The mother of the believers, Aisha (Allah be pleased with her) said, “The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) would always perform ‘itikaf in the last ten days of Ramadan until Allah Most High took his soul (Allah bless him and give him peace).” [Bukhari]
The scholar al-Zahidi said, “It is strange how the people have left performing the ‘itikaf. The Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace) performed some actions and left them, but he never left the ‘itikaf – from the time he entered Medina to the moment he died (Allah bless him and give him peace).”
The ‘itikaf is entering the masjid with the intention to remain there for worship. The masjid must be one where the group prayer is offered for the five obligatory prayers.
The ‘itikaf is permissible if one is free from a state of major ritual impurity, menstruation, and lochia (post-natal bleeding).
What Are the Types of ‘Itikaf?
1. Necessary (wajib): the vowed ’itikaf
The vowed ’itikaf is an oath to make ‘itikaf for a specified time. It must be at least an entire day and night. One is obliged to fast during it in order for the vowed ‘itikaf to count.
2. Emphasized sunna: the last ten days and nights of Ramadan
Performing ‘itikaf in the last ten days and nights of Ramadan is a strongly emphasized communal sunna. It is blameworthy upon the community as a whole to not perform the ‘itikaf. If some people perform the ‘itikaf and others do not, then they raise the blameworthiness from the entire community.
The scholars do not stipulate that one must fast during the emphasized sunna ‘itikaf because it is performed during Ramadan and the assumption is that the person will be fasting anyway.
3. Recommended: any times other than the aforementioned
For the recommended ‘itikaf, its minimum duration is a moment, even if it’s when one passes through the mosque. Fasting is not a condition for the recommended ’itikaf. One merely intends to perform ‘itikaf for one’s duration in the mosque.
Can A Woman Perform ‘Itikaf?
Yes, a woman can perform ‘itikaf.
A woman’s ‘itikaf is best performed in the prayer area of her house. The prayer area is the place where she has designated to pray her obligatory and nafl prayers.
It is disliked for a woman to perform ’itikaf in the masjid, especially when her safety is a concern.
It is not valid for men to perform ‘itikaf in other than the masjid.
Can One Leave the Masjid During ‘Itikaf?
Leaving the masjid without an excuse ends the ‘itikaf. This ruling also applies to a woman performing ‘itikaf in the prayer area of her house. If one does leave because of an excuse, the excuse must be due to a shariah-compliant need, or to use the restroom if unable to use the masjid facilities, or out of necessity.
What Does A Person Do During ‘Itikaf?
One is encouraged to busy oneself with worship and anything beneficial, such as praying, reciting the Qur’an, making much dhikr, speaking of the good, and gaining beneficial knowledge.
A person performing ‘itikaf can eat, drink, sleep, talk, and do everything that is normally permissible, except for sexual intercourse, kissing, and touching with desire.
Allah Most High says, “And do not approach your women while you are performing the spiritual retreat in the mosques.” [al-Baqara, v. 187] Engaging in these acts end the ‘itikaf whether inside or outside of the masjid. For example, if one left the masjid for a shariah-compliant need and fell into sexual intercourse with one’s spouse, then this act ends the ‘itikaf. Engaging in these actions end the ‘itikaf, regardless of whether one did them during the day or the night.
During the ‘itikaf, it is disliked to believe that remaining silent is a form of worship. It is also disliked to engage in work or trade.
May Allah accept any act of worship that we perform for His sake.