Itikaaf: Part 01

The literal meaning of the word I’tikāf is ‘sticking and adhering to something, or to be regular in something’. In Islamic context, Itikaaf means: ‘To confine oneself in a mosque for prayers, invocations and Ibadah, leaving the worldly activities for a limited number of days.’ It is one another recommended Sunnah which bears great rewards for the person who does it. A Mu’takif (one who observes Itikaaf) is supposed to devote himself to Ibadah during these days, away from worldly affairs. The Ibadah may include performing Nawafil prayers, Invocations, Recitation & understanding of Qur’an, Reading & understanding ahadith etc. And, mostly, Itikaaf is associated with trying to find out the Night of Laylatul Qadr. Most of the narrations found in different collections of ahadith tell us that the most preferred time of observing Itikaaf is the last ten days of the month of Ramadan. The following hadith will support this fact:

Narrated Aishah (RA), the wife of the Prophet (SAW): “The Prophet (SAW) used to practise Itikaaf in the last ten days of Ramadan till he died and then his wives used to practise Itikaaf after him.” - (Hadith No. 2026, Book of Itikaaf, Sahih Bukhari, Vol. 3).

Other than this, there are several other narrations which prove that prophet Muhammed (SAW) used to observe itikaaf during the last ten days of the month of Ramadan. These narrations also tell us that itikaaf is to be observed for a period of ten days.

However, there are some other narrations which tell us that the prophet (SAW) practised Itikaaf for a period of more than ten days and also at times other than the last ten days of the month of Ramadan. Let us go through these narrations to understand this.

Abu Hurairah (RA) said: “The Prophet (SAW) used to observe Itikaaf in every Ramadan, for ten days. During the year in which he died, he observed Itikaaf for twenty days.” - (Hadith No. 2466, Book of Fasting, Sunan Abu Dawud, Vol. 3).

This case of doing Itikaaf for twenty days is related to the fact that the prophet (SAW) did not observe Itikaaf  the year preceding his death and then he observed it the following year for twenty days. This tells us that we can observe Itikaaf for more than ten days i.e. twenty days. This narration also tells us that Itikaaf can be observed during mid ten days of the month of Ramadan as well.

There is one another hadith which gives an additional information about the days when one can observe Itikaaf the same is quoted below.

Narrated Aishah (RA): “The Prophet (SAW) intended to practise Itikaaf and when he reached the place where he intended to perform it, he saw some tents, the tents of Aishah, Hafsa & Zainab, RA. So he said, “Do you consider that they intended to do ‘Al-Birr’ by doing this?” And then he went away and did not perform Itikaaf (in Ramadan) but performed it in the month of Shawwal for ten days.” - (Hadith No. 2034, Book of I’tikāf, Sahih Bukhari, Vol. 3).

This narration tells us that we can observe Itikaaf even in months other than Ramadan. However, preferred days for Itikaaf are the last ten days of Ramadan (it should be noted that the Night of Qadr falls in odd days of last ten days of Ramadan)

The hadith mentioned at the start of the post tells us that wives of the Prophet (SAW) used to observe Itikaaf after his death. Therefore, it is allowed for women to observe Itikaaf. However, the narration mentioned above tells us that a woman whose husband is alive should not do Itikaaf without permission of her husband.

Majority of the scholars are of the view that Itikaaf starts from the twenty first night of Ramadan and the person who is going to make Itikaaf should enter the mosque before sunset. However, as we have read earlier that Itikaaf may be done at times other than the last ten days of Ramadan, there needs to be more specific time of entry for the Mu’takif to his place of observing Itikaaf. The same is very clearly explained in following hadith:

It was narrated that Aishah (RA) said, “When Allah’s Messenger (SAW) wanted to observe Itikaaf, he prayed Fajr, then he entered his place of Itikaaf.” - (Hadith No. 791, Chapters on Fasting, Jami’ At-Tirmidhi, Vol. 2). 

There will be a continuation of this post tomorrow.

Ma Salam. Please read my other posts and share the blog. Also subscribe for email alerts of new posts as i post daily. May Allah bless and reward you as you do so.