term I’tikaaf is the practice of secluding oneself in a mosque with the
intention of winning the favour of Allah.
The prophet of Islam, Muhammed (PBUH), used to make I’tikaaf for 10 days in the Ramadan, and the year he passed away, he did it for 20 days.
I’tikaaf can be wajib (obligatory) or Sunnah (recommended).
Oustass Muhammad Taha Ceesay, an Islamic preacher, in an interview with The Point newspaper, said the Sunnah I’tikaaf is the one which a Muslim observes voluntarily in order to receive a reward from Allah.
The best time to do such I’tikaaf, the preacher said, is the last 10 days of Ramadan, though there is no specific period for Sunnah I’tikaaf. It is done by simply staying in a mosque with the intention of I’tikaaf, whether for a short or long period.
“The person doing I’tikaaf can suspend and terminate it whenever he wishes,” Oustass Ceesay said. “He can terminate it even before the period he initially resolved to stay for.”
On obligatory I’tikaaf, the preacher said is the one which a person makes compulsory on himself by making a vow.
He cited a hadith in which Umar (RA) said to Prophet Muhammed (PBUH) that he had made a vow to stay one night in the inviolable mosque as I’tikaaf and the prophet told him: “Fulfill your vow.’’
Oustass Ceesay said obligatory I’tikaaf has to be made at the time and the place the person has defined in the vow.
He explained that I’tikaaf must be made in a mosque, any mosque where five daily prayers are performed in congregation though some scholars hold that it can be done only in a mosque where Friday prayer is observed.
Ceesay said there is no specific period of the day for I’tikaaf, it can be done during the day or night.
“As soon as a person sits in the mosque with the intention of I’tikaaf, his I’tikaaf will begin and will continue until he leaves the mosque,” he said.
He further explained that if anyone intends to make I’tikaaf during the last 10 days of Ramadan, then the person should enter the mosque with the intention of I’tikaaf before sunset of the 19th day and remain there until after the sunset of the last day of Ramadan.
“If the moon is sighted on the 29th day of Ramadan, I’tikaaf of 10 days is completed nevertheless,” he said.
Ceesay said a person doing I’tikaaf must devout his/her time to remembrance of Allah, recitation of the Quran and observing voluntary prayers.
“One should repeat words of glorification and praise of Allah, and send blessing of Allah on his messenger,” he said, adding that a person in I’tikaaf is permitted to eat, drink and sleep in the mosque or leave his place to answer the call of nature.
The preacher said women too can do I’tikaaf as the prophet together with his wives used to perform I’tikaaf during the last 10 days of Ramadan.
However, the start of the monthly period of bleeding or postnatal bleeding of a woman nullifies her I’tikaaf.
Generally, Oustass Ceesay said leaving the mosque without an urgent need for it, even for a short period, renders an I’tikaaf null and void.
While in I’tikaaf, one should also avoid things of no concern and keep away from unnecessary talks and idle gossip with others.
“This does not mean that one should remain completely silent,” he clarified.