ITIKAF is a particularly commended pious Islamic practice consisting of a period of retreat in a mosque, for a certain number of days in accordance with the believer's own wish.
It is Ehtiyat that one should stay with the intention to worship Allah by praying formal or informal prayers although prayer is not a condition therein.
The time for this form of worship could be anytime when one is allowed to fast. The best time is the month of Ramadan, especially, the last ten days.
Itikaf offers an immense hidden benefit, which is protection from the effects of excessive socializing. Itikaf also offers protection from the evil consequences of talking and sleeping too much, because a person usually does Itikaf on his own, turning to Allah by praying Qiyamul-Layl (Night prayers), reading Quran, making Dhikr, reciting dua, and so on.
Undoubtedly, a person’s success in freeing himself from excessive socializing, talking and sleeping, will help him to make his heart turn towards Allah, and will protect him from the opposite.
The basic purpose of ITIKAF is that the heart gets attached to Allah and, with it, one attains inner composure and equanimity, and preoccupation with the mundane things of life ceases, and absorption in the eternal reality takes its place. And the state is reached in which all fears, hopes and apprehensions are superseded by the love and remembrance of Allah.
Prophet SAWS always observed ITIKAF and the Muslims have on a whole adhered to it. It has become a regular feature of the month of Ramadhan and a confirmed practice with the devout and the faithful.
Ayesha RA relates that “Prophet SAWS regularly observed ITIKAF during the last ten days of Ramadhan till the end of his life. After him, his wives maintained the tradition”.
TYPES OF ITIKAF:
1. Wajib Itikaf
This ITIKAF becomes compulsory when a person makes it obligatory upon himself. An example of this is, when a person makes a vow to Allah that if Allah fulfills a certain wish of his, he will under take to perform so many days ITIKAF. In this case the moment his wish is fulfilled, ITIKAF becomes compulsory. A person may just make unconditional vow whereby he makes ITIKAF Waajib upon himself for certain number of days. This becomes a Waajib duty on him from that moment onward.
2. Sunnah Itikaf
This was the general practice of Islamic Prophet Muhammad and it means to seclude oneself inside the Masjid for the last ten days of Ramadhan.
3. Nafil Itikaf
There is no special time or specific number of days for Nafil ITIKAF. A person may make niyyah for any number of days at any time. Imam Abu Hanifah however states that it must be for at least one full day.
Imam Mohammed states that there is no limit on the minimum period of time. The fatwa is on this later view. Therefore, it is desirable for anyone entering a Masjid to make the niyyah (intention) of ITIKAF for the period that he will remain in the Masjid. So while he is in Ibaadah he also gains the reward of ITIKAF.
CONDITIONS OF ITIKAF:
1. Intention as in the rest of the worship acts. It is necessary that the intention be made at the beginning of Itikaf so that the rule, requiring the worship act to be completed with intention, be followed thoroughly from the beginning to the end. The decision made at the beginning of the night to start Itikaf from the beginning of the following day will be open to objection. However, if one decides to start it from the beginning of the night it is not an offense to do so.
One is not allowed to change one's mind from one Itikaf to another of the same qualities or different.
2. Belief in Islam.
3. Freedom from mental illness.
4. Fasting, thus the Itikaf of one who cannot fast for some reason is not valid.
That it must take place in one of these Mosques: (a) The holy Mosque in Mecca, (b) the holy Mosque of the Prophet in Medina, (c) the Mosque which is assigned for the Friday prayer in any town or city. It is Ehtiyat, however, to complete it in any of the first four Mosques.
The roof and basement of a Mosque is part of the same and it is valid to complete ITIKAF in such places of a Mosque.
Permission of the people whose permission are required such as the husband and parents for the wife and children if this will be against the right of the husband or causes trouble to the parents.
6. Completing it in the Mosque where it was started. Thus, going out of the Mosque without an acceptable reason will invalidate the Itikaf, regardless, one knows the rule or is ignorant or has gone out because of forgetfulness, except in the case of an emergency or one being forced or it is because of some need such as using wash room or having Taharat.
If one needs to have Ghusl/bath during the Itikaf and it is possible for him to have it inside the Mosque, and is not allowed to go out unless the reason for Ghusl requires him not to stay inside the Mosque.
Itikaf is originally an optional worship act but it may become obligatory because of a vow etc.
ONE IS PERMITTED TO LEAVE THE MASJID:
1. For wajib ghusl.
2. For wudhu.
3. To answer the call of nature (toilet).
NOTE: Leaving the Masjid without a Shar’i reason will nullify the ITIKAF.
THINGS TO AVOID DURING ITIKAF
1. Having sex and also according to Ehtiyat kissing or playing with one's wife.
2. According to a necessary Ehtiyat causing a semen discharge.
3. And smelling perfumes for enjoyment; it is not an offense if one cannot enjoy the perfume because of some defect in his smelling ability.
4. Selling or buying in the form of a business deal, according to a necessary Ehtiyat; there is no offense to be occupied with allowable activities as sewing or writing etc., although it is a Mustahab Ehtiyat to avoid them too.
If one needs to buy something for food and there is no one to do the buying for him, it is not an offence for him to do it.
5. Expressing bitterness in talking about worldly or religious matters in order to prove one's ability, not the truth which is one of the best worships.
The contracts of buying or selling during Itikaf invalidate Itikaf, but such contracts will be valid.
If Itikaf is invalidated because of having sex even, during the night, expiation will be due; if it is invalidated by other things, there will be no expiation, although it is a Mustahab Ehtiyat in this case too.
The expiation for invalidating an Itikaf is to set free a slave or if this is not possible, fast for two consecutive months or if this also is not possible, feed sixty poor people.
NOTE : It is Makruh to observe complete silence as a form of Worship this does not however permit worldly talk.
THINGS TO DO DURING ITIKAF:
A Mu'takif should engage himself in the following:
1. Ibadah (any form).
2. Recital of the Holy Qur'an.
3. Nafl Salaah and dhikr.
4. Salawat (Durud) and Istighfar.
5. Remembrance of Allah
6. Learn or teach the knowledge of Deen.
ITIKAF FOR WOMEN
Ladies may also perform ITIKAF by designating a portion of their house, wherein they normally pray salaah.
This is not a Shar’i Masjid, none of the rulings applicable to Masjid’s apply. The purpose behind this designation is merely for ITIKAF purposes for the ladies. Any lady is at liberty to perform ITIKAF for the last ten days of Ramadhan in this specific room and thereby acquire the same reward as the menfolk in the Masjid. Ladies should remember, that for them to perform this ITIKAF of the last ten days of Ramadhan, purity (from Haydh) is essential. It should also be noted that for ITIKAF of the last ten days of Ramadhan, ladies will not be able to undertake household duties. These domestic chores will be performed by daughters under their supervision while in ITIKAF.
REWARD OF ITIKAF
Ibn Abbas narrates Rasulullah related ‘Whomsoever performs ITIKAF for a day: Allah will spread three trenches between him (or her) and the fire of hell. The width of each trench being greater than the distance between the Heaven and earth.’
In addition: To Perform ITIKAF of the last ten days of Ramadhan is
equivalent to the reward of two Hajj and two Umrah!
Credits & Thanks to : Summaiyya Sagar