Fiqh-us-Sunnah, Volume 3: I'tikaf or Seclusion in the Mosque
I'tikaf means to stick to something, whether good or bad, and to block outeverything else. Allah says in the Qur'an: "What then are images that youpay devotion [akifun] to them?" [alAnbia' 52]--that is, what they devotedthemselves to in worship. What is meant here is the seclusion and staying inthe mosque with the intention of becoming closer to Allah.
All scholars agree on its legitimacy. The Prophet would perform i'tikaf forten days every Ramadan. In the year that he died, he performed it for twentydays. This is related by alBukhari, Abu Dawud, and ibn-Majah. The Prophet'scompanions and wives performed i'tikaf with him and continued to do so afterhis death. Even though it is an act which is done to get closer to Allah, thereis no sound hadith concerning its merits. Abu Dawud states: "I said toAhmad, 'Are you aware of anything concerning the virtues of i'tikaf?' Heanswered: 'No, except for some weak [reports].' "
I'tikaf is of two types: sunnah and obligatory. The sunnah i'tikaf is thatwhich the Muslim performs to get closer to Allah by following the actions ofthe Prophet, upon whom be peace, especially during the last ten days ofRamadan. The obligatory i'tikaf is that which the person makes obligatory uponhimself. This may be done, for example, by an oath: "For Allah I must makei'tikaf," or by a conditional oath: "If Allah cures me, I shall makei'tikaf ..." In Sahih al-Bukhari it is reported that the Prophet, uponwhom be peace, said: "Whoever makes an oath to obey Allah should beobedient to Him." 'Umar said: "O Messenger of Allah, I made an oathto perform i'tikaf one night in the mosque at Makkah." The Prophet, uponwhom be peace, said: "Fulfill your oath."
The obligatory i'tikaf is to be as long as the oath states it to be. If onemakes an oath to make i'tikaf for one day or more, he is to fulfill that lengthof time.
It can be fulfilled by staying in the mosque with the intention of makingi'tikaf for a long or short time. The reward will be according to how long onestays in the mosque. If one leaves the mosque and then returns, he should renewhis intention to perform i'tikaf. Ya'la ibn Umayyah said: "I secludedmyself in the mosque for some time for i'tikaf." 'Ata told him: "Thatis i'tikaf, as long as you secluded yourself there. If you sit in the mosquehoping for good, it is i'tikaf. Otherwise, it is not." One who isperforming the nonobligatory i'tikaf may end his i'tikaf at any time, even ifit is before the period he intended to stay. 'Aishah related that if theProphet intended to make i'tikaf, he would pray the morning prayer and beginit. One time he wanted to make i'tikaf during the last ten nights of Ramadan,and he ordered his tent to be set up. Aishah reported: "When I saw that, Iordered my tent to be set up, and some of the Prophets wives followed suit.When he [the Prophet] prayed the morning prayer, he saw all of the tents, andsaid: "What is this?" They said: "We are seeking obedience [toAllah and His Messenger]." Then he ordered his tent and those of his wivesto be taken down, and he delayed his i'tikaf to the first ten days [ofShawwal]." The fact that the messenger of Allah ordered his wives' tentsto be struck down and asked them to leave the i'tikaf after they have made theintention for it shows that they discarded the i'tikaf after they had begun it.The hadith also shows that a man may prevent his wife from preforming i'tikafif she did not get his permission to perform it. There is a difference ofopinion over the case of the man granting permission to his wife and thenrescinding it. According to ashShaf'i, Ahmad, and Dawud, this is permissiblefor the husband, and the wife must leave her i'tikaf in such case.
The one who preforms i'tikaf must be a Muslim adult, a discerning child whois free of sexual defilement, or an adolescent who is free of menstrual orchildbirth bleeding. I'tikaf is not acceptable from an unbeliever, anon-discerning child, a sexually defiled person, a menstruating woman withpost-childbirth bleeding.
I'tikaf will be fulfilled if a person stays in the mosque with the intentionof becoming closer to Allah. If the person is not in the mosque or did not doit with the intention to please Allah, it is not i'tikaf. The fact that theintention is obligatory is proven by Allah words: "They are ordainednothing else than to serve Allah, keeping religion pure for Him." TheProphet said: "Every action is according to the intention [behind it] andfor everyone is what he intended."
Certainly, i'tikaf must be done in the mosque, as Allah says: "And donot touch and be at your devotions in the mosque [alBaqarah 178]." This'ayah proves that if it were proper for i'tikaf to be performed elsewhere, whywould Allah exclusively disallow coming to one's wife during i'tikaf. Theanswer is that since such an act would nullify i'tikaf (no matter where it is peformed),it is clear that i'tikaf itself must be in the mosque.
There is a difference of opinion among the jurists concerning what mosquesare acceptable for i'tikaf. According to Abu Hanifah, Ahmad, Ishaq, and AbuThaur, i'tikaf is valid in any mosque in which the five prayers are held andwhich has a congregation. This is based on the hadith of the Prophet:"Every mosque that has a caller to prayer and an imam is acceptable fori'tikaf." This is related by ad-Daraqutni, but the hadith is mursal andweak and cannot be used as a proof.
Malik, ash-Shafi, and Dawud say that it is acceptable in any mosque, asthere is no proof that restricts it to any particular mosques. The Shaf'iyyahsay it is better to perform i'tikaf in a congregational mosque, as the Prophet,upon whom be peace, performed i'tikaf in such a mosque, and because the nwnberof those who attend the prayers in such a mosque is greater. If the period ofi'tikaf includes the time for the Friday prayer, then one must perform it inthe congregational mosque in order not to miss the Friday prayer.
The person making i'tikaf may make the call to prayer if the place fromwhence the call is made is either the door of the mosque or its interiorcourtyard. He may also go to the roof of the mosque, as all of that isconsidered part of the mosque. If the place for the call to prayer is outsideof the mosque, and the mu'takif makes the call, he will void his i'tikaf. Theexterior courtyard is considered part of the mosque according to the Hanafiyyahand Shaf'iyyah and one narration from Ahmad. According to Malik and anothernarration, it is not part of the mosque and the person making i'tikaf shouldnot go there.
Most scholars say that it is not correct for a woman to make i'tikaf in themosque in her house (that is, the special place of her house where she performsher prayers) because the mosque in her house usually does not fall in thecategory of mosques and can be sold. There is no difference of opinion on thispoint. The wives of the Prophet always performed their i'tikaf in the Prophet'smosque.
We have already mentioned that the voluntary i'tikaf does not have anyspecific time period. Whenever a person enters the mosque and makes theintention of becoming closer to Allah by staying there, he will be peformingi'tikaf until he leaves. If he has the intention to perform i'tikaf during thelast ten days of Ramadan, he should begin it before the sun sets. Al-Bukharirecords from Abu Sa'id that the Prophet, upon whom be peace, said:"Whoever makes i'tikaf with me is to make i'tikaf during the last ten[nights]." The ten refers to the last ten nights which begin on the nightof the 20th or the 21st.
Concerning the statement that when the Prophet desired to make i'tikaf hewould pray the morning and then go to the place of his i'tikaf, it means thathe used to enter the place which he had prepared for his seclusion, but theactual time that he entered the mosque for his seclusion was during thebeginning of the night.
According to Abu Hanifah and ash-Shafi, whoever performs i'tikaf during thelast ten days of Ramadan must leave the mosque after sunset on the last day ofthe month. Malik and Ahmad say that it is acceptable to leave after sunset, butthey prefer for the person to remain in the mosque until the time for the 'idprayer.
Al-'Athram records from Abu Ayyub that Abu Qulabah would stay in the mosqueon the night before the 'id prayer and would then go to the 'id prayer. Duringhis i'tikaf, he had no mat or prayer carpet to sit on. He used to sit likeanyone else. Abu Ayyub said: "I came to him on the day of 'id and on hislap was Juwairiyah Muzinah. I thought it was one of his daughters, but it was aslave that he had freed, and he came that way to the 'id prayer." Ibrahimsaid: "The people preferred that one who performed i'tikaf during the lastten days of Ramadan stay in the mosque on the night of 'id and then proceed tothe 'id prayer from the mosque.
If an individual makes a vow to perform i'tikaf for a specific period ofdays, or he wants to do so voluntarily, then he should begin his i'tikaf beforedawn and leave when all the sun's light has gone, regardless of whether that beduring Ramadan or at another time. If he vowed to perform i'tikaf for a nightor a specified number of nights, or if he wants to do so voluntarily, then heshould begin his i'tikaf before the sun has completely set and may leave whenit is clear that dawn has begun. Ibn Hazm says: "The night begins when thesun sets and ends with dawn. The day begins with dawn and is completed bysunset. This is not a condition upon anyone unless he desires or intends tofulfill it. If one vows or wants to make i'tikaf voluntarily for a month, heshould begin during the first night of the month. He should enter the mosquebefore the sun has completely set and may leave after the sun has completelyset at the end of the month--regardless of whether it is Ramadan orotherwise."
It is preferred for the one who is making i'tikaf to perform manysupererogatory acts of worship and to occupy himself with prayers, reciting theQur'an, glorifying and praising Allah, extolling His oneness and His greatness,asking His forgiveness, sending salutations on the Prophet, upon whom be peace,and supplicating Allah--that is, all actions that bring one closer to Allah.Included among these actions is studying and reading books of tafsir andhadith, books on the lives of the Prophets, upon whom be peace, books of fiqh,and so on. It is also preferred to set up a small tent in the courtyard of themosque as the Prophet did.
It is disliked for one to engage himself in affairs that do not concern him.At-Tirmizhi and Ibn Majah record on the authority of Abu Basrah that theProphet said: "Part of a man's good observance of Islam is that he leavealone that which does not concern him." It is, however, disliked for aperson to think that he can draw closer to Allah by not speaking. Al-Bukhari,Abu Dawud, and Ibn Majah record from Ibn 'Abbas that while the Prophet wasdelivering a speech, he saw a man standing and asked about him. The peoplesaid: "He is Abu Israel. He has vowed to stand and not to sit, and not tospeak, and to fast." The Prophet said: "Order him to speak, go to theshade, to sit, and to complete his fast." Abu Dawud related from 'Ali thatthe Prophet said: "There is no orphanhood after one has passed the age ofmaturity, and there is no non-speaking for a day until the nightfall."
It is good for the person performing i'tikaf to fast, but he is not underany obligation to do so. Al-Bukhari records from Ibn 'Umar that 'Umar said:"O Messenger of Allah, during the days of ignorance I vowed to performi'tikaf one night in the mosque at Makkah. The Prophet said: 'Fulfill yourvow.' " This statement of the Prophet, upon whom be peace, shows thatfasting is not a condition for i'tikaf; otherwise, performing i'tikaf at nightwould not be valid. Sa'id ibn Mansur records that Abu Sahl said: "One ofmy wives was to perform i'tikaf, so I asked 'Umar ibn 'Abdulaziz about it. Hesaid: 'She need not fast, unless she imposes it upon herself.' Az-Zuhri said:'There is no i'tikaf save while fasting.' 'Umar asked: 'Is this from theProphet?' Az-Zuhri answered, 'No.' 'Umar asked, 'From Abu Bakr?' Az-Zuhrisaid,'No.' 'Umar asked [again], 'From 'Umar [ibn al-Khattab]?' Az-Zuhri said,'No.' 'Umar said: 'I suspect he said it from 'Uthman?' Az-Zuhri said, 'No.' I[Abu Sahl] left them and met 'Ata and Tawus and asked them about it. Tawussaid: 'A person would see that he did not have to fast unless he imposed it onhimself.'"
Al-Khattabi acknowledges [the differences on the issue]: "There is adifference of opinion among the people on this point."
Al-Hassan al-Basri holds: "Performing i'tikaf without fasting suffices.That is also the opinion of ash-Shaf'i."
'Ali and Ibn Mas'ud maintain: "If one wishes, one may fast and if onedoes not wish to, one does not have to."
Al-Auza'i and Malik hold: "There is no i'tikaf without fasting, andthat is the conclusion of the people of opinion. That has been related from Ibn'Umar, Ibn 'Abbas, and 'Aishah, and it is the opinion of Sa'eed ibnal-Musayyeb, 'Urwah ibn az-Zubair, and az-Zuhri."
The following acts are perrnissible for one who is making i'tikaf:
-1- The person may leave his place of i'tikaf to bid farewell to his wife.Safiyyah reported: "The Prophet was performing i'tikaf and I went to visithim during the night. I talked to him and then I got up to go. He got up withme and accompanied me to my house. (Her residence was in the house of Usamahibn Zaid. Two men of the Ansar passed by them and when they saw the Prophetthey quickened their pace.) The Prophet said: 'Hold on, she is Safiyyah bintHaya.' They said: 'Glory be to Allah, O Messenger of Allah twe did not have anydoubt about you].' The Prophet, upon whom be peace, said: 'Satan flows in theperson like blood. I feared that he might have whispered some [slander] intoyour heart.'" This is related by al-Bukhari, Muslim, and Abu Dawud.
-2- Combing and cutting one's hair, clipping one's nails, cleaning one'sbody, wearing nice clothes or wearing perfume are all permissible. 'Aishahreported: "The Prophet was performing i'tikaf and he would put his headout through the opening to my room and I would clean [or comb in one narration]his hair. I was menstruating at the time." This is related by al-Bukhari,Muslim, and Abu Dawud.
-3- The person may go out for some need that he must perform. 'Aishahreported: "When the Prophet performed i'tikaf, he brought his head closeto me so I could comb his hair, and he would not enter the house except tofulfill the needs a person has." This is related by al-Bukhari, Muslim,and others.
Ibn al-Munzhir says: "The scholars agree that the one who performsi'tikaf may leave the mosque in order to answer the call of nature, for this issomething that he personally must perform, and he cannot do it in the mosque.Also, if he needs to eat or drink and there is no one to bring him his food, hemay leave to get it. If one needs to vomit, he may leave the mosque to do so.For anything that he must do but cannot do in the mosque, he can leave it, andsuch acts will not void his i'tikaf, even if they take a long time. Examples ofthese types of acts would include washing one's self from sexual defilement andcleaning his body or clothes from impurities."
Sa'id ibn Mansur records that 'Ali said: "If a person is performingi'tikaf, he is to attend the Friday congregational prayer, be present atfunerals, visit the ill and go to see his family about matters that arenecesssary, but he is to remain standing [while visiting them]." 'Alihelped his nephew by giving him 700 dirhams to buy a servant and the nephewsaid: "I am performing i'tikaf ". 'Ali said: "What blame wouldthere be upon you if you go to the market to buy one?" Qatadah used topermit the person who was performing i'tikaf to follow the funeral processionand to visit the sick, but not to sit while doing so. Ibrahim an-Nakha'i saysthat they preferred that the person who was performing i'tikaf do the followingdeeds and he was allowed to do them even if he did not do them to visit thesick, to attend the Friday prayers, to witness the funerals, to go out to meethis needs, and not to enter a place that has a ceiling. He said: "The onewho is performing i'tikaf should not enter a roofed place unless there is aneed to do so." Al-Khattabi says: "A group of people say that theperson performing i'tikaf may attend the Friday prayer, visit the ill, andwitness funerals. This has been related from 'Ali, and it is the opinion ofSa'id ibn Jubair, al-Hassan al-Basri, and an-Nakha'i." Abu Dawud recordsfrom 'Aishah that the Prophet would visit the sick while performing i'tikaf. Hewould visit them without steering away from his path. It has also been relatedfrom her that it is sunnah for the person not to leave his place of i'tikaf andvisit the sick. This means that the person is not to leave his place of i'tikafwith the sole intention of visiting the sick, but if he passes by him, he mayask about him provided it is not out of his way.
-4- The person may eat, drink, and sleep in the mosque, and he should alsokeep it clean. He may make contracts for marriage, buying, selling, and so on.
If a person performs one of the following acts, his i 'tikaf will benullified:
-1- Intentionally leaving the mosque without any need to do so, even if itis for just a short time. In such a case, one would not be staying in themosque, which is one of the principles of i'tikaf.
-2- Abandoning belief in Islam, as this would nullify all acts of worship.If you ascribe a partner to Allah, your work will fail and you will be amongthe losers.
-3- Losing one's reason due to insanity or drunkenness, or the onset of menstruationor post-childbirth bleeding, all of which disqualifies a person for i'tikaf.
-4- Sexual intercourse. Allah says: "But touch them not [that is, yourwives] and be at your devotions in the mosque."
However, one may touch his wife without there being any desires. One of theProphet's wives would comb his hair while he was performing i'tikaf. As forkissing or touching due to desire, Abu Hanifah and Ahmad say that it is notdesirable, for it leads to something that is forbidden for the one performingi'tikaf. However, it does not nullify it unless one ejaculates. Malik says thatit nullifies the i'tikaf, for it is an illegal touch regardless of whether theperson involved ejaculates or not. From ash-Shaf~i there are two reports thatcorrespond to the two preceding opinions.
Ibn Rushd explains that: "The reason for their differences of opinionis [the (fact) that] if a word has more than one meaning, one being literal andthe other figurative, does the word apply at one time to all of them or not?This is one of the types of words that have more than one meaning. Those whosay that it carries both meanings interpret 'touch' in the 'ayah . . . 'andtouch them not and be at your devotions in the mosque' in the unrestrictivesense--that is, covering both sexual intercourse and also actions [of touching]that are less than that. Those who don't say it carries all of its meanings andthey are the majority say that the 'ayah points to sexual intercourse or totouching that is less than intercourse. If we say that it refers to sexual intercourseby consensus, then this nullifies the possibility of it referring to actionsless than intercourse, as one [single] word could not be taken in its literaland figurative meaning [at the same time]. Those who say that what is less thansexual intercourse is included say so because it falls under the literalmeaning of the verse. Those who differ do not take the word in its literal andfigurative meaning at the same time.
If an individual intends to perform a voluntary i'tikaf and then ends itbefore he completes it, he should make up that i'tikaf later. Some say that itis obligatory to do so.
Writing on the subject, at-Tirmizhi says: "There is a difference ofopinion about a person who ends his i'tikaf before his intended time hasexpired." Malik holds: "If he ends his i'tikaf [early], it isobligatory upon him to make it up. He uses as proof the hadith which statesthat when the Prophet abandoned his i'tikaf, he made it up during the followingmonth of Shawwal." Ash-Shaf'i states: "If he did not vow to performi'tikaf or he did not make it obligatory upon himself, and then he left itearly, he does not have to make it up unless he chooses to do so." Hecontinues: "One does not have to undertake this act. If he did and thenleft it, he need not make it up [since it was voluntary], except for the caseof hajj and 'umrah." Notwithstanding this, the imams agree that if onemakes a vow to perform i'tikaf for a day or a number of days and then voids hisi'tikaf, it is obligatory upon him to make it up whenever he can. If he diesbefore he makes it up, then no one is obliged to make it up on his behalf. Onthe other hand, Ahmad argues: "It is obligatory on his inheritors to makeit up on his behalf. 'Abdurrazzaq related from 'Abdulkarim ibn Umayyah who saidhe heard 'Abdullah ibn 'Abdullah ibn 'Utbah say: "Our mother died whileshe still had some i'tikaf to perform. I asked Ibn 'Abbas and he said: 'Performi'tikaf on her behalf and fast.'" Sa'id ibn Mansur recorded that 'Aishahperformed i'tikaf on behalf of her brother after his death.
Ibn Majah recorded from Ibn 'Umar that the Prophet made i'tikaf during thelast ten days of Ramadan. Nafi' reported: "Ibn 'Umar showed me the placewhere the Prophet would perform his i'tikaf."
He also reported that when the Prophet performed i'tikaf, he would spreadout his bed behind the repentance pole (that is, the pole that a companion hadtied himself to until Allah accepted his repentance).
Abu Sa'id reported that the Prophet performed i'tikaf under a Turkish tentwhich had something over its openings.
If someone makes a vow to perform i'tikaf in the Masjid alHaram (in Makkah),the Prophet's Mosque (in Madinah), or in the Aqsa Mosque (in Jerusalem), he isto fulfill his vow, as the Prophet said: "One should not undertakejourneys except to three mosques: the Masjid al-Haram, the Aqsa mosque, or thismosque."
If someone vows to perform i'tikaf in another mosque, it is not obligatoryon him to fulfill it and he may perform that i'tikaf in any mosque, for Allahdid not specify any particular place for His worship, and there is nosuperiority of one mosque over another (with the exception of the three mosquesmentioned earlier). It has been confirmed that the Prophet said: "A prayerin my mosque is superior to one thousand prayers in any other mosque but theMasjid alHaram, and a prayer in that mosque is superior to a prayer in mymosque by one hundred prayers."
Thus, if someone makes a vow to perform i 'tikaf in the Prophet's mosque, hemay fulfill it in the Masjid al-Haram since that one is superior to theProphet's mosque.