What Is I’tikaaf?

The meaning of I’tikaaf is to seclude oneself in the Masjid with the express in­tention (niyyah) of I’tikaaf, for the remembrance of Allah, even though for a few seconds only.


The reward of I’tikaaf is great. The mere fact that Rasulullah Sallallahu always wa sallam ­performed it. It is sufficient to ex­plain the virtues that are attached to it. The example of the one that resides in the Masjid in I’tikaaf is like the person, who having gone to a high personage to ap­peal for his needs, remains there until it is granted. He thus says to Allah: ‘0 Allah,

I have placed my humble request before You, and have faith in Your genero-‘ city, and I shall not move from here until my request is granted by You’.

When someone comes begging at our door and then refuses to leave until his request is granted, it is certain that even the most selfish person will eventual­ly accede to ones request and how much more merci­ful is Allah.

Allama ibn Qayyim, on explaining the significance of I’tikaaf writes that the actual aim of this seclusion is to free the heart from everything else except Allah and to join it with Him alone, thereby forming a complete spiritual link with the Creator. All worldly connections are thus cut off for the sake of gaining Allah’s special attention and favour. All thoughts, desires, love and devotion become centred on Allah alone. As a reward for this effort Allah’s love is attained; a love and friendship that will be the only companion in the loneliness of the grave. When a person has establish­ed this relationship then who can possibly imagine the great ecstasy with which that time of the grave will be spent.

The author of `Maraqi’ul Falaah’ writes that I’tikaaf, when correctly and sincere-. ly performed, is a most vir­tuous deed. One cannot en­umerate all the great advan­tages and benefits in it. In actual fact, what takes place in I’tikaaf, is, that the heart is drawn away from every­thing else except Allah —the Creator, while our whole life, in reality, is laid down at His doorstep. In every moment of I’tikaaf one remains in Ibaadah.

Even when asleep, one is still in His service, striving for nearness to Him. Allah says (according to the Ha­dith): “Whoever draws near to Me an arms length, then I draw nearer to him two arm lengths, and whoever draws nearer to Me by walking, I draw nearer to him by run­ning”.

It is also deduced from the various Ahaadith that one of the major objects of I’tikaaf during Ramadhan is to search for Laylatul Qadr. What better manner can there be than to remain in Ibaadah at all times, whe­ther one is awake or asleep, to obtain the reward of over 83 years and 4 months. Fur­thermore, in I’tikaaf one is free from all daily tasks and thus has all the time to de­vote to Zikrullah (remem­brance of Allah) and medi­tation.


To quote all the virtues of I’tikaaf here will lengthen this chapter needlessly, how­ever a few Ahaadith should suffice.

Ibn Abbas RA. relates that Rasulullah SAW. said: “The person performing I’tikaaf remains free from sins, and he is indeed given the same reward as all those who do righteous deeds. (in spite of not having done those deeds as a result of having been secluded in the Masjid)”.

By remaining secluded in the Masjid during the last ten days of Ramadhan, one completely avoids falling into unintentional evil acts, and by this seclusion if one does miss an opportunity for any good deeds such as Janaazah Salaah, attending to burials, visiting the sick etc., one is rewarded for these deeds without per­forming them.

Ibn Abbas RA. relates in another lengthy Hadith that Rasulullah SAW. said: “Who- ever sets forth in the way of settling a necessary affair on • behalf of his brother, that service shall be better for him than to perform I’tikaaf for ten years, and whomso- ever performs I’tikaaf for a day, thereby seeking the pleasure of Allah, Allah will open three trenches be- tween him and the fire of hell, the width of each trench being the distance between heaven and earth”. Tabrani, Bayhaqi.

In `Kashful Ghumma’, Allama Sha’raani RA. re­lates a Hadith wherein Ra­sullah SAW. said: “Whoever performs I’tikaaf for the final ten days of Ramadhan, for him is the reward of two Haj and two Umrahs, and whoever performs I’tikaaf from Maghrib until Eshaa doing nothing else except performing salaah and re­citing the Qur’aan, Allah will prepare a place for him in Jannah”.


The following are condi­tions of I’tikaaf:

  1. To be a Muslim.
  2. To be sane.
  3. To be Paak and clean from Janaabat (Hadath Akbar), Haidh (monthly menses) and          Nifaas
    (bleeding after childbirth)
  4. To perform I’tikaaf in a Masjid (for males).
  5. To form the niyyah of I’tikaaf.
  6. To fast; for Waajib and Sunnah I’tikaaf.

Note: Women may observe I’tikaaf in the home. It is not necessary to have reach­ed the age of puberty to ob­serve I’tikaaf,- therefore an intelligent child (male or fe­male) may observe I’tikaaf.


There are three types of I’tikaaf: 1. Waajib, 2. Sun­nah, 3. Nafl.


I’tikaaf becomes compul­sory when a person makes it obligatory upon himself. viz: When a person makes a vow of thanksgiving to Allah that if Allah fulfills a certain wish of his, he will perform so many days I’ti­kaaf. In this case, the mo­ment his wish is fulfilled, I’tikaaf becomes compul­sory, or a person may mere­ly make an unconditional vow whereby he makes I’ti­kaaf Waajib upon himself for a certain number of days. This becomes a duty on him from that moment onwards.

A Waajib. I’tikaaf cannot be for less than one day and one night and has to be per­formed while fasting, irres­pective of whether the fast is specifically for this pur­pose or not.

If the niyyah is for sever­al days then the same num­ber of nights will also have to be spent in I’tikaaf. The I’tikaaf will thus begin be­fore sunset and terminate at sunset after the avowed number of days have been completed. The night pre­cedes the day in Islamic rec­koning.

Niyyah: The niyyah for this I’tikaaf must be pro­nounced, mere mental niy­yah is not sufficient.

Qadhaa: If this Waajib I’tikaaf was begun for par­ticular days, and is nullified during the course of per­forming this rite, then the Qadhaa for the remaining number of days only will be observed. (e.g. Friday, Sa­turday and Sunday).

In the case where the vowed number of days are not specified then Qadhaa of the full number of days must be repeated.


This I’tikaaf was observ­ed by Rasulullah Sallallahu alaihi wa sallam in every year of his stay at Madina Munawwarah. This I’tikaaf means to seclude oneself inside the Masjid for the last ten days of Ramad­han. This I’tikaaf is Sunna­tul Mu’akkadah Alal Kifa­yah; that is if a few persons from the locality observe it, the rest will be exempted.

If no one observes it then all the Muslims of that area will be sinful in neglecting this Sunnah.

Niyyah: The niyyah for Sunnah I’tikaaf is that a firm intention should be made for this purpose be­fore the sun sets on- the 20th Ramadhan in the Mas­jid that is chosen for the nikaaf. It terminates at sunset if the crescent is sighted on the 29th or on the 30th Ramadhan.

There is no prescribed salaah to be performed for this purpose. It is note­worthy that generally no Nafl salaah should be per­formed after Asr salaah un: til Maghrib.

Qadhaa: According to some Ulama there is no Qadhaa for this I’tikaaf if it is interrupted for any reason. Others are of the opinion that the Qadhaa should be observed. Therefore to be cautious, the Qadhaa of the re­maining days should be ob­served.


There is no special time or specific number of days for Nafl I’tikaaf. A person may form the niyyah for any number of days at any time of the year,. even for his whole life. While Imaarn Abu Hanifah R.A. states that it cannot be for less than a full day, Imaam Muhammad RA. estates that there is no limit as the minimum period of time. It could even be for just a few seconds. The fat­wa is on this latter view. There is no fast for this Vti­kaal

Niyyah: It is desirable for anyone entering a Mas­jid to make the niyyah for I’tikaaf as long as he will re­main in the Masjid. So while he is in Ibaadah he also gains the reward of I’tikaaf.

It is advisable for every­one who comes to join the jamaat prayers to form a niyyah of I’tikaaf on enter­ing the Masjid. This will mean that as long as he re­mains busy with salaah, Zikr, listening to religious lectures etc. he also receives the reward etc., I’tikaaf.

Qadhaa: There is no Qad­haa for Nafl I’tikaaf. Sup­posing the niyyah for an hours Nafl l’tikaaf is made and only fifteen minutes are spent in the Masjid, the I’ti­kaaf will terminate at the time of leaving the Masjid.


The place with the most reward for I’tikaaf is the Masjidul Haraam in Mecca. The next most remunerative is the Masjidun Nabawi in Madina Munawwarah; and then follows Baitul Muqad­das in Jerusalem. Thereafter, comes the. Jaame Masjid in one’s own town; and, last but not the least, the Mas­jid nearest to one’s home.

Irnaam Abu .Hanifah RA. stipulates that the Masjid should be one wherein the five daily prayers are per­formed, while Imam Abu Yousuf RA. and Imaam Muhammad RA. are agreed that any Masjid according to the Shariah can be enter­ed for I’tikaaf.

Females should perform. l’tikaaf in the Masjids inside their homes. Where however, no Masjids exist, and the desire to observe l’tikaaf is present, the room where sa­laah is normally ‘perforine d, should be set aside for this seclusion. If salaah is per­formed in the bedroom, I’tikaaf could be performed there. The domestic duties should be carried out by the daughters or servants while the person in I’tikaaf re­mains constantly in Ibaadah in her room.

I’tikaaf is a much easier task for women, for in fact she remains in the confines of her room at home and re­ceives the same great re­wards of I’tikaaf. It is very unfortunate that inspite of this ease, our women folk still remain deprived of the. blessings of I’tikaaf. Gener­ally this Sunnah is neglected, so much so, that many have not even heard of it!



In addition to the general rules of I’tikaaf that apply to men, there are some rules that apply to women only.

  1. A woman may perform I’tikaaf in the room that is used for her daily sa­laah
  2. A woman must have the permission of her hus­band for I’tikaaf. Once the husband has consent­ed to,his wife’s I’tikaaf, he then cannot withdraw his permission.
  3. If there is no person to serve her meals during I’tikaaf, the woman is al­lowed to go to the kit­chen to prepare a quick simple meal.
  4. If during the Itikaaf the woman has her Haidh (monthly menses) or Ni­faas (bleeding after child birth) the I’tikaaf is nul­ She has to observe Qadhaa of the remaining days after she is Paak. This is if the l’tikaaf was a Waajib, or Sunnah, in which the vowed days were fixed. In the case where the I’tikaaf was a Waajib in which the-days vowed for were not fixed, she will have to observe Qadhaa of the full I’ti­kaaf.
  5. For her Qadhaa I’tikaaf she should begin before Maghrib; thus sit for the night first and then the succeeding day. In the reckoning of the Shariah the night precedes the
  6. A woman is allowed to sleep on her bed and use a chair while she is in I’ti­ She could also walk around in the room for a short while to relieve the stiffness in her limbs.


The ‘defined Masjid area’ are all those places that have been intended as MASJID when that structure was built, and also that area that was subsequently increased. This should be determined from the ‘Mutawalli of the Masjid well in advance. This is of paramount importance as the very basis of I’tikaaf is to remain within the sac­red Masjid area. Where the Mutawalli is unable to iden­tify this area, it is advisable that the Mu’takif remains within the doors of the ac­tual Masjid chamber.

Women folk should re­gard _ the entire room as her place of I’tikaaf, the door to her room being the boun­dary.


(Mu’takif: A person in. The Mu’takif could leave the defined Masjid area for the following reasons only. If he/she leaves for any rea­son other then the under­mentioned then the I’tikaaf will terminate forthwith.

  1. To answer the call of na­ture when necessary.
  2. To perform wudhu when the wudhu terminates (breaks). .It is not permis­sible to leave the Masjid to perform wudhu when one still has wudhu. When out of the Masjid for these necessities it is permissible for one to greet others and to reply – to their salaams.
  3. To perform the Waajib bath (due to a wet dream). If one leaves the Masjid to have a shower to cool off on a hot day or a bath for Friday, the I’tikaaf will be nullified. When going out for wud­hu it is permissible to have a wash while per­forming wudhu, provided it is done in the same time during which wud­hu is made. All soiled (Napaak) garments should be removed from the Masjid immediately and not taken back into the Masjid after the Waa­jib bath.
  4. To perform Jum’aa Salaah if it is not performed in that Masjid. It is only permissible to leave for Jum’aa just prior to the commencement of the Sufficient time should be allowed to per­form two rak’aats Tahiy­yatul Masjid, salaah and four rak’aats Sunnahs before Jum’aa. To re­turn immediately after performing the Sunnah rak’aats succeeding the Jum’aa.
  5. When going out for these necessities do not spend more time than is abso­lutely required. Return as soon as possible, and do not talk to anyone. If someone greets you, it is Waajib to only answer.


The Mu’takif is not al­lowed to leave the defined Masjid area for the under­mentioned reasons. If he does leave, even though for a few seconds, either inten­tionally or unintentionally, his I’tikaaf will be nullified.

  1. Because of illness or fear.
  2. To visit the sick.
  3. To attend a Janaazah Sa­laah
  4. To extinguish a fire or save a drowning person out of the Masjid area.
  5. To wash hands, gargle, brush teeth or to expec­torate (spit). ‘(These
    should all be done while performing wudhu.)
  6. To fetch a glass of water.
  7. To assist the caretaker in his duties outside the Masjid area.


The following are allow­ed in the Masjid during the I’tikaaf:

  1. To eat and sleep.
  2. To change clothes.
  3. To clip the nails or trim the moustache.
  4. To recite the Qur’aan aloud or recite Tasbeeh or Zikr with a raised voice if it does not dis­turb others.

To have religious discus­sions and lectures and to speak about lawful mat­ters

Adapted From The Majlis

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