By Yūsuf Badāt
What is Iʿitikāf?
- The literal meaning of iʿitikāf is to stay or hold oneself down. In a religious context, iʿitikāf means to hold oneself down inside the masjid, with an intention, for the worship of God with specific stipulations while abstaining from certain matters. It can also refer to reside in the masjid as an act of worship and or to wait for prayer at the place of prayer. – (Qāmūs Al-Fiqh Li-Al-Raḥmanīy)
What are the Objectives of Iʿitikāf?
- The purpose of iʿitikāf is to be in God’s presence at the most beloved space on earth, [the masjid] to seek His blessings. Additionally, to disconnect from everything and everyone possible to attain special focus on God. – (Ṭabrānīy, Sharḥ Al-ʿUmdah, Qāmūs Al-Fiqh)
- If iʿitikāf is conducted in Ramaḍān, to attain Laylat Al-Qadr (the night of power). – (Bukhārī)
What are the Virtues of Iʿitikāf?
- Rewards of emulating and following the Prophet Muḥammad (peace and blessings be upon him) – (Bukhārī)
- Perpetual rewards during iʿitikāf equal to every good deed that can be done. – (Ibn Mājah)
- Iʿitikāf in Ramaḍān is equivalent to ‘Umrah in rewards. – (Ṭabrānīy)
- Iʿitikāf in Ramaḍān is a means to achieve Laylat Al-Qadr. – (Bukhārī)
What is the Status of Iʿitikāf?
- Iʿitikāf in general is a prophetic practice (sunnah). It elevates to an emphasised prophetic communal practice (sunnah muʾakkadah al-kifāyah) during Ramaḍān, especially the last 10 days. – (Aḥkām Al-Qurʾān Qurṭubīy, Al-Baḥr Al-Rāiq)
How Many Types of Iʿitikāf are There?
- Obligatory (Wājib): This is when one makes a vow [or a promise] to God, to observe iʿitikāf. The minimum duration for this type is at least one day, accompanied with fasting, according to most jurists. – (Al-Badāʿi Al-Ṣanāʿi)
- Encouraged Prophetic Practice (Sunnah): – This is the iʿitikāf conducted during the last 10 days and nights of Ramaḍān. Fasting is a requirement for this category. – (Rad Al-Muḥtār, Al-Inṣāf)
- Recommended (Mustaḥab/ Nafl): This category is considered primarily by Ḥanafī jurisprudence. Apart from an intention there are no other conditions. One simply makes an intention of being in iʿitikāf, as long as one is in the masjid, and therby attains the rewards. – (Rad Al-Muḥtār)
What is the Duration of Iʿitikāf?
- Minimum sunnah iʿitikāf must be at least a day. Nothing less than that according to majority jurists. There is no limit to the maximum days one can observe iʿitikāf. One can do it for as many days they want. – (Rawḍat Al-Ṭālibīn, Al-I’elām Li-Fawāid ‘Omdat Al-Aḥkām)
- According to Ḥanafī jurists even a moment in the masjid can be regarded as iʿitikāf with an intention. – (Rad Al-Muḥtār).
Where Can Iʿitikāf be Performed?
- The masjid [where 5 daily congregational prayers take place] is the only place where iʿitikāf can be conducted, for both men and women according to majority Islamic jurists. If women are observing iʿitikāf in the masjid, proper arrangements for curtains, seclusion and modesty are to be undertaken. – (Al-Mugnīy)
- The home is the preferred location for women to do iʿitikāf according to Ḥanafī jurists, meaning at the designated prayer space or room in one’s home. – (Dur Al Mukhtār, Al-Badāi’ Al-Ṣanā’i)
When Can Iʿitikāf Be Done?
- Anytime of the year. – (Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim, Al-Kāfīy Li Ibn ʿAbd Al-Barr)
What are the Conditions of Iʿitikāf?
- Islam, sanity and maturity.
- State of purity, free from major ritual impurities of janābah, menses and postpartum bleeding. – (Bukhārī, ʿUmdat-Al-Qārīy, Al-Mugnīy, Al-Ḥāwīy)
- Intention to conduct iʿitikāf. – (Al-Ifṣāḥ)
- Fasting according to majority jurists. – (Al-Inṣāf Fī Ḥukm Al-Iʿitikāf)
- A married woman requires mutual agreement with husband. – (Bukhārī)
- Staying confined in the masjid [or place of prayer] – (Bukhāri)
Can Someone Leave and Return to the Iʿitikāf? if so for How Long?
- The one observing iʿitikāf must stay in the masjid, unless there is a pressing human or religious necessity such as to relieve oneself or for Friday congregational prayers. – (Qāmūs Al-Fiqh)
- When leaving for a necessity, one should limit the time spent outside the masjid prayer hall for only the duration required to fulfill such necessity. iʿitikāf will be considered nullified if more than half a day is spent outside the masjid. – (Al-Badāʿi Al-Ṣanāʿi, Radd Al-Muḥtār)
- If observing mustaḥab or nafl iʿitikāf, one may leave for any duration and return. – (Al-Inṣāf)
What Breaks the Iʿitikāf?
- Intercourse. – (Qurʾān 2:187)
- Prompted ejaculation. – (Al-Inṣāf)
- Exiting the masjid for no valid reason. – (Bukhārī)
- Exiting the masjid for a necessity and taking longer than required. – (Fatḥ Al-Qadīr, Sharḥ Al-ʿUmdah, Hāshiyah Ibn ʿĀbidīn)
- Eating (breaking the ritual fast). – (Al-Inṣāf)
عَنِ ابْنِ عَبَّاسٍ أَنَّ رَسُولَ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم قَالَ فِي الْمُعْتَكِفِ هُوَ يَعْكِفُ الذُّنُوبَ وَيُجْرَى لَهُ مِنَ الْحَسَنَاتِ كَعَامِلِ الْحَسَنَاتِ كُلِّهَا
The Messenger of God (peace and blessings be upon him) stated concerning the person observing iʿitikāf, “They are refraining from sin and will be graced with perpetual reward like that of one who consistently does all kinds of good deeds.” – (Ibn Mājah)
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