By Hassan Imam
I’tikaf, linguistically, means to stick to something and block everything else.
In the holy Qur’an, Allah says, When he said to his father and his people: “What are these images, to which you are devoted?”. (Suratul Anbiya verse 52)
Deriving from the above verse, i’tikaf literally means devotion and total attachment to something.
Islamically speaking, i’tikaf means seclusion and staying in the mosque with the intention of getting closer to Allah .
It is apt to know that, the legitimacy of i’tikaf has never been a point of arguement amongst the scholars,as there are a number of evidences backing it. Even if there is no any Qur’anic verse or hadith pointing to its virtues, it is enough evidence that the prophet (s.a.w), his wives and companions engaged in this spiritual retreat (i’tikaf).
It was narrated on the authority of Ayisha (may Allah be pleased with her) that the Prophet (peace be upon him) made I’tikaf during the last ten days of the month of Ramadan. This narration is in Al-Bukhari and Muslim and in other references.
Pertinently,it is of great importance to know that, i’tikaf has no specific time limit. It can be shortened and elongated. However, it must be said here that the reward will be according to how long one stays in the mosque. That is, the reward of someone who stays for the complete ten days is not comparable with that of those who stay for the less number of days.
A rider to this,the mosque in which this spiritual retreat should be performed has generated hot debate among the scholars. Basing their opinion on a weak hadith, Abu Haneefah, Abu Thawr and other scholars opine that, it is valid in a mosque where five daily prayers are held and which has a large congregation. Contrary to this opinion, Imam Malik and Shafii are of the opinion that it is acceptable in any mosque, as there is no proof that restricts it to any particular mosque.
However, the Shaffiyah, whose opinion deemed correct, stated that it is better to perform it in a congregational mosque as the prophet (s.a.w) performed it in such a mosque.
In addition, it is expected of someone performing i’tikaf to stay away from sexual intercourse, visitation of a sick person, attending to his family’s needs and attending funeral. About this, Aishah(may Allah be pleased with her ) said: “The Sunnah for mu’takif not to visit any sick person, or attend any funeral or touch or be intimate with any woman or go out out for any reason except those which can not be avoided “(Narrated by Abu Dawud, 2473).
In conclusion, i’tikaf comes once in a year. Therefore,we should work tirelessly in this year’s to earn Allah’s pleasure and get closer to Him because next year is not promising.
We ask Allah to accept our ibadah and forgive our shortcomings.