There is no doubt that I’tikaf is a great Sunnah:
Aishah (RA) reported that the Prophet (Salla Allahu alaihi wa sallam): “Used to perform i’tikaf in the last ten days of Ramadan until Allah the Mighty & Majestic, took him.” (Bukhari & Muslim)
Abu Said reported that the Prophet (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam) said: “Whoever makes I`tikaf with me is to make I’tikaf during the last ten [nights].” (Bukhari)
Imam Ahmad said, as was narrated from him by Abu Daawood: “I have not heard from any of the scholars that it is anything other than Sunnah.”
Az-Zuhri said: “How strange the Muslims are! They have given up I’tikaf, despite the fact that the Prophet, (sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam), never abandoned this practice from the time he came to Madinah until his death.”
Nawafil I’tikaf for those who do not sit for the whole 10 days:
If a person cannot sit I’tikaf for the full ten days & nights then they should try & sit I’thikaf on as many days & nights as they possibly can.
They can make intention of doing Nawafil I’tikaf everytime they enter the Masjid so a person will be rewarded for the duration of their stay in the Masjid as long as they did not commit any sins or indulge in idle talk.
I’tikaf for women:
Women can also do I’tikaf in the Masjid if the facilities are available to them as long as they have been given permission by their husbands.
There is a difference of opinion whether or not a women can do I’tikaf at home. The Hanbalis, some Shafi’s & some Malikis say that a woman can only sit I’tikaf at the Masjid, whereas the Hanafi’s, some Shafi’s & some Malikis say it is permissable for a women to do I’tikaf at a designated place in her home because if her prayer is prefferred at home then surely her I’tikaf should also be preferred at home.
They state that a woman sitting I’tikaf at home can perform her domestic duties in her designated room for I’tikaf for eg. cooking, ironing etc. But it is best if she takes care of all her responsiblities si that she can devote as much time as possible to worship. She may not leave her desginated room unless it is necessery. The same rules apply to women sitting I’tikaf as they do for men. Even a women on her menses is permitted to sit I’tikaf at her designated place at home. She can do dhikr, dua, listening to Qur’an recitation & read, learn & ponder over the words & meanings of the Qur’an.
The Virtues of I’tikaf:
The benefits & rewards for sitting I’tikaf are immense:
Ali Ibn Hussain (RA) narrates from his father that Prophet (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam) said: “He who observes the ten days I’tikaf during Ramadhan will obtain the reward of two Hajj & two Umrah.” (Bayhaqi)
Abdullah bin Abbas (RA) reported that Prophet (Sallallahu Alaihi wasallam) said: “Whosoever for Allah’s sake did even one days i’tikaf, Allah would keep him away from Jahannam by trenches.” (Tabarani)
Ibn Abbas (RA) reported that the Prophet (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam) said, (about him who engages in i’tikaf), “that he is safe from sin & he also gets that reward which everyone (outside i’tikaf) gets for pious deeds.” (Ibn Majah)
What an amazing opportunity for us to gain such immense & abundant rewards aswell as closeness to Allah. We can also take this opportunity to strengthen & boost our imaan (faith) for the rest of the year.
The following are 12 ways to maximize I’tikaf:
1. Purifying intentions
“Verily actions are judged by intention.” [Al-Bukhaari & Muslim]
It is crucial that we purify & correct our intentions before doing any act of worship. This is because we may have other underlying intentions in our hearts without even realizing it. Like for e.g. we may have in our hearts that we will sit I’tikaf to have fun with friends or to look good in front of others & family etc
So before doing any good deed we need to correct our intentions so that we are more sincere in our worship. The better our intentions, the greater the rewards for whatever good we are doing.
Ibn Al-Mubaarak said: “Maybe a small action is made great by its intention, & maybe a great action is made small by its intention.”
So for I’tikaf we should make as many good intentions as possible like for example we are sitting I’tikaf to draw closer to Allah, to strengthen one’s imaan, to correct one’s heart & purify oneself etc.
2. Schedule & Monitor Daily Worship
What better way to maximise our worship during I’tikaf than to plan & schedule our time so that we can spend it as effectively as possible. By setting ourselves daily targets we can ensure that we are more likely to achieve them.
Below are links where you can download an hourly scheduler where you can set yourself hourly worship targets & schedule your daily worship. There is also a daily worship check where you can check & monitor your daily worship throughout the last ten nights:
1. Daily I’tikaf Worship check
2. I’tikaf hourly worship scheduler
3. Exerting oneself in worship during last 10 night’s
Allah’s Messenger used to exert himself in devotion during the last ten nights to a greater extent than at any other time.” (Muslim).
Aisha (RA) reported: With the start of the last ten days of Ramadan, the Prophet (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam) used to tighten his waist belt (i.e. work harder) & used to pray all the night, & used to keep his family awake for the prayers. (Bukhari)
The last ten days & nights of Ramadan are the most blessed. Therefore the person sitting I’tikaf should exert themselves in worship in each night of the last ten nights particularly the last ten odd numbered nights: 21, 23, 25, 27, 29.
By worshipping in as many of the last ten nights as possible there is more chance we will catch The night of power & gain the reward of over 83 years of worship! Subhanallah thats longer than an average human life!
4. Reciting Qur’an abundantly
The Qur’an was revealed on the night of Power, so we should increase our recitation even more during the last ten days & nights. The pious predecessors used to increase the amount of Qur’an they recited during the last ten days & nights.
Remember: The reward for reciting each letter of the Qur’an during Ramadan is 700 hasanah or more. Subhanallah!
So we should make a target during I’tikaf using the scheduler provided of how much Qur’an we will recite each day & night. We should aim to complete at least one whole Qur’an if not more by the end of I’tikaf.
Along with recitation we should also read & learn the meanings of the Qur’an. We should contemplate & ponder over the verses & implement what we read & learn into our daily lives.
Note: We should try & recite Surah Ya-sin everyday particularly after Fajr time. We should also recite Surah Mulk before we going to sleep & Surah Kahf every Jumma. Other very rewarding Surahs we can recite much of are Surah’s Zilzalah, Al Kaafirun & Al Ikhlas
Abdullah Ibn ‘Abbas & Anas Ibn Malik (RA) reported that the Prophet (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam) said, ‘Whoever recited Surah Zilzilah (99) would get the reward of reciting half the Qur’an. Whoever recited Surah al Kaafirun (109) would get a reward as if reading aquarter of the Qur’an. Whoever recited Surah al Ikhlas (112) would get a reward as if reading one third of the Qur’an’. (At-Tirmidhi 2818/A)
5. Nawafil (Voluntary) prayers
What better way of drawing closer to Allah during I’tikaf than by praying the voluntary prayers:
Allah says in Hadith Qudsi:
….And My slave keeps on coming closer to Me through performing Nawafil (voluntary deeds) until I love him, [Bukhari]
Does anyone want the company of the Prophet (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam) in Jannah? Then increase in praying the Nawafil prayers:
Rabi’ah Ibn Malik al-Aslami reported that the Prophet Sallallahu alaihi Wasallam said: “Ask (anything).” Rabi’ah said: “I ask of you to be your companion in paradise.” The Prophet (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam) said: “Or anything else?” Rabi’ah said: “That is it.” The Prophet Sallallahu alaihi Wasallam said to him: “Then help me by making many prostrations (i.e., Nawafil prayers).” (Muslim)
The reward for praying fard prayers outside of Ramadan is the greatest a Muslim can gain but in Ramadan we get the same reward for praying a Nawafil prayer. Subhaanallah! What other time of the year are Nawafil prayers rewarded equal to that of a fard prayer?
Therefore we should strive to pray as many Nawafils as possible during I’tikaf so we can get closer to Allah, gain the company of the Prophet(Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam) in Jannah as well as gain the rewards of a fard prayer for each nawafil prayer!
Sunnah & Nawafil prayers to pray during I’tikaf:
1. Pray 12 Raka’ahs of Sunnah daily: – 2 Sunnah of Fajr, 4 Sunnah & 2 Sunnah of Dhuhr & 2 Sunnah of Maghrib
Umm Habibah Ramilah bint Abu Sufyan (RA) narrated she heard the Prophet (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam) saying: “A house will be built in Paradise for every Muslim who offers twelve units of Prayers other than the obligatory ones in day & night, to seek pleasure of Allah.”(Muslim)
2. Salaatul Duhaa (Can be prayed from 20 mins after sunrise up until 20 minutes before Dhuhr begins)
So we should remain seated after Fajr prayer & recite the Qur’an or do Dhikr up until 20 minutes after Sunrise & pray Salaatul Duhaa. If not then we can pray it anytime before midday.
‘Salat al-Dhuhaa consists of 2 – 12 Rakaats & it is preferable to perform 8 Rakaats.’ (Raddul Mukhtaar vol.1 pg.505)
The Prophet (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam) is reported to have said: Whoever prayed twelve rakaats (before midday), then Allah will, as a reward, prepare a palace of gold for him in Paradise. (Mishkat, Tirmidhi, Ibn Majah)
3. 4 Sunnah, 2 Sunnah & 2 Nawafil of Dhuhr
Umm Habibah (RA) narrated that the Prophet (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam) said: “Whoever sticks to the habit of offering four rak`ahs before Noon Prayer & four rak`ahs after it, Allah will shield him against the Hell-Fire.” (Abu Dawud & At-Tirmidhi)
4. 4 Raka’ahs Sunnah of Asr
The Prophet (Sallallaahu ‘Alaihi wa sallam) said:”May Allaah have Mercy on the one who offers four (Raka’ahs) before ‘Asr prayer.”(Abu Dawud)
5. Two Raka’ahs Sunnah after entering Masjid
Abu Qatadah (RA) narrated the Prophet (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam) as saying: “If any one of you enters a mosque, he should pray two rak`ahs before sitting.” (Al-Bukhari & Muslim)
6. Tahiyyatul Wudu – 2 Raka’ahs Sunnah after doing Wudu (Ablution)
Abu Hurayrah (RA) reported the Prophet (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam) saying to Bilal (RA): “Tell me about the best of your deeds (i.e. one which you deem the most rewarding) since your embracing Islam because I heard your footsteps in front of me in Paradise.” Bilal (RA) replied: “I do not consider any act of mine more rewarding than that whenever I make ablution at any time of night or day, I perform Prayer for as much as was destined for me to do.” (Al-Bukhari & Muslim)”
7. The MOST REWARDING Nawafil Prayer of all is Tahajjud
Allah Most High said: “Establish worship at the going down of the sun until the dark of the night, & (the recital of) the Qur’an at dawn. Lo! (the recital of) the Qur’an at dawn is ever witnessed. And some part of the night awake for its recital, as voluntary worship for you. It may be that your Lord will raise you to a praised estate.” (Qur’an, 17: 78-79)
Imam Abu Sa’id al-Khadimi said, “There is scholarly consensus (ijma`) that among the best of virtuous acts is the night vigil prayer.” [al-Bariqa al-Mahmudiyya Sharh al-Tariqa al-Muhammadiyya]
The scholars derived the following in regards to Tahajjud from the Qur’an & Prophetic Hadiths:
1. The minimal night vigil prayer is 2 Rakaats. [Hindiyya, quoting Fath al-Qadir]
2. Its optimal recommended amount is 8 Rakaats, because this was the general practice of the Messenger of Allah (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam) [Hindiyya, quoting Fath al-Qadir]
3. Lengthier recitation of Qur’an is superior to a larger number of Rakaats prayed. [Durr al-Mukhtaar, Radd al-Muhtar]
If one has not memorized much of the Qur’an then one should recite whatever they know or recite Surah Ikhlas 3 times after Surah Faathiha in each rakah to gain reward of reciting entire Qur’an.
4. It is recommended to start the night vigil with two short Rakaats, because of the Hadith of Abu Hurayrah (RA) that the Prophet (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam) said, “If you get up for night prayer, start with two short Rakaats.” [Muslim, Ahmad, Abu Dawud]
Whilst in I’tikaf we should aim to pray Tahajjud every night in the last 10 nights. If not then we should pray it in as many nights as we possibly can particularly in the nights of the 21,23,25,27 & 29.
One should wake up a little earlier for Sehri, making Wudu & pray a minimum of 2 Raka’ahs of Tahajjud. It is best to pray at least 8 Raka’ahs.
Abu Hurayrah (RA), related that the Prophet (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam) said: When the last one-third of the night remains, our Lord, the Glorious One descends towards the heaven of the earth & proclaims: Who is that who supplicates for Me, & I grant his supplication? Who is that who begs Me for anything & I grant it to him? And who is that who seeks My forgiveness, & I forgive him?(Bukhari, Muslim).
The last third portion of the night is the most blessed & dua’s are readily accepted at this time. So by praying Tahajjud it gives us the best opportunity to get closer to Allah & to make sincere dua, repenting for our sins past & present & to crying & asking of Allah for whatever we want.
If we cannot cry due to the hardness of our hearts then we should at least make the face as if we are crying. Just as a mother tends to her baby quicker & more promptly when it is crying in the same way Allah tends to his servants quicker when they are crying.
Ibn Mas`ud (Allah be pleased with him) was asked, “I cannot pray at night.” He said, “Your sins have prevented you.”
6. Excessive Remembrance of Allah
Whilst in I’tikaf we should spend as much time as possible in the remembrance of Allah, keeping our lips moist in his glorification & praises. Surely we will have utter regret in the hereafter for each second wasted without remembering Allah:
Mu`adh Ibn Jabal (RA) said that the Prophet (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam) said: “The People of Paradise will not regret anything except one thing alone: the hour that passed them by in which they made no remembrance of Allah.” Narrated Bayhaqi in Shu`ab al-iman (1:392 #512-513)
The highest rank in Jannah are for those who remembered Allah the most:
Abu Sa`id (RA) narrates the Prophet (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam) was asked, “Which of the servants of Allah is best in rank before Allah on the Day of resurrection?” He said: “The ones who remember him much.”I said: “O Messenger of Allah, what about the fighter in the way of Allah?” He answered: “Even if he strikes the unbelievers & mushrikin with his sword until it broke, & becomes red with their blood, truly those who do Dhikr are better than him in rank.” (Ahmad, Tirmidhi, & Bayhaqi)
Therefore we should remember Allah as much as we can & glorify him night & day, not just in Ramadan or in I’tikaf but until our very last breath. What better time to start remembering Allah more than during I’tikaf when we can sit in seclusion remembering Allah:
The following are 11 Dhikr, supported by Hadith that we can recite throughout the duration of I’tikaf:
Note: We should try & aim to recite each of these 10 Dhikr a 100 times each which makes a total of 1000 a day minimum.
1. Allahumma innaka ‘afuwwun tuhibbul ‘afwa fa’fu ‘annee – Recite this abundantly during the last ten nights of Ramadan.
4. Allahu Akbar
5. Laa ilaaha illallah
6. LA HAWLA WA LA QUWWATA ILLA BILLAH-HIL ALIYYIL ADHEEM
7. Asthaghfirullah-halladhee Laa ilaaha illa-huwal Hayyul Qayyuumu Wa athoobu Ilay
Or short version: Asthaghfirullah
8. SUB-HAAN’ALLAAHi WA BI-HAM’DIHI SUB-HAAN’ALLAH-IL ADHEEM
Or short version: SUB-HAAN’ALLAAHi WA BI-HAM’DIHI
9. Subhāna-llāhi, wa-l-hamdu li-llāhi, wa lā ilāha illā-llāhu, wa-llāhu akbar. Wa lā hawla wa lā quwwata illā bi-llāhi-l-aliyyi-l-azīm
10. Lā ilāha illā-llāhu waḥdahu lā sharīka lahu lahu-l-mulku wa lahu-l-ḥamdu yuhyi wa yumītu wa huwa ḥayyu-llā yamūtu abadan abada, ḏū-l-jalāli wa-l-ikrām, biyadihi-l-khayr, wa huwa alā kulli Shay-in qadīr
Or the shortened version:
Laa ilaaha illal-laahu wahdahu laa shareeka lahu, lahul-mulku wa lahul-hamdu wa huwa ‘alaa kulli shay-in qadeer
11. Radeetu billahi Rabban Wa bil Islami deenan Wabi Muhammadin Nabiyyan
We should also recite much of durood e Ibrahim which is the durood that is recited towards the end of Salaah.
Or the shortest durood is: Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallim
7. Making Excessive Dua & Repentance
What better opportunity to repent & make long & sincere dua’s to Allah than whilst devoting oneself to Allah in his house.
Almighty Allah says in the Qur’an:
“When my servants ask you concerning me, (tell them) I am indeed close (to them). I listen to the prayer of every suppliant when he calls on me.” [2:186]
The place of Dua is so high in front of Allah, that the Prophet (Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallim) has said: “Nothing is more honourable to Allah the Most High than Dua.” [Sahih al-Jami` no.5268].
Allah loves repentance & loves those who turn to him in sincere repentance, so repent unto him sincerely as much as possible:
Truly Allah loves those who turn [to Him] in repentance… (Qur’an 2:222)
Many of us rush our Dua’s & quite often our hearts are not present whilst we are making dua to Allah. That is why we lose out on much of the benefits & blessings of Dua. Therefore we should not let our minds wonder whilst in Dua & we should concentrate more, making sure our hearts are present whilst asking of Allah. Whilst we are in dua we should imagine Almighty Allah in front of us & so we should humble ourselves in front of him in a state of meekness & humility.
It may also help if we made a list of what we want to ask Allah during our dua’s. We can then refer to this list as a reminder so that we can cover everything we need to ask him, which may help in making our Dua’s longer & more sincere. This is because we will not always remember everything we want to ask Allah unless we note it down & refer back to it when we need to.
The times when Dua’s are most accepted during I’thikaf are:
1. The third portion of the night shortly before sehri ends. 2. Whilst fasting. 3. Between Asr & Maghrib. 4. Just before fast opens. 5. On Jumma before & after khutba. 6. Between Adhan & Iqamah. 7. After Qur’an recitation. 8. The Night of Qadr
Let us not be of those who pass by Ramadan without gaining any forgiveness:
Rasullullah (sallahu’ ‘alaihi wasallam) said: …the angel Jibra’il appeared before me & said: Destruction to him who found the blessed month of Ramadan & let it pass by without gaining forgiveness…’ Upon that I said: ‘Amin.’ (Al-Bukhari, Al-Tabrani)
We should ask of Allah whilst in I’tikaf to accept all of our good deeds & efforts throughout Ramadan & be hopeful that Allah will accept it from us. We should also have FULL hope that Allah will accept our Dua’s if not in this world then in the hereafter. We should accept his decree for he knows best in all matters.
8. Practising the Sunnah
Following the Sunnah is a command from Allah:
“Say (O Muhammad to mankind): “If you (really) love Allah, then follow me (i.e. accept Islamic monotheism, follow the Quran & the Sunnah), Allah will love you & forgive you your sins. And Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.” (Quran: 3:31)
Almighty Allah says: “There certainly is an excellent example in Allah’s messenger for he who fears Allah & the last day & remembers Allah abundantly” (al-Ahzaab 21)
By following the Sunnah in every aspect of our daily lives, everything we do will become worship, even going to the toilet, having a bath, dressing & undressing etc.
Annas (RA) reports Rasulullah (Sallallaahu Alaihi Wasallam) advised, “Whoever cherishes my Sunnah, indeed he cherishes me & whoever loves me will be with me in Jannah.” (Tirmidhi: 2678: Ibid)
We should practise & implement the Sunnah throughout the duration of I’tikaf like for eg the Sunnah’s of awakening, using miswak, of eating, drinking, going to the toilet, before sleeping etc. Then EVERYTHING we do whilst in I’tikaf will become worship & reward. Doing voluntary good deeds in Ramadan carrys the reward of FARD! Subhanallah!
Reviving the Sunnah:
Rasulallah (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam) said: “Whoever revives an aspect of my Sunnah that is forgotten after my death, he will have a reward equivalent to that of the people who follow him, without it detracting in the least from their reward.” (Tirmidhi)
The following free E book contains complete daily Sunnah’s & dua’s from waking up in the morning until going to sleep at night:
Download Beautiful Daily Sunnah’s
9. Refraining from sin & idle talk
The person sitting in I’tikaf must take extra care & attention to ensure that they refrain from committing any sins. That includes guarding the ears, eyes, tongue, privates & heart, thus deriving the maximum benefit from I’tikaf & attaining a special closeness to Allah & an increase & strengthening of imaan (faith).
The mu’takif (person sitting I’tikaf) should remember that they are the guest of Almighty Allah in his house so therefore they should be extremely vigilant of their behaviour in the House of Almighty Allah.
They must also avoid getting into idle discussions, debates & arguments which will be of no benefit but cause more harm than good.
Remember: Time will go quick & if we waste our precious time during I’tikaf then surely we will regret it forever. So let us use this valuable time wisely as this may be our last I’tikaf so let us treat it like our very last.
10. Avoiding over eating & sleeping
Excessive eating & sleeping during I’tikaf is a major factor in stopping a person from maximizing their I’tikaf.
Ibrahim al-Nakha’i (RA), one of the teachers of Imam Abu Hanifa (RA) mentioned: “The people ruined before you were done in by three characteristics: too much talking, too much eating, & too much sleeping.”
Ash-Shafi’I (RA) said: I have not filled myself in sixteen years because filling oneself makes the body heavy, removes clear understanding, induces sleep & makes one weak for worship.
It used to be said: Whoever takes control of his stomach gets control of all good deeds.
So a person must ensure that they do NOT over eat or over sleep during I’tikaf. Doing so will make a person feel heavy,tired & lazy resulting in that person not being as productive as they should be during I’tikaf.
Remember: Set yourself limits & stick to them. Stay focused on your main goals & purpose for sitting in I’tikaf & what you hope to achieve out of it.
11. Not leaving Masjid unless necessery
It is not permitted for a man or woman to leave the Masjid during I’tikaf unless:
1. To answer the call of nature.
2. To pass wind.
3. To make wudhu.
4. To take an obligatory bath.
5. To proclaim the adhan even if one is not the muadhin.
It is not permitted for a person sitting in I’tikaf to leave the Masjid to have a Sunnah Friday bath only obligatory bath. It is also not permitted to go out of Masjid to use mobile phone. One should also try not to disturb others. It is permissable to Take head out of the window in the Masjid.
12. Searching for the Night of Power (Laylatul Qadr)
So valuable is the Night of Qadr (Power) that the Quran devotes a special surah to it: “Lailatul Qadr is better than a thousand months”[97:3]
This one night surpasses the value of 30,000 nights. The most authentic account of the occurrence of the Night indicates that it can occur on any one of the last ten, odd numbered nights of Ramadan, 21, 23, 25, 27, 29. It may also occur on any of the even nights.
Therefore we should strive to stay up & worship on all of the last 10 nights of Ramadan. If we can’t do that then we should at least worship the odd numbered nights of the last ten days. If we still can’t manage that then let us pray on whatever nights we can, minimum on the 27th night.
There is NO doubt that if we pray on all of the last ten nights of Ramadan then we will catch this auspicious night & gain the rewards of over 83 YEARS OF WORSHIP! Subhaanallah! Most do not live upto such an age!
The following dua should be recited as much as possible during the last 10 nights of Ramadan:
Aisha (RA) said: I asked the Prophet (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam): ‘O Messenger of Allah, if I know what night is the night of Qadr, what should I say during it?’ He said Say:
“Allahumma innaka ‘afuwwun tuhibbul ‘afwa fa’fu ‘annee
Trans: ‘Say: O Allah, You are pardoning & You love to pardon, so pardon me.’ ” (Ahmad, Ibn Majah, & Tirmidhi).
May Allah enable us to make the best of the last ten days & nights of Ramadan. May Allah enable us to find the night of power & may he accept our I’tikaf & make it a salvation for us on the day of judgement. Ameen