By Femi Abbas
The world’s greatest teacher, that ever live, Prophet Muhammad (SAW) will never cease to be a teacher of teachers even in death. It was he who first recognized communication as the greatest means of fulfilling temporal desire as well as attaining spiritual satisfaction. Thus, he recommended it to the Muslim Ummah.
One of the features of Ramadan fast is I’tikaf which simply means seclusion. It comes up during the last ten days of the sacred month.
Its purpose is to completely abstain from all sinful acts and enhance one’s spiritual standing. I’tikaf or self seclusion is adopted by any Muslim who wants to get closer to the Almighty Allah through the spiritual realm.
With I’tikaf, a Muslim can attain inner composure and equanimity while he is absorbed in eternal reality. For the eight years of fasting (624-632 CE that he spent in his latter period in Madinah, Prophet Muhammad (SAW) regularly observed I’tikaf in the last ten days of every Ramadan.
And, after him, his wives and succeeding companions adhered to that tradition as a means of purifying the heart and attaining peace of the mind.
I’tikaf is mostly done in the Mosque but it can also be done in a house especially by women if the house is clean and free of disturbance. While in I’tikaf the Mu’takif or recluse is expected to observe all the five daily prayers and other Nawafil (supererogatory genuflections). He is also to engage in the recitation of the Qur’an and the glorification of Allah. He seeks forgiveness and shows gratitude to the Creator and Protector of the universe for all the countable and uncountable good things of life with which he has been endowed.
While in I’tikaf, one is not expected to move around beyond the vicinity of the Mosque or house in which he is secluded. Foods and drinks are brought to him by his wife or relations. He goes to the toilet and takes bath as necessary. But he is not to go about in vehicles during the time of I’tikaf except by necessity.
I’tikaf is Sunnah (voluntary) and not obligatory for anybody. Only those who have the time and the means can go into it. Daily paid workers who must provide for their families and salary earners who are not on leave are advised not to go into I’tikaf. Wives and children must not suffer from lack of domestic provisions just because the family bread winner has gone into I’tikaf. And, women are not permitted to go into I’tikaf leaving their husbands and children at home. That can only happen with the permission of the husband.
But where a woman is unmarried or is old and has no responsibility of providing for the husband or children, she can go into I’tikaf.
People in I’tikaf can cook their foods and wash their dresses. All these must however have been taken along from home. A recluse is not supposed to break the I’tikaf by going to the market in search of needed provisions. A sick person is not expected to go into I’tikaf. But if a person suddenly falls sick while in I’tikaf, it is necessary for him to break the I’tikaf and go to the hospital. He may return into I’tikaf if he is well.
Also, if there is any emergency in the matrimonial home of the recluse or even in the neighbourhood, which requires an urgent attention, the recluse must break the I’tikaf and attend to such emergency promptly.
I’tikaf does not extend to the day of ‘Idul Fitr. It must be terminated as soon as Ramadan fast ends. A woman’s I’tikaf terminates automatically with the commencement of her menstruation. We pray Allah to accept our I‘tikaf as an act of ‘Ibadah Amin.
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