The Blessings of I‘tikaf; a Spiritual Seclusion
Tasnim News Agency © by Mohammad Hassanzadeh
I‘tikaf is more than just a religious ritual; it is a time to assess ourselves and our relationship with our Creator, says Kubra Rizvi
lthough Islam focuses on the individual and his relation to God, it also emphasises the individual’s role in society; thus, asceticism has been discouraged. However, similar to other religious traditions, a form of spiritual seclusion or retreat for a few days is found in Islam. In fact, even those with no religious inclination undertake various forms of spiritual retreats. There are many benefits for such a retreat, especially with respect to one’s spirituality and relation to God. The Prophet Muhammad(s) said, “The person who secludes himself (in the masjid in I‘tikaf) in true faith and hope (for the reward of God), all of his previous sins shall be forgiven.” The Holy Prophet used to perform I‘tikaf for a duration of three days in the first ten days, second ten days, and last ten days of the month of Ramadan.
One of the other most recommended times for I‘tikaf is during the ‘white nights’ of Rajab, the night of the 13th, 14th and 15th. According to Shi‘a jurists, I‘tikaf should be done in one of the four masjids: Masjid al-Haram, Masjid alNabi, Masjid al-Kufa and Masjid al-Basra; however, it could be done in any other mosque with the hope of acceptance. The literal definition of the word I‘tikaf is to stay in a particular place. In Islam, it refers to staying in the masjid for a certain time period in the worship of God while maintaining certain conditions. I‘tikaf has no specific form like salat (prayer); for example, one can stand, sit, sleep, or supplicate. Of course, what is important is that one refrains from what is prohibited. Firstly, one must make the intention of performing I‘tikaf for the purpose of seeking nearness to God and no other reason. The minimum number of days in I‘tikaf according to Shi‘a jurists is three days. Although I‘tikaf is a recommended
act, it can become obligatory if a person makes an oath to God to perform it, or upon completing one day when it becomes obligatory to complete the three days. Another type of intention would be if it is performed on behalf of deceased relatives. The person in I‘tikaf needs to fast while he is in I‘tikaf, and he or she must have permission if required for performing I‘tikaf. The minimum duration for the state of It‘ikaf is three complete days from sunrise of the first day until sunset on the third day. Therefore, it lasts for a minimum of 3 full days and 2 nights. Obviously, any act which nullifies the fast would be prohibited. Furthermore, applying and smelling perfume with the intention of deriving pleasure is not allowed during I‘tikaf. Worldly discussions and arguments are not allowed, nor is it permitted to leave the masjid except for reasons which are allowed in necessity. Even though it is