Fatawa >Section Four:Iítikaf (Retiring for Worship)


Section Four:Iítikaf (Retiring for Worship)


1. Literally, Iítikaf means dwelling on something in a place. Technically, it means retiring to the mosque with the aim of busy engagement in worship.

Such type of worship has been sanctioned by the Holy Qurían, the Sunnah, and consensus.

It seems that, after rejecting the idea of monasticism and shunning life, deeming it both wrong and negative, Islam has put forward the enterprise of Iítikaf as a temporary and limited experience. It is a unique way to transporting the worshippers to the realm of spirituality with the aim of strengthening the bond between them and their Creator. Such worship would enable man to increase his provision in this world for the Hereafter.

Having had spiritual nourishment, the worshippers could now go back to their daily routine with an unwavering heart and a firm faith.

Basically, Iítikaf consists of three days of seclusion in a mosque adopting a specific regime, on top of which fast and sexual abstinence.

Requirements of Iítikaf

The requirements that should be fulfilled are:

2. a. Reason (aql).

3. b. Faith (iman).

4 c. Niyyah of qurbah at the outset, and throughout the period, of Iítikaf.

As we may know that niyyah of fast can be made overnight. Can this be the case in Iítikaf, i.e. by retiring to the mosque the night before with the intention of starting it at the start of the day?

A. Yes, it is, apparently, in order.

Most importantly, the worshipper should aim at making the niyyah of qurbah, not to covet more of supplication and prayer, although this is more superior.

5. d. Fasting the entire period of Iítikaf, i.e. three days, in that whomsoever is not fit for fast should not be fit for Iítikaf; for example, just as the fast by a sick or a travelling person cannot be sanctioned, Iítikaf by them cannot. However, there is a case for sanctioning the Iítikaf of the traveler who makes a nadhr to fast in their travel, as has already been discussed within the context of voluntary fast in the Chapter dedicated to Fasting the month of Ramadhan.

A worshipper observing Iítikaf can make niyyah for fasting any type of lawful during the period of Iítikaf That is, he can embark on compensatory fast, of the month of Ramadhan, kaffarah fast, and voluntary fast, provided that they fulfill the requirements of the latter; among these is that he must not have any liability of any obligatory type of fast, as has already been discussed. Therefore, whoever intends to take to Iítikaf outside the month of Ramadhan should first address such a liability, if any.

Just as it is obligatory that the fast of the person taking to Iítikaf be valid, so is it obligatory that the days meant for Iítikaf be valid, in that Iítikaf cannot be sanctioned on either Eidul Fitr or Eidul Adhha, for example.

Whatever detracts from fast should equally detract from Iítikaf and therefore renders it batil.

6. e. The period. The minimum is three days, i.e. with two nights in between. It could be more, e.g. three days and four nights, or even more than that; for example, the worshipper could make niyyah to start Iítikaf from Friday night till the sunset of Monday.

7. f. Iítikaf should be in a main mosque, for it is not known that Iítikaf in a small one can be accepted.

Such main mosque must be identifiable, in that it is not permissible to hold Iítikaf in two mosques, albeit they may be adjacent to one another, i.e. by spreading the period of Iítikaf on both mosques. Accordingly, if it becomes untenable to stay in one mosque to complete oneís Iítikaf, such Iítikaf will be batil.

The entire building of the mosque is treated as the place for practising Iítikaf. Even if the worshipper makes a niyyah to observe Iítikaf in a particular place within the building, this should not have any importance, in that he is free to move around the mosqueís building.

8. g. The worshipper should not venture out, unless for either lawful pursuit or any other business that the generality deem acceptable. An example of the first type, i.e. lawful pursuit, is going out to perform ghusl of janabah, for they are not allowed to stay in the mosque and perform ghusl there, even though this may be feasible. An example of the second type of business is going out to seek medical treatment in the event of falling sick.

Among the instances of going out for performing ghusl, other than that for janabah, is any of the other obligatory ghusls, e.g. that of touching the body of a dead person, regardless of whether or not it may be possible to perform such ghusls within the setting of the mosque itself.

Should the worshipper venture out without good/lawful reason, their Iítikaf cannot be taken seriously, and thus be rendered batil; the exception being the following:

a. Going out to visit/treat a patient.

b. Going out to take part in a funeral.

c. Going out not of oneís own will.

Venturing out without valid reason either through ignorance of the rules or inadvertently, the worshipper must, as a matter of ihtiyat, deem their Iítikaf null and void.

Whenever the worshipper is allowed to leave the mosque to attend a lawful business outside it, he should confine his travel to the shortest distance possible within the vicinity of the mosque. While en route, he should do his best to avoid sitting; should he find it necessary to sit, he must avoid sitting in a shaded place.

9. h. One should refrain from doing all the forbidden things mentioned in the forthcoming( paras. 10 to 15). Should he be in breach of any, his Iítikaf should be rendered batil.

It is recommended for the worshipper, as a matter of ihtiyat and obligation, to treat their Iítikaf batil, even if he commissioned any of these points either inadvertently or through ignorance of the rules.

Should such a breach occur on the third day of Iítikaf, it is desirable for the worshipper, as a matter of ihtiyat and obligation, to finish his Iítikaf in the hope that it might be accepted, although he should not take it for granted that it would.

What is required from the worshipper taking to Iítikaf?

Throughout the period of Iítikaf, the worshipper should avoid engaging in any of the following:

10. a. The company of women, be it through sexual intercourse or any other way that may lead to sexual enjoyment, such as petting.

11. b. Causing sexual ejaculation through masturbation of any kind.

12. c. Smelling perfume, such as rose oil.

13. d. Enjoying the smell of flowers, such as jasmine and rose.

14. e. Engaging in trade, barring things like tailoring, cooking, and weaving... etc.

Should the worshippers engage in buying and selling, their Iítikaf should be deemed null and void. Yet, any deal struck is sound and therefore enforceable.

15. f. Hypocritical indulgence in vain talk aimed at scoring a victory over the others, irrespective of whether or not the subject being debated was a valid one, and no matter whether or not it was religious. If the argument was an objective one aiming at proving a truth or putting right an erroneous conclusion the others have reached, there is no harm in engaging in such a showdown.

Rules of Iítikaf

16. In itself, Iítikaf is both a recommended and mustahab act of worship. It may become wajib as an eventuality, e.g. becoming wajib in fulfilment to a nadhr, pledge, or oath.

17. Once embarked upon, Iítikaf can be called off at any time, except in the following cases:

a. When Iítikaf is embarked on as part of nadhr to be taken up on particular days. Should Iítikaf be embarked on without specifying the days, the worshipper can call it off.

b. The lapse of two days on the worshipperís Iítikaf should warrant the completion of the period of Iítikaf, unless the worshipper has, at the outset, made a covenant with his Creator that he could call Iítikaf off whenever he wished on certain circumstances. If he even does so in the third day of Iítikaf, he could take it up at another time.

18. Should the Iítikaf of a worshipper be annulled for any reason, how should he go about making amends?

A. There is a number of issues here:

a. Should the Iítikaf be a mustahab one and is brought to a halt through a breach before the lapse of two days, no repeat shall be required.

b. Should the Iítikaf be a mustahab one and has been breached after the lapse of two days, a repeat, though not immediate, shall be required.

Should Iítikaf be undertaken in neither the right place nor the right time, such as not in a mosque or starting Iítikaf on Eid day or one or two days before that, it should be halted and no repeat is required.

c. If Iítikaf be embarked on specific days in fulfilment of a nadhr, a repeat shall be required. This is irrespective of whether the nadhr was confined to those days where Iítikaf became null, such as specifying Thursday, Friday, and Saturday within a ten-day period, or any other days within those ten days.

However, the repeat of Iítikaf by way of a specified nadhr has to be qadhaí because it would fall after the lapse of that specified period of time without the need to do it immediately. As for the second case, the repeat has to be undertaken before the end of the ten-day period, because it is in compliance with, and fulfilment of, the nadhr within its specified time, in that it is obligatory to discharge oneís responsibility in accordance with the period stipulated in the nadhr.

19. Should the worshippers flout the ban on sexual contact, they shall be liable to pay kaffarah, regardless of whether the breach took place during the day or night. However, no kaffarah shall be due if other banned things are commissioned, yet the worshippers must ask forgiveness.

Should the worshipper practicing Iítikaf have sexual contact with their wife during the day while either fasting Ramadhan, whether adaí or qadhaí, he shall be liable to pay two kaffarahs, one for falling foul of the rules of Iítikaf and the other for breaching the sanctity of fast.

The nature of kaffarah for breaking Iítikaf through sexual activity will be discussed in the Chapter on Kaffarah.

Should the worshipper concerned, who has fallen foul of the rules regulating Iítikaf - by indulging in sexual activity, be carrying out Iítikaf on particular days by way of nadhr, he shall be incurring a third kaffarah for violating the terms of nadhr.