What is I’tikaaf?
I’tikāf is a unique ‘ibādah (act of worship) whereby a person forsakes all his activities, secludes himself in the masjid and directs all his attention to Allāh Ta’āla. I’tikāf enjoys special attraction, blessings and distinguishes itself from other ‘ibādāt. It serves to repair the spiritual breakdown of man due to his deep involvement in worldly affairs and assists in redirecting his focus to Allāh Ta’āla. All worldly connections are cut off for the sake of gaining Allāh Ta’āla’s attention. All thoughts, desires and commitments are centred around Allāh Ta’āla and in consequence a complete spiritual connection with Allah is attained. ( Al-Insaaf fi hukmil i’tikāf, pg6, Dārul Bashāir / Fadhāil Al-a’māl, pg 68, chapter on i’tikāf)
I’tikāf also entrenches within a person the true concept of enslavement to Allāḥ Ta’āla(‘ubūdiyya), as one deserts all worldly occupations, pleasures and humbles himself before Allāh Ta’āla.
“Atā al-Khurāsāni (رحمة الله عليه ) used to say: “The example of a mu’takif (one performing i’tikāf) is the example of a person laying humbly before Allāh Ta’āla, saying: I shall not move away until He (Allāh Ta’āla) forgives me” ( Badā’i Al-Sanā’i, 2/273, Dār Al-Ihyā al-Turath)
Hadhrat Shaykh Zakariyya (رحمة الله عليه ) writes that a mu’takif is like a person, who having requested of something, waits until he is granted his request. He further writes that a mu’takif is a person who actually presents himself at the doorstep of Allāh Ta’āla; seeking His forgiveness and closeness. ( Fadhāil Al-a’māl, pg 68, chapter on i’tikāf)
Rasulullāh (صلى الله عليه وسلم) was passionate and avid to i’tikāf in the month of Ramadhān and never missed i’tikāf of the last ten days. ‘Aisha (رضي الله عنه) said: “Rasulullāh (صلى الله عليه وسلم) made i’tikāf of the last ten days of Ramadhān till the end of his life”(Sahih Bukhāri)
It is also recorded that Rasulullāh (صلى الله عليه وسلم) made i’tikāf of the entire month of Ramadhān once and made i’tikāf of twenty days on other occasions. The importance and significance of i’tikāf is illustrated by the fact that the Rasulullāh (صلى الله عليه وسلم) always performed it and never omitted it absolutely.
During his i’tikāf, he occupied himself with nafl salāt, Qurān, zikr, du’ā and committed himself totally to Allāh Ta’āla.
Virtues and benefits of I’tikāf:
Ibn Abbās (رضي الله عنه) relates that Rasulullāh (صلى الله عليه وسلم) said, “The person performing I’tikāf remains free from sins and he is indeed given the same reward as those who do good deeds (in spite of not being able to do them whilst in I’tikāf e.g. visiting the sick). ( Ibn Mājah)
Moreover, another distinguishing virtue of i’tikāf is, as long as a person remains in i’tikāf, every moment is recorded as ibādah – his sleeping, eating, drinking and his every moment is considered ibādah. Thus, an essential benefit of i’tikāf, which is the acquisition of Laylatul Qadr, can never be missed by a mu’takif, as his entire day and night is ‘ibādah. Hence, he will attain the reward of spending every moment of Laylatul Qadr in ‘ibādah.
– I’tikāf easily allows a person to perform salāt with full devotion, make more tilawat and dhikr, as a mu’takif breaks all ties with the outside world and is in a state of tranquility, where he is free from everything that diverts him from Allah Ta’āla’s remembrance. This leaves him to focus his mind solely towards Allah Ta’āla’s obedience and happiness. It also gives a person the ideal opportunity to reflect on same of heis personal issues and make appropriate decisions.
– I’tikāf accustoms a person to staying in the masjid (house of Allāh) for a long period and creates an attachment between him and the masjid.
A person who intends sitting for Sunnah I’tikāf during the last ten days of Ramadān should enter the Musjid before sunset on the 20th Ramadān and only leave after the moon for Eid has been sighted. During I’tikāf, a person may only exit the Musjid to answer to the call of nature, Fard Ghusal and to make wudhu. If he leaves the musjid boundaries without a valid reason, his Sunnah I’tikāf will terminate and he will have to make Qadha of one days I’tikāf (24 hours) in the state of fasting (during the day) in or after Ramadān.
Statement of Zuhri (رحمة الله عليه ):
Imām Zuhri (رحمة الله عليه ) used to lament on the condition of the people and say: “How strange the Muslims are! They have given up I’tikaaf, despite the fact that the Rasulullāh (صلى الله عليه وسلم) never abandoned this practice from the time he came to Madeenah until his death.” (Badā’i Al-Sanā’i, 2/273, Dār Al-Ihya)
An essential point to note is that though Rasulullah (صلى الله عليه وسلم) was free of sin and reached the highest level of piety, he nevertheless exerted the utmost effort in order to obtain the virtue of i’tikāf and laylatul qadr, to the extent that he spent the entire month of Ramadhān in i’tikāf. We are to a greater degree in need of this virtue. Accordingly, we should take greater care in attaining this virtue. It is recorded of the salaf (pious predecessors) that they were particular on performing i’tikāf in the last ten days of Ramadhān and never missed its opportunity.
By: Hazrat Mufti Ebrahim Desai Saheb.