi Bukhaari).

Holy Prophet (SAW) entered his I’tikaaf place after offering the Fajar prayer. He stayed whole night in Masjid in worship and entered his tent after Fajar prayer.  He left after sunset on the last day of Ramazan whether it is 29 or 30 days. Holy Prophet (SAW) would stay awake at night, wake his family, strive hard in worship and tighten his waist wrap. It was narrated that Aishah said:  “The Prophet used to strive hard (in worship) in the last ten nights of Ramazan as he never did at any other time (Sunan Ibn e Majah).

Some rulings about I’tikaaf, according to Quran o Sunnah, are given below.

  1. I’tikaaf is observed in Masjid only. As Allah says in Quran: “and We commanded Ibrahim (Abraham) and Isma’il (Ishmael) that they should purify My House (the Ka‘bah at Makkah) for those who are circumambulating it, or staying (I’tikaaf), or bowing or prostrating themselves (there, in prayer)” (al-Baqarah 2:125).
  2. Hanging a tent in the Masjid for privacy is Sunnah. Holy Prophet ordered his wife to set up tent in the Masjid. Hazrat Aisha (RA) said, “The Prophet (SAW) used to practice I’tikaaf in the last ten days of Ramazan and I used to pitch a tent for him, and after offering the Morning Prayer, he used to enter the tent.” (Bukhaari)
  3. Women are allowed to observe I’tikaaf but they should observe I’tikaaf in Masjid. It is Narrated by Aishah that One of the wives of Allah’s Messenger (SAW) practiced I’tikaaf with him while she had bleeding in between her periods and she would see red (blood) or yellowish traces, and sometimes we put a tray beneath her when she offered the prayer.
  4. A wife of a person who observing I’tikaaf can also visit her husband in the Masjid. Hazrat Safiya (RA) went to the Holy Prophet (SAW) while he was in I’tikaaf. (Reference Bukhaari)
  5. A person who is observing I’tikaaf can go home to use toilet if the Masjid has not toilet. Likewise is the need of taking bath compulsory.

Following things are not allowed during I’tikaaf. The Sunnah for one who is observing I’tikaaf (in a mosque) is not to visit a patient, or to attend a funeral, or touch or embrace one’s wife, or go out for anything but necessary purposes. There is no I’tikaaf without fasting, and there is no I’tikaaf except in a congregational mosque. Allah says in Quran: “And do not have sexual relations with them (your wives) while you are in I‘tikaaf (i.e. confining oneself in a mosque for prayers and invocations leaving the worldly activities) in the mosques” [al-Baqarah 2:187]

I’tikaaf is best source to close Allah. We should arrange worship, offer prayers, and recite Holy Quran. As well as, we should strive hard to attain Allah’s pleasure and to be closer to him. May Allah accept our worship (Aameen).


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