I’tikaaf (Seclusion In The Mosque)

I’tikaaf is the seclusion and staying in the mosque with the intention of becoming close to Allah (SWT). It is a meritorious act of worship that could be done in any month of the year. The Messenger of Allah  (S.A.W) was reported to have done i’tikaaf in the month of shawwal. Since reward for good deeds are multiplied during this holy month of Ramadan, It is recommended that this act of worship should be done particularly during the last ten days of Ramadan. The prophet of Allah (S.A.W) used to perform i’tikaaf for ten days every Ramadan. In the year that he died, he performed it for twenty days. I’tikaaf has no specific time limit. It can even be for one day. The reward will be according to length of staying in the masjid. The Muslim who intends to perform i’tikaaf must be in a state of purity and should commence the i’tikaaf immediately after subh prayer. He should terminate the i’tikaaf after the subh prayer of the day he intends to end. I’itikaaf is done only in the mosque. As a matter of fact, there is difference of opinion among jurists concerning the mosque that are acceptable for i’tikaaf. Some opine that it is valid in any mosque in which the five daily prayers are held in congregation and preferably in which the Friday prayer is also held (This is to reduce frequency of going out for different reasons). Another group of scholars hold that i’tikaaf can be done in one of the following masjids: al-Masjid al-Haraam in Makkah, al-Masjid al-Nabawi in Madeenah and al-Masjid al-Aqsaa in al-Quds, Jerusalem. On this note and as a way of seeking for additional rewards, pilgrims performing Hajj or Umrah are adviced to perform i'tikaaf if possible before returning to their various countries most preferably in al-Masjid al-Haraam in the sacred city Makkah. The general opinion is that i'tikaaf can be performed in any mosque where five daily prayers and preferably where jumu’ah prayer are being observed. This position is supported by Q2v187 “and do not have sexual relations with them (your wives) while you are in i'tikaaf in the masjid". This verse has not specified any particular masjid for i'tikaaf. The Qur’an is our first source of authority while hadith is the second source. If we accept the hadith that says  "there is no i'tikaaf except in the three masjids" as saheeh, then the interpretation is that the best i'tikaaf is in these three masjids. The four great Imaams of Islam are unanimous that i'tikaaf is valid in all Jumu’ah masjids. It is also good for the person performing i'tikaaf to fast (but not necessarily obligatory), although some jurists see fasting as a condition for the correctness of i'tikaaf. It is preferred for the one who is making i'tikaaf to perform many supererogatory acts of worship and to occupy himself with prayers, reciting the Qur’an and glorifying and praising Allah, extolling His oneness and greatness, asking for His forgiveness, sending salutations on the prophet (S.A.W)  and any other action that brings one closer to Allah. He should avoid all kinds of words and actions that will not help him achieve the purpose of this devotion. As a matter of fact, it is good to avoid talking too much. Anyone who talks too much has a higher tendency of saying something that is not true. The prophet was quoted in an hadith to have said "part of a person’s being a good Muslim is that he leaves alone that which does not concern him."Muslim women should note that they may perform i'tikaaf only with the consent of their husbands or guardians provided there is no entertained fear. The women in i'tikaaf are to set up a small tent in the courtyard of the masjid.A muslim performing i'tikaaf can leave his place to bid farewell to his wife or any other person that visits him. He may also go out for some needs that he must perform such as answering the call of nature, getting food if there is no one to bring it, washing one’s self from sexual defilement (wet dream, but certainly not sexual intercourse) and cleaning his body or clothes from impurities. The person performing i’tikaaf may eat, drink and sleep in the masjid. He should however endeavour to keep the masjid clean. I’tikaaf must never be an excuse to make the masjid to become dirty as it has been observed in some places. This is even more so when cognizance is taking on the fact that Islam attaches a lot of importance to the cleanliness. Any of the following acts nullifies i'tikaaf: 1.  Abandoning belief in Islam 2.  Intentionally leaving the masjid without any need to do so, even if it is for just a short time. 3.  Loosing one’s reason due to insanity or drunkenness or onset of menstruation or post childbirth bleeding. 4.  Sexual intercourse. We pray to Allah (SWT) to make it easy for anyone who is going for this act of worship. And to those not able to go, let's prepare our minds and make plans for subsequent Ramadan. Salam alaikum waramatulahi wabarakatu.

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