Iʿtikāf – A Spiritual Retreat

As we enter the last and most significant 10 days of Ramadan, Mosques all over the world are preparing to cater for believers coming to spend these days in Iʿtikāf. Iʿtikāf is the act of residing in the Mosque in seclusion, away from the outside world with the intention of gaining closeness to Allah. This was the practice of the Prophet (pbuh) during the last ten days of Ramadan.

Ahadith about I`tikaf

Sayyida ‘Aisha reported that the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) used to practice Iʿtikāf in the last ten nights of Ramadan and used to say, “Look for the Night of Qadr in the last ten nights of the month of Ramadan” [Bukhari]

Sayyid Abu Saeed al-Khudri (ra) narrated that the Prophet (pbuh) observed i’tikaaf during the first ten days of Ramadan, then he observed Iʿtikāf during the middle ten days in a small tent at the door of which was a reed mat. He took the mat in his hand and lifted it. Then he put his head out and spoke to the people, and they came close to him. He said: “I observed Iʿtikāf during the first ten days seeking this night, then I observed Iʿtikāf during the middle ten days. Then someone came and said to me that it is in the last ten days, so whoever among you wishes to observe Iʿtikāf let him do so.” So the people observed Iʿtikāf  with him. [Muslim]

Aisha (ra) also reported that the Prophet (pbuh) “Used to perform Iʿtikāf  in the last ten days of Ramadan until Allah the Mighty and Majestic, took him. [Bukhari and Muslim]

Benefits of Iʿtikāf

Iʿtikāf , a spiritual retreat, is a means of great reward and closeness to Allah as the person performing Iʿtikāf submits his/her entire person to the worship of Allah Most High in order to;

  • seeks closeness with the creator;
  • renew themselves by submitting totally towards Allah
  • distances himself/herself from the worldly distractions that prevent one from such closeness;
  • devotes their entire time in actual or effective worship; and
  • makes the one in retreat resemble the angels who do not disobey the command of Allah and do what they are commanded, while glorifying Allah by night and day without tiring.

Communal Sunnah

Iʿtikāf is a communal sunnah and therefore at least some people in each community must make Iʿtikāf for the entire last 10 days of Ramadan. It is blameworthy upon the community as a whole not to arrange and implement this.

Iʿtikāf for Women at Home

It is recommended for women to do Iʿtikāf (spiritual retreat) in a specific place in their house, a quiet room, for example, whenever they have the time and are able to do so without neglecting their family duties and other responsibilities.

Things permitted during Iʿtikāf

A person performing Iʿtikāf should busy themsleves with the beneficial things as much as one meaningfully can, such as:

  1. Voluntary prayer,
  2. Reciting the Qur’an,
  3. Remembrance of Allah, in all its forms,
  4. Gaining beneficial knowledge, reading and listening to inspiring religious discourses
  5. Reflecting upon the creation and his/her own circumstances

One should avoid simply wasting time in talking and indulging things bereft of benefit, let alone committing sinful/ haram activities.

Iʿtikāf, spiritual retreat, is one of the fantastic ways to take some time out the of the busy schedule of life and devote some time for self-reflection and self-assessment. It provides a different sense of strength from the spirit.

The worship of Allah requires continual patience, which can be gained during Iʿtikāf. It can be seen as a training and self-discipline exercise for the soul. We would encourage anyone who can to take time off to engage in the practice of Iʿtikāf, even if it is for a couple of days (which will not be a sunnah itikaf but is still permissable) to attain the unrestricted benefits of this spiritual retreat.

By Imam Qari Muhammad Asim
Senior Imam – Makkah Mosque, Leeds
Senior Editor – ImamsOnline

Note: The views expressed are those of the author and may not necessarily reflect that of ImamsOnline.

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