The meaning of Itikaf is to seclude oneself in the Masjid with the express niyyah (intention) of Itikaf.
Allah Ta’ala has indeed in His perfect wisdom created humanity in a unique way. He has made it such that from time to time His creation needs a rest. We rest at night to give our bodies time to recover. Birds retire to their nests, horses to their stables, bees to their hives etc. However there comes a time when more intensive rest or a retreat is required. Sometimes due to a person’s physical condition he is admitted into the intensive care unit allowing his body time to recover.
Likewise the soul also needs to recover from the hustle and bustle of the world, the spiritual pollution caused by evil elements of society, the rat race of wanting, desiring and acquiring more of this world and the distractions that has diverted our mind, heart and soul from the remembrance of Allah Ta’ala and His Beloved Messenger Muhammad (peace be upon him).
The Intensive Care Unit(ICU) for the soul is the Masjid and Itikaf is the feature within this ICU to allow the soul to not only recover but be spiritually rejuvenated! Itikaf is indeed a Spiritual Retreat!
Inside each and every human being, a constant battle rages. It is like a battle between two tigers. One tiger is a manifestation of evil. It is full of hate, lust, and greed. It’s fangs drip with bitterness and strife. The other tiger is an embodiment of good. It is full of love, compassion, and honesty. He never betrays his brother.
These two tigers are constantly at war. Which tiger is going to win the battle?
The answer is quite obvious…. Whichever one you feed.
Our soul is being bombarded by forces of good and evil. We need to feed it good so that it overpowers the evil….and Itikaf is indeed an excellent opportunity to achieve this by feeding and nourishing the soul with good deeds.
Since the life of the transient world keeps us busy for the whole year in studies, work, social functions, business, traveling and other such things that often causes us to be negligent of our souls and the next life, we may sometimes think that these things are the sole purpose in life and thus, we end up forgetting our true goal – Allah (Glory and Greatness be to Him). Thus, it is for this reason that I’tikaf is referred to as
“The spring of life in a world struck with the drought of negligence of Allah (Glory and Greatness be to Him).”
I’tikaf indeed rejuvenates the soul and gives a fresh breath to life. In addition, we can once again find ourselves and our Lord Allah Ta’ala and spiritually return back to Him before we are forced to return back to Him when our soul separates from our body (death).
The period of I’tikaf is the best time to force one’s self to sit and think and reflect on the self and the world around; the period of the I’tikaf is the best time to forget the worries of the transient world and to return to nurturing the soul and linking oneself with the Creator of the soul; the period of the I’tikaf is the best time to return back to Allah (Glory and Greatness be to Him) in true repentance for our sins committed through the year and to give our souls the spiritual strength desperately needed to live a spiritual and pure life in this challenging world.
The Messenger of Allah ( Sallallâhu 'alayhi wasallam) observed, I'tikâf and the Muslims have on the whole adhered to it. It has become a regular feature of the month of Ramadhân and a confirmed practice with the devout and the faithful.
Hazrat Ayesha (Radiallâhu anha) relates that "Rasulullâh. Sallallâhu 'alayhi wasallam regularly observed I'tikâf during the last ten days of Ramadhân till the end of his life. After him, his wives maintained the tradition." (Hadith-Bukhari)
It is related by Hazrat Abû Huraira (Radiallâhu anhu) that
"Rasulullâh Sallallâhu 'alayhi wasallam observed I'tikâf for ten days every year in the month of Ramadhân. In the year he passed away he observed it for twenty days." (Hadith-Bukhari)
The Messenger of Allah (blessings of Allah be upon him s family) is reported to have said:
"The persons who secludes himself (in the Masjid in I'tikaf) in true faith and hope (for the reward of Allah), all of his previous sins shall be forgiven." (Kanzul Ummal, Hadith 24007)
3 TYPES OF ITIKAF
WAAJIB (Compulsory) Itikaf.
This Itikaf becomes compulsory when a person makes it obligatory upon himself. An example of this is, when a person makes a vow to Allah that if Allah fulfills a certain wish of his, he will undertake to perform so many days Itikaf. In this case the moment his wish is fulfilled, Itikaf becomes compulsory. A person may just make unconditional vow whereby he makes Itikaf Waajib upon himself for certain number of days. This becomes a Waajib duty on from that moment onward.
This was the general practice of Rasulullah (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam) and it means to seclude oneself inside the Masjid for the last ten days of Ramadhan.
There is no special time or specific number of days for Nafil Itikaf. A person may make niyyah for any number of days at any time, even for his whole life
Before engaging into Itikaf it is highly recommended to learn the rules relating to this important act of ibadah (worship). Please to do consult your local Ulama (Islamic Scholars) for more guidance.
For a detailed article on Itikaf and its rules please visit :