Itikaf is a spiritual retreat practiced by Muslims, particularly in the last ten days of the month of Ramadan. The word ‘itikaf’ literally means to ‘isolate’ or ‘devote oneself to something’. In this spiritual practice, Muslims confine themselves to a specified place such as a mosque and stay there for a certain number of days.
The Prophet SAW said in a hadith, “Whosoever for Allah’s sake did even one day’s itikaf, Allah would keep him away from Jahannam (hellfire) by trenches.” [Tabarani]
How To Perform Itikaf?
What greater reason could there be to perform itikaf than to be kept away from the Hellfire? Here are some things about itikaf that you may not know. And even if you do, a reminder is always a powerful motivator!
↓ 1. There are 3 types of Itikaf
a) Sunnah itikaf: this is performed only in Ramadan and in the last ten days only. It is narrated by Aisha RA that “The Prophet SAW used to practice itikaf in the last ten days of Ramadan till he died and then his wives used to practice itikaf after him.” [Sahih Bukhari] The sunnah itikaf can not be practiced outside of Ramadan.
b) Nafl itikaf: this is a nafl (voluntary) form of itikaf and can be done for any number of days (even a one-day itikaf) in which one decides to devote oneself to the worship and remembrance of Allah SWT.
c) Wajib itikaf: this form of itikaf is done when someone vows to do itikaf for two reasons: intention or condition. Meaning that a person could either vow to sit in itikaf just for the purpose of itikaf or vow to do it if a condition is fulfilled (for example, one could say, “if such-and-such thing happens, I will sit in itikaf.”)
Don’t forget to go through these Things To Do On Laylatul Qadr & Last Ten Days Of Ramadan.
↓ 2. Different Itikaf Rules For Men & Women
Itikaf is a spiritual practice that is practiced by both men and women. However, men can perform itikaf only in the mosque, whereas women should perform it in a room of their house. Some schools of thought allow women to perform itikaf in the mosque as well if proper segregational arrangements are made for them. In addition, women must ask their husbands for permission before itikaf. And no, this is not due to any patriarchy-related reason, but because of the sanctity of marital relations. This year, however, with the coronavirus preventing congregations, some schools of thought have allowed the itikaf to be performed at home. However, the majority maintains that itikaf for men is not valid anywhere other than the mosque.
↓ 3. Benefits Of Itikaf
- Of all the itikaf benefits, the greatest one is that it strengthens a person’s relationship with Allah SWT
- It makes the person more used to spending long hours (and days) in the worship of Allah SWT
- It reminds Muslims that their purpose is to worship Allah SWT and takes them out of the worldly life that they were so caught up in
- It strengthens their hearts against evils and the whisperings of Shaytan
- It holds major rewards for Muslims
↓ 4. Conditions for Performing Itikaf
For anyone to perform the itikaf, there are certain conditions that must be fulfilled for it to be valid.
- The mutakif (one who does itikaf) must be Muslim
- He/she must be of sound mind
- Women must be permitted to sit for itikaf by their husbands
- It is compulsory for men to perform it in the mosque
- The intention for itikaf must be made, and it should be to please Allah SWT only
- The mutakif should be in a state of wudhu.
- The mutakif should be fasting. The Prophet SAW said, “The sunnah for the person in itikaf is that he should not visit the sick or attend funerals, or touch his wife or have intercourse with her, or go out for any but the most pressing of needs. There is no itikaf except with fasting and there is no itikaf except in a masjid.” [Abu Dawud] However, for medical conditions (not illness) it is permitted to sit in itikaf without fasting.
↓ 5. Things Which Nullify The Itikaf
- Wrong intentions for performing itikaf (such as to show off)
- Leaving the masjid or place or itikaf (except for answering the call of nature). If a mutakif has no one to get them food or water, it is even permitted for them to go out and buy food but return as soon as possible.
- Conducting business transactions
- Sexual intercourse (including any other form of pleasure)
- Menstruation or post-natal bleeding
- Mutakif not being of sound mind or body
- Any sinful act
- We also recommend that you read our earlier post on Ramadan Duas Complete Collection & 30 Daily Duas For Ramadan
↓ 6. Kaffara for Invalidating Itikaf On Purpose
If the itikaf of a person is broken on purpose (such as leaving the place of itikaf without any pressing need), they have to give kaffara, which is a penalty for breaking a commitment. The penalty for breaking the itikaf is to free a slave and if that is not possible, then to fast for 60 consecutive days, and if that is not possible, then feed 60 poor persons. If the itikaf is broken without meaning to (such as due to menstruation), then the person has to only make the qadha for it next year and there is no kaffara.
↓ 7. Preferred Acts of Ibadah For Mutakif
Apart from the obvious worship like the obligatory prayers in congregation and taraweeh, there are other recommended acts of worship to undertake during itikaf:
- Recitation and memorization of the Qur’an. There is no better time to learn more surahs than in the period that is devoted to itikaf
- Istaghfar (repentance)
- Voluntary prayers
- Dhikr (remembrance of Allah SWT)
- Learning and teaching others about Islam. While other conversations are discouraged, gatherings of Islamic knowledge are considered acts of worship.
A Word of Advice
While some rules of itikaf are universal, there are certain differences of opinion amongst schools of thought so it is better to consult a scholar from your own school of thought if you face any confusion apart from the ones we have already mentioned above.