Significance of I`tikaf

Question and answer details
Dear scholars, As-Salamu `alaykum. What is the significant of i`tikaf?
On Islam Shari`ah Researchers

Wa `alaykum As-Salamu wa Rahmatullahi wa Barakatuh.

In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful.

 All praise and thanks are due to Allah, and peace and blessings be upon His Messenger.

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Dear brother in Islam, we would like to thank you for the great confidence you place in us. We implore Allah Almighty to accept our fasts, prayers and righteous deeds, amen.

I’tikaf is a Sunnah and according to many jurists it is a confirmed Sunnah upon able Muslims. This is because the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) used to do it all his life and the Mothers of Believers and Companions continued to do it after the death of the Prophet.

Even before he received the revelation, the Prophet (PBUH) used to retreat in the cave of Hira  in Makkah every Ramadan for a number of days and nights, contemplating and thinking about Allah and His creation.

As Muslims, we know that in this cave the Prophet saw Jibreel (Gabriel), talked to him, and heard the first verses of the Quran from him. Why should we do i’tikaf then? One may ask. The simple and direct answer to this question is that we do it to follow in the steps of the Prophet (PBUH). I’tikaf is mentioned in the Quran in the context of the mosque and as fasting was prescribed to the preceding nations. I`tikaf also was practiced by these nations. Allah Almighty says in the Qur’an,

Lo! Those who disbelieve and bar (men) from the way of Allah and from the Inviolable Place of Worship, which We have appointed for mankind together, the dweller therein and the nomad; whosoever seeketh wrongful partiality therein, him We shall cause to taste a painful doom. And remember when We prepared for Abraham the place of the holy House, saying: Ascribe thou no thing as partner unto Me, and purify My House for those who make the round thereof and those who stand and those who bow and make prostration.” (22: 25-26)

In many religions it is doctrinally and spiritually required that monks and hermits should isolate themselves from people and live in cells and monasteries all their life. Allah says, “Then We caused Our messengers to follow in their footsteps; and We caused Jesus, son of Mary, to follow, and gave him the Gospel, and placed compassion and mercy in the hearts of those who followed him. But monasticism they invented. We ordained it not for them. Only seeking Allah’s pleasure, and they observed it not with right observance. So We give those of them who believe their reward, but many of them are evil livers.” (57: 27)

But in Islam it is just ten days that should be spent in i’tikaf for those who are able to do so.

I`tikaf may seem to be a negative act, but if you think about it deeply and if it is done perfectly it is a positive and healthy act. Staying in the mosque for ten days spending time in worship, reading the Quran, thinking positively of Allah and His creation charges our spirits and empowers our bodies and thinking and teaches us how to be self-disciplined and have full control over ourselves.

It teaches us how to measure the real value of life and to make sure that we are on the right track, to shake off the dust of sins from our souls, to enrich and deepen our spiritual sense, to sharpen our vision, to look forward towards the Hereafter before it is eminent for us. I’tikaf does not mean to be negative towards performing your duties in life or to run away from people and live by yourself. This is not in any sense the aims of i’tikaf.

Not all Muslims should do i’tikaf, but those who are able to do it. Also, it should be inside the mosque so that you are still with Muslims not away from them. You have a spiritual and hygienic environment around yourself, you are not isolated or neglected. If i`tikaf can affect your living standard or affect the work in general or harm the society in any way, it is not obligatory to do it in this case.

In our daily routine, we should have a vacation or holiday. Some spend their holidays by traveling abroad, or at the seashore, or in nightclubs and places of amusement, and in this way they may spend lots of money just to feel happy. I`tikaf can provide you with great happiness, refreshment, tranquility, stability in mind and soul at hardly any cost.

Allah Almighty knows best.