In today’s world, it’s very difficult for people, even Muslims to cry when reflecting on their sins, but it’s easy for them to cry when their favourite teams or clubs lose. Unfortunately, we cry for the wrong reason, and of course, this is a reflection of the state of our mind. If you can’t cry, make yourself cry before Allah, it’s not hypocrisy; it’s a way of breaking the hardness of your heart, said the Prophet (peace be upon him). This cry, is not public one, it comes in private, between you and your Lord, Allah.
Dear brethren, how often do you cry? The opportunity has come, once again, to cry before Allah by seeking for His forgiveness, mercy and emancipation from hell during i’tikaf (seclusion in the mosque) in the last ten days of Ramadan…
WHAT IS I’TIKAF?
I’tikaf in Arabic language means to compel oneself to do something or to stay in a place for something. According to Shariah, it means to stay in seclusion, in a mosque, in a certain specified manner with the intention of worship to Allah. I’tikaf is mentioned in the glorious Qur’an and is recognized as an established practice of Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him).
“…And We commanded Ibrahim (Abraham) and Isma’eel (Ishmael) that they should purify My House (the Ka’bah at Makkah) for those who are circumambulating it, or staying (I’tikaaf), or bowing or prostrating themselves (there, in prayer)” Q. 2: 125.
In another verse, Allah says, “Do not touch them (i.e your wives, sexually) while you are observing I’tikaf in the mosque.”Qur’an 2: 187.
“The mosque” mentioned above has been argued by many scholars. Some said it’s any mosque, another group said it’s only in three mosques (Mosque in Mecca, Ka’ bah; Mosque in Medina, An-Nabawi; and Mosque in Jerusalem, Al-Aqsa). But the correct explanation of the verse is any Mosque in which five prayers are held in congregation. Apart from having facilities like rest and bath rooms, it must be a mosque where solatul jumah (Friday prayer) is being established because the intention behind seclusion should be strictly for worship and becoming closer to Allah.
SAYINGS OF THE PROPHET
There are many sayings of the Prophet (peace be upon him) on i’tikaf, such as the narration of Aishah (may Allah be pleased with her) who said that the Prophet (peace be upon him) used to observe i’tikaf during the last ten days of Ramadan until Allah took his soul, then his wives observed i’tikaf after he was gone. This goes to show that I’tikaf is enjoined upon both man and woman. Allah’s Messenger and his wives all did i’tikaf.
ACTIVITIES DURING I’TIKAF
A person, both male and female, doing i’tikaf should busy himself/herself with a lot of act of worship such as reading the Qur’an, remembrance of Allah, voluntary prayers, among others. Acts like backbiting, gossiping and all vain and forbidden utterances should be avoided during I’tikaf.
The mother of faithful, Asha said, “The established conduct for a person in I’tikaf is that he doesn’t visit the sick, or attend a funeral prayer, he doesn’t have intercourse with his wife or embrace her in desire, he doesn’t go out of the mosque except in case of an unavoidable necessity. I’tikaf is done only when a person is fasting and only in a mosque where the Friday prayer is prayed.”
It’s however painful to see some places of I’tikaf becoming halls of discussion, story-telling, arguments, quarrels, going out of the mosque to sit in its surroundings without necessity; entering places of I’tikaf reserved for women, mixing and exchanging letters with them. All these are actions that contradict the teachings of Allah’s Messenger.
However, there is nothing wrong with visiting a person in I’tikaf, especially visits by members of his or her family. Several sayings of the Prophet (peace be upon him) supported this but the main objective of seclusion is to witness Lailatul-qadr (Night of Majesty) in prayer and devotion.
I’tikaf starts when Ramadan is 20 and ends immediately the new moon of Shawwal (tenth month of Islamic calendar) is sighted.
WHAT IS LAILATUL QADR
Allah has blessed the Muslims with Night of Majesty, the most virtuous of the year during Ramadan. It’s a night that is better than thousand months and any action therein. For instance, reciting the Qur’an, is better than acting for one thousand months which do not contain the night of qadr.
Scholars hold different opinions as to the night which is the night of qadr but some say it’s 21, some say 23 and others say it’s between 25, 27, 29 night of Ramadan respectively. The most popular opinion which is based on the tradition of Prophet Muhammad is 27th night of Ramadan. Despite different views, scholars unanimously agreed that the Night of Majesty falls within odd number, 21, 23, 25, 27 and 29.
EARNING ALLAH’S REWARDS
– Give special focus for I’tikaf (seclusion) in a mosque during the last ten days of Ramadan.
– Endeavour to seek for Lailatul Qadri (Night of Majesty) during the night of the last ten days of Ramadan.
– If you have the means, it will be the wisest idea to perform umrah (lesser pilgrimage) to Mecca particularly during the last ten days.
– Remember to recite Qunut (special supplication) during witr (an extra odd number prayer).
– Memorize the supplication for the Night of Majesty, Allahumma Innaka Afuwwun tuhibbul ‘afwa fa’ fu annee (Oh Allah! You are forgiving; you love forgiveness; so forgive me.).
– Be informed about happenings around the world by listening to news in both print and electronic media.
– Create time to visit the sick, prisoners and the grave (particularly before I’tikaf), as this will remind you of Allah’s favour on you.
– A fasting person must safeguard his chastity and lover his gaze from all that Allah has forbidden regarding the opposite sex and adultery.