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I’tikaf in mosque of Makhachkala (2014).

Iʿtikāf (Arabic: اعتكاف‎) is an Islamic practice consisting of a period of retreat in a mosque for a certain number of days in accordance with the believer's own wish.[1] It is most common during the month of Ramadan, especially the last ten days.


Alternative spellings of the word include i'tikaaf or e'tikaaf. The literal definition of the Arabic word I’tikaf is to stay in a particular place. However, in Islam it means to stay in a mosque for a particular time period — for the purpose of worshiping God — while maintaining certain conditions.

In the last ten nights of Ramadan, performing I'tikaf becomes a means of ensuring that a person spends Laylat Al-Qadr in the act of worship

Conditions of I’tikaf[edit]

There are a few conditions for the person who wishes to partake in the Divine blessing of I’tikaf:

  1. Intelligence (Aql): Thus, the person must not be mentally unstable;
  2. True Faith (Iman): Divine Reward is showered on a person who performs I'tikaf provided he or she is a true believer;
  3. Intention (Niyyat): I’tikaf must be performed for the purpose of seeking closeness to God and not to show off or due to societal or family or peer pressure;
  4. Place: One must stay inside the Masjid for the entire period for his I’tikaf to be correct except for very important or unavoidable reasons like going out to buy food for him or attending a funeral (the rules of this will be explained in more detail later…)

It is obligatory to be in abolution to perform I'tikaf.

Duration of the I’tikaf[edit]

  1. . I'tikaf can be observed for the duration of time between two salats i.e. from Asar (Afternoon prayers) to Maghrib (Post-Sunset prayers). This form of I'tikaf would be considered Nafal (optional) i'tikaf and it is the shortest duration for which I'tikaf can be performed.
  2. I'tikaf can be performed for one whole day, i.e. the sunset of one day to the sunset of the next day. This is also nafal (optional) i'tikaf.
  3. I'tikaf can also be performed for 3 whole days i.e. from the sunset of day one to the sunset of the third day. It is necessary to know that one should be observing a fast for I'tikaf if it is for a day or more, in case of I'tikaf from one salat to the next fasting is not obligatory.
  4. The Sunnat (the way of Muhammad) I'tikaf is for 10 whole days, ideally in the month of Ramadan in the last 10 days of Ramadan. Muhammad performed I'tikaf in Ramadan for 10 days and so did the Companions of the Prophet.

Time of I’tikaf[edit]

Anytime in which fasting is permissible is an opportune time for I’tikaf and the state of I’tikaf does not have a specific time related to it. Of course the “White Days” which are the 13th, 14th and 15th of the lunar month and the last ten days of the Month of Ramadhan are the best times for this spiritual exercise. Therefore, one can not make I’tikaf on the day of `Eid since it is forbidden to fast on that day.

It has been mentioned that the Prophet of Islam used to perform I’tikaf in the Month of Ramadhan in the first 10 days, the second 10 days. and then in the last ten days as well. The year in which Prophet died he performed I'tikaf for 20 days in Ramadan.

Permission of the guardian[edit]

As mentioned previously in passing, I’tikaf performed without the permission of his guardian or any person whose rights would be taken away if the person was to go in a state of I’tikaf is not correct. Thus, it is for this reason that the spouse must also take their partner's permission if their I’tikaf would infringe on marital rights with them. Similarly, if one’s parents are not happy or are concerned for their son or daughter and do not permit him to make I’tikaf, then the child is not permitted to go forth for this (recommended) act of worship.

The intention (Niyyah) for I’tikaf[edit]

The intention for I’tikaf is of three main types. The most common form is the recommended I’tikaf, however it can also become obligatory (wajib) if a person makes an oath or promise to God ( for the fulfillment of something (and in that oath he had promised God (that he would perform I’tikaf if his prayer is fulfilled). The third intention which can be made for I’tikaf is that it is being done on behalf of someone else – similar to how people perform Hajj for their deceased relatives or make up missed prayers of parents who have died or others. Therefore, it is necessary for the correctness of I’tikaf to specify the intention and the type that one wants to perform

Time and place of the intention of the I’tikaf and the place of I’tikaf[edit]

The intention must be made before the sunset of the first day. At the time of making intention for I’tikaf, the person must be inside the Masjid (mosque) in which he/she wishes to perform I’tikaf.

The place of I’tikaf must be the Masjid and therefore, performing I’tikaf in any place other than a Masjid such as a room or hall used for salat a Musalla (specific building which is made only for Jam¡`at Salat and other places like this (which are not proper Masajid) is not correct.

The preferential order of where I’tikaf should be performed is: Masjidul Haram, Masjid an-Nabi, Masjid al-Aqsa – after these, then any other “Central” and “Congregational” Masjid is permissible to perform the I’tikaf in.

By stating this, it clearly means that in places like the traditional Hussainiyah or Imambargah and other places such as this, it is not correct to perform the I’tikaf – this act is limited to the three mentioned Masajid and then the Central Masjid of a city.

Based on this ruling, although the scholars permit I’tikaf in these other buildings (which are not proper Mas¡jid), however the specific rulings of I’tikaf would not hold in other such venues. If one was to perform I’tikaf in any place other than the “Central Masjid” then he would need to do so with the intention that this act would bring him closer to God and that he is hoping for a reward in this act (of being done outside of a proper Masjid as per the Islamic legislations). Therefore, if there are three or four Masajid in one city, since they are not of the four Masajid in which I’tikaf can be performed in (with that special intention), the people may use all of them for the program of I’tikaf.

The meaning of the Central or Congregational Masjid is that which a majority of the people frequent (other than this Masjid would be those referred to with names such as the Masjid of the Bazar, the Masjid of a School, the Masjid inside a factory, etc.…) and it is not permissible to perform the I’tikaf in these places.

The courtyards and entrances of the Masjid are not considered as a part of the Masjid except in the case that they are recognized and known (by others) to be an actual part of the Masjid. If a person doubts if the place in which he is, is actually a Masjid or not, then according to the rules, he is not permitted to perform I’tikaf there until he ascertains and has certainty that the place where he is truly is a part of the Masjid.

Prohibited acts during I’tikaf[edit]

The prohibited acts during the state of I’tikaf include:

  1. Thinking or indulging in acts of worldly affairs. Seeking pleasure in any kind of worldly activity.
  2. Discussions and arguments both in relation to the world and the faith. This means that a person argues with another to prove that he is better or smarter or that he knows more, etc.… However, if a person must argue or debate to uphold the truth and destroy falsehood, it is permissible - rather this is the best form of worship and servitude to God during this noble state.
  3. Buying and selling anything.
  4. Deriving pleasure from the opposite sex in any way – holding hands, hugging, kissing, etc.… is completely forbidden in the state of I’tikaf.

If any of these things are performed, one’s I’tikaf becomes void and in certain cases a Kaffarah or penitence must be paid out (which will be discussed below).


Seeing as how the person in I’tikaf is also in a state of fasting, all of those things which make the fast void must not be performed which include: eating, drinking, sexual intercourse, masturbation (which is a sin at all times), ascribing lies to God, the Noble Prophet or the A’immah, swallowing thick dust (and smoking as an extension), immersing one’s head in water (such as in a swimming pool), remaining in a state of ritual impurity until the time of Fajr, and forcing one's self to vomit. If any of these are done, then one must make up the fast in those ways mentioned in the books of Legal Rulings.

In addition, the rights of others who are in the Masjid must also be observed. The respect and honor of the Masjid must be observed and one should try to stay in a state of Wudhu the entire period.

Also, the cleanliness of the Masjid must also be maintained.

Those in this state should also try and keep away from talking about issues of the transient world (talking about anything other than God) are some of the things which have been mentioned in the books which highlight the spiritual traits of this state.

Leaving the Masjid for classes (school) or for study sessions with a study partner or for Tabl¢gh and propagation of the faith and other things such as this is not permissible as they do not fall into any of the three categories mentioned above (since when a person makes the intention to perform I’tikaf he has also taken into consideration that he will not be attending school and has made the necessary arrangements before hand. Similarly, the one engaged in I’tikaf knows from before hand that if his ‘field of work’ is Tabl¢gh, that he would be disconnecting himself from that ‘job’ for this period).

If a person performs his I’tikaf in a place in which another person was already in I’tikaf (but had left for a brief moment) however he has left his prayer mat or other signs that he was coming back to that spot, then the second person must leave that area, otherwise he would be considered as a usurper of that piece of land where he is performing his I’tikaf. His I’tikaf would be correct if he continues to stay there however he would have committed a sin.

If a person in I’tikaf has a wet dream and needs to perform a Ghusl, however it is not possible to do this in the Masjid (or its compound), it is obviously obligatory upon him to leave the Masjid and his I’tikaf will be considered null and void. The same rule applies to sisters who are not able to stay inside the room of their house appointed for i'tikaf due to their monthly cycle, they too must immediately leave the i'tikaf and for them too, their I’tikaf is null and void.

According to obligatory precaution, if a person leaves the Masjid for a necessity, he must choose the shortest and closest route to leave and return by and it is obligatory that he does not keep himself out of the Masjid for more than the needed time period. It is also obligatory that he does not sit underneath an area which shades him. Rather, according to precaution, it is not permitted for him to sit outside of the Masjid except for cases of necessity.

If the person performing I’tikaf leaves the Masjid in order to complete a necessity upon him, and the time period which he leaves the Masjid for is a very long one such as that people would doubt or not consider him being in a state of I’tikaf, then his I’tikaf would be null and void.

Penitence for breaking the rules of the I’tikaf[edit]

In some instances, if a person does one of the things which break his state of I’tikaf, he must offer a penitence. Some examples of this are mentioned as follows:

1. If a person has sexual relations during the period of I’tikaf and I’tikaf was wajib for him to perform (due to a promise, oath, etc… which he made), then he must make up the I’tikaf by performing it properly at a later date.
2. If a person performs one of the other things which makes I’tikaf void and his I’tikaf was obligatory (due to a promise, oath, etc… which he made), then he must finish the time remaining of I’tikaf and redo it later on.
3. If I’tikaf was not obligatory and if a person does something on the first day of I’tikaf then he must immediately come out of this state, however if it is on the third day then he must finish the period remaining.
4. If a person performs one of the other things which makes I’tikaf void and his I’tikaf was a recommended one and this happens after the second day, then he must redo the I’tikaf later on, however if it is before the end of the second day, then he has no responsibility on him to redo it.
5. The kaffarah for a broken I'tikaf due to menstrual cycle(in case of women) or any other reason for men is doing Qada of I'tikaf for one day.It is obligatory to be fasting while in I'tikaf, so if the Qada of I'tekaf is during Ramadan while fasting is observed. is good, but if one sits for I'tikaf after Ramadan then it is obligatory to observe a nafal Fast and then do I'tekaf.

Objects and Advantages of I'tikaf[edit]

The reward of "Itikaf is great. The mere fact that the Messenger of Allah always performed it is sufficient to explain the virtues that are attached to it. The example of the one that resides in the, masjid in I'tikaf is like the person who, having gone to a high personage to appeal for his needs, remains there until it is granted, He thus says to Allah: "0 Allah! I have placed my humble request before You and have faith in Your generosity; and I shall not move from here until my request is granted by You," When someone comes begging at the door and then refuses to leave until his request is granted, it is certain that even the most selfish person will eventually accede to one's request; and how much more Merciful is Allah.

In every moment of I'tikaf one remains in lbadah (worship), even when asleep, one is still in His service, striving for nearness to Him. Allah says, according to a hadith, "Whoever draws near to Me an arms length, then I draw nearer to him two arm lengths; and whoever draws nearer to Me by walking, I draw nearer to him by running."

It is also deduced from the various narrations that one of the major objects of I'tikaf during Ramadan is to search for Laylatul Qadr (the Night of Power), What better manner can there be than to remain in ibadah at all times, whether one is awake or asleep, to obtain the reward of 1,000 months (over 83 years) of worship, Furthermore, in I'tikaf one is free from all daily tasks and thus has all the time to devote to dhikrullah (remembrance of Allah) and meditation.

Virtues of I'tikaf[edit]

Ibn 'Abbas relates that the Messenger of Allah said: "The person performing I'tikaf remains free from sins and he is indeed given the same reward as all those who do righteous deeds (in spite of his not having done those deeds as a result of having been secluded in the masjid)."

In Kashful-Ghumma, Allamah Sha'rani relates a hadith wherein Rasulullah said: "Whoever performs I'tikaf for the final ten days of Ramadan, for him is the reward of two Hajj and two 'Umrah, and whoever performs I'tikaf from Maghrib until 'Isha, doing nothing else except performing salah and reciting the Our'an, Allah will prepare a place for him in Jannah."

Conditions of I'tikaf[edit]

The following are conditions for performance of I'tikaf:

  1. to be a Muslim.
  2. To be sane,
  3. To be pure and clean from major impurity, monthly menses, and bleeding of childbirth,
  4. To perform I'tikaf in a masjid (for males only),
  5. To form the niyyah (intention) for I'tikaf.
  6. To fast for wajib and sunnah I'tikaf (discussed below).

Note: Women may observe I'tikaf in the home. It is also not necessary to have reached the age of puberty to observe I'tikaf; therefore an intelligent child (male or female) may observe I'tikaf.

Types of I'tikaf[edit]

There are three types of I'tikaf:

  1. Wajib I'tikaf: I'tikaf becomes compulsory (wajib) when a person makes it obligatory upon himself. For instance, when a person makes a vow of thanks-giving to Allah that if Allah fulfills a certain wish of his, he will perform so many ... days of I'tikaf. In this case, the moment his wish is fulfilled, I'tikaf becomes compulsory. Or, a person may merely make an unconditional vow whereby he makes I'tikaf compulsory upon himself for a certain number of days. This becomes a duty on him from that moment onwards. A wajib I'tikaf cannot be for less than one day and one night and has to be performed while fasting, irrespective of whether the fast is specifically for this purpose or not. If the niyyah is for several days then the same number of nights will also have to be spent in I'tikaf. The I'tikaf will thus begin before sunset and terminate at sunset after the avowed number of days has been completed. The night proceeds the day in Islamic reckoning. The intention for this type of I'tikaf must be pronounced, mere mental niyyah is not sufficient.
  2. Sunnah I'tikaf: This I'tikaf was observed by Rasulullah in every year of his stay at Madinah Munawwarah. This I'tikaf means to seclude oneself inside the masjid for the last ten days of Ramadan. This I'tikaf is Sunnatul-mu'akkadah 'alal-kifayah: that is, if a few persons from the locality observe it, the rest will be exempted. If no one observes it then all the Muslims of that area will be sinful in neglecting this sunnah. The niyyah for Sunnah I'tikaf is that a firm intention should be made for this purpose before the sun sets on the 20th of Ramadan, in the masjid that is chosen for the I'tikaf. It terminates at sunset if the crescent is sighted on the 29th or on the 30th of Ramadan. There is no prescribed salah to be performed for this purpose. It is noteworthy that generally no Nafl salah should be performed after 'Asr salah until Maghrib.
  3. Nafl l'tikaf: There is no special time or specific number of days for Nafl l'tikaf. A person may form the niyyah for any number of days at any time of the year, even for his whole life. While Imam Abu Hanifah (R) states that it cannot be for less than a full day, Imam Muhammad states that there is no limit as to the minimum period of time. It could even be for just a few seconds. The fatwa is on this latter view. There is no fast associated with this type of I'tikaf. .It is desirable for anyone entering a masjid to make the niyyah for I'tikaf as long as he will remain in the masjid. So, while he is in 'ibadah (worship), he also gains the reward of I'tikaf.

It is advisable for everyone who comes to join the congregational prayers to form an intention of I'tikaf upon entering the masjid. This will mean that as long as he remains busy with salah, dhikr,' listening to religious lectures, etc. He also receives the reward for I'tikaf.

Itikaf for Females[edit]

Females should perform I'tikaf in the room set aside for prayer inside their homes. Where, however, no such room exists, and the desire to observe I'tikaf is present, the room where salah is normally performed should be set aside for this seclusion. If salah is performed in the bedroom, I'tikaf could be performed there. The domestic duties should be carried out by the daughters or servants while the person in I'tikaf remains constantly in 'ibadah in her room.

I'tikaf is a much easier task for women, for in fact, she remains in the confines of her room at home and receives the same great rewards of I'tikaf. It is very unfortunate that in spite of this ease, our womenfolk still remain deprived of the blessings of I'tikaf. Generally this Sunnah is neglected so much so that many have not even heard of it!

Additional Rules for Females in I'tikaf In addition to the general rules of I'tikaf that apply to men, there are some rules that apply to women only:

  1. A woman may perform I'tikaf in the room that is used for her daily salah.
  2. A woman must have the permission of her husband for I'tikaf. Once the husband has consented to his wife's I'tikaf, he then cannot withdraw his permission.
  3. If there is no person to serve her meals during I'tikaf, the woman is allowed to go to the kitchen to prepare a quick simple meal.
  4. If, during the I'tikaf, the woman has her hadith (monthly menses) or nifas (bleeding after child birth), the I'tikaf is nullified. She has to observe make-up of the remaining days after she is pure again. This is if the I'tikaf was a wajib or Sunnah, in which the vowed number of days was fixed. In the case where the Itikaf was a wajib in which the days vowed for were not fixed in number, she will have to observe make-up of the full I'tikaf. e. A woman is allowed to sleep on her bed and use a chair while she is in Itikaf. She could also walk around in the room for a short while to relieve the stiffness in her limbs.

When a Mu'takif could leave the Masjid or place of Itikaf[edit]

The Mu'takif (a person in I'tikaf) could leave the defined masjid area for the following reasons only. If he/she leaves for any reason other than the under mentioned then the I'tikaf will terminate forthwith. When going out for these necessities do not spend more time than is absolutely required. Return as soon as possible and do not talk to anyone.

If someone greets you, it is wajib to only answer.[edit]

  1. To answer the call of nature when necessary.
  2. To perform wudu when the wudu' terminates (breaks). It is not permissible to leave the masjid to perform wudu' when one still has wudu'. When out of the masjid for these necessities it is permissible for one to greet others and to reply to their Salam.
  3. To perform the wajib bath (due to a wet dream). If one leaves the masjid to have a shower to cool off on a hot day or a bath for Friday, the I'tikaf will be nullified. When going out for wudu' it is permissible to have a wash while performing wudu', provided it is done in the same time during which wudu' is made.
  4. To perform Jum'ah salah if it is not performed in that masjid. It is only permissible to leave for Jum'ah just prior to the commencement of the khutbah. One must return immediately after performing the Sunnah rak'at succeeding the Jum'ah.

When a Mu'takif cannot leave the Masjid or place of I'tikaf allowed to leave the defined masjid area for the under mentioned reasons. If he does leave, even though for a few seconds, either intentionally or unintentionally, his I'tikaf will be nullified.

  1. Because of illness or fear.
  2. To visit the sick.
  3. To attend a Janazah salah.
  4. To extinguish a fire or save a drowning person outside of the masjid area. e. To wash hands, gargle, and brush teeth or to expectorate (spit). (These should all be done while performing wudu'). To fetch a glass of water.
  5. To assist the caretaker in his duties outside the masjid area.

[Note: in situations 1 and 4 it will be permissible to leave the masjid but the I'tikaf will be nullified and for example, if it is a wajib I'tikaf, then quad will be necessary.]

What is allowed during Itikaf?[edit]

The following are allowed in the masjid during the Itikaf:

  1. To eat and sleep
  2. To change clothes.
  3. To clip the nails or trim the moustache.
  4. To recite the Our'an aloud or recite tasbih or dhikr with a raised voice if it does not disturb others
  5. To have religious discussions and lectures and to speak about lawful matters.

What is disallowed during I’tikaf? The following are not allowed in the masjid during the I'tikaf:

  1. To talk about worldly affairs, backbite or tell an untruth
  2. To remain silent and regard it as 'ibadah.
  3. To shave the beard.

What to do during I'tikaf[edit]

All the time spent in I'tikaf should be beneficially used for 'ibadah. This is the opportunity when one is able to observe all those devotions that could not be normally carried out. The fard salah should be performed with meticulous care and humbleness and without haste. The most virtuous act is reciting the Our'an, thereafter du'a, istighfar, and nafl salah.

There is undoubtedly a great link between the month of Ramadan and the Holy Our'an. Almost all Allah's Divine Scriptures were revealed in this month. Therefore, for those in sunnah I'tikaf the most virtuous act, after the farg salah, is the recitation of Allah's final Book to humanity - the Our'an. An effort should be made to complete at least one khatam during the sunnah I'tikaf.

I'tikaf is the opportune time to communicate with Allah, to beseech of Him, to ask Him for forgiveness and to ask Him for all one's needs. In the hadith it is said: "Du'a is the essence of' ibadah." For forgiveness of sins the Sayyidul-Istighfar should be recited as many times as possible. For du’a of a general nature it is advisable to use any authentic du'a manual. The AI-Hizb-ul-A'zam and Dalail-ul-Khayrat are recommended. The two manuals mentioned are comprehensive collections of Rasulullah's du'as. If our needs are supplicated in Rasulullah's own selected words in Arabic, there is a greater hope of quick acceptance. One's personal need could be asked in any language.

See also[edit]

Ali ibn Abi Talib


  1. ^ "Itikaf", Encyclopaedia of Islam

External links[edit]