By Najma Bibi Noor Mahomed
The month of Ramadan brings an array of activities for Muslims to increase their spirituality. One such opportunity to gain closeness to our Creator is the spiritual retreat, called the I’tikaf. Muslims from across the globe participate in I’tikaf. It is a practice which sees observant Muslims secluded in s masjid for a number of days, devoting oneself to ibadah.
This usually happens during the last 10 days of Ramadan. Men would make the intention, bid farewell to their loved ones and call the masjid their home as they seek spiritual closeness.
The Fiqh of I`tikaf
I`tikaf means ‘remaining’ somewhere.
The technical usage of the term is:
a) for men: to remain in the mosque, with an intention,
b) for women: to remain in their designated prayer area (musalla) at home, with intention, or at the mosque (though it is normally somewhat disliked for them to do so).
According to Shaykh Faraz Rabbani, the I`tikaf is a means of great reward. The benefits of I’tikaf are immense, as the person committing to this form of retreat has:
–submitted their entire person to the worship of Allah Most High;
– seeks closeness;
– distances themselves from the worldly distractions that prevent one from proximity;
– drowning their entire time in actual or effective worship, for the basis of its legislation is to wait from one prayer time to the next prayer in congregation;
– it also makes the one in retreat resemble the angels who do not disobey the command of Allah and do what they are commanded, while glorifying Allah by night and day without tiring…” [1.212]
There are two types of I’tikaf, the sunnah itekaf and the nafl itekaf.
Why do we perform itekaf in the last ten days?
Mualima Gadija Allie explains that the last ten days has been earmarked for the sunnah I’tikaf because Laylatul Qadr can be found in any of the last 10 nights of Ramadan, which are the most blessed nights of the year.
“The intention as to why people sit in these 10 days is so that people can be in a state of ibadah when the night is found,” Mualima explained.
Should women also perform I’tikaf?
I’tikaf is practised by both males and females. Males usually make their way to the masjid to perform I’tikaf whereas woman usually use a space cordoned off in the home.
“Woman are encouraged to perform I’tikaf in the home. What woman would do is make the intention of nafl I’tikaf and which means they would take out sections of their day and prepare a section in the home as their I’tikaf space,” Mualima Gadija points out.
How can a woman create a balance of running a household and gain spiritual closeness?
“Before we step into the last 10 days we need to intensify our ibadah and we can do that by getting our cleaning and chores out of the way. Women can make extra meals and freeze them so that they can focus more on Ibadah and spend less time in the kitchen,” Mualima advised.