Al-I’tikaf: The spiritual retreat

Al-I’tikaf refers to Prophet Muhammad’s practice of secluding himself in the mosque during the last 10 days of Ramadan.

Al-I’tikaf is an injunction of Almighty Allah specifically during the month of Ramadan as part of the exercise required to attain piety, which is the goal of Ramadan fast.

Al-I’tikaf has guiding rules and regulations. We should know that this act of worship is meant to please Allah following the pattern of the Prophet. This understanding should guide those who have the intention of going for Al-I’tikaf this year.

As related by his companions, the Holy Prophet (SAW) used to perform Al-I’tikaf every year during the last 10 days of Ramadan, a highly rewarding act every one of his follower should emulate. The merits of performing Al-I’tikaf cannot be overemphasised. Apart from being the practice of the noble Prophet Muhammad, it was the style of all our righteous predecessors.

During the period of the exercise, there is high probability that a Mu’takif (the person in Al-I’tikaf) will witness the Night of Qadar (Laylatul-Qadar) as the ‘ibaadah on that night carries with it the reward of serving Allah for a thousand months. Residing in the mosque during the last 10 days of Ramadan brightens one’s opportunity of being qualified for this great blessing.

Also, performing I’tikaf affords the observer the chance to complete their recitation of the Qur’an as many times as possible, depending on one’s fluency. Staying in the mosque for I’tikaf keeps one tenaciously attached both physically and spiritually to Allah (SWT) and creates the chance of attaining the peak of spiritual development and soul purification. This is because there is no time for engagement in any frivolities.

Performing I’tikaf also saves one from any involvement in vices and other sinful acts. For the period of the seclusion, all parts of the body are committed to worshipping Allah and seriously guarded from the evil one (As-Shayton).

The practice of the Holy Prophet was to enter the mosque in the morning of the 21st day of Ramadan, according to a hadith narrated by the mother of the believers, Aishah (may Allah be pleased her), related by Imam Al-Bukhary.
Islamic scholars also agree that a Mu’takif can enter the mosque shortly before Maghrib when the month of Ramadan counts 20- both are genuine. As soon as he arrived in the mosque, Muhammad (SAW) used to build his Mu’takaf (a corner in the mosque where he stayed till the end of the month). Therefore, a Mu’takif is expected to stage a net at a spot when he stays for his daily activities before other things.

While in the mosque, the Mu’takif should ensure he observes all the five regular prayers in Jama’ah and renew his ablution as soon as it becomes vitiated. He is also to fast and guard his fast throughout his stay. While in the mosque, the person in I’tikaf is expected to observe as many nawafil (superogatory prayer). There is no restriction to the number of nawafil except during those periods of the day when nawafil are forbidden.

The Mu’takifun is also expected to observe his Tarawih behind the Imam throughout his stay. Besides, his leisure time should be spent in the remembrance of Allah in accordance with the saying of Prophet Muhammad that: “Laa yazaahu lisaanuka rotban min dhikrillahi,” meaning “Do not relax your tongue but engage in the remembrance of Allah.”

The Mu’takif is expected to restrict himself to his Mu’takat and not roam about in the mosque. He is not allowed to go out of the mosque except to fulfil the demands of nature such as urinating, defecating or buying food/drinks. He is not expected to visit the sick, attend funerals, go out to deliver or listen to lecture or engage in trade, business and other worldly activities.

Apart from the Salatu Jama’ah, other activities in the mosque are strictly observed on an individual basis, not jointly, except the Mu’takif desires to share his food with his co-Mu’takif. The Holy Prophet used to observe I’tikaf and concentrate much on personal ‘ibaadah although he used to discuss with members of his family as occasion demanded.

The Prophet allowed some of his wives to visit and saw them off to the gate of the mosque to teach us that our family members can visit us during those days but we should not make their stay or our discussion too lengthy. The purpose of our I’tikaf should not be allowed to be defeated by the use of our handset to play games, chat on Facebook, 2go, WhatsApp or Twitter or to call people outside the mosque. Queuing up for food for too long time as observed in some mosques today is not a healthy practice.

I use this forum to enjoin my brothers in the civil service to observe their annual leave at this time to afford them the opportunity of performing I’tikaf. Jazakumullahu Khaeran