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I’tikaf: From Chaos to Calm

I’tikaf: From Chaos to Calm
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Only in the remembrance of Allah can the heart find peace. Quran 13:28)

When I was a teacher, I remember there would be one specific time in the year when school was off for the children but teachers were required to attend. At this time, we would de-clutter our classrooms of the various projects and paperwork that had piled up during the course of the year. We would also use this quiet time to plan for the year ahead, and organize our classrooms, etc. It was the most important time of the year as our performance for the coming year depended on our planning and preparation. The effective and proactive teachers would not waste a moment of this time, whereas the lax and heedless would spend this time chatting and roaming around. Yet, when the school year began, these were the ones seen running around looking for resources or sweating in mismanaged classrooms.

All of this was running in my mind when I was reading Mufti Taqi Usmani’s (DB) article on i’tikaf, which is a unique form of worship in this glorious month of Ramadan where a person gives up all his activities, family, friends and routines to enter the masjid for a specific time to gain stillness with Allah ta’ala. This opens him to knowing His Lord more deeply, his heart and mind gradually transform and Allah ta’ala’s love and peace enter his life. Allah ta’ala wants to make ease for us; to transform us towards wholeness, freedom and peace.

Allah desires ease for you, not hardship. (Quran 2:185)

I’tikaf is another example of the beauty of our Shariah, when, as the whole year we struggle with our day to day existence, it takes us further and further away from Allah ta’ala; when He sees His servant is this state of chaos then He calls to i’tikaf so that his servant finds the wisdom and solace from His Lord to cope with the trials of this world. Ramadan is the month for recharging our souls and our Deen so we can stay steadfast in the coming year and face the temptations of Shetan and nafs with courage and wisdom gained through nearness to Allah ta’ala.

Mufti Taqi Usmani (DB) writes:

“Islam does not approve monasticism but emphasizes co-dependence and discharging all obligations towards earning a livelihood, family, neighbours, etc. But at the same time, one’s deep involvement in these activities slows down his spiritual progress. In order to repair this loss, a Muslim is required to spare a time in which he separates himself from these worldly activities, to sit in seclusion, devoting his heart and soul for pure spiritual acts. This unique mode of worship can be done any time of the year. However, it has been declared Sunnah Mu’akkadah in the last ten days of Ramadan, because Ramadan is the most suitable time to carry out this worship. Moreover, Lailatul Qadr normally occurs in the last ten days of Ramadan. Its definite time is unknown and may occur in any one of the odd nights of these days. When one is in a state of i’tikaf for the last ten days of Ramadan, he can surely benefit from its infinite merits, because even if he is sleeping in the state of i’tikaf it will be credited to his account as worship, because each and every second of i’tikaf is considered worship (ibadah). This is an extraordinary privilege which is why Rasul Allah Salallahu alaihi wassalam used to perform i’tikaf every year in Ramadan.”

Some fundamental rules of i’tikaf:

Some fundamental rules of i’tikaf:

1) Mustahib or Nafl i’tikaf can be for any amount of time, any time of the year, in any place like madrasa, masjid, home, etc, even for a few minutes. Fasting is not conditional.

2) Wajib i’tikaf is to vow or pledge to make I’tikaf (on a fixed day) for the sake of Allah upon the fulfilment of some wish or desire. The least duration of a wajib I’tikaf is one day and night and it must be accompanied by a fast.

3) I’tikaf in the last ten days of Ramadan is Sunnah alal kifayah. It means that in each masjid at least one person sits in i’tikaf. With this the requirement of i’tikaf is fulfilled for the whole neighborhood. However, if no person performs i’tikaf the whole locality is responsible for not observing the Sunnah.

4) The time for this i’tikaf commences immediately after the sunset of the 20th day of Ramadan. Therefore the person who wants to sit in i’tikaf should enter masjid before sunset on that day.

5) The main requirement for a valid i’tikaf is that one remains in the limits of the masjid throughout the period of i’tikaf except for a necessity like attending the call of nature.

6) The limits of the masjid for the purpose of i’tikaf are restricted to the places meant for offering Salah and determined by the masjid administration. A person’s i’tikaf will terminate if he leaves the limits of masjid defined for i’tikaf without necessity.

7) One can go out of the masjid during i’tikaf only for the following needs:

• To answer the call of nature or perform ablution.
• To make obligatory bath (in the state of janabah/impurity). It is not allowed to go out of masjid during i’tikaf for non-obligatory bath.
• To bring food to masjid or have it outside if no one else is available to bring food.
• To offer Jummah prayer if it’s not offered in the masjid where i’tikaf is observed.
• To move to another masjid in the event of serious threat to one’s life or property.

8) It is advisable to avoid all unnecessary activities during i’tikaf and spend most of the time in acts of worship like salah, recitation of Quran, making zikr or tasbeeh. However, it is makrooh to remain totally silent.

9) The following acts terminate the Sunnah and Wajib i’tikaf:

• To leave the masjid even for a moment without the aforesaid needs.
• To remain outside the masjid after fulfilling the aforesaid need.
• To have sexual intercourse or emission through intimacy.
• To break fast since fasting is a pre-condition for a valid, masnoon i’tikaf. Hence Sunnah and Wajib i’tikaf is automatically terminated by breaking of fast.

10) If theSunnah i’tikaf is terminated for any reason it becomes obligatory to make qada of the i’tikaf for one day only, no need to perform i’tikaf for ten days or the remaining days. Qada can be done in the same Ramadan or after Ramadan keeping a nafl fast or in the next Ramadan.

11) Conditions of i’tikaf:

1. Niyyah: Intention. Nawaytu Sunnat i’tikaf/Nawaytu nafl i’tikaf/nawaytu wajib i’tikaf…. Lillahi Ta’ala.
2. Taharah: To be free from Hadathul Akbar for entry and all hadath for acquisition of reward.
3. Sanity: i.e. a person should not be mad.

Hence i’tikaf is a means to gain closeness to Allah and be guided by His supreme mercy. Men and boys should strive to perform i’tikaf, especially as it is fard-ul-kifaya (if some members of the community perform the act, it is exempted from the rest). Women with relatively fewer obligations can also perform sunnah i’tikaf in their homes. They can designate a certain area for i’tikaf and follow given rules. Women with more obligations can benefit from nafli i’tikaf anywhere, anytime. Spending quiet moments with Allah Ta’ala brings us closer to light of imaan and takes us further from the darkness and confusion of chaos.

May Allah Ta’ala guide us towards His noor and help us present ourselves in His presence so that we can live a life of peace and contentment in this world and the next. Aameen. Wa ma taufiqee illa billah.

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