The Virtiues and Laws of I'tikaf

If i'tikâf is done solely for the pleasure of Allâh Ta'ala, it is a very high and noble ibâdat. The author of Nûrul-Îdâh, Shaikh Hasan Ibn Alî Shurumbulâlî R.A states, "I'tikâf is proven from the Qur'ân and Sunnah. It is amongst the most virtuous of acts when done with Ikhlâs (sincerity). From amongst its benefits is that the heart becomes free from the matters of the world, the soul is handed to it's Maulâ (Allâh), one is continuously in worship in His house and one is protected in His fort".

Atâ Ibn Abî Ribâh R.A has said, "The example of a person in i'tikâf is like a person who continues coming to the door of a great person to fulfil his needs. It is as the mu'takif is saying, "I will remain here until Allâh Ta'ala forgives me".

AHÂDÎTH

Nabî Salallahu Alaihi Wasallam  has laid great emphasis on i'tikâf. Hereunder some virtues will be mentioned.

قال رسول الله هو يعكف الذنوب ويجري له من الحسنات كعامل الحسنات كلها

1) Nabî Salallahu Alaihi Wasallam  said regarding the mu'takif (the one in i'tikâf): "He stays away from sins and so much reward is written for him like one who is doing all good actions." (Ibn Mâjah)

قال رسول الله  اِعتكافُ عشرٍ فِيْ رَمَضَان كحجتين وعُمْرَتينِ
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رواه البيهقي - السراج المنير

2) Nabî Salallahu Alaihi Wasallam  said: "The reward for performing i'tikâf in the (last) ten days of Ramadân is equal to the reward of two Hajj and two Umrahs". (Targhîb vol.2 p.149)

3) Hadrat Abû Sa'îd t reports that Rasûlullâh Salallahu Alaihi Wasallam  once performed i'tikâf for the first ten days of Ramadân. Thereafter he made i'tikâf in a Turkish tent (inside the Masjid) for the middle ten days. Thereafter he raised his head out of the tent and said: "Verily in search of Lailatul Qadr did I perform i'tikâf for the first ten days, then for the middle ten days. Then someone (an angel) came and told me, "It is in the last ten days. Whosoever has made i'tikâf with me should continue for the last ten days". I have indeed been shown that night and then made to forget, which it shall be. And verily did I see myself prostrating to Allâh Ta'ala with my forehead on mud on the morning after the night. Seek Lailatul Qadr in the last ten nights of Ramadân; seek it among uneven ones". Abu Sa'îd RA says: "That same night it rained. The roof on the Masjid leaked and I looked at Rasûlullâh Salallahu Alaihi Wasallam's  two eyes and on his forehead were remains of water and mud performing sajdah in muddy clay. This was on the morning of the 21st night". (Mishkât)

Hadrat Âishah radiallâhu anhâ reports: "During Ramadân Rasûlullâh Salallahu Alaihi Wasallam  tied his lungî tightly about him, staying awake all night and waking his family (for the purpose of ibâdah). 'Tied his lungî tightly about him' means either that he knew no limits in exerting himself in ibâdah; or that he gave due importance and preference to ibâdah, and avoided all forms of intimate contact with his wives.

4) Ibn Abbâs t reports that while he was once performing i'tikâf in the Masjidun Nabawî (Rasûlullâh's Salallahu Alaihi Wasallam 's Masjid), a certain man came to him, greeted him and sat down. Ibn Abbâs R.A said to him: "I see that you seem sad and troubled." The man replied: "Yes, O son of the uncle of Rasûlullâh Salallahu Alaihi Wasallam , I am indeed troubled in that I have an obligation to fulfil to someone. I swear by the holiness of the inmate of this honoured resting place (Rasûlullâh's Salallahu Alaihi Wasallam  grave) that I am not able to fulfil this obligation." Ibn Abbâs t inquired: "Shall I intercede with that person on your behalf?" The man replied: "By all means if you so wish". Ibn Abbâs R.A put on his shoes and proceeded from the Masjid. The man, seeing this said: "Have you then forgotten that you are in i'tikâf ?" With tears filling his eyes Ibn Abbâs R.A replied: "No, the time is still fresh in my mind when I heard the esteemed master of this tomb Salallahu Alaihi Wasallam  say, "Whoever sets forth in the way and makes an effort of settling a necessary affair on behalf of his brother, that service shall be better for him than to perform i'tikâf for ten years, and whomsoever performs i'tikâf for a day, thereby seeking the pleasure of Allâh Ta'ala, Allâh Ta’ala will open three trenches between him and the fire of hell, the width of each being the distance between heaven and earth." (Reported by Tabrânî in Al Ausat)

5) Rasûlullâh Salallahu Alaihi Wasallam  said: "Verily some people are pegs in the Masjid (i.e. they always remain in the Masjid). The angels are their companions. If those people happen to be absent sometimes, then the angels look for them. If they become sick, then the angles visit them. If they have any need, then the angels assist them."

By performing i'tikâf, one will attain the very great virtues of this Hadîth.

6) Hadrat Âishah radiallâhu anhâ narrates that Rasûlullâh Salallahu Alaihi Wasallam  said, "The one who sits for i'tikâf for ten days with îmân and hoping for rewards from Allâh I, all his past sins will be forgiven."

7) Allâmah Sha'rânî R.A states in Kashful-Ghummah that Nabî r has said, "Whoever makes i'tikâf for ten days of Ramadân will get the reward of two Hajj and two Umrahs.

The person who makes i'tikâf in the Masjid between Maghrib and 'Ishâ, not speaking to anyone while being engaged in Salâh and recitation of Qur'ân, Allâh Ta’ala will build for him a palace in Jannah. (Fadâil Â'mâl)

8) Imâm Zuhrî R.A states, "How astonishing it is that people do not perform i'tikâf whereas there are many actions which Rasûlullâh Salallahu Alaihi Wasallam  sometimes did and sometimes did not do. But he did not miss i'tikâf from the time he came to Madînah until the end of his life. (If he did not perform it for a certain reason, he would make qadâ of it as mentioned in the Ahâdîth).

BENEFITS AND WISDOMS OF I'TIKÂF

Since i'tikâf is a command of Sharî'ah, there are great wisdoms and benefits in it, many of which we cannot even comprehend. Hereunder a few benefits and wisdoms will be mentioned:

(1) If one is told to spend ten days in such a place where there are even no birds flying, then it is obvious that one would have greater solitude than anywhere else. However, what benefit is there in this? Instead of becoming insân (proper human being), one becomes like a wild animal. By trying to stay away from evil company, one becomes deprived of good company. Thus Allâh Ta'ala, who is All-Wise, has stipulated the place of i'tikâf in the Masjid, since generally evil people, whose companionship is detrimental, do not frequent the Masjid. In the Masjid, one comes across pious people as well as those particular with tahajjud etc. Just by sitting in their company, there is unlimited benefit. Therefore, one has been commanded to sit in such a Masjid wherein five times Salâh is performed. If a person sat in a deserted place, then instead of benefit, there would be more harm. Neither would one be able to perform his Salâh with jamâ'at, nor would he achieve the companionship of the pious.

(2) In i'tikâf, one attains yaksuit (he has full attention on one thing). The heart is free of the worries of the world. Those things which turn one's attention to those things besides Allâh I, gradually come to an end in solitude, whether these things are in him or are found externally. The heart becomes completely free of worldly thoughts and turns its focus towards Allâh I. By this, the ability to attain the anwâr (effulgence) and barakât (blessings) of ibâdat (worship) are created.

(3) Due to meeting people and being involved in business endeavours, many sins are committed. In i'tikâf one is saved from these evils.

(4) Allâh Ta'ala says: "The one who comes close to Me a hand-span, I come close to him by two hands span. He who walks towards Me, I run towards him". The one who is in i'tikâf leaves his house and never mind getting close, he comes to the door of Allâh Ta'ala. Thus ponder that how close he comes to Allâh Ta’ala and how much Allâh's Ta'ala's favours will be on him.

(5) A guest to any honourable and generous person is honoured and given great consideration. Will then the Most Honourable and Most Generous not afford honour and respect to His guests?
(6) Shaytân is man's old enemy. However when man comes into Allâh's house, then it is as if he is in a fortified area. Shaytân cannot destroy him.

(7) The angels are always in the ibâdah (worship) and zikr remembrance of Allâh I. The believer, sitting in i'tikâf, is also always engaged in the remembrance and worship of Allâh I. He thus resembles the angels. Since the angels are very close to Allâh I, this servant will also begin attaining closeness to Allâh Ta'ala.

(8) Nabî Salallahu Alaihi Wasallam   has said, "As long as a person waits for Salâh, he will continue getting the reward of Salâh. In i'tikâf, one gets this reward.

(9) As long as one remains in i'tikâf, one attains the reward of ibâdat (worship), whether he is sleeping, sitting quietly or involved in any other work.

(10) A person in i'tikâf is every minute in ibâdat. Thus there is no better way to find Lailatul Qadr because whenever it occurs, one will be in ibâdat.

SOME IMPORTANT AND SPECIAL DEEDS TO BE PERFORMED DURING I'TIKÂF

A person should regard his time spent in i'tikâf as very valuable since he has turned away from all other work and has come for only this purpose into the Masjid. Instead of seeking relaxation and ease and wasting ones time in futile speech, one should engage in tilâwat, zikrullâh (remembrance of Allâh I), nafl (optional) Salâh, tasbîhât and in the learning and teaching of Dîn.

Laws Pertaining to I'tikâf

The most important fundamental of i'tikâf is that one remains in the Masjid beginning from the time of sunset on the 21st Ramadân (i.e. the evening after the 20th fast) until the sunset of 'Îd night and one should not leave the boundaries of the Masjid for even one second except for one's necessities (which will be explained later).

If without a Shar'î excuse, one leaves the Masjid for even one moment, the i'tikâf is nullified.

Note: It is necessary for the one sitting for i'tikâf to ascertain the boundaries of the Masjid from those in charge of the Masjid, before sitting for i'tikâf. Generally the wudû area, courtyard of the Masjid, stair case, Imâm's room etc, are not part of the Masjid. By not knowing, one may go there mistakenly, thus nullifying his i'tikâf.

Necessities which make leaving the Masjid Permissible

(1) To pass urine or stool.
(2) To perform fard ghusl (ghusl of janâbat).
(3) To make wudû.
(4) To give azân.
(5) To get food and drink if not possible in the Masjid.
(6) To go to another Masjid for Jumu'ah, if Jumu'ah is not performed there.
(7) To go to another Masjid if one is forced to due to necessity (e.g. destruction of the Masjid).

Nullifiers of I'tikâf

(1) Besides the above-mentioned necessities, if one leaves the boundaries of the Masjid for even one moment, his i'tikâf will be rendered void.

(2) After completing a necessity, if one remains or waits outside the Masjid even for one moment, the i'tikâf will be rendered void.

(3) Without a valid Shar'î reason or need, one leaves the Masjid whether intentionally, in forgetfulness or by mistake, then in all such situations the i'tikâf will be void.

(4) If mistakenly one enters an area thinking it to be within the boundaries of the Masjid, whereas it is not, then too his i'tikâf will be nullified. Therefore it is of utmost importance to ascertain the boundaries of the Masjid before commencing i'tikâf.

(5) Since fasting is a condition for i'tikâf, if the fast breaks, i'tikâf will be rendered void.

(6) By kissing and cuddling which results in emission and by sexual intercourse, i'tikâf will be rendered void.

The Consequences of breaking i'tikâf: Rule of Qadâ

(1) If the Sunnah I'tikâf is rendered void for any of the reasons set forth above then it is wâjib to make qadâ only of that day in which the i'tikâf was rendered void. It is not wâjib to make qadâ of the full ten days. (Shâmî)

The procedure of making qadâ of this one day is as follows:
If there is time remaining in that Ramadân, one must perform i'tikâf with the niyyah of qadâ in that Ramadân, commencing from the setting of the sun of one day until the setting of the sun of the following day. If there is no time in that particular Ramadân or if it is not possible for any reason to perform i'tikâf therein, then apart from Ramadân, one can keep fast on any day and perform i'tikâf for one day. On the other hand, if one makes qadâ the following Ramadân, this also will be valid. However, there is no guarantee of life and therefore one should make qadâ as quickly as possible.

(2) If the Sunnah I'tikâf is rendered void, it is not necessary to leave the Masjid. One can continue the i'tikâf for the remainder of the last ten days with the intention of nafl i'tikâf. In this way, the Sunnah Muakkadah will not be fulfilled but reward will be obtained for the nafl i'tikâf. On the other hand, if the i'tikâf was rendered void due to some involuntary mistake, it is not inconceivable that Allâh Ta’ala may bestow, through His infinite mercy, the reward of the Sunnah I'tikâf of the last ten days. Hence, it is preferable in the case of the breaking of the i'tikâf to continue the i'tikâf until the termination of the last ten days. However, it is permissible if a person does not continue with the i'tikâf after the breaking thereof. It is also permissible to leave on the day that the i'tikâf is broken and to commence a nafl i'tikâf the following day.

(3) Although the jurists have not written with precise clarity the procedure for the qadâ of one days i'tikâf, the following appears to be the procedure according to general principles: If the i'tikâf was rendered void during the day, only a days qadâ is required. One must enter before subh sâdiq for the purpose of qadâ, keep fast and leave the same day at the time of setting of the sun in the evening. On the other hand, if the i'tikâf was rendered void in the night, then qadâ must be done of both the night and day. One must enter the Masjid before the setting of the sun in the evening, stay the night in the Masjid, keep fast, and leave the next day after the setting of the sun.

Permissible Acts during I'tikâf

(1) To eat and drink.
(2) To sleep.
(3) To do necessary business for one's necessities of life on condition that the goods are not brought into the Masjid.
(4) To speak (however one must abstain from vain talk).
(5) To change one's clothing, apply itr or scent and to put oil in the head.
(6) To make Nikâh.
(7) To teach Qur'ân or any other religious knowledge.
(8) To wash or sew clothing. However at the time of washing the person should be in the Masjid and the water must fall out. The same law applies to utensils.
(9) Passing wind in the Masjid, when one is compelled to do so.

Thus whatever does not render the i'tikâf null and void, nor is it makrûh in i'tikâf and is itself permissible is also permissible during the state of i'tikâf.

Makrûh and Prohibited Actions

(1) To adopt complete silence since this is not an act of worship in the Sharî'ah. Thus, if done with the intention of worship, one will get the sin of bid'ah (innovation). However, if one does not regard it as an act of worship (ibâdat) but rather keeps quiet as far as possible so as to save himself from sin, then there is no harm. (Durrul Mukhtâr) Whenever there is necessity, then one should not abstain from speaking.

(2) To indulge in vain and useless talk is also makrûh. One should be very careful in the usage of his tongue at all times, more so during i'tikâf. Nabî Salallahu Alaihi Wasallam has said:
مَنْ صَمَتَ نَجَا

"He who keeps quiet is saved (from tribulations in both worlds)."

There are many evils that can arise by improper usage of the tongue. Today, backbiting, slandering, lies, insults, etc. have become so common and widespread that very few gatherings are devoid of them.

Sometimes people discussing matters fall easily into backbiting, unaware that they are sinning. This is very harmful since one who does not acknowledge his sin, when will he ever make taubah (seek repentance).

Nabî Salallahu Alaihi Wasallam  asked the Sahâbah R.A: "Do you know what is backbiting ?" . They replied: "Allâh Ta'ala and His Rasûl Salallahu Alaihi Wasallam  know best". Rasûlullâh Salallahu Alaihi Wasallam  said: "Making mention of your brother regarding that which he dislikes". The Sahâbah R.A asked: "Even if this is in him (in reality)". Nabî Salallahu Alaihi Wasallam  replied: "If this is truly in him, then you have backbited. If not, then you have slandered him (which is a greater sin)".

Thus the meaning of ghîbat (backbiting) is to mention any such thing behind your Muslim brother's back that if he has to hear it, he will be displeased e.g. to call someone, 'foolish or stupid', or to find fault in the lineage of someone, or to mention any such fault which is related to him in anyway, be it regarding his movements, house, animals, clothing etc. This is whether one makes apparent this fault by means of his tongue, by allusion, by hand or eye signs or by imitation. All these are included in backbiting.

Rasûlullâh Salallahu Alaihi Wasallam said regarding backbiting:
اَلْغِيْبَةُ اَشَدُّ مِنَ الزِّنَا

"Backbiting is more severe than fornication."

By backbiting, darkness is created in the heart. Backbiting is a means for breaking up of relationships and for the commencement of arguments, fights, etc. By backbiting the splendour of the face is taken away and such a person's face is pale. People look at such a person with disgrace. On the day of Judgement, the good actions of the one who backbited will be given to the one regarding whom he backbited about. If he does not have enough good deeds, the sins of this person will be loaded onto him due to which he will enter Jahannam (Hell). This person has been called a 'destitute' in the Hadîth Sharîf. Allâh Ta’ala will not forgive the one who backbited until the one regarding whom the backbiting was done, does not forgive since these are huqûqul-ibâd (rights of men).
The greatest harm is that Allâh Ta’ala will become angry, and the anger of Allâh Ta’ala will be manifested in the form of entry into Jahannam (Hell).

Many people, even though not indulging in backbiting themselves, continue sitting in the gathering where it takes place.

Maulânâ Abrârul-Haq Sâhib RA says: "If one backbites and you have the ability to prevent him, then prevent him. Otherwise, it is necessary to stand up and go away. Do not care about breaking his heart because causing harm to one's Dîn (religion) is graver than breaking another's heart. If you cannot stand up, make an excuse and go away or begin some other permissible speech (thereby changing the topic).

(3) Do not think evil or low of others. During i'tikâf, one gets the ability of making more ibâdat than usual. On seeing others not making so much ibâdat or not even sitting for i'tikâf, one can easily get pride and have a sense of superiority. However, one should always remember that he has no guarantee that his ibâdat is accepted. Therefore, he has no right to feel proud.

A story is written of a buzurg (pious person) that his son made ibâdat the entire night. One man was sleeping close to him. This buzurg's son passed some improper comments due to this person's continuous sleeping saying, "What is with this person that he continues to sleep the entire night?" The buzurg said: "O son! If you also continued sleeping and did not make ibâdat the entire night, it would have been better than making this statement".

  • Those sitting in the Masjid should ensure that they uphold the respect and sanctity of the Masjid. Noise should not be made in the Masjid. The floor of the Masjid should be kept clean and special care should be taken at meal times that the Masjid is not made dirty. Similarly, if one has to cut one's nails or hair in the Masjid, he should ensure that this is not strewn about.

  • If one has a nocturnal emission, then as soon as the eyes upon, one should make tayammum and go out of the Masjid to have a ghusl. It is not permissible to stay or walk around in this impure state in the Masjid.

  • If one's clothing or blanket, etc. becomes impure, they should also be taken out since it is not permissible to keep impure things in the Masjid.

    May Allâh Ta’ala grant us the ability to act on this beloved Sunnah of Nabî Salallahu Alaihi Wasallam.