The Guidance Of The Prophet (Peace And Blessings Of Allaah Be Upon Him) Regarding I'tikaaf
Islamic Rulings -
Living Shariah Verdicts
Islamic Questions & Answers
I would like to know the guidance of the
Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him)
with regard to i'tikaaf.
Praise be to Allaah.
The guidance of the Prophet (peace and blessings of
Allaah be upon him) with regard to i'tikaaf was the
most perfect and moderate of guidance.
Once he observed i'tikaaf in the first ten days of
Ramadaan, then in the middle ten days, seeking Laylat
al-Qadr. Then he was told that it is in the last ten
days, so then he always observed i'tikaaf during the
last ten days, until he met his Lord.
On one occasion he did not observe i'tikaaf during the
last ten days, so he made it up in Shawwaal and
observed i'tikaaf during the first ten days thereof.
This was narrated by al-Bukhaari and Muslim. In the
year in which he died, he observed i'tikaaf for twenty
days. Narrated by al-Bukhaari, 2040.
It was said that the reason for that is that he knew
his life was drawing to a close, so he wanted to
increase his good deeds, to show his ummah how to
strive hard in doing good deeds when the opportunity
for doing so drew to close, so that they could meet
Allaah in the best way. And it was said that the
reason was that Jibreel used to review the Qur'aan
with him once each Ramadaan, but in the year in which
he died, he reviewed it with him twice, which is why
his i'tikaaf was twice as long as usual.
A more likely reason is that he observed i'tikaaf for
twenty days in that year because the year before he
had been traveling. This is indicated by the report
narrated by al-Nasaa'i and Abu Dawood, and classed as
saheeh by Ibn Hibbaan and others, from Ubayy ibn Ka'b
who said: The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah
be upon him) used to observe i'tikaaf during the last
ten days of Ramadaan, but he travelled one year and
did not observe i'tikaaf, so the following year he
observed i'tikaaf for twenty days. Fath al-Baari.
The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon
him) used to order that a kind of tent be pitched for
him in the mosque, and he would stay in it, keeping
away from people and turning to his Lord, so he could
be on his own with his Lord in a true sense of the
On one occasion he observed i'tikaaf in a small tent,
and put a reed mat over the door. Narrated by Muslim,
Ibn al-Qayyim said in Zaad al-Ma'aad, 2/90:
All of this to achieve the spirit and purpose of
i'tikaaf, and is the opposite of what the ignorant do,
whereby the place of i'tikaaf becomes a place of
gathering and meeting with people and chatting to
them. This is one thing, and i'tikaaf as observed by
the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon
him) is something else.
He used to stay in the mosque the whole time, and not
leave it except to relieve himself. ‘Aa'ishah (may
Allaah be pleased with her) said: "He would not enter
his house for anything except for a need when he was
observing i'tikaaf." Narrated by al-Bukhaari, 2029;
Muslim, 297. According to a report narrated by Muslim:
"Except for human needs." Al-Zuhri interpreted this as
referring to urination and defecation.
He (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) made
sure he remained clean. He would lean his head out of
the mosque into ‘Aa'ishah's apartment so that she
should wash his head and comb his hair.
Al-Bukhaari (2028) and Muslim (297) narrated that
‘Aa'ishah (may Allaah be pleased with her) said: "The
Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him)
used to lean his head towards me when he was observing
i'tikaaf in the mosque, and I would comb his hair,
when I was menstruating." According to a report also
narrated by al-Bukhaari: "And I would wash it."
This hadeeth indicates that it is permissible to clean
oneself, put on perfume, wash oneself, comb one's hair
etc (when in i'tikaaf). The majority of scholars are
of the view that nothing is makrooh except that which
it is makrooh to do in the mosque.
When he was in i'tikaaf, the Prophet (peace and
blessings of Allaah be upon him) did not visit the
sick or attend funerals. This was so that he could
concentrate fully on conversing with Allaah and
achieving the purpose of i'tikaaf, which is to cut
oneself off from people and turn to Allaah.
‘Aa'ishah said: The Sunnah is for the person in
i'tikaaf not to visit the sick or attend funerals, or
to be intimate with his wife. But there is nothing
wrong with his going out for essential needs. Narrated
by Abu Dawood, 2473; classed as saheeh by al-Albaani
in Saheeh Abi Dawood.
"or to be intimate with his wife" means intercourse.
This was stated by al-Shawkaani in Nayl al-Awtaar.
Some of his wives used to visit him when he was in
i'tikaaf. When she stood up to leave, he would take
her home – that was at night.
It was narrated from Safiyyah the wife of the Prophet
(peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) that she
came to the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings
of Allaah be upon him) and visited him when he was in
i'tikaaf in the mosque, during the last ten days of
Ramadaan. She spoke with him for a while, then she
stood up to leave. The Prophet (peace and blessings of
Allaah be upon him) stood up with her to take her
home. Narrated by al-Bukhaari, 2035; Muslim, 2175.
In conclusion, his i'tikaaf was moderate and not
harsh. He spent all his time remembering Allaah and
turning to Him in worship, seeking Laylat al-Qadr.
See: Zaad al-Ma'aad by Ibn al-Qayyim, 2/90; al-I'tikaaf
Nazrah Tarbawiyyah by Dr ‘Abd al-Lateef Balto.