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Virtues Of I'tikaaf

Introduction

We praise Allah and send blessings and salutations upon His Noble Messenger , his companions and those who follow him.

It used to be the general practice of the Messenger of Allah  to perform Itikaaf in the Holy month of Ramadhan. At times he used to remain in the masjid for the whole month and in the year of his demise, he was in Itikaaf for twenty days. Because he usually secluded himself in the masjid for the last ten days of Ramadhan, the ulama consider it ‘sunnah muakkadah’ to perform Itikaaf for that period.

Ibn Abbas t relates that the Messenger of Allah  said, “The person performing Itikaaf remains free from sins and he is indeed given the same reward as those who do good deeds (in spite of not having done these deeds).

(Ibn Majah)

This hadith mentions two great benefits of Itikaaf. The first is that the person performing Itikaaf avoids sins. The world around us is full of temptations and more often than not one falls into them. To commit sins in this blessed month is indeed a great injustice to ourselves. Through remaining secluded in the masjid, one completely avoids the temptation of doing a sin.

Another benefit is that when one is secluded in the masjid, one is apparently at a disadvantage by not being able to perform certain good deeds like joining in funeral prayers, attending burials, visiting the sick, etc. But according to this hadith, one is rewarded for even those deeds which he could not perform as a result of his Itikaaf. May Allah make it possible for us to fully benefit from Itikaaf.

May Allah Almighty reward all who assisted in putting this information together and may He approve this humble effort and make it beneficial to the readers.

 Worship

The purpose of our creation is to worship our Creator.

And I (Allah) created not the jinn and mankind except that they should worship Me (alone). I seek not any provision from them nor do I ask that they should feed Me. Verily, Allah is the All-Provider, Owner of Power, the Most Strong.

(Surah 51)

This verse is telling us that Allah created man for His worship, and that He will reward him fully for his obedience but will punish him for His disobedience. This verse also makes clear the fact that we are dependent upon Him for our survival while he has no need for us. This point has also been made in a hadith, recorded by Ahmad in which the Prophet  stated that Allah the Almighty says, “O son of Adam engage and devote yourself in My worship and I will fill your heart with contentment and I will fulfil your needs but (on the other hand) if you do not do this, I will fill your heart with concern and apprehension and nor will I provide for you.”

One of the most effective ways of carrying out this command is by performing Itikaaf since it is one of the most efficient means of fulfilling the purpose of worship.

 What Is Itikaaf?

Literally Itikaaf means to apply oneself assiduously to something. Technically (in the terminology of the Shariah) it means to remain in a masjid (where the five times daily prayers are held) with the intention of worship.

 What Is The Purpose Of Itikaaf?

Mankind has been created to worship Allah. Islam has designated many forms of worship for the fulfilment of this aim. Itikaaf enjoys superiority over other methods of worship because it encompasses many other forms of worship within itself.

 Is Itikaaf Compulsory?

There are three types of Itikaaf.

1. Itikaaf during the last ten days of Ramadhan. This is sunnah.

2. Itikaaf on any other day is nafl (voluntary).

3. Itikaaf as a result of a vow (e.g. someone vowed that if a certain desire of his/her was fulfilled, he/she would perform Itikaaf for two days.). The performance of this Itikaaf is waajib (necessary).

 Benefits Of Itikaaf

A person doing Itikaaf (mutakif) will be able to perform his salat on time with congregation hence acquiring the reward of salat with congregation, which is twenty-seven times more than performing it alone. On the other hand the layman outside will not attain this great reward with such consistency because of distractions and preoccupation especially in this modern age.

1. Itikaaf makes it easy to perform salat with full devotion because the mutakif breaks all ties with the outside world and is in a state of tranquillity, where he is free from everything that diverts him from Allah’s remembrance. This leaves him to focus his mind solely towards Allah’s obedience and happiness.

And seek help in patience and As-salat (the prayer) and truly, it is extremely heavy and hard except for Al-Khaashi’un (i.e. the true believers in Allah – those who obey Allah with full submission, fear much from His punishment, and believe in His Promise and in His Warning). (They are those) who are certain that they are going to meet their Lord, and that unto Him they are going to return.

(Surah 2)

Successful indeed are the believers. Those who offer their salat (prayers) with all solemnity and full submissiveness. And those who turn away from Al-Laghw (dirty, false, evil vain talk, falsehood, and all that Allah has forbidden).

(Surah 23)

2. More voluntary prayers will be performed by a mutakif because his aim is to worship his Lord and to build up a close tie with Him and the best way of achieving this is by performing salat.

Abu Hurairah narrates that the Messenger of Allah  said, “The bondsman is closest to his Lord while he is in prostration, so increase your supplications.” (Muslim)

Ubaadah ibn Saamit narrates that he heard the Messenger of Allah  saying, “Whenever a bondsman prostrates before Allah, He has a good deed written down for him and a sin wiped off and raises him a rank higher, so prostrate as much as you can.” (Ibn Maaja)

3. Another benefit of Itikaaf is that the mutakif can perform his prayer in the first row. It is very easy for him to derive the full benefit of offering prayer in this row.

Abu Hurairah narrates that the Messenger of Allah  said, “Had the people known the reward of azaan and the first row, they would most certainly draw lots (to decide who should give the azaan and stand in the first row). (Bukhari)

4. The mutakif gains the reward of waiting for salat. The Prophet  said, “You will be regarded as performing salat while you are waiting for salat and the angels supplicate saying, ‘O Allah forgive him and have mercy on him as long as he does not leave his prayer place or break wind.”

(Bukhari)

5. One benefit of Itikaaf is that it makes a person accustomed to staying in the masjid for a long period and creates an attachment between him and the masajid. The Prophet  said, “From amongst the seven whom Allah will give shade to on the day when there will be no shade except His shade, will be that person whose heart was attached to the masjid.” (Bukhari)

6. It becomes easy to perform the Tahajjud prayer. Normally, this is very difficult for a person because Satan tries hard to stop a person from offering this prayer and deprive him of its great reward.

 Rules And Regulations Of Itikaaf

1. The performance of Itikaaf during the last ten days or Ramadhan is a sunnah muakkadah alal kifaya (a sunnah which has to be observed by at least one person from the locality for its fulfilment or else the entire locality will be sinful for negligence of this sunnah).

2. Itikaaf should be done in a masjid where the five times daily prayers are held.

3. A woman can designate a place for salat in her house and observe Itikaaf there and she will acquire the same reward as one performing Itikaaf in the masjid.

4. One should refrain from idle talk during Itikaaf.

5. One performing Itikaaf should not unnecessarily go outside the boundaries of the masjid as this will nullify his Itikaaf.

6. One can go outside to answer the call of nature or for a necessary bath (e.g. because of a wet dream etc). Similarly if there is no one to bring food from home, one can go home to eat.

7. A person can go to perform Jumah prayer in another mosque if it is not held in the mosque in which he is observing Itikaaf. He will have to return as soon as he has completed his Jumah prayer.

8. If a person accidentally leaves the masjid in which he is observing Itikaaf, this will nullify his Itikaaf.

9. To indulge in unnecessary worldly activities during Itikaaf is makrooh-e-tahrimi (close to forbidden)

10. To remain completely silent during Itikaaf is not permissible. If one remains silent after zikr and recitation, this is fine. Remaining silent is not a form of worship.

11. The sunnah of observing Itikaaf during the last ten days of Ramadhan will only be fulfilled, if the mutakif enters the masjid with the intention of Itikaaf before the sun-set of the twentieth of Ramadhan

12. Fasting is a prerequisite of Itikaaf. The nullification of the fast will result in the nullification of the Itikaaf.

13. The intention of Itikaaf can be made in the heart but it is better to do it with the tongue.

 Where And When Can Itikaaf Be Performed?

Question 1

Can Itikaaf only be done during the last ten days of Ramadhan or can it also be done during the first and middle ten days of Ramadhan?

Answer

The observance of Itikaaf is not restricted to the last ten days of Ramadhan. A person wishing to perform Itikaaf during the entire month of Ramadhan is at liberty to do so, as this is also a sunnah. To clarify this matter, Imam Bukhari, entitled a chapter in his celebrated book, ‘Bukhari’ ‘The chapter on performing Itikaaf during the middle ten days of Ramadhan’. Under this chapter, he has narrated a hadith from Abu Hurairah that the Prophet  did Itikaaf for twenty days, in the year of his demise.(Bukhari, Fathul Baari, Umdatul Qari). Shaykhul Islam Hafiz ibn Hajar and Allaama Badrud-din-Ayni (commentators of Bukhari) have remarked that Imam Bukhari wants to point out that although observance of Itikaaf is much more preferable during the last ten days of Ramadhan, yet it is not restricted to that period. It can also be done during the middle ten days of Ramadhan, as this has been established from the Prophet . A hadith recorded by Bukhari and Muslim mentions that the Prophet e did Itikaaf during the entire month of Ramadhan. The hadith is as follows:

Abu Saeed Khudri narrates that the Prophet  (once) did Itikaaf during the first ten days of Ramadhan, continuing it in the Turkish tent during the middle ten days. (One day) he stuck his head out (of the tent) and said, “I did Itikaaf during the first ten days, searching for this night (laylatul-qadr). I continued it (the Itikaaf) into the middle ten days (for the same purpose). I was then approached (by an angel) and informed that this night occurs in the last ten days. So those who have done Itikaaf with me should continue it into the last ten days because I was shown this night and then made to forget it (but as an indication) the morning after this night, I saw myself prostrating on mud. This being the case, search for this night during the odd nights of these last ten days.” The narrator continues that it rained that night and the water leaked through the mosque as it was made out of twigs. On the morning of the 21st, I saw with my own eyes that there were traces of mud on the Prophet’s  forehead. (Mishkaat on the authority of Bukhari and Muslim)

It is because of this tradition that the fuqahaa (Islamic jurist) have said that this is the sunnah. This is precisely why many of the scholars and saints have made it a habit to perform Itikaaf during the entire month of Ramadhan. However it must be pointed out that the observance of Itikaaf during the last ten days of Ramadhan is an emphasised sunnah (a sunnah which must be observed by at least one member of the locality or else the entire locality will be sinful). This is why special importance is attached to its observance during the last ten days.

Itikaaf is not only restricted to Ramadhan but can in fact be performed during the entire year. Imam Bukhari too has indicated towards this permissibility, by entitling a chapter, ‘The chapter on performing Itikaaf during Shawwaal’. (Fathul-Baari, p.284 vol,5. Umdatul-Qari, p.156 vol,11). We also learn from a tradition appearing in the ‘Sihah Sittah’ that the Prophet  performed Itikaaf of ten days in the month of Shawwaal. It is clear from this that Itikaaf is not fixed with any particular period of the year.

Question 2

Is Itikaaf correct in the mosques of Britain (places of worship, where the five times daily prayers are held)?

Answer

Before answering this question, it would be of great benefit if we had insight into some basic issues.

If a locality does not have a purpose built mosque but the residents of that locality rent a place to perform prayers in congregation, it will be correct for a person to observe Itikaaf in this particular place. All the rules and conditions of a mosque will also apply to him. This issue has been clarified further by the following query which appears in Fataawa Alamghiri.

‘A woman can designate a spot in her house for doing Itikaaf instead of going to the mosque. This particular place will be a substitute for the mosque and in this spot she will be subject to all the rules and conditions which would normally apply to her in the mosque. For example the woman cannot leave this spot without a genuine cause e.g. to relieve herself.’

The Grand Mufti of Gujraat, Hazrat Maulana Sayyed Abdur Rahim sahib has also mentioned that Itikaaf is correct in such places. (Fataawa Rahimiyyah, p.209 vol,5).Similarly, Itikaaf is also correct in a mosque where only two or three congregational prayers are held daily, providing all five prayers are held in congregation during Ramadhan. A similar fatwa was issued by Mufti Rashid Ludhyanwi in Ahsanul Fataawa. This matter has also been explained in great detail in Raddul Mukhtaar (p.140 vol,2).

There is a consensus amongst the fuqahaa (Islamic jurists) that Itikaaf is correct in a mosque where only the Jumah Prayer is held. (See Fataawa Shaami and Alamghiri)

In short, in this country it is correct to perform Itikaaf in a place which is treated like a mosque and where the five daily prayers are regularly held. The practice of our elders and scholars bear testimony to this. In fact if a person performs Itikaaf in such a place during the last ten days of Ramadhan, this will suffice the people of that locality from the Itikaaf which is sunnah muakkadah. On the other hand if no one performs Itikaaf then the entire locality will be sinful. This is also the view of the Grand Mufti of Gujraat. (Fataawa Rahimiyyah, p.209, vol,5)

 By A Student Of Darul Uloom, Holcombe, Bury  

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