I’tikaaf means to stay in the Musjid with the Niyyat of I’tikaaf for the sake of Allah Ta`ala. The purpose of such stay in the Musjid is Ibaadat and to gain proximity to Allah Ta`ala.
THE TYPES OF I’TIKAAF
There are three types of I’tikaaf: Waajib, Sunnat ul Muakkadah and Nafl.
An I’tikaaf of Nathr and a Qadha I’tikaaf are waajib (compulsory) I’tikaaf.
(1) I’tikaaf of Nathr is an I’tikaaf undertaken as a result of a vow made to Allah Ta`ala.
(2) The validity of Nathr I’tikaaf requires the verbal expression of the Niyyat or intention. It is, therefore, essential to verbally say, for example: ‘I am undertaking (or making) I’tikaaf for Allah Ta`ala for three days’ or any other similar statement in which it is declared that I’tikaaf has been undertaken or is presently undertaken. The expression of an intention should not relate to the future, e.g. ‘It is my intention to perform I’tikaaf, etc. For the purpose of Nathr I’tikaaf only a Niyyat in the mind and the heart is not sufficient.
(3) Saum (fasting) is a condition for the validity of Nathr I’tikaaf. Nathr I’tikaaf without fasting is not valid even if one vows to observe I’tikaaf without fasting.
(4) There are two types of Nathr I’tikaaf: Nathr Muayyan and Nathr Ghair Muayyan. Nathr Muayyan I’tikaaf is an I’tikaaf, the observance of which, one vowed to keep on specific days, e.g. on the 13th, 14th and 15th of Muharram. If one failed to observe the I’tikaaf on the particular days stipulated in the Niyyat, the I’tikaaf has to be discharged at another time, i.e. Qadha will have to be made of the I’tikaaf. Nathr Ghair Muayyan I’tikaaf is an I’tikaaf, the observance of which is not pledged for any specific day/s. One merely vows to observe I’tikaaf for two days (for example). Such an I’tikaaf may be executed at any time of one’s choice.
(5) If in the Niyyat the number of days is expressed in the plural, e.g. ‘I shall observe I’tikaaf of two days (three or four days etc) and no specific meaning was given to the word ‘days’, then the word ‘day’ will24 hours. Thus I’tikaaf of the days as well as the nights will be obligatory. When expressing the Niyyat, if the intention is to observe I’tikaaf only during the day and not during the night, only the days will become waajib. If it is specified in the Niyyat that I’tikaaf of only the nights will be observed, then such I’tikaaf is not obligatory.
(6) Similarly, if in the Niyyat the term ‘nights’ was used, e.g. I have made obligatory on me an I’tikaaf of three nights, and by the term ‘nights” no particular meaning was intended nor specified, then I’tikaaf of both day and night will be waajib.
(7) If the vow was for an I’tikaaf of one day only, then it will mean the day commencing from Subah-Sadiq until sunset. However if the intention was a 24 hour period, then ‘one day’ will mean from one sunset to another, i.e. 24hrs – night and day.
(8) If the intention is to observe I’tikaaf of only one day (i.e. minus the night), one should enter the Musjid just prior to Subah-Sadiq and leave at any time after sunset.
(9) If the intention is to observe I’tikaaf for 24hrs or for several days with nights included, one should enter the Musjid before sunset and leave at any time after sunset of the last day of I’tikaaf.
(10) When Nathr (vow) is made to observe I’tikaaf for several days (i.e. days including nights hour period), it will be waajib to execute the days of the I’tikaaf consecutively – one after the other without interruption. However, if at the time of the Niyyat it is specified that the I’tikaaf will be interspersed, then it will be permissible to spread the number of days of the Nathr I’tikaaf over a period. It will then not be waajib to observe the I’tikaaf in consecutive order of days.
(11) In the Nathr I’tikaaf in which the nights have not been included in the Niyyat, it will be permissible to intersperse the days of the I’tikaaf. Consecutive order in this case is not waajib.
(12) A Nathr muayyan I’tikaaf (in which a specific month or particular days have been specified for the I’tikaaf) may be executed before the specified period.
(13) If it is expressed in the vow that the Nathr I’tikaaf will be undertaken in Musjid ul Haram, it will be permissible to observe it in any Musjid.
(14) Nathr I’tikaaf may be discharged even with the Saum of Ramadhaan. Thus if a vow was taken to observe I’tikaaf during the Ramadhaan (i.e. other than the I’tikaaf of the last 10 days), then such I’tikaaf will be valid and the fasting of Ramadhaan will suffice for the I’tikaaf.
(15) Nathr I’tikaaf will be valid with any type of waajib fasting even if the Saum is Qadha or kaffarah fasting. Thus if one is keeping Qadha fasts, one may observe a Nathr I’tikaaf on such days.
(16) Nathr I’tikaaf will not be valid with nafl fasting. Thus if one intends Nathr I’tikaaf after having commenced a nafl Saum, the Nathr I’tikaaf will not be valid.
(17) The minimum period for a waajib I’tikaaf is one day, i.e. from Subah saadiq to sunset.
QADHA OF I’TIKAAF
(1) Qadha will be made of Nathr and Masnoon I’tikaaf
(2) Qadha of Nathr Muayyan I’tikaaf will be space made if the I’tikaaf was not observed on its specific days or if it was rendered void while observing it.
(3) Masnoon I’tikaaf (i.e. The I’tikaaf of the last 10 days of Ramadhaan) Will be made Qadha if it was rendered void after having commenced it. It is necessary to make Qadha of only the day or days which were rendered void. When making Qadha of the I’tikaaf, Saum (fasting) is obligatory.
Qadha of the I’tikaaf will be valid only if fasting is also observed on the day/s when the Qadha is being made.
SUNNATUL MUAK-KADAH I‘TIKAF
I’tikaaf of the last 10 days of Ramadhaan is the only Masnoon I’tikaaf. This Masnoon I’tikaaf is Sunnat-ul Muakkadah alal kifayah. If a few or even just one person observes this I’tikaaf in a particular area/neighbourhood, the duty will be discharged on behalf of the entire community of the locality. On the other hand, if no one observes this I’tikaaf, the whole community will be guilty of neglecting an I’tikaaf Sunnat-ul Muakkadah obligation. Such neglect is sinful.
(1) The Mu’takif (the one who observes I’tikaaf) will enter the Musjid before sunset of the 20th day of Ramadhaan.
(2) The Mu’takif will remain in the Musjid until the sighting of the Eid hilaal is confirmed.
(3) Niyyat (making intention) is a necessary condition for Masnoon I’tikaaf as well.
(4) If the Masnoon I’tikaaf is broken or nullified, Qadha of it is obligatory.
THE VENUE FOR I’ TIKAF
(1) For men, I’tikaaf is valid in only a Musjid in which Athaan and Iqaamah are proclaimed for the five daily Salaat. In other words it has to be a Musjid in which the five daily Salaat are performed with Jaama’t.
(2) Females can observe I’tikaaf in a place in their homes, set aside for Salaat or specially cordoned off for the purpose of I’tikaaf.
(3) It is not permissible for women to come to the Musjid to observe I’tikaaf or to perform Salaat or to listen to lectures.
(4) The Musjid here refers to that Musjid proper and not to the annexures or adjacent buildings erected for the needs of the Musjid or musallis. The Musjid proper is that section of the building which was intended by the waqif to be the Musjid. (Waqif is the person or organization who erected the Musjid and demarcated the Musjid boundaries.)
(5) Most Masaajid have a section at the back, which in most cases is under the same roof, but is excluded from the Musjid proper. Janaazah Salaat and sometimes a second Jaama’t by late comers are performed in this section. Since this section of the building is excluded from the Musjid proper, it is not permissible for the Mu’takif to venture unnecessarily into that area. If he does, his I’tikaaf will be rendered void.
(6) The Mu’takif should ascertain from the mutawallis (trustees) the exact boundaries of the
(7)The wudhu khaanah courtyard, storerooms and any other adjacent buildings are all excluded from the Musjid
(8) It is essential that the Mu’takif remains inside the Musjid or inside the special place set aside at home (for women) throughout the duration of the I’tikaaf. Leaving the place of I’tikaaf unnecessarily for even a minute will render the I`tikaaf null and void.
VALID REASONS FOR LEAVING THE MUSJID AND WHICH WILL NOT BREAK THE I’TIKAAF
It is permissible to leave the Musjid for the following acts of need:
(1) To answer the call of nature – to go to the toilet
(2) To pass wind
(3) To take on obligatory bath
(4) To make wudhu
(5) Juma`h Salaat, if juma`h Salaat is not performed in the Musjid where the I’tikaaf is being observed. In this case the Mu’takif should leave the Musjid at such a time to enable him to reach the other Musjid in time to perform his Sunnah Salaat. He should leave immediately after having completed the six raka`ts Sunnats after the Fardh Salaat. He should not delay for dua and Thikr.
(6) To proclaim the Athaan, if he is the Muath-thin. This is permissible for even a Mu’takif who is not the permanent Muath-thin.
(7) To bring food if there is no one to attend to this need of his
(8) If one is compelled to leave the Musjid either because of danger or a forceful eviction, one may immediately proceed to another Musjid to continue with the I’tikaaf. An unnecessary delay in the process of changing Musjid’s is not permissible and will break the I’tikaaf.
When leaving the Musjid for the above-mentioned reasons, the Mu’takif must return to the Musjid immediately after having fulfilled the need. An unnecessary delay of even a minute will break the I’tikaaf.
THE MUFSIDAT OR THE THINGS WHICH ARE INVALIDATE (BREAK) THE I’TIKAAF
Only waajib and Masnoon I’tikaaf are rendered invalid. Nafl I’tikaaf is not rendered void by any act. It is merely ended by engaging in an act which is not permitted for the Mu’takif. Unnecessarily leaving the Musjid for even a minute whether intentionally, unintentionally or under compulsion, will invalidate the I’tikaaf. All acts and reasons besides the valid reasons will be regarded as “unnecessary” in the context of I’tikaaf. Thus, leaving the Musjid due to illness, though permissible, will invalidate the I’tikaaf. To leave the Musjid for janazah Salaat, visiting the sick or for any other permissible activity besides the VALID REASONS will render the I’tikaaf null and void. The I’tikaaf will also become void (break, be invalid) if the mu`takif’s fast breaks.
THE MUBAHAT OR THE THING WICH ARE PERMISSIBLE DURING I’TIKAAF
During I’tikaaf, the following acts are mubah (permissible):
(1) To eat and drink.
(2) To sleep.
(3) Necessary conversation.
(4) To change clothes and apply perfume and oil
(5) To cut hair and nails. These should not be allowed to fall in the Musjid.
(6) To walk inside the Musjid
(7) To sit anywhere inside the Musjid
(8) To tend to a sick person inside the Musjid
(9) If necessary, to buy and sell goods provided that the goods are not brought into the Musjid nor is payment made inside the Musjid.
(10) To teach Deeni lessons
(11) To sew clothing.
(12) To study Deeni books
(13) To get married and perform a Nikah
(14) All such acts are lawful and allowed in the Musjid are permissible for the Mu’takif.
THE MAKRUHAT OR THE THINGS WHICH ARE DETESTABLE AND NOT PERMISSABLE FOR THE MU`TAKIF
The makruhaat during I’tikaaf are as follows:
(1) To maintain total silence
(2) To indulge in idle talk
(3) To sleep excessively merely to while away the time
(4) To unnecessarily pass wind inside the Musjid
(5) To sew garments or engage in any occupation for a fee
(6) To read books and magazines which are not of a Deeni nature
(7) To erect the Mu’takif in a way which inconveniences the musallis. (Mu’takif is the area which is enclosed for the sleeping and eating of the ones who observes I’tikaaf)
(8) To engage in any worldly activity unnecessarily.
WHAT TO DO DURING I’TIKAAF
The Mu’takif should engage himself in Ibadat to the best of his ability. Nafl Salaat, tilaawat, durood, istighfaar and permanent Thikr in general should be the mu`takif’s occupations throughout the duration of his I’tikaaf. When the Mu’takif speaks, he must speak only what is of virtue and what is necessary. The Mu’takif should not do anything which conflicts with the spirit of I’tikaaf. He should guard his heart, mind, ears and eyes and limbs against all evil, thus deriving maximum benefit from his seclusion in the Musjid. The Mu’takif is the guest of Allah. He should, therefore, be careful of his behavior in the house of Allah.