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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.

Definition of I’tikaf[edit]

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'tekaf can be performed for the duration of time between two salats i.e from Asar to Maghrib. It would be considered Nafal i'tikaf and it is the shortest duration for which I'tikaf can be performed.
2. I'tekaf 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 i'tikaf.
3. It'kaf 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 I'tikaf is for 10 whole days, ideally in the month of Ramadan in the last 10 days of Ramadan. The Holy Prophet 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 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.

See also[edit]

Ali ibn Abi Talib


  1. ^ "Itikaf", Encyclopaedia of Islam

External links[edit]