In the Name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful
Tafseer Al-Baqarah Ayah 187 (Part 3)
Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala says, “And do not have sexual relations with them (your wives) while you are in I’tikaaf in the mosques.”
I’tikaaf means to seclude oneself at a place. In the terminology of the Qur’an and Sunnah, it is the act of staying in the Masjid. It does not need to be a big and famous Masjid, one can observe I’tikaaf in their small, neighborhood Masjid as well.
Ibn ‘Abbas radhiAllahu ‘anhu said, “This ayah is about the man who stays in I’tikaaf [ritual seclusion] at the mosque during Ramadan or other months. Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala prohibited him from touching (having sexual intercourse with) women, during the night or day, until he finishes his I’tikaaf.” Ad-Dahhak said, “Formerly, the man who practiced I’tikaaf would go out of the mosque and, if he wished, would have sexual intercourse (with his wife).” Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala then revealed this ayah and prohibited spouses from having marital relations while being in I’tikaaf.
The Rulings of I’tikaaf
While eating, drinking and marital intimacy are all lawful in the night of fasts, the same rule does not apply to the one observing I’tikaaf. In the state of I’tikaaf, one is permitted to eat and drink after sunset, however, he is not allowed to have intimate relations with his wife.
The agreed opinion of the scholars is that if those in I’tikaaf have to leave the mosque to attend to a need, such as to relieve the call of nature or to eat, then they are not allowed to kiss or embrace their wives or busy themselves with anything other than their I’tikaaf. One is not even allowed to visit an ailing person, however, they can ask about their condition while passing by. One must devote themselves to the worship of Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala and have no concern other than Him.
I’tikaf has several other rulings that are explained in the books of Fiqh [jurisprudence], and the book on Siyam [Fasting].
The Sunnah of the Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam
By mentioning I’tikaaf after fasting, Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala draws our attention to this practice, especially in the last part of Ramadan. The Sunnah of Allah’s Messenger salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam was that he used to perform I’tikaaf during the last ten nights of the month of Ramadan until he died. Afterwards, the Prophet’s wives radhiAllahu ‘anhum used to perform I’tikaaf as recorded in the Saheehayn.
It is reported that Safiyyah radhiAllahu ‘anha visited Allah’s Messenger salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam while he was in I’tikaaf. After speaking with him, she got up to return home. Due to it being dark, the Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam decided to accompany her. Her house was on the edge of Madinah. While they were walking, two Ansari men saw them and passed by in a hurry, for they were shy to bother the Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam while he was walking with his wife. The Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam stopped them and said,
عَلى رِسْلِكُمَا، إِنَّهَا صَفِيَّةُ بِنْتُ حُيَي
“Do not run away! She is (my wife) Safiyyah bint Huyai.” Both of them said, “All praise is due to Allah, (how dare we think of any evil) O Allah’s Messenger!” The Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam said (to them),
إِنَّ الشَّيْطَانَ يَجْرِي مِنِ ابْنِ آدَمَ مَجْرَى الدَّمِ، وَإِنِّي خَشِيتُ أَنْ يَقْذِفَ فِي قُلُوبِكُمَا شَيْئًا، أَوْ قَالَ: شَرًّا
“Shaytan reaches everywhere in the human body that the blood reaches. I was afraid lest Shaytan might suggest an evil thought in your minds.”
Imam Ash-Shafi’i commented, “Allah’s Messenger (salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) sought to teach his Ummah to instantly eliminate any evil thought, so that they do not fall into the prohibited. They (the two Ansari men) had more fear of Allah than to think evil of the Prophet (salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam). Allah knows best.”
From this Qur’anic ayah, we learn that I’tikaaf is in mosques and not homes. Many people argue about this especially those living in Pakistan. Women are told to seclude themselves in the homes. But there are several issues with it: We do not have such places in our homes which are strictly reserved for prayers. Women generally pray in their bedrooms or drawing room which they access to even if they are menstruating. Contrary to this, a menstruating woman is not allowed to come to a Masjid. By secluding ourselves in our bedrooms we are violating this condition. Moreover, the Qur’an itself says, “…while you are in I’tikaaf in the mosques.” One’s house is not the mosque.
There are scholarly differences on the subject and we know that Imam Abu Haneefa permitted women to seclude themselves in their homes. But from this ayah we learn that this opinion is in contradiction with the Qur’anic text. Whenever one finds an evidence from the Qur’an or authentic ahadeeth one should stick to the text instead of scholarly opinions.
Instead of telling women to stay in their homes, Pakistan needs to build quarters for women in the Masajid. Clean and private women’s only section where women can go, pray, and attend religious circles.
Masnoon I’tikaaf is only in Masjid.
Observe the Limits of Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala
Allah’s statement, “These are the limits (set) by Allah,” means that all permissions and prohibitions have been legislated and explained, in order to have one’s worship accepted one must observe these limits. Instead of fearing people, one should be afraid of Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala. When no one can see us, we should not eat, drink or have marital intimacy with our spouses while fasting because Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala is Al-Baseer [All-Seeing]. Mufti Muhammad Shafi Usmani writes: One should not even go near them because going near them encourages one to cross the limits. This is why overindulgence in gargling while fasting is makruh [reprehensible]. There is a danger of water slipping into the throat. Likewise, use of any medicine that will enter one’s throat is makruh. Kissing or hugging one’s wife that leads to desire is makruh as well. Being casual about these limits can result in disobeying Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala.
“Thus does Allah make clear His Ayaat to mankind that they may become pious,” the purpose behind clear explanation is to help us attain taqwa [piety/righteousness]. The people who fear Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala in a crowd as well in privacy are truly the one who know how to worship Him. May Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala make us of them, aameen.
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