The equilibrial sense of I'tikaaf

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Religion has been established to provide man with a sense of balance and perfection in his life. In the absence of religion, man loses his human bearings and cannot lead a healthy life. It is religion which encourages marriage, family life and prayer. The fact that we are being supervised and that one day we shall have to answer for our deeds leads us to behave properly and to think twice before committing foul deeds. Islam is a religion that advocates moderation and does not tolerate extremism. On one hand, everybody must earn his living lawfully, and on the other hand, he must observe religious obligations on a daily basis. Allah Ta`ala explicitly talk on the equilibrium issue in the Qur-aan «These are men of calibre who neither their trade nor their sale divert them from the Remembrance of Allah, nor from performing salaah, nor from giving the Zakaat.» (Surah 24 AN-NOOR, verse 37). Same as during the day, we have to take out time for Zikrullah and salaah, it is important that during the year, one must set a balance between worldly activities and spiritual needs. And that is why we note that the beloved prophet (Swalallahou `Alaihi Wasallam) used to observe I`tikaaf during the last ten days of Ramadhaan. Hazrat Aisha (RA) has reported that, after the demise of the prophet (PBUH), his wives used to observe the ten days of I`tikaaf. (Bukhari).

In fact, the beloved prophet Swalallahou `Alaihi Wasallam explains that when one is indulging in daily activities of working for this dunya, we are alike cows that eat sweet green grass of Spring season. Continuous working, even halaal, is continuous eating of grass! If we don’t equilibrate with stopping with dunya and give a few days to deen, then we would get sick as the cow get sick as a result of over eating.(Bukhari) As such we need to leave some time of the day for deen, some days of the month for deen and some time of the year for deen. Without this equilibrium, we would get sick. In fact tabligh saathies are the most equilibrated muslims of this era. They take out 2.5 hours daily, 3 days a month and 40 days a year. Sahabas used to give one day to the masjid and one day to their halaal earnings. Because they knew that continuous effort on halaal dunya earnings cause spiritual sickness and stagnancy as described by Rasouloullah SAW(Bukhari). Nontheless, 10 days in jamaat or in I`tikaaf, there is a great opportunity to equilibrate the scale between dunya and deen at the end of this 10 days of Ramadhaan.

عَنْ أَبِي سَعِيدٍ الْخُدْرِيِّ قَالَ قَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ إِنَّ أَكْثَرَ مَا أَخَافُ عَلَيْكُمْ مَا يُخْرِجُ اللَّهُ لَكُمْ مِنْ بَرَكَاتِ الْأَرْضِ قِيلَ وَمَا بَرَكَاتُ الْأَرْضِ قَالَ زَهْرَةُ الدُّنْيَا فَقَالَ لَهُ رَجُلٌ هَلْ يَأْتِي الْخَيْرُ بِالشَّرِّ فَصَمَتَ النَّبِيُّ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ حَتَّى ظَنَنَّا أَنَّهُ يُنْزَلُ عَلَيْهِ ثُمَّ جَعَلَ يَمْسَحُ عَنْ جَبِينِهِ فَقَالَ أَيْنَ السَّائِلُ قَالَ أَنَا قَالَ أَبُو سَعِيدٍ لَقَدْ حَمِدْنَاهُ حِينَ طَلَعَ ذَلِكَ قَالَ لَا يَأْتِي الْخَيْرُ إِلَّا بِالْخَيْرِ إِنَّ هَذَا الْمَالَ خَضِرَةٌ حُلْوَةٌ وَإِنَّ كُلَّ مَا أَنْبَتَ الرَّبِيعُ يَقْتُلُ حَبَطًا أَوْ يُلِمُّ إِلَّا آكِلَةَ الْخَضِرَةِ أَكَلَتْ حَتَّى إِذَا امْتَدَّتْ خَاصِرَتَاهَا اسْتَقْبَلَتْ الشَّمْسَ فَاجْتَرَّتْ وَثَلَطَتْ وَبَالَتْ ثُمَّ عَادَتْ فَأَكَلَتْ وَإِنَّ هَذَا الْمَالَ حُلْوَةٌ مَنْ أَخَذَهُ بِحَقِّهِ وَوَضَعَهُ فِي حَقِّهِ فَنِعْمَ الْمَعُونَةُ هُوَ وَمَنْ أَخَذَهُ بِغَيْرِ حَقِّهِ كَانَ كَالَّذِي يَأْكُلُ وَلَا يَشْبَعُ بخاري

For those who have chosen I`tikaaf, a few rules on that:

I`tikaaf means to sever relations with worldly activities, to devote oneself exclusively to ibaadat by withdrawing oneself to a masjid as regards men and to the Masjid ul Bait(in the house) as regards to women. There are three kinds of I`tikaaf: nafil, sunnat and waajib.

ð Nafil I`tikaaf can be observed with intention whenever one enters a masjid and can be ceased at any time without a problem. Fasting is not a condition for a nafil I`tikaaf which can be observed for a briefly, even a few minutes.

ð The second type of I`tikaaf is the sunnah I`tikaaf of the last ten days of Ramadan. This I`tikaaf requires us to be ritually clean, to fast, and to complete it until the end. That is why, when women have menses while they are fasting, they must cease their I`tikaaf(and later replace one day one night). Wives must have their husbands’ permission to observe I`tikaaf.

ð Waajib I`tikaaf is observed when one has promised to do so in return for a mannat made or for a favour granted.

ð The I`tikaaf of the last ten days of Ramadan is sunnah muakkadah alal kifaayah. Which means that, in a given locality, at least one man must observe it in a given masjid during the last ten days of Ramadhaan. Otherwise, if nobody observes it, the people of the locality will all be guilty.

Note that I`tikaaf is important in any locality where there is masjid. It is reported in Musannaf Abdur Razzaaq that I`tikaaf was performed by sahabas in Kufah.

عبد الرزاق عن الثوري عن علي بن الأرقم عن شداد بن الأزمع قال اعتكف رجل في المسجد في خيمة له فحصبه الناس قال فأرسلني الرجل إلى عبد الله بن مسعود فجاء عبد الله فطرد الناس وحسن ذلك مصنف عبد الرزاق

Hence to specify I`tikaaf to only harams(Makkah and Madinah) is not correct. Yes, I`tikaaf in harams is more rewarded than anywhere in the world.

VIRTUES OF I`TIKAAF

Ibn Majah has reported that whoever observes I`tikaaf, then he receive the reward as if he is continuously performing all good deeds that may exist. «Whoever observes one day’s I`tikaaf will be kept away from hellfire at a distance of three trench, each trunch being larger than the distance between the earth and the sky» (Tabrani). Other riwayats says that a person in i`tikaaf is continuously rewarded as if absorbed in ibaadah.

In fact, the virtue of I`tikaaf lies in the fact that one is cut off from worldly activities in order to devote oneself solely to one’s Creator, Allah Ta’ala. But still the greatest virtue and objective of I`tikaaf is to seek the night of LAILATUL QADR. In actual fact, the prophet (PBUH) performed I`tikaaf precisely to seek that night. That night carries a reward greater than 1000 months and therefore it is easy to understand why so many people used to perform I`tikaaf with him.

I`tikaaf has, as objective, the abandonment of worldly duties in order to devote onself to the service of Allah Ta’ala within the confines of the masjid. And it is advisable that each one of us increases his ibaadat during those last ten days. «Whenever the last ten days of Ramadan came, the prophet (PBUH) used to spend their nights in ibaadat, awaken his wives, and exert himself much and tighten his belt.» (Muslim). The words «tighten his belt» explain either the seriousness of the prophet (PBUH) in performing his ibaadat or in staying away from intimacy of his wives during those days.

THE PRINCIPLES OF I`TIKAAF

The primary conditions of sunnah or waajib I`tikaaf are that the person must be a Muslim, be ritually clean (from menses and Janaabah), be of sound mind. For men, I`tikaaf is accomplished in a masjid where the five daily prayers are performed. For ladies, a room in their home shall be considered as “Masjidul Bait” where they normally perform their prayers. The person may go out of the masjid or the masjidul bait only for these 3 reasons: to perform wudhu, to go to the toilet and to take the compulsory ritual bath. Any other iniative outside the masjid will endanger the acceptance of i`tikaaf. Hazrat Ayesha (RA) has explained that: «The mu’takif (person observing I`tikaaf) is required not to leave the masjid to pay a visit to the sick or to attend funeral prayers and burial, nor to have physical contact or intimate relations with his wife, nor to go out without any need..» (Abu Dawood). Therefore, one must stay within these limits and spend the time reading the Qur-aan, performing prayers, doing ta`leem, teaching others the deen or learning anything relating to Islam. One is allowed to speak of any aspect of deen, to sleep, to take one’s food and drink within the masjid, and one’s relatives may ask the mu`takif his needs.

Men who are mu’takifs will not attend work and women will not undertake household chores nor prepare food. However, if nobody else is available for cooking, then they are authorised to do so provided they return as soon as possible to their room of Masjidul Bait(Fatawa Mahmoodiyah). I`tikaaf is meant solely for devoting oneself to matters of Deen and nothing else. If needed, one may take a bath or even Jum`ah ghusl right after toilet.(Fatawa Mahmoodiyah). There should be no business dealings nor talk of worldly matters. However, purchase of food and drink is allowed if no other arrangement has been made. It is to be noted that those whose I`tikaaf has been annulled either by menses or by unnecessary and wilful departure from the masjid should replace one day’s and one night’s I`tikaaf(Shami). This can be done in Ramadan or afterwards.

TIME OF I`TIKAAF Sunnah I`tikaaf of last ten days starts at sunset on 21st of Ramadan and ends at the end of Ramadhaan. For those who started Ramadhaan on Monday night, then this year`s sunnah I`tikaaf will start at sunset on Sunday 26 th May Magrib.

We should seek LAILA TUL QADR. And whether mu’takifs or not, we are advised to remain awake during the five odd nights: 21st, 23rd, 25th, 27th and 29th nights of Ramadhaan.

Mufti Ayoob Mackoojee
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