According to many scholars, itikaaf merely means remaining somewhere. Usually, the “somewhere refers to the mosque for men and a designated place within the home for women.
I’tikaf in the month of Ramadan is a Sunnat-e-Kafaya. It means if one person within the community performs it then all will be absolved from this responsibility and if no-one performs it then all will be held responsible. The person who intends to observe I’tikaf should do so before Maghrib prayer of 20th of Ramadhan.
There is a period within those odd nights of the last ten days when all duas(prayers) will be accepted and sins forgiven. When Itikaf is done on all the ten days, this period is not likely to be missed. The Qura’an was revealed on one such night in Ramadan, and, therefore, we have been commanded to observe fast during the whole of month. The night of power is of great value; it is more meritorious than a thousand months, and all good acts done on that night will have their proportionate rewards.
Narrated Abu Said Al-Khudri (RA) Allah’s Apostle used to practice Itikaf in the middle ten days of Ramadan and once he stayed in Itikaf till the night of the twenty-first and it was the night in the morning of which he used to come out of his Itikaf. The Prophet (may Allah bestow peace and blessings upon him) said, “Whoever was in Itikaf with me should stay in Itikaf for the last ten days, for I was informed (of the date) of the Night (of Qadr) but I have been caused to forget it. (In the dream) I saw myself prostrating in mud and water in the morning of that night. So, look for it in the last ten nights and in the odd ones of them.” It rained that night and the roof of the mosque dribbled as it was made of leaf stalks of date-palms. I saw with my own eyes the mark of mud and water on the forehead of the Prophet (may Allah bestow peace and blessings upon him) (i.e. in the morning of the twenty-first).
Due to the above hadith and many other similar ones, itikaaf is usually observed in the last ten days of Ramadhan. One must be clean (i.e not on their menstruation) and be fasting to sit in itikaaf. A person must vow to sit in itikaaf and the minimum period is one day.
During itikaaf, it is advisable to partake in:
1. Voluntary prayer,
2. Reciting the Book of Allah, with reflection, contemplation, and passion,
3. Remembrance of Allah, in all its forms,
4. Gaining beneficial knowledge, and listening to inspiring religious discourses (which is why it is wise to make i`tikaf in a mosque with people of learning, and good company to inspire one towards the good).
Eating, drinking and talking is allowed in itikaaf, however one should refrain from wasting time.
A persons’ itikaaf ends when they leave the designated place, for reasons other than:
1. For a necessary ghusl.
2. To perform wudu (if such facilities are not found within the mosque),
3. To use the toilet.
Some of the benefits of itikaaf are listed below:
Benefits of Itikaaf:-
1. Itikaaf on the one hand provides protection from the evil consequences of excessive talking and on the other hand allows the person to concentrate towards Allah SWT by offering Qiyaam al-Layl(Tarawi), reading Quran, making Dhikr, reciting du’aa, and so on.
2. The second benefit of this pious act is; protection from excessive sleeping, as a the person has to devote their time in doing different kinds of acts of worship
3. Thirdly, a person’s success in freeing themselves from socializing, talking and sleeping too much will help them make their heart turn towards Allah, and will protect them from the opposite.
4. The Almighty has promised certain rewards for the person who has performed Itikaaf with true heart. It is stated that the reward is equivalent to performing Umrah.
5. When a Muslim restrict themselves in the for Itikaaf, he is prevented from performing certain acts of high moral and religious worth. For instance, he cannot visit the sick or care for them which is a most meritorious act in the sight of God or work for the welfare of the weak, the indigent and the orphan and the widow or bathe the dead body which, is done with sincerity and there is the desire to earn the divine recompense, is a deed of much moral goodness. In the same way, he cannot go out to participate in the funeral service nor accompany the bier to the graveyard in doing which sin are forgiven at each step and good deeds are written in the Scroll of Deeds.
The Prophet (may Allah bestow peace and blessings upon him) said, “Whoever stands the nights of Ramadan in prayer out of faith and seeking reward shall have their previous sins forgiven.” [Bukhari & Muslim]
in sha Allah may Allah SWT help us remember this daily.