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For People Performing I’tikâf Only

EsinIslam Ramadan Explorer

In the name of Allah the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful

All praise and thanks be to Allah alone, and prayers and peace of Allah be upon the last and seal of the Prophets.

O Muslim men; staying at nights performing the optional night prayers and remembrances... O Muslim women; obedient to your Lord

There is no doubt that the heart gets rusty and hard; the soul weakens and descends to the demands of lustrous desires and the whispers of this worldly life. Malik ibn Dinar was truthful when he said, ''The slave of Allah is not punished by a stronger punishment than the cruelty of the heart.'' [Az-Zuhd (Asceticism) by Imam Ahmad 2/300] It is from the mercy of Allah Almighty towards His slaves that He has ordained for them acts of worship; that he has disposed for them opportunities of the acts of obedience; which both purify their souls and refine their hearts. Their spirits are made sublime to be guided by His light, be comfortable with obeying Him and delight in remembering Him. After that they will rise in status to the highest degrees and the most noble positions in 'Adn (Eden) Paradise (everlasting Gardens), which the Most Gracious (Allah) has promised to His slaves in the Unseen: Verily His Promise must come to pass. The month of Ramadan is one of the greatest seasons of good which Allah has granted His slaves to strengthen their faith, increase their piety and deepen their relationship with their Lord, {O you who believe! Observing As-Saum (the fasting) is prescribed for you as it was prescribed for those before you, that you may become Al-Muttaqűn (the pious)} [Surat Al-Baqarah 2:183]

{يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا كُتِبَ عَلَيْكُمُ الصِّيَامُ كَمَا كُتِبَ عَلَى الَّذِينَ مِن قَبْلِكُمْ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَتَّقُونَ} البقرة: 183


Transliteration: Ya ayyuha allatheena amanoo kutiba AAalaykumu alssiyamu kama kutiba AAala allatheena min qablikum laAAallakum tattaqoona

Ar-Razi, may Allah have mercy on him, said, ''Fasting bequeaths piety as it includes breaking lusts and oppressing the desires.'' [Mafâtîh Al-Ghayb (the keys of the unseen) 5/70] So Ramadan is the season for acceptance and forgiveness, of bounties and of being free from Hellfire. Fasting Ramadan is a shield, it leads to Paradise. The righteous ancestors used to strive hard in it by perfecting their deeds. They feared that their work would be rejected and not accepted. The wise man in this worldly life must take from his youth to his old age, his health to his sickness, his wealth to his poverty, his free time before his being busy, and his life before his death. He should strive, as hard as he can, to gain the good and perform righteous deeds. And everyone is facilitated to what he has been created for.

My fasting Muslim brother... my fasting Muslim sister

One of the grandest acts of worship, the most beneficial of the acts of closeness to the Lord of the creation, in the month of blessings: it is I'tikâf (seclusion in the mosque). Certainly, It is this Sunnah where the slave of Allah confines himself with his Creator, his Sustainer, with his Master and Maulâ (Patron, Supporter and Protector, etc.). He throws himself at the threshold of His doors to whisper to Him, to supplicate Him, to like His company, to obey Him and to subjugate before His Hands. I'tikâf, it is this Sunnah where the souls are purified, the spirit is sublimed and the heart becomes serene to the All-Knower of all that is hidden (or unseen). I'tikâf, it is this Sunnah where the slave is connected with his Creator, become pre-occupied by worshipping Him, cut all relations with the creation so that his soul be liberated and flutter to the One, the Judge; the Lord of the earth and heaven. It is this Sunnah which was observed by the best who trod on earth; the master of the offspring of Adnân, Muhammad, prayers and peace of Allah be upon him. Yes, indeed! He has maintained performing it despite his preoccupation; leaving for those who follow his lead, for those who pursue his method, for those who take his Sunnah as their way; he has left them a great lesson in the importance of devotion to Allah Almighty. He has left a great lesson in the importance of the liberation from the worldly burdens, occupations and works; the liberation from the lustrous diverting desires and from looking to the prime of life and its adornments. However, the one who rightly looks into this age with vision and insight, will see clearly and honestly the weak enthusiasm of some of the righteous concerning this matter (the i'tikaf). As soon as the last ten days loom on the horizon, and the most important of its work -I'tikaf- is highlighted that you hear the excuses from some of the good people - May Allah forgive us and them. This one gives the excuse of time constraints, that one of the heavy concerns and the third's excuse is the fatigue of the body. They did not know the fact that the owner of the knotted banner and commendable place -prayers and peace of Allah be upon him- was the keenest of people to honor this Sunnah. ''The Prophet used to observe I'tikaf in the last ten days of Ramadan till he died and then his wives used to observe I'tikaf after him.'' [Agreed upon]

«أن النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم كان يعتكف العشر الأواخر من رمضان حتى توفاه الله عز وجل، ثم اعتكف أزواجه من بعده» متفق عليه

''The Prophet used to perform I'tikaf every year in the month of Ramadan for ten days, and when it was the year of his death, he stayed in I'tikaf for twenty days.'' [Reported by Al-Bukhari 2044]

«كان النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم يعتكف في كل رمضان عشرة أيام، فلما كان العام الذي قبض فيه اعتكف عشرين يوما» رواه البخاري

Imam Az-Zuhari, may Allah have mercy on him, said, ''I wonder how people quit the I'tikaf. The Messenger of Allah, prayers and peace of Allah be upon him, used to do things and then quit them. However, he never quit the I'tikaf till he died.'' [The Islamic Jurisprudence and its Evidence by Az-Zuhayli, p 694] How needy we are -the fasting, the Imams and the reformers- to revive this Sunnah, to perform it, to recommend each other with it and to rightly observe it; just like the way the Messenger of this nation, prayers and peace of Allah be upon him, and his companions after him, may Allah be pleased with them, used to do it.

The meaning of I'tikaf

I'tikaf is an act of worship which is not like any other of the acts of worship. It means complete devotion to Allah the Almighty as well as the abandonment of this worldly life's pleasures and its lustrous desires; and how not? It is one of the most honorable acts of worship that establishes for the slave a connection to his Lord the Almighty. Whereas the excess of food, drink, talk, sleep and mingling with people rumbles the heart in every vale and dale and hinders it from its way to its Lord the Almighty, the I'tikaf helps in the reform of the heart and its integrity and it brings together its scattered pieces. Ibn Al-Qayyim, may Allah have mercy on him, said, ''The spirit and purpose of I'tikaf is the devotion of the heart to Allah Almighty alone, to be in seclusion with him, stopping being preoccupied by the creatures and to be preoccupied by Him alone, the Glorified and Exalted. Thus, loving Him, remembering Him and going forward to Him take the place of the worries and thoughts of the heart; it takes over them; preoccupation is by Him, thinking is of mentioning Him, pondering is about pleasing Him and getting closer to Him. Thus, the heart's pleasure in being in company with Allah replaces its pleasure in the company of people; which prepares it to the day of loneliness in the grave where it has no companion or no one to bring it pleasure but Him. Verily, this is the greatest purpose of I'tikaf.'' [pp 86-87]

Why performing I'tikaf?

The true I'tikaf is not that one which turns the mosques into dormitories; or a place for the visitors and callers. It is not a field for the unemployed, a place for banquets or circles for laughs and vain talks. The required I'tikaf is not the I'tikaf which when man finishes it, the cruelty of his heart increases, the tears of his eyes dry, and worries and confusion overwhelm him. The I'tikaf to which we were guided by the Prophet, prayers and peace of Allah be upon him, is not that one which is used by its performer as a means to visit the loved ones, the gathering of the friends, the strengthening of the social relationships and the exchange of good opinions. No and a thousand more no's. The I'tikaf; the real one is where the tears of the pious pour down, the hands are raised in supplication, and mercies are hoped for the performers of it. The commended I'tikaf is where the performer of it lives a life resembling that of the pure ancestors of this nation and its outstanding Imams. The true I'tikaf is where the Muslim strives not to waste a second of its period. Indeed, it is the one that fulfils the concept of self education to resemble the pious, the fearful and the Muhsinűn [the good-doers who perform good deeds totally for Allâh's sake only without any showing off or to gain praise or fame, etc., and in accordance with the Sunnah of Allâh's Messenger Muhammad.] Surely, the I'tikaf is where the slave of Allah accomplishes the pure sincerity to Allah Almighty, in his movements and his stills, where he follows his Prophet, prayers and peace of Allah be upon him, in word and deed.

The guidance of the Prophet, prayers and peace of Allah be upon him, in performing I'tikaf

The Prophet of this nation -prayers and peace of Allah be upon him- was the most complete of people in his guidance. He was the easiest in matters, the best in worshipping; why not? He was the most fearful of Allah and the most pious to Him - prayers and peace of Allah be upon him. It was from his guidance -prayers and peace of Allah be upon him- if he wanted to observe I'tikaf that he would not come out of his place of I'tikaf except for a need, otherwise, he continued staying in it. Aisha, may Allah be pleased with her, said, ''He does not enter into the house except for a need.'' [Agreed upon]

«وكان لا يدخل البيت إلا لحاجةٍ» متفق عليه

Food and drink were brought for him in his place of I'tikaf. He was very keen on the cleanliness of his noble body – prayers and peace of Allah be upon him – that he used to get his head out to the room of Aisha to comb it even if she was menstruating. [Al-Bukhari 2030 and Muslim, 297]

«كان رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم يخرج إلي رأسه من المسجد، وهو مجاور، فأغسله وأنا حائض» رواه البخاري ومسلم

Ibn Hajar said about this Hadith, ''This Hadith shows the permissibility of cleaning, putting on perfume, washing, shaving and haircutting as consequence of combing of the hair.'' [Al-Fath (the Conquest) p. 707] The bottom line is: the I'tikaf of the Prophet -prayers and peace of Allah be upon him- was characterized by easiness not hardship; he was heading for his Lord; most of his stay was in the mosque and he was seeking the night of the Decree. I sacrifice my father, my mother and all that I have for the sake of the Prophet - prayers and peace of Allah be upon him.

I'tikaf and the most important of its purposes

I'tikaf is that noble Sunnah, the orthodox rite which many people has gone away from, they have taken their distance and abandoned it that they have not become right-minded. I'tikaf is that educational; integrated; faithful and independent school which works on awakening a lot of life sides for the Muslim. It is this immortal Sunnah in this nation till Allah inherits the earth and all that above it. Here are some parts of its most important purposes and goals.

First: establishing worship to Allah Almighty

How beautiful it is that the performer of I'tikaf establishes his worshipping of Allah Almighty. He prepares his soul, spirit, time and everything he has to his Lord, Glorified and Exalted. He sincerely and honestly performs the I'tikaf hoping to attain the reward. His preoccupation and worry are to please his Lord; in prayers; sometimes in reciting and pondering on the Quran, other times in remembering, supplication, glorification and whispering to his Lord. Bearing in mind the words of Allah almighty, {Say (O Muhammad): ''Verily, my Salât (prayer), my sacrifice, my living, and my dying are for Allâh, the Lord of the 'Alamîn (mankind, jinn and all that exists). [162]. ''He has no partner. And of this I have been commanded, and I am the first of the Muslims.''} [Surat Al-An'âm 6:162-163]

{قُلْ إِنَّ صَلَاتِي وَنُسُكِي وَمَحْيَايَ وَمَمَاتِي لِلَّـهِ رَبِّ الْعَالَمِينَ ﴿١٦٢﴾ لَا شَرِيكَ لَهُ ۖ وَبِذَٰلِكَ أُمِرْتُ وَأَنَا أَوَّلُ الْمُسْلِمِينَ} الأنعام: 162-163

Transliteration: Qul innasalatee wanusukee wamahyaya wamamatee lillahi rabbi alAAalameena (162) La shareeka lahu wabithalika omirtu waana awwalu almuslimeena

Second: seeking Laylat Al-Qadr (the Night of the Decree)

The importance of this blessed Night comes from the striving of the Prophet, prayers and peace of Allah be upon him, in seeking it. His most sublime goal of I'tikaf was to seek the Night of the Decree. He performed I'tikaf in the first ten nights (of Ramadan) seeking it. Then he performed it in the middle ten nights; but it was revealed to him that it was in the last ten days. The way to guarantee observing this blessed night was the I'tikaf; so he used to perform I'tikaf in the last ten days till he died.

Third: staying at the mosque

If the one observing I'tikaf, were to have only the reward of staying at the mosque, it is sufficient, and how can it not be? It includes the familiarization of the souls, educating them and it makes them love this great place. It includes maximization of the status of this pure place. The mosque is the cradle of the major launch of this religion, which was witnessed by the history of humanity. However, civilizations have not known a place that affected the course of humanity as the Mosque of the Prophet -prayers and peace of Allah be upon- has done. Congratulations to you my brother in I'tikaf; the angels are sending blessings for you, they are asking for forgiveness for you as long as you are in your mosque.

Fourth: reducing the luxury and extravagance and keeping away from them

It is sufficient education to the performer of I'tikaf that he be pleased with the minimum sustenance to support life as his Prophet and beloved -prayers and peace of Allah be upon him- before him used to be pleased with. By Allah, he is the Imam of the ascetics and role models for the monotheists. A month, two months and three months would pass by and fire (of the oven) would not be kindled in his house. The family of Muhammad -prayers and peace of Allah be upon him- since he came to medina were never satiated by wheat food for three consecutive night till he died. So, the one observing I'tikaf should feel the importance of the complete devotion to Allah the Almighty and to be pleased with the very little, as if he were a stranger in this life.

Fifth: preventing the limbs of what Allah Almighty has forbidden

The bottom line of this matter is the saying of the Prophet, prayers and peace of Allah be upon him, ''no one of you would be a (true) believer until I am to him more beloved than his father, his son and all the people.'' [Narrated by al-Bukhari 15 and Muslim 44]

«لا يؤمن أحدكم حتى أكون أحب إليه من ولده ووالده والناس أجمعين» رواه البخاري ومسلم

The acts of disobedience are created by giving priority to the whims of the soul over loving what Allah has revealed and His Messenger, prayers and peace of Allah be upon him, has come with. The most important thing the performer of I'tikaf should be cautious against is his tongue in his mouth. ''A Muslim is he from whose tongue and hand the Muslims are safe.'' [Agreed upon]

«المسلم من سلم المسلمون من لسانه ويده» متفق عليه

If the performer of I'tikaf lets free his tongue and ignores it, it will take him every vale and dale, it will take him to the brink of an undetermined precipice ready to crumble down. Occupy your time, O my Brother in I'tikaf, in what benefits you. Sublime yourself of what does not concern you from word and deed. Avoid argument, hypocrisy and cursing. Al-Hassan Al-Basri was true when he said, ''one of the signs that Allah Almighty is turning away from the slave is to make his preoccupation in what does not concern him.'' [Jami' Al-'Ilűm wa Al-Hikam (the collective of Knowledge and Wisdom) p 124]

Sixth: the purification of the soul

The soul is naturally unstable and capricious. It is influenced by effects and blown away by desires and maladies. It takes its owner to evil if it is not put to its limits, reined by piety or framed into righteousness. Otherwise, it will call for every evil, lustrous desire and act of disobedience. I'tikaf is one of the most important things which help the Muslim to purify himself from the impurities of sins and acts of disobedience. Allah Almighty has said, {Indeed he succeeds who purifies his ownself (i.e. obeys and performs all that Allâh ordered, by following the true Faith of Islâmic Monotheism and by doing righteous good deeds). (9) And indeed he fails who corrupts his ownself (i.e. disobeys what Allâh has ordered by rejecting the true Faith of Islâmic Monotheism or by following polytheism or by doing every kind of evil wicked deeds).} [Surat Ash-Shams 91:9-10]

{قَدْ أَفْلَحَ مَن زَكَّاهَا ﴿٩﴾ وَقَدْ خَابَ مَن دَسَّاهَا} الشمس: 9-10

Transliteration: Qad aflaha man zakkaha (9) Waqad khaba man dassaha

The purposes are a lot, among which are

Seventh: reforming the heart and collecting its scattered pieces by coming toward his Lord and good communication with Him.

Eighth: it is a fertile land for the educators and Imams to refill the deficiency that came over them because of their preoccupation with the creation and to enhance the relationship with the Creator.

Ninth: increase the belief-relationship with Allah as well as the worshipping matters that purify the soul, make the person more capable of facing the trials of this worldly life and working to save others from them.

Things to be taken care of

My noble brother performing I'tikaf

There is no doubt that there are a lot of matters and issues that you should avoid though that most people do. Among which are:

First: excess of talking

The performer of I'tikaf should organize his talk and check out its meanings. May Allah have mercy on Al-Fârűq 'Umar the day he said, ''He who talks a lot, slips a lot; he who slips a lot sins a lot, and he who sins a lot, the Hellfire is more worthy of him.'' [Jami' Al-'Ilűm wa Al-Hikam (the collective of Knowledge and Wisdom) by Ibn Rajab, p 127]

The scrutinizer into the conditions of many performers of I'tikaf notices the loss of the vigor, the lack of wisdom in speech, the mixing between seriousness and joking, as well as falling into some of the forbidden, such as backbiting, gossiping and the like, except for those on whom my Lord have mercy. The one observing I'tikaf should accustom himself to abandon anything that violates his seclusion and not to get carried away unless for a need. One should take into account well manners and good intention. The performer of I'tikaf should pay attention that fasting from speaking is disliked if he thought that it is an act of worship or closeness, because of the Hadith, of the one who vowed to stand under the sun, fast and not to speak. However, the Prophet, prayers and peace of Allah be upon him, ordered him to take a shade, talk, sit and fast.

Second: the excess of food

Less food brings about the softness of the heart, the humbleness of the soul, the power of understanding and the weakness of desires and anger. It releases man from the shackles of laziness, sluggishness and lethargy into vigor, vitality and movement. True is the one who said, ''The stomach is the cause of all diseases. If it is full, the mind will sleep, the wisdom will be shushed and the limbs will quit worshipping.'' May Allah have mercy on 'Umar ibn Al-Khattab the day he said, ''He who eats a lot will not find the pleasure of mentioning Allah.'' [Al-Hulm (the dream) by ibn Abu Ad-Dunya, p 78] It is enough that a lot of food makes the body heavy, removes common sense, brings about sleep and weakens from worshipping. My brother performing I'tikaf, if you want your tears to pour in abundance, your heart to soften and to have pleasure in mentioning your Lord, you should be fair in division. Leave a third (of your stomach) for your food, a third for drinking and a third for breathing.

Third: excess in mixing

It is enough of an effect of mixing that it weakens the determination of the one performing I'tikaf; especially if his companions are mean and weak in their intention. Thus, he will have weak determination; only wanting to imitate them. In addition, mixing may lead to falling in joking; a lot of joking which undermines the importance of the place and time. On the same line, mixing leads to excessive food, talking, looking, and increasing the time of sleeping and other than that which contradict the essence of I'tikaf.

Finally...

The one observing I'tikaf should feel the importance of honoring the sacred things of Allah, the Almighty, in both place and time. He must beware of requesting pure perfections, which cause setbacks to the vigor and inhibition to the work. The one observing I'tikaf should strive and look forward to the high determination and the dignified spirit; to be able to exploit the nights of I'tikaf to transfers him to the required positivity.

May Allah bless me and you to be sincere in intention, and honest in word and deed.

Till we meet again in an upcoming season of the seasons of good and blessings, I commit your religion, your faithfulness and the last of your deed to Allah.

Assalâmu alaikum wa rahmat-u-allah wa barakâtuh, may peace and Allah's mercy and blessings be upon you.


Written by Salman ibn Yahya al-Maliki
Dar Al-Qasim


Slightly modified

 

EsinIslam Ramadan Team

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