Spending time in the mosque being devoted to the worship of Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala and seeking nearness to Him is called I’tikaaf. This is a Sunnah Mu’akkida Kifayah [a practice established from the Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam which he routinely performed]. Its duration is the last ten days of Ramadan. During this time, a person distances himself from all worldly pursuits, family members, household chores, base desires, and distractions and devotes himself completely to the worship of Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala.
Abu Huraira radhiAllahu ‘anhu narrated that the Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam used to perform I’tikaaf every year in the month of Ramadan for ten days, and when it was the year of his death, he stayed in I’tikaaf for twenty days. [Bukhari: 2044]
If someone is unable to do I’tikaaf for all ten days, then he/she can do it for as many days as possible. It is narrated by ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Umar radhiAllahu ‘anhu that ‘Umar radhiAllahu ‘anhu enquired, “O Messenger of Allah salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam! I vowed in the pre-Islamic period of ignorance to stay in I’tikaaf for one night in al-Masjid al-Haram.” He salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam said, “Fulfill your vow.” [Bukhari: 6697]
‘A’aisha radhiAllahu ‘anha narrated: the practice for one who is observing I’tikaaf (in a mosque) is to not visit a sick person, attend a funeral, touch or embrace his wife, or go out for anything, but necessary purpose. There is no I’tikaaf without fasting, and there is no I’tikaaf except in a mosque. [Sunan Abu Dawoud: 2483]
According to the practice of the Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam I’tikaaf is to be started in the mosque after Fajr prayers of the 20th Ramadan.
It is a mandatory condition to fast during I’tikaaf.
Women should also observe I’tikaaf. ‘A’aishah radhiAllahu ‘anha reported that the Messenger of Allah salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam used to observe I’tikaaf in the last ten days of Ramadan till Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala called him back (to his heavenly home). Then his wives observed I’tikaaf after him. [Muslim: 2784]
Things to Do:
– If it is possible to make alternate arrangements for the pressing concerns of daily life, then take time off for I’tikaaf
[Read: The Reward for I’tikaf]
– If you are unable to do I’tikaaf yourself then encourage and help another family member to do so
– To make the best use of your time during I’tikaaf make a timetable for yourself
– Spend your time in voluntary prayers, recitation of the Qur’an, supplications, remembrance of Allah, productive reading, and reflecting
– Abstain from all unnecessary pastimes and useless activities
– Refrain from engaging in useless conversation or pointless arguments with other people while doing I’tikaaf in the mosque
– The purpose of I’tikaaf is to seek closeness to Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala through seclusion and to temporarily cut off from the engagements of daily life, so avoid unnecessary meetings and socialization
– Observe patience and do not complain about any discomfort or pain experienced during this worship.
In Paradise, there are rooms whose outside can be seen from the inside and the inside can be seen from the outside. Allah has prepared them for those who feed the poor, who are gentle in speech, who fast regularly and who pray at night when people are asleep. [Musnad Ahmad]
[Book: Shahrul Ramadan – the Month of Ramadan by Dr. Farhat Hashmi]