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 out everything else. Allah says in the Qur'an: "What then are images that you pay devotion [akifun] to them?" [alAnbia' 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.

Volume 3, Page 147a: I'tikaf, its legitimacy

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. Even though it is an act which is done to get closer to Allah, there is no sound hadith concerning its merits. Abu Dawud states: "I said to Ahmad, 'Are you aware of anything concerning the virtues of i'tikaf?' He answered: 'No, except for some weak [reports].' "

Volume 3, Page 147b: I'tikaf, the different types of i'tikaf

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 ..." In Sahih al-Bukhari it is reported that the Prophet, upon whom be peace, 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."

Volume 3, Page 148: I'tikaf, the length of i'tikaf

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.

Volume 3, Page 149: I'tikaf, the sunnah or preferred i'tikaf has no specific time limit

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. Ya'la ibn Umayyah said: "I secluded myself in the mosque for some time for i'tikaf." 'Ata told him: "That is i'tikaf, as long as you secluded yourself there. If you sit in the mosque hoping for good, it is i'tikaf. Otherwise, it is not." One who is performing the nonobligatory i'tikaf may end his i'tikaf at any time, even if it is before the period he intended to stay. '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 preforming 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. According to ashShaf'i, Ahmad, and Dawud, this is permissible for the husband, and the wife must leave her i'tikaf in such case.

Volume 3, Page 149a: I'tikaf, the condition for i'tikaf

The one who preforms i'tikaf must be a Muslim adult, a discerning child who is free of sexual defilement, or an adolescent who is free of menstrual or childbirth bleeding. I'tikaf is not acceptable from an unbeliever, a non-discerning child, a sexually defiled person, a menstruating woman with post-childbirth bleeding.

Volume 3, Page 149b: I'tikaf, the principles of i'tikaf

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."

Certainly, i'tikaf must be done in the mosque, as Allah says: "And do not 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, 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 peformed), it is clear that i'tikaf itself must be in the mosque.

Volume 3, Page 149c: The opinion of the jurists concerning the mosques in which the i'tikaf is to be performed

There is a difference of opinion among the jurists concerning what mosques are acceptable for i'tikaf. According to Abu Hanifah, Ahmad, Ishaq, and Abu Thaur, i'tikaf is valid in any mosque in which the five prayers are held and which 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 for i'tikaf." This is related by ad-Daraqutni, but the hadith is mursal and weak and cannot be used as a proof.

Malik, ash-Shafi, and Dawud say that it is acceptable in any mosque, as there is no proof that restricts it to any particular mosques. The Shaf'iyyah say 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 nwnber of those who attend the prayers in such a mosque is greater. If the period of i'tikaf includes the time for the Friday prayer, then one must perform it in the congregational mosque in order not to miss the Friday prayer.

The person making i'tikaf may make the call to prayer if the place from whence the call is made is either the door of the mosque or its interior courtyard. He may also go to the roof of the mosque, as all of that is considered part of the mosque. If the place for the call to prayer is outside of the mosque, and the mu'takif makes the call, he will void his i'tikaf. The exterior courtyard is considered part of the mosque according to the Hanafiyyah and Shaf'iyyah and one narration from Ahmad. According to Malik and another narration, it is not part of the mosque and the person making i'tikaf should not go there.

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.

Volume 3, Page 150: I'tikaf, the Beginning and Ending of i'tikaf

We have already mentioned that the voluntary i'tikaf does not have any specific time period. Whenever a person enters the mosque and makes the intention of becoming closer to Allah by staying there, he will be peforming i'tikaf until he leaves. If he has the intention to perform i'tikaf during the last ten days of Ramadan, he should begin it before the sun sets. Al-Bukhari records 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 night of the 20th or the 21st.

Concerning the statement that when the Prophet desired to make i'tikaf he would pray the morning and then go to the place of his i'tikaf, it means that he used to enter the place which he had prepared for his seclusion, but the actual time that he entered the mosque for his seclusion was during the beginning of the night.

According to Abu Hanifah and ash-Shafi, whoever performs i'tikaf during the last ten days of Ramadan must leave the mosque after sunset on the last day of the month. Malik and Ahmad say that it is acceptable to leave after sunset, but they prefer for the person to remain in the mosque until the time for the 'id prayer.

Al-'Athram records from Abu Ayyub that Abu Qulabah would stay in the mosque on the night before the 'id prayer and would then go to the 'id prayer. During his i'tikaf, he had no mat or prayer carpet to sit on. He used to sit like anyone else. Abu Ayyub said: "I came to him on the day of 'id and on his lap was Juwairiyah Muzinah. I thought it was one of his daughters, but it was a slave that he had freed, and he came that way to the 'id prayer." Ibrahim said: "The people preferred that one who performed i'tikaf during the last ten days of Ramadan stay in the mosque on the night of 'id and then proceed to the 'id prayer from the mosque.

If an individual makes a vow to perform i'tikaf for a specific period of days, or he wants to do so voluntarily, then he should begin his i'tikaf before dawn and leave when all the sun's light has gone, regardless of whether that be during Ramadan or at another time. If he vowed to perform i'tikaf for a night or a specified number of nights, or if he wants to do so voluntarily, then he should begin his i'tikaf before the sun has completely set and may leave when it is clear that dawn has begun. Ibn Hazm says: "The night begins when the sun sets and ends with dawn. The day begins with dawn and is completed by sunset. This is not a condition upon anyone unless he desires or intends to fulfill it. If one vows or wants to make i'tikaf voluntarily for a month, he should begin during the first night of the month. He should enter the mosque before the sun has completely set and may leave after the sun has completely set at the end of the month--regardless of whether it is Ramadan or otherwise."

Volume 3, Page 151: What is preferred for the person who is fasting and what is disliked for him?

It is preferred for the one who is making i'tikaf to perform many supererogatory acts of worship and to occupy himself with prayers, reciting the Qur'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 and hadith, 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 the mosque 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 the Prophet said: "Part of a man's good observance of Islam is that he leave alone that which does not concern him." It is, however, disliked for a person 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 was delivering a speech, he saw a man standing and asked about him. The people said: "He is Abu Israel. He has vowed to stand and not to sit, and not to speak, and to fast." The Prophet said: "Order him to speak, go to the shade, to sit, and to complete his fast." Abu Dawud related from 'Ali that the Prophet said: "There is no orphanhood after one has passed the age of maturity, and there is no non-speaking for a day until the nightfall."

Volume 3, Page 152: Fasting while performing i'tikaf

It is good for the person performing i'tikaf to fast, but he is not under any 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 perform i'tikaf one night in the mosque at Makkah. The Prophet said: 'Fulfill your vow.' " This statement of the Prophet, upon whom be peace, shows that fasting is not a condition for i'tikaf; otherwise, performing i'tikaf at night would not be valid. Sa'id ibn Mansur records that Abu Sahl said: "One of my wives was to perform i'tikaf, so I asked 'Umar ibn 'Abdulaziz about it. He said: '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 the Prophet?' Az-Zuhri answered, 'No.' 'Umar asked, 'From Abu Bakr?' Az-Zuhri said,'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. Tawus said: 'A person would see that he did not have to fast unless he imposed it on himself.'"

Al-Khattabi acknowledges [the differences on the issue]: "There is a difference 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 one does not wish to, one does not have to."

Al-Auza'i and Malik hold: "There is no i'tikaf without fasting, and that 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 ibn al-Musayyeb, 'Urwah ibn az-Zubair, and az-Zuhri."

Volume 3, Page 152a: Permisible Acts for the Mu'takif

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 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 twe did not have any doubt about you].' The Prophet, upon whom be peace, said: 'Satan flows in the person like blood. I feared that he might have whispered some [slander] into your heart.'" This is related by al-Bukhari, Muslim, and Abu Dawud.

-2- 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." This is related by al-Bukhari, Muslim, and Abu Dawud.

-3- The person may go out for some need that he must perform. 'Aishah reported: "When the Prophet performed i'tikaf, he brought his head close to me so I could comb his hair, and he would not enter the house except to fulfill 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 performs i'tikaf may leave the mosque in order to answer the call of nature, for this is something 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, he may 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, and such acts will not void his i'tikaf, even if they take a long time. Examples of these types of acts would include washing one's self from sexual defilement and cleaning his body or clothes from impurities."

Sa'id ibn Mansur records that 'Ali said: "If a person is performing i'tikaf, he is to attend the Friday congregational prayer, be present at funerals, visit the ill and go to see his family about matters that are necesssary, but he is to remain standing [while visiting them]." 'Ali helped his nephew by giving him 700 dirhams to buy a servant and the nephew said: "I am performing i'tikaf ". 'Ali said: "What blame would there be upon you if you go to the market to buy one?" Qatadah used to permit the person who was performing i'tikaf to follow the funeral procession and to visit the sick, but not to sit while doing so. Ibrahim an-Nakha'i says that they preferred that the person who was performing i'tikaf do the following deeds and he was allowed to do them even if he did not do them to visit the sick, to attend the Friday prayers, to witness the funerals, to go out to meet his needs, and not to enter a place that has a ceiling. He said: "The one who is performing i'tikaf should not enter a roofed place unless there is a need to do so." Al-Khattabi says: "A group of people say that the person performing i'tikaf may attend the Friday prayer, visit the ill, and witness funerals. This has been related from 'Ali, and it is the opinion of Sa'id ibn Jubair, al-Hassan al-Basri, and an-Nakha'i." Abu Dawud records from 'Aishah that the Prophet would visit the sick while performing i'tikaf. He would visit them without steering away from his path. It has also been related from her that it is sunnah for the person not to leave his place of i'tikaf and visit the sick. This means that the person is not to leave his place of i'tikaf with the sole intention of visiting the sick, but if he passes by him, he may ask about him provided it is not out of his way.

-4- The person may eat, drink, and sleep in the mosque, and he should also keep it clean. He may make contracts for marriage, buying, selling, and so on.

Volume 3, Page 154: Actions that Nullify the I'tikaf

If a person performs one of the following acts, his i 'tikaf will be nullified:

-1- Intentionally leaving the mosque without any need to do so, even if it is for just a short time. In such a case, one would not be staying in the mosque, 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 among the losers.

-3- Losing one's reason due to insanity or drunkenness, or the onset of menstruation or post-childbirth bleeding, all of which disqualifies a person for i'tikaf.

-4- Sexual intercourse. Allah says: "But touch them not [that is, your wives] and be at your devotions in the mosque."

However, one may touch his wife without there being any desires. One of the Prophet's wives would comb his hair while he was performing i'tikaf. As for kissing or touching due to desire, Abu Hanifah and Ahmad say that it is not desirable, for it leads to something that is forbidden for the one performing i'tikaf. However, it does not nullify it unless one ejaculates. Malik says that it nullifies the i'tikaf, for it is an illegal touch regardless of whether the person involved ejaculates or not. From ash-Shaf~i there are two reports that correspond to the two preceding opinions.

Ibn Rushd explains that: "The reason for their differences of opinion is [the (fact) that] if a word has more than one meaning, one being literal and the 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 who say that it carries both meanings interpret 'touch' in the 'ayah . . . 'and touch them not and be at your devotions in the mosque' in the unrestrictive sense--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 and they are the majority say that the 'ayah points to sexual intercourse or to touching that is less than intercourse. If we say that it refers to sexual intercourse by consensus, then this nullifies the possibility of it referring to actions less than intercourse, as one [single] word could not be taken in its literal and figurative meaning [at the same time]. Those who say that what is less than sexual intercourse is included say so because it falls under the literal meaning of the verse. Those who differ do not take the word in its literal and figurative meaning at the same time.

Volume 3, Page 155: Making Up I'tikaf

If an individual intends to perform a voluntary i'tikaf and then ends it before he completes it, he should make up that i'tikaf later. Some say that it is obligatory to do so.

Writing on the subject, at-Tirmizhi says: "There is a difference of opinion about a person who ends his i'tikaf before his intended time has expired." Malik holds: "If he ends his i'tikaf [early], it is obligatory upon him to make it up. He uses as proof the hadith which states that when the Prophet abandoned his i'tikaf, he made it up during the following month of Shawwal." Ash-Shaf'i states: "If he did not vow to perform i'tikaf or he did not make it obligatory upon himself, and then he left it early, he does not have to make it up unless he chooses to do so." He continues: "One does not have to undertake this act. If he did and then left it, he need not make it up [since it was voluntary], except for the case of hajj and 'umrah." Notwithstanding this, the imams agree that if one makes a vow to perform i'tikaf for a day or a number of days and then voids his i'tikaf, it is obligatory upon him to make it up whenever he can. If he dies before he makes it up, then no one is obliged to make it up on his behalf. On the other hand, Ahmad argues: "It is obligatory on his inheritors to make it up on his behalf. 'Abdurrazzaq related from 'Abdulkarim ibn Umayyah who said he heard 'Abdullah ibn 'Abdullah ibn 'Utbah say: "Our mother died while she still had some i'tikaf to perform. I asked Ibn 'Abbas and he said: 'Perform i'tikaf on her behalf and fast.'" Sa'id ibn Mansur recorded that 'Aishah performed i'tikaf on behalf of her brother after his death.

Volume 3, Page 156: Retiring of the Mu'takif to the Mosque and Setting Up of a Tent

Ibn Majah recorded from Ibn 'Umar that the Prophet made i'tikaf during the last ten days of Ramadan. Nafi' reported: "Ibn 'Umar showed me the place where the Prophet would perform his i'tikaf."

He also reported that when the Prophet performed i'tikaf, he would spread out his bed behind the repentance pole (that is, the pole that a companion had tied himself to until Allah accepted his repentance).

Abu Sa'id reported that the Prophet performed i'tikaf under a Turkish tent which had something over its openings.

Volume 3, Page 156a: Making a Vow to Perform I'tikaf in a Specific Mosque

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 is to fulfill his vow, as the Prophet said: "One should not undertake journeys except to three mosques: the Masjid al-Haram, the Aqsa mosque, or this mosque."

If someone vows to perform i'tikaf in another mosque, it is not obligatory on him to fulfill it and he may perform that i'tikaf in any mosque, for Allah did not specify any particular place for His worship, and there is no superiority of one mosque over another (with the exception of the three mosques mentioned earlier). It has been confirmed that the Prophet said: "A prayer in my mosque is superior to one thousand prayers in any other mosque but the Masjid alHaram, and a prayer in that mosque is superior to a prayer in my mosque by one hundred prayers."

Thus, if someone makes a vow to perform i 'tikaf in the Prophet's mosque, he may fulfill it in the Masjid al-Haram since that one is superior to the Prophet's mosque.


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