I’tikaaf (Seclusion in the Musjid)

[by Maulana Zakariyyah Kandhlawi (rahimahullah) from Fadha’il Ramadan]

The meaning of I’tikaaf is to seclude oneself in the Musjid with the express niyyah (intention) of I’tikaaf. According to the Hanafi school of thought, there are three different types of I’tikaaf.

(a) Waajib I’ilikaaf:
This I’tikaaf becomes compulsory when a person makes it obligatory upon himself. An example of this is. when a person makes a vow to Allah that if Allah fulfills a certain wish of his, he will undertake to perform so many days l’tikaaf. In this case the moment his wish is fulfilled, I’tikaaf becomes compulsory. A person may just make unconditional vow whereby he makes I’tikaaf waajib upon himself for certain number of days. This becomes a Waajib duty on him from that moment onwards.

(b) Sunnah I’tikaaf
This was the general practice of Rasulullah and it means to seclude oneself inside the musjid for the last ten days of Ramadan.

(c) NafI I’tikaaf:
There-is no special time or specific number of days for Nafl l’tikaaf. A person may make niyyah for any number of days at any time, even for his whole life. Imaam Abu Haneefah (rahmatullah alayh) however states that it must be for at least one full day.

Imaam Muhammad (rahimahullah) states that there is no limit on the minimum period of time. The fatwa is on this latter view. Therefore it is desirable for anyone entering a musjid to make the niyyah (intention) of I’tikaaf for the period that he will remain in the musjid. So while he is in ibaadah he also gains the reward of I’tikaaf.

(In view of the above, it is advisable that everyone entering the musjid to join the congregation prayer, should on entering the musjid, make the niyyah for I’tikaaf. In that case, it means that as long as he remains busy with salaah, thikr, listening to lectures or sermons, he also receives reward for the I’tikaaf). I always observed that my late father used to make niyyah for I’tikaaf while stepping into the musjid with his right foot. Occasionally, by way of teaching and reminding his followers, he used to raise his voice when reciting the niyyah.

OBJECTS AND ADVANTAGES OF I’TIKAAF

The reward for I’tikaaf is great. Rasulullah (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) constantly performed I’tikaaf. The example of the one who resides in the musjid in l’tikaaf is like a person. who having gone to a certain place for something, remains there until it is granted.

When someone comes begging to our door and then refuses to leave until he has been granted his request, I am sure that even the one with the hardest heart amongst us will eventually accede to his request. How muchmore merciful is Allah. Who even grants without reason.

Hence. when one isolates himself from all worldy things and goes to Allah’s door. what doubt can there be for his plea to be accepted. And when Allah has favoured someone others cannot describe the ecstacy and enrichment of such limitless treasures. How could a person ever describe what he has not obtained? However, can an underaged person describe adulthood? Nevertheless. this is a course in which one shall give nothing else besides total dedication or else be taken away for the final meeting of his creator. Allaama ibn Qayyim. on explaining the significance of I’tikaaf, writes that actual aim of I’tikaaf is to divert the heart from everything except Allah and to join it with Allah alone thereby forming a complete spiritual connection with the creator.

All worldly connections are thus cut off for the sake of gaining Allah’s attention. All thoughts. desire, love and devotion become centred around Him. In consequence His love is attained- a love and friendship that will be the only friend in the loneliness of the grave. When a person has that then who can possibly imagine the great ecstasy with which that time of the grave will be spent? In Maraquil Falaah, the author writes that I’tikaaf. when properly and sincerely performed is a most virtuous deed. 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 our whole life is actually laid down at His doorstep. One remains in ‘ibaadah all the time. Even when one is asleep, one is still in His service, striving for nearness to Him. 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 hear to him by running

In I’tikaaf one goes to Allah’s house and the most Kind Host always honours a guest who visits Him. The one in I’tikaaf also attains safety in Allah’s fortress where no enemy can reach. Besides this there are numerous other virtues and distinctive featues of this important ‘ibaadah.

WHERE TO PERFORM I’TIKAAF

The best of places for I’tikaaf, for male, is the Musjidul Haraam in Makkah. The next best is the Musjidul Nabawi in Madinah, and the next best is Baitul Mukaddas. Thereafter, comes the Jaam’i Musjid in one’s own town and last but not least, the musjid nearest to one’s home. Imam Abu Hanifah (rahmatullah alayh) stipulate the musjid should be one wherein the five daily prayers are performed, while Imam Abu Yusuf and Imam Muhammad (rahimahumullah). are agreed that any musjid according to the Shari’ah can be entered for I’tikaaf, even if there is no regular salaah with Jama’ah.

As for the females, they should perform I’tikaaf in the musjid inside their homes.Where however, no musjid exists and the desire for I’tikaaf be there, one room of the house should be set aside for this purpose, I’tikaaf is in fact an easier task for women. A special section of the house, most commonly the prayer room, is set aside wherein they seclude themselves, remaining in ‘ibaadah. The domestic duties can then be performed by daughters or servants, and the women 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 the ease, our women folk still remain deprived of the blessings of I’tikaaf.

HADITH NO.1

“Abu Sa’id Khudri (radhiyallahu anhu) reports that Rasulullah (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) once performed l’tikaaf for the first ten days of Ramadan. Thereafter he made I’tikaaf in a Turkish tent (inside the musjid) for the middle ten days. Thereafter he raised his head out of the tent and said, ‘”Verily in search of Laylatul Qadr did I perform l’tikaaf for the first ten days, then for the middle ten days. Then someone (an angel) come and told me, “It is in the last ten days whosoever has made I’tikaaf with me should continue for the last ten days”. I had been shown that night and then made to forget, which it shall be. And verily did I see myself prostrating to Allah with my forehead on mud on the morning after the night. Seek Laylatul Qadr the last ten nights of Ramadan; seek it among uneven ones“.

Abu Sa’id (radhiyallahu anhu) says; “That same night it rained. The roof on the musjid leaked. and I looked at Rasulullah’s (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) two eyes and on his forehead there were remains of water and mud. This was on the morning of the 21st performing sujood in muddy clay”.  [Mishkaat.]

COMMENTARY

It used to be the general practice of Rasulullah (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) to perform I’tikaaf in Ramadan. At times he used to remain in the musjid for the whole month and during the last year of his life he was in I’tikaaf for twenty days. Because he always secluded himself in the musjid for last ten days, the ‘ulama consider it sunnah mu’akkadah to perform I’tikaaf for that period.

From the above Hadlth it can be deduced that the major object behind l’tikaaf was to search for Laylatul Qadr. What better, manner can there be than to be in I’tikaaf because, it is considered to be in ‘ibaadah all the time, whether one is awake or asleep. Furthermore, one in I’tikaaf is free from, all daily tasks and thus, has all the time to devote to thikrullah, (the rememberance of Allah) and meditation. Throughout Ramadan Rasulullah (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) exerted himself and increase his ‘ibaadah and when the last ten days came along, he had no limit in exerting himself. He himself remained awake throughout the night and awakened his family for the same purpose. Aa’isha (radhiyallahu anha) reports:

During Ramadan Rasullullah tied his lungi tightly about him, staying awake all night and waking his family (for the purpose of ‘lbaadah).”
Tied his lungi tightly about him‘ means either that he knew no limits in exerting himself in ‘ibaadah; or that he gave due importance and preference to ‘ibaadah, and avoided all forms of sexual contact.

HADITH NO. 2

Ibn Abbas (radhiyallahu anhu) relates that Rasulullah (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) said, “The. person performing l’tikaaf remains free from sins, and he is indeed given the same reward as those who do righteous deeds (inspite of not having done those deeds as a result of having been secluded in the musjid“. [Mishkaat from Ibn Majah].

COMMENTARY

(Note that one remaining secluded in the musjid is not allowed to depart from there for worldly needs. ‘He may only set forth to the outside for the calls of nature, to perform ablution or ghusl or for attending jumu’ah when that is not performed in the same musjid, after which he must return forthwith).

Now this Hadith points to two great benefits of I’tikaaf. . . . Firstly one is saved from sin. It is true that it very often happens that one falls into sin without ever intended to do so. (The world all around. us is full of temptations). To commit sin in the blessed month of Ramadan is indeed a great injustice io ourselves. By remaining secluded in the musjid, one completely avoids the temptation to sin. Secondly, it would appear outwardly that when one is secluded in the musjid, one is automatically at a disadvantage by not being allowed to perform certain good deeds like joining funeral prayers, attending burials, visiting the sick. etc. That is not so, because according to this hadith one is rewarded for these deeds even though not performing them. What a great favour from Allah! How great is Allah’s bounty! By performing ‘Ibaadah one receives the reward of numerous other ‘ibaadahs. In fact Allah Ta’ala seeks the slightest cause to bestow His blessings. His blessings could be received in abundance with a little effort and plea. If only we can understand and properly appreciate these favours. That proper appreciation and understanding can only enter our minds when we have the true love and interest for our Deen.

(May Allah grant us that Aameen!).

A PIECE OF ADVICE:

THE MASNOON IBAADAT OF I’TIKAAF

[by Majlisul Ulama]

DON’T DESTROY IT WITH MERRYMAKING AND AMUSEMENT

Within the next couple of days, the period for the Sunnah I’tikaaf of the last ten days of Ramadan will commence. This Ibaadat is a Sunnah alal Kifaayah Act. If a few individuals observe it, the whole community is absolved of the obligation. This is not an Ibaadat of mass proportions, hence the Sahaabah and the Salafus Saaliheen did not accord it the emphasis which present-day ‘sufis’ are attaching to it for their own ulterior motives. In the process of attaining fulfilment for their nafsaaniyat, the ‘shaikhs’ of today are ruining the little natural Imaani Roohaaniyat (spirituality) of their unsuspecting ignorant mureedeen who are caught up in the whirlpool of merrymaking and nafsaani amusement which characterize these errant, anti-Sunnah mass mock ‘i’tikaaf’ programmes. 

Remember that the I’tikaaf is for cultivating solitude and proximity to Allah Ta’ala. This cannot be achieved with the racket, merrymaking, gluttony, fuzool, lahw and la’b which characterize the mass so-called ‘i’tikaaf’ programmes. Only a handful of persons should be allowed to fulfil the I’tikaaf obligation in a Musjid. Those sitting in I’tikaaf must understand that this Ibaadat cordons them off from the dunya. They should therefore, spend all the time in IbaadatNafl Salaat, Tilaawat, Thikrullaah, Istighfaar, Durood¸ etc. If tired, go to sleep, but do not seek diversion with conversation in the Musjid. It is HARAAM to indulge in conversation inside the Musjid. Rasulullah (Sallallahu alayhi wasallam) said:

“Conversation in the Musjid consumes good deeds just  as cattle consume grass.”

Seek relief for tiredness in sleep, not in conversation. Don’t go about greeting people in the Musjid, especially during I’tikaaf regardless of their status and seniority. Fall asleep with Allah’s Name on your tongue so that your every breath is recorded as a Tasbeeh

Don’t ruin your wonderful I’tikaaf ibaadat with haraam and mushtabah food. Exercise some restrain and control over the nafs. Totally abstain from carrion chicken products, soft drinks and other processed food laced with chemically named poison, mushtabah and haraam ingredients. Keep your mind and body clean and pure to gain maximum benefit of the I’tikaaf. The Mu’takaf (the I’tikaaf cubicle) resembles the Qabr, and the I’tikaaf is the monasticism of this Ummah. Do not make the ‘Qabr’ into a merrymaking playground. 

Do not sit in I’tikaaf in a Musjid where a mass gathering takes place in the name of ‘I’tikaaf’. Search for a small quiet Musjid if you are intent on I’tikaaf. Those sitting in a genuine I’tikaaf and conducting themselves correctly, are sure to obtain the auspicious Night of Qadr. Do not miss this opportunity with merrymaking and nonsense which are the characteristics of the anti-Sunnah mass gatherings organized in the name of I’tikaaf. Everything of the mass ‘i’tikaaf’ is in violation with the letter and spirit of I’tikaaf.

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