Virtues of Ramadhaan - I'itikaaf
I'ITIKAAF - SECLUSION IN THE MASJID
The meaning of 'I'tikaaf' is to seclude oneself in the Mosque,
with the express intention (Niyyat)of 'I'tikaaf'. According to the
Hanafi school of thought, this may be of three different types:
a) Waajib I'tikaaf (Obligatory I'tikaaf)
I'tikaaf becomes compulsory when a person makes it obligatory upon
himself. For example, when a person makes a vow to Allah that if
Allah fulfils a certain wish of his, he shall perform so many days
'I'tikaaf', in this case, the moment his wish is fulfilled, the
I'tikaaf becomes compulsory. Or a person may just make an unconditional
vow, whereby he makes I'tikaaf Waajib upon himself for a certain
number of days; this becomes obligatory for him from that moment
b) Sunnat I'tikaaf
This was the general practice of the Holy Prophet (SAW). It means
to seclude oneself in the Masjid for the last ten days of Ramadhaan.
c) Nafl I'tikaaf
For the third category i.e. Nafl I'tikaaf, no special time and no
specific number of days are fixed. A person may make a Niyyah (intention)
for any number of days at any time, even for his whole life.
While Imaam Abu Hanifa states that I'tikaaf must be for not less
than a full day, Imaam Muhammad states that there is no limit as
to the minimum period of time. The 'Fatwa'confirms this latter view.
Therefore, it is desirable for anyone entering a Masjid to make
the 'Niyyah' (intention) of I'tikaaf for the period that he will
remain in the Masjid; so that, while he is in Ibaadah, he also earns
the reward of I'tikaaf.
OBJECTS OF I'TIKAAF AND ITS ADVANTAGES
In view of the above, it is advisable that everyone entering the
Masjid to join the congregational prayer should, on entering the
Masjid, make the Niyyat for 'I'tikaaf', in thatcase it means that
aslong as he remain busy with Salaat, Zikr, listening to lectures
or sermons he also receive reward for the I'tikaaf. I always observed
that my late father used to make 'Niyyat' for I'tikaaf whenever
he entered the Masjid. Occasionally, by way of teaching and reminding
his followers, he would raise his voice when reciting when reciting
the words for 'Niyyah'. The reward for I'tikaaf is great as indicated
by the fact that the Holy Prophet (SAW) always used to perform I'tikaaf.
The example of him who resides in the Masjid in I'tikaaf is that
of a person who, having gone to a certain place to appeal for something,
remains there until it is granted. When someone comes begging at
our door and then refuses to leave until he has been granted his
request. I am sure that even the person with the hardest heart amongst
us will eventually give in to his request. How much more Merciful
is Allah, and when someone persistently sits at His door, what doubt
can there be in the fulfilment of his wishes. Allama ibn Qayyim,
in explaining the significance of I'tikaaf writes that the actual
aim is to divert the heart away from everything except Allah, and
to make it come near to Allah, thereby forming a complete spiritual
connection with the Creator. All wordly connections are thus cut
off, for the sake of gaining Allah's attention and all thoughts,
desires, love and devotion become centred around Him. As a result,
an attachment with Allah is attained - a love and friendship that
will be the only support in loneliness of the grave. One can possibly
imagine the great ecstacy with which that time in the grave will
In Maraaiqul Falaah, the author writes that I'tikaaf, when properly
and sincerely performed, is among the most virtuous deeds. One cannot
possibly enumerate all the great advantages and benefits in it.
In actual fact, what takes place in I'tikaaf is that the heart is
drawn away from everything else except the Creator, while the soul
is actually laidat His door-step. All the time, one remains in a
state of 'Ibaadah', even when one is asleep, one is still in His
worship striving for nearness to Him. And Allah says (according
to a Hadith): "Whoever draws near to Me (the length of) one
hand, then I draw nearer to him (the length of) two hands, and whoever
draws near to Me by walking, I draw nearer to him by running."
Moreover, in I'tikaaf one seeks refuge in the house of Allah, and
is safe therein from all enemies.
WHERE TO PERFORM I'TIKAAF
The best of places for I'tikaaf is the Masjidul Haram in Makkah.
The next best is the Masjidun-Nabawiy in Madinah, and the next
best is Baytul Muqaddas. Thereafter, comes the Jaama Masjid in one's
own time, and last but not least, the Masjid nearest to one's home.
Imaam Abu Hanifa stipulates that the Masjid should be one wherein
the five daily Salaatare regularly performed, while Imaam Abu Yusuf
and Imaam Muhammad agree that any Masjid acceptable to the Shari'ah
can be entered for I'tikaaf. I’itikaaf even if there is no regular ‘salaah with Jamaa-ah.
The above applies to the males. As for the females, they should
perform It'ikaaf in the prayer room (Masjid set aside in their homes).
Where, however, no such demarcated place exists, any one room or
part of the house should be set aside for this purpose. I'tikaaf
is thus in fact an easier task for women. The domestic duties can
be performed by daughters or servants under her supervision and
the woman in I'tikaaf, while remaining in a section of her own house,
is spiritually rewarded for it. It is so very unfortunate that,
in spite of this relative ease, our womenfolk still remain deprived
of the blessings of I'tikaaf.
As for the females, they should perform I’itikaaf in the musjid exists and the desire for I’itikaaf be there, one room of the house should be set aside for this purpose, I’itikaaf is in fact an easier task for women. A special section of the wherein they seclude themselves, remaining in ‘ibaadah. The domestic duties can then be performed by daughters or servants, and the women in I’itikaaf, while remaining in a section of her own house, is spiritually rewarded for it. It is so very unfortunate that in spite of the ease, our women folk still remain deprived of the blessings of I’itikaaf. (We here in South Africa are even more negligent of this sunnah, so much so, that many have not even heard of it-Translator).