Ramadaan is a time of Ibaadah to Allah and gaining closeness to Him. Among the many ways leading to His closeness is the act of Itikaaf. Itikaaf is to seclude oneself in the Masjid with the intention of Itikaaf (seclusion) for the sake of Allah.
Itikaaf can include such seclusion for which the period is fixed as well as when it is not fixed. Based upon this the scholars have considered three types of Itikaaf; Wajib, Sunnah and Nafl.
Wajib Itikaaf refers to that essential seclusion in the Masjid which comes into effect through a vow/promise/oath, or as the Qadaa of a Sunnah Itikaaf which became null. The least period for this type of Itikaaf is one day and its night and must be accompanied by fasting of the day with expressed intention.
The Sunnah Itikaaf refers to that seclusion in the Masjid during the last ten days of Ramadaan which must also be observed along with fasting of the days. It begins before the sunset of the 20th day of Ramadaan, i.e. before the 21st night, and ends when the moon of Shawwaal is seen.
Nafl Itikaaf refers to optional seclusion in the Masjid for any amount of time. The period is not fixed and fasting is not a condition for its observance.
So long as a person remains in the Masjid with the intention of seclusion as a form of worship to Allah it will constitute Itikaaf.
Itikaaf is indeed a great and significant form of worship to Allah for which He bestows an abundance of rewards and benefits. It was also an established practice of the Holy Prophet (SA) which he used to perform frequently, especially in the Holy month of Ramadaan. Sometimes he would even remain in Itikaaf for the entire month of Ramadaan in order to achieve rewards of Lailatul Qadr and closeness to Allah. This has been mentioned in an authentic Hadith narrated by Abu Saeed Khudri who said that Rasuulullah (SA) once performed Itikaaf in a tent (inside the Masjid) for the first ten days of Ramadaan and then extended it to the middle ten days. Thereafter, he put his head out of the tent and said: Verily in search of Lailatul Qadr did I perform Itikaaf for the first ten days and extended it to the next ten days for the same purpose; then I was told that this night is in the last ten days, so those with me should also continue the Itikaaf. (Bukhaari and Muslim)
However, every year after the Hijrah (migration) to Madinah until his departure from this world, he (SA) remained in Itikaaf of the last ten days of Ramadaan. In fact, in the last year of his blessed life, he remained in Itikaaf for the last twenty days of Ramadaan. This is seen from several Ahaadith as follows:
Aishah (RA), the blessed wife of the Prophet (SA) relates that, Rasuulullah (SA) used to perform Itikaaf regularly during the last ten days of Ramadaan until he passed away. Then his wives observed this practice after him. (Bukhaari and Muslim)
It has also been reported by Abu Hurairah (RA) that, Rasuulullah (SA) performed Itikaaf for ten days every year in the month of Ramadaan. In the year he passed away, he observed it for twenty days. (Bukhaari)
Therefore in conformity with the continuous practice of the Prophet (SA) and those after him, the Jurists of Islam have considered Itikaaf performed on the last ten days of Ramadaan as Sunnah Muakkadah alal Kifaayah, i.e. an Emphasized Sunnah upon a sufficing basis. Therefore, if at least one sane, adult Muslim, male or female, observes it in a locality then all the other Muslims would be saved from the sin of neglecting this emphasized Sunnah. If however no one from the locality performs it then all would be guilty of neglecting the emphasized Sunnah of Itikaaf.
The author of Hidaya (an authoritative text on Fiqh) writes, It is correct to say that it is Sunnah Muakkadah because Rasuulullah (SA) regularly performed Itikaaf in the last ten days of Ramadaan, and doing something with regularity is a proof of it being Sunnah. (Hedaya Vol 1 Pg 229)
The Sunnah Itikaaf would not be fulfilled for a period less than ten days and must be accompanied with fasting. Therefore if one remained in Itikaaf only a few days of the last ten days and did not remain for the other days, the Sunnah will not be achieved. Likewise, if one did not fast in these days whether out of negligence or because of valid excuses like sickness or journey, the Sunnah Itikaaf will also not be achieved and in both cases it will be regarded as Nafl Itikaaf.
Virtues and Benefits
There are many traditions which have mentioned the excellent virtues and benefits of observing Itikaaf. In one Hadith, Ibn Abbas (RA) said, The person performing Itikaaf remains free from sins, and he is indeed given the same reward as for those who do righteous deeds. (Ibn Majah)
By remaining in the Masjid the right atmosphere is created for doing good actions, and at the same time it serves as a protective shield for the person against the many evils and sinful temptations that lurk outside. The one observing Itikaaf has been prevented, by the Shariah, from performing other good actions out of the Masjid, like Janaazah, visiting the sick, etc. The Hadith gives the good tidings to those in Itikaaf, of the rewards of these actions in spite of not doing them. This is because the person in Itikaaf remains in the house of Allah as His guest to engage in His worship, and to seek His pleasure only. As such he does not leave the Masjid for his own needs or desires. Thus, Allah, Who is the Giver of rewards to those who engage in actions outside the Masjid becomes pleased with the ones inside the Masjid in Itikaaf and may give them the same rewards, out of His great bounty and mercy.
In another narration it has been reported by Hazrat Ibn Abbaas (RA) that the Prophet (SA) said, Whosoever performs Itikaaf for a day (thereby seeking Allahs pleasure), Allah will place three trenches between him and the fire of Hell, the width of each trench being greater than the distance between the Heaven and the Earth. (Tabrani, Baihaqi, Hakim)
Aisha (RA) narrates that Rasuulullah (SA) said, If a Muslim performs Itikaaf with hope of gaining reward, then all his previous sins are forgiven. (Dailami)
In another Hadith reported by Hazrat Husain (RA) the Prophet (SA) said, Whoever performs Itikaaf for the final ten days of Ramadaan, for him is the reward of two Hajj and two Umrahs; and whoever performs Itikaaf from Maghrib until Ishaa, doing nothing except performing Salaah and reciting the Holy Quraan, Allah will prepare a place for him in Jannah. (Baihaqi and Tabrani)
Besides these virtues, Itikaaf creates a bond between a servant and Allah. This has been elucidated by Allaamah Ibn Qayyim as follows: The basic purpose of Itikaaf is that the heart gets attached to Allah and, with it, one attains inner composure and self-control; pre-occupation with the mundane things of life ceases; absorption in the eternal reality takes its place. The state is reached whereby 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 favour; devotion to the Almighty is generated instead of devotion to the world, and it becomes a provision for the grave where there will be neither a friend nor a helper. This is the high aim and purpose of Itikaaf which is the speciality of the most sublime part of Ramadaan, i.e. the last ten days.
The similarity of the person in Itikaaf is like a beggar who has knocked at the door of someone very generous and is determined not to leave and not to stop knocking until he receives what he desires. The author of Maraqiul Falah has mentioned that, what actually takes place in Itikaaf is that the heart is drawn away from everything else except the Creator, while his soul is actually laid at His door-step.
Allah, Who is Most Merciful and Relenting will surely fulfill the needs of His servants, answer their calls, and quench their thirst for forgiveness, rewards and mercy while they are in this state of devotion and worship during Itikaaf.
While in Itikaaf one receives the additional benefit and virtues of: Lailatul Qadr (better than one thousand months in rewards); congregational Salaah (25 to 27 times more reward); performance of Salaah in the first row (great rewards so much so that people would fight for it if it is known); waiting for Salaah before its time and from one Salaah to the other (angels supplicate for mercy and forgiveness for him); a persons heart becomes attached to the Masjid (one of those who will be shaded on the Day of Judgement from the burning sun); and it becomes easy to perform other Sunnah and Nafl acts of Ibaadah like Tahajjud, Ishraaq, recitation of Quraan, Dhikr, etc., for which there are special rewards.
Who can perform I'tikaaf
It is necessary for Itikaaf that a person be a Muslim and sane since the Itikaaf performed by an insane person or a non-Muslim will not be valid. Being Baligh (mature) is not a condition. A minor who has reached the age of understanding may perform Itikaaf and it will be valid in a similar manner to fasting and Salaah of minors.
A woman can perform Itikaaf in her home, with the permission of her husband, provided that she is not in the state of her menstrual cycle or bleeding after childbirth.
Place of I'tikaaf
Itikaaf of males must be performed in the Masjid. The most preferred place for Itikaaf is Al Masjidul Haram in Makka, then Masjid an Nabawi in Madinah, then Masjidul Aqsaa in Jerusalem, then the Jami Masjid (main congregational Masjid) in ones town, then the Masjid with the most amount of worshipers where the five daily Salaah are performed in congregation. If the five congregational Salaah are observed only during the days of Itikaaf, then Itikaaf will be allowed in it. To do Itikaaf in Masaajid in which the five congregational Salaah are not performed even during the days of Itikaaf is not preferred.
It should be noted that the Masjid refers to the area of the building which was fixed as Masjid by the persons or organization who erected the Masjid and demarcated its boundaries. Any extended hall, annexed building, etc. even under the same roof of the fixed Masjid area will not be considered as Masjid. If one who is performing Itikaaf goes to that area knowingly or unknowingly, without a valid Shariah excuse, the Itikaaf is rendered null. It is therefore important for those intending the performance of Itikaaf to enquire and know the boundaries of the Masjid where he is performing his Itikaaf.
Itikaaf by women will be performed in the prayer room/area of their home. If such a place is not fixed then she should demarcate an area fixed for the purpose. It is Makruuh (disliked) for women to observe Itikaaf in the Masjid.
Laws pertaining to leaving the Masjid
A person performing Itikaaf must spend all his time in the Masjid and should not venture outside for even a moment except to fulfill those religious/Shariah and natural necessities which cannot be fulfilled within the Masjid.
The valid reasons for leaving the Masjid which will not nullify the Itikaaf are as follows:
To answer the call of nature.
One should go to the nearest facility which can fulfill his need. If the toilet is occupied then it is permissible to wait until it is vacant. However to delay unnecessarily after using it would render the Itikaaf null. It is permissible to talk briefly, to give or return Salams, to enquire of the sick, on ones way to and from the toilet without halting for these reasons. It is also permissible if incidentally, on the way, without intent, there was Janaazah Salaah being performed and he joined its performance. He must not delay after its performance otherwise his Itikaaf would be null. If someone is stopped by another on their way to the toilet he should not stop but should indicate that he is in Itikaaf. One is allowed to walk at a comfortable pace to and from the toilet facilities. It is not necessary to move quickly.
To take an obligatory bath.
It is not allowed to leave the Masjid with the intention of taking a bath for Jumah or to refresh or cool oneself. If however one leaves the Masjid for a valid reason, like answering the call of nature, and washes himself or takes a refreshing bath while using the toilet, not taking additional time, it will be allowed.
To make Wudu.
It is not allowed to leave the Masjid for Wudu only for recitation of Quraan since one can read Quraan without touching it. If however Wudu is performed for the performance of any Salaah, the reading of Quraan by touching it will also be achieved. If facilities are provided inside the Masjid for Wudu then one is not allowed to leave for that reason, but should ensure that droplets do not fall onto the Masjid floor while making Wudu.
To call the Adhaan.
It is permissible for the Muadh-dhin, as well as for another person desirous of calling the Adhaan, to leave the Masjid to call the Adhaan, but they must return immediately.
For organizing meals.
If no one is available to organize food and drink for the person in Itikaaf he is allowed to leave, organize quickly his meals, and thereafter return in the Masjid to eat and drink therein. If someone is available then it is not permissible for him to leave. It should be noted that to assist someone in Itikaaf brings great rewards.
Proceeding to another Masjid.
If Jumah is not performed in the Masjid where Itikaaf is being performed then one in Itikaaf is allowed to leave for another Masjid in which it is being observed. He must leave his Masjid at such a time that would allow him to reach and perform his Sunnah Salaah at the next Masjid just before the commencement of the Khutbah. He must return immediately after completing the Sunnah after the Fard without delaying for Dua and Dhikr. It is Makruuh (disliked) for him to remain longer than necessary, or for him to complete his Itikaaf at the other Masjid. If however, because of extreme reasons such as, the former Masjid may collapse because of structural deficiencies, or he is evicted from there by force, or there is severe danger to life or property by staying there, then it would not be Makruuh (disliked) to move to another Masjid as well as to complete his Itikaaf there. He must however proceed immediately and not delay otherwise his Itikaaf will become null.
Breakers of I'tikaaf
Only Wajib and Sunnah Itikaaf are rendered invalid. Nafl Itikaaf is not considered null by any act.
- To leave the Masjid without a valid Shariah reason for even a moment, whether intentionally, unintentionally, by mistake or under compulsion will render the Itikaaf null.
- If the fast is broken during the day of Itikaaf, whether for a valid or an invalid reason, the Itikaaf will become null. If one forgot that he was fasting and ate or drank something then neither the fast nor the Itikaaf will be broken, provided that he did not continue eating or drinking when he remembered.
- Having intimate relationship with a woman/wife with or without emission, as well as kissing, fondling and other such acts which leads to emission will nullify the Itikaaf.
Permissible Factors to break the I'tikaaf
The following are factors/reasons which may occur which makes it permissible to break the Itikaaf. However the Qadaa of it must be performed.
- To seek medical treatment if a disease emerges which cannot be cured except by leaving the Masjid
- To save a person who is drowning or burning or to prevent a fire (or other great disasters)
- To take care of ones parents, wife or children if they are afflicted with an extreme sickness and have no one to tend to them
- If one is compelled to leave such as in the case of a governments warrant of arrest
- If a Janaazah arrives and there is no one else to perform it.
When the Sunnah Itikaaf becomes null for any reason it becomes Wajib (essential) to observe the Qadaa of it. The Qadaa would be done for only the day that was nullified and not the full ten days. The day starts from sunset of one day and ends at sunset of the next day. This can be observed in a day of Ramadaan or any day after Ramadaan accompanied by the fast of the day.
If a vowed Itikaaf (Wajib) that was specified was broken then it would also be necessary to Qadaa it.
Makruuh (Disliked) Acts while observing I'tikaaf
- To maintain total silence
- To indulge in waste and idle talks
- To engage in excessive sleeping so as to waste away the time
- To unnecessarily pass wind in the Masjid
- To read books or magazines which are not Islamic in nature
- To set up the partition for those in Itikaaf in such a way that it inconveniences others
- To engage in worldly activities unnecessarily
Acts allowed in I'tikaaf
In principle, all actions which are not Makruuh (disliked) acts or are not nullifiers of the Itikaaf are generally allowed. Some of these can be listed as follows:
- Eating, drinking and sleeping
- Necessary transactions to maintain the necessities of life
- Changing clothes, applying oil, perfume, combing and cutting hair
- Contracting Nikah or other transactions
- Washing hands, clothes, utensils ensuring that the water does not drip on the Masjid floor.
- Teaching or studying Quraan or other Islamic studies
- Assisting the sick person by applying bandages or other medicine
Muslims should endeavour to practice this emphasized Sunnah of the Prophet (SA). Allah has placed goodness in each and every act of Deen. Therefore the Itikaaf should be observed with the right attitude and with a zeal to achieve closeness to Allah. One should therefore engage in Salaah, Quraan recitation, Dhikr, Dua, etc. and other forms of Ibaadah in abundance. Care should also be taken so that the Itikaaf does not become null. The masaail of Itikaaf should be learnt properly so that this act of Ibaadah will become more complete. May Allah accept all our acts of Ibaadah. Aameen.
Lailatul Qadr - The Night of Power
Allah in his infinite mercy has showered his bounties and favors upon the Muslims in the holy month of Ramadaan.
Not a day or night goes by except that Allah multiplies the reward for the one who performs good deeds in this holy month.
From among the special nights of this month there is one which is known as Laylatul Qadr (The Night of Power). A person who engages in worship on this particular night will be given a reward better than that one who has performed worship for one thousand months.
Allah has named a Surah after this night in the Holy Quraan and in it He mentions the great virtue of this night when He says: The Night of Power is better than one thousand months. (Surah 97.V 3)
Allah has been very kind to the Ummah of Muhammad (SA) whereby because of the virtue and blessings of this night we are able to compete with the previous nations in doing good deeds even though our life span may be shorter.
In this regard Ibn Abi Hatim has reported from Mujahid that the Messenger of Allah (SA) was told about a person from among the Bani Israeel who used to worship Allah throughout the night and fought in the path of Allah during the day for one thousand months.
Upon hearing this, the Sahabas (RA) though amazed at the actions of such a devout servant became despondent, as it would have been impossible for them to attain such rewards. Allah then revealed Surah Qadr as a mercy and consolation to the believers that whosoever stands on the Night of Power in the worship of Allah will be given a reward better than that one who worships Allah for one thousand months.
Another great significance of the Night of Power as mentioned in Surah Qadr is that the Holy Quraan was sent down from the Preserved Tablet to the lowest Heaven and then revealed to the Prophet (SA) in that very month. On this night Angel Jibraeel along with other angels descend making Dua of mercy for those believers whom they find busy in the worship of Allah.
Lastly Allah mentions in this Surah that on the Night of Power one will be able to experience a sort of peace and tranquility until the break of dawn, a night of complete goodness having no evil in it.
Hazrat Abu Hurairah (RA) reports that the Messenger of Allah (SA) said, Whosoever stands in worship on the Night of Power with sincere faith and hope of gaining reward all his previous (minor) sins will be forgiven. (Bukhaari and Muslim)
The commentators mention about this Hadith that the Messenger of Allah (SA) exhorts the believers not only to stand in Salaah but also to perform all other types of worship.
Therefore one who performs worship on this night solely to gain the pleasure of Allah and not for any worldly gain and benefit with the belief and hope that Allah will reward him for his good deeds will Inshallah have his previous (minor) sins forgiven.
It should also be noted at this point that this night does not have any specific form of worship nor does it have a fixed amount. We should therefore exert ourselves on this night in Nafl Salaah, recitation of the Holy Quraan, doing the Zikr of Allah, making Dua etc. to the best of our abilities.
As for the actual date of the Night of Power, it lies only in the knowledge of Allah Taaala. The Messenger of Allah (SA) himself searched for this night as it is mentioned in a tradition, The Messenger of Allah (SA) secluded himself for the first ten nights of Ramadaan. Then he secluded himself for the middle ten nights. Then he raised his head and said, Verily I secluded myself in the first ten nights of Ramadaan seeking this night. Then I secluded myself in the middle ten nights. Then I was approached and told that it is in the last ten nights. (Bukhaari)
He (SA) has also stated in another tradition: Search for the Blessed Night in the odd nights from the last ten nights of Ramadhan. (Bukhaari)
The scholars are of different opinions as to which night is actually the Night of Power because of the various traditions that have reached them from the Messenger of Allah (SA) and his Companions (RA). However it is necessary for us to search for the Night of Power in the odd nights from the last ten nights of Ramadaan as indicated to us from the above mentioned traditions.
One should therefore not think that the Night of Power must be on a particular night but one must search for it, as this is what the Messenger of Allah (SA) has taught us to do.
While we do not know which night is the Night of Power there are some signs given to us by the Messenger of Allah (SA) in a narration of Ubaadah bin Saamit (R.A) reported by Imam Baihaqi, which can give us an indication to it.
They are as follows:
- The night will be very quiet and serene.
- The moon will be bright and radiant.
- The temperature of the night will be neither too hot nor too cold.
- No shooting stars will be flung at the Shayateen until the break of dawn.
- The sun will rise in that morning without any radiant beams of light.
In an authentic tradition Hazrat Aisha (RA) said, O Messenger of Allah, inform me what I should say if I recognize the Night of Power. He said, Say : Al-laa hum-ma in-naka afuw-wun kariimun tu hib-bul afwa fafu an-ni. (O Allah! You are forgiving. You love to forgive, so forgive me. ) (Imam Ahmad, Ibn Majah and Tirmizi)
We as believers, in trying to find the Night of Power should also say this Dua in abundance acting upon the advice of the Messenger of Allah (SA) hoping to gain the forgiveness of Allah.
Finally the Messenger of Allah (SA) said in a tradition, The one who has deprived himself of this night has deprived himself of everything good. And none is deprived of its good except he who is completely unfortunate. (Ibn Majah)
This means that if Allah has given us an opportunity to gain the reward which is more virtuous than eighty-three years and four months, and due to our negligence we are devoid of the blessings of this night, then surely we are from among the unfortunate ones.
May Allah give us the ability to search for and find the Night of Power. Ameen.
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