In first four parts of this video series, we had seen virtues of Ramadan, special night prayers, the fasts and the association of Holy Quran with the month of Ramadan. In Exploring Ramadan Part V, Maulana Izhar Bashir Madani describes at length the concept of I'tikaf, the tradition observed during the last ten days of Ramadan. The Excerpts:
'Itikaf means to stick to something, whether good or bad, and to block out everything else. Allah says in the Qur'an: "What then are images that you pay devotion [akifun] to them? (Sura Al Anbia' Ayah 52)
That is, what they devoted themselves to in worship. What is meant here is the seclusion and staying in the mosque with the intention of becoming closer to Allah.
All scholars agree on its legitimacy. The Prophet would perform i'tikaf for ten days every Ramadan. In the year that he died, he performed it for twenty days. This is related by alBukhari, Abu Dawud, and ibn-Majah. The Prophet's companions and wives performed i'tikaf with him and continued to do so after his death.
I'tikaf is of two types: Sunnah and obligatory. The sunnah i'tikaf is that which the Muslim performs to get closer to Allah by following the actions of the Prophet, upon whom be peace, especially during the last ten days of Ramadan. The obligatory i'tikaf is that which the person makes obligatory upon himself. This may be done, for example, by an oath: "For Allah I must make i'tikaf," or by a conditional oath: "If Allah cures me, I shall make i'tikaf ...". As the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said:
"Whoever makes an oath to obey Allah should be obedient to Him." 'Umar said: "O Messenger of Allah, I made an oath to perform i'tikaf one night in the mosque at Makkah." The Prophet, upon whom be peace, said: "Fulfill your oath." (Sahih Al Bukhari)
The obligatory i'tikaf is to be as long as the oath states it to be. If one makes an oath to make i'tikaf for one day or more, he is to fulfill that length of time. It can be fulfilled by staying in the mosque with the intention of making i'tikaf for a long or short time. The reward will be according to how long one stays in the mosque. If one leaves the mosque and then returns, he should renew his intention to perform i'tikaf.
'Aishah related that if the Prophet intended to make i'tikaf, he would pray the morning prayer and begin it. 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, I ordered 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, and said: "What is this?" They said: "We are seeking obedience [to Allah and His Messenger]." Then he ordered his tent and those of his wives to be taken down, and he delayed his i'tikaf to the first ten days [of Shawwal]." The fact that the messenger of Allah ordered his wives' tents to be struck down and asked them to leave the i'tikaf after they have made the intention 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 performing i'tikaf if she did not get his permission to perform it. There is a difference of opinion over the case of the man granting permission to his wife and then rescinding it.
I'tikaf will be fulfilled if a person stays in the mosque with the intention of becoming closer to Allah. If the person is not in the mosque or did not do it with the intention to please Allah, it is not i'tikaf. The fact that the intention is obligatory is proven by Allah words: "They are ordained nothing else than to serve Allah, keeping religion pure for Him." The Prophet said:
"Every action is according to the intention [behind it] and for everyone is what he intended." (Sahih Al Bukhari)
Certainly, i'tikaf must be done in the mosque, as Allah says:
"And do not touch and be at your devotions in the mosque." (Sura Al Baqarah, Ayah 178)
This 'ayah proves that if it were proper for i'tikaf to be performed elsewhere, why would Allah exclusively disallow coming to one's wife during i'tikaf. The answer is that since such an act would nullify i'tikaf (no matter where it is performed), it is clear that i'tikaf itself must be in the mosque.
Most scholars say that it is not correct for a woman to make i'tikaf in the mosque in her house (that is, the special place of her house where she performs her prayers) because the mosque in her house usually does not fall in the category of mosques and can be sold. There is no difference of opinion on this point. The wives of the Prophet always performed their i'tikaf in the Prophet's mosque.
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 visit him during the night. I talked to him and then I got up to go. He got up with me and accompanied me to my house. (Her residence was in the house of Usamah ibn Zaid. Two men of the Ansar passed by them and when they saw the Prophet they quickened their pace.) The Prophet said: 'Hold on, she is Safiyyah bint Haya.' They said: 'Glory be to Allah, O Messenger of Allah we did not have any doubt about you].'
The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said: 'Satan flows in the person like blood. I feared that he might have whispered some [slander] into your heart.'" (Sahih al-Bukhari, Muslim, and Abu Dawud)
Combing and cutting one's hair, clipping one's nails, cleaning one's body, wearing nice clothes or wearing perfume are all permissible. 'Aishah reported:
"The Prophet was performing i'tikaf and he would put his head out through the opening to my room and I would clean [or comb in one narration] his hair. I was menstruating at the time." (Sahih al-Bukhari, Muslim, and Abu Dawud)
(With inputs from Fiqhu Sunnah)