Basic Guidelines for Women commencing I’tikaf
The last ten days of Ramadan hold immense significance for all Muslims around the world. The days and the nights hold immeasurable mercy and blessings of Allah SWT. The Layla Tul Qadr (the night of power); one of the bests nights of the whole year befalls in these last ten days. Hence, it is advisable for Muslims to increase their worships and connections with Allah SWT and seek His forgiveness in these blessed nights. It is mentioned that Hazrat Aisha (RA) reported:
“With the start of the last ten days of Ramadan, the Prophet (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam) used to tighten his waist belt (i.e. work harder) and used to pray all the night, and used to keep his family awake for the prayers.” (Bukhari)
A Muslim woman, be it a mother, daughter, or wife, is suppose to utilize these last days of the blessed month in the best possible manner. It may happen that the home maker is pre occupied with kitchen work in the beginning of Ramadan, with suhoor and iftaar preparations. However, she should and must make arrangements and take out time for uninterrupted worship in seclusion for some time or days if possible. The best form of concentrated worship to be carried out in the last 10 days is the I’tikaf.
I’tikaf is a form of worship, where an individual abandons all other worldly matters, associations, and attachments, and detaches himself from the world to attach himself to his Lord, and build up a connection with His Lord Almighty, worshipping with devotion in seclusion. This form of worship is prescribed and preferred in Ramadan, the month of blessings, mercy and forgiveness, and is one of the sunnahs of the Prophet PBUH.
Shaikh-ul-Islam Shamsuddeen Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyyah (Rahimahu Allah) describes I’tikaf in beautiful words in his book:
“He also prescribed I`tikaf for them, by which is intended that the heart is fully occupied with Allah, the Most High, concentrated upon Him alone, and cut off from preoccupation with the creation. Rather it is engrossed with Him alone, the One free of all defects, such that remembering Him, loving Him and turning to Him takes the place of all anxieties of the heart and its suggestions, such that he is able to overcome them. Thus all his concerns are for Him. His thoughts are all of remembrance of Him, and thinking of how to attain His Pleasure and what will cause nearness to Him. This leads him to feel contented with Allah instead of the people, so that prepares him for being at peace with Him alone on the day of loneliness in the grave, when there is no one else to give comfort, nor anyone to grant solace except Him. So this is the greater goal of I’tikaf.”
Two main kinds of I’tikafs are discussed here as per relevance of time and for females.
The Masnoon I’tikaf is the Sunnah I’tikaf performed in the last 10 days, for complete 10 days of Ramadan. It commences immediately after the sunset of the 20th day of Ramadan, and ends after the moon for Eid is sighted. The respective individual who intends to perform this type of I’tikaf must enter the assigned area of I’tikaf before the sunset of the 20th, in a way that the sunset takes place while the individual is in that area only. The individual must have an intention for the I’tikaf for a specific period, that is, for the complete last 10 days and fasting is a condition in this kind of I’tikaf.
Another form of I’tikaf, easier for women of the household is the Nafl I’tikaf, where the woman may make an intention and abort herself of all worldly activities to concentrate on worship in seclusion for any duration of time. This can be a minute, an hour, a few hours, or a few days. This I’tikaf can even commence without the intention of a specific, limited time, and can be performed at any time of the day. Fasting is not a pre requisite condition for this kind of I’tikaf.
The nafl I’tikaf can be terminated at any time, and there is no qada’ (make up) for such an I’tikaf.
It is advisable for individuals to make an intention for this kind of I’tikaf when entering the mosque for their obligatory or Nafl prayers, or when sitting for dua after their salah, or when sitting for any kind of worship that may prolong to some significant duration of time.
Basic Rules of I’tikaf for Women
It is advisable that a married woman takes permission from her husband to sit in I’tikaf and it is encouraged for the husbands to allow their wives to sit and help and assist in making the necessary arrangements. Once a woman sits in I’tikaf with her husband’s permission, the husband cannot force her to break her I’tikaf.
2. Place of I’tikaf
When making an intention of sitting in I’tikaf, a woman must assign a specific place of seclusion for her worships. It is recommended to choose the same place where she usually performs her obligatory prayers, or other worships. If there is no such specific place then she may choose any distinct area in the house. There is no restriction over the size of the place she chooses for the purpose, however it should be enough for her to eat, sleep, and worship without difficulty. Some women have children they need to take care of or other necessary household affairs and so in such a condition, they can make the intention of the whole house as the place of their I’tikaf.
It is necessary for the female to remain in the area assigned for I’tikaf, for her I’tikaf to be valid. She may only come out of the assigned place for some exceptional conditions or for some necessities, as mentioned below:
- To answer the call of nature.
- To make the obligatory purification bath. (in case of being in the state of impurity)
- To take a shower if feeling heat; however the habitual shower without any reason is not allowed.
- If no one else is available, she is allowed to cook or bring food to the place of I’tikaf or clean the dishes, only when no other person is available to do the mentioned chore.
- To change her place of I’tikaf if there is severe danger to life or property.
Toilets or places of ablution do not come under the assigned I’tikaf place, even if they fall under the assigned room, or are adjacent, nearby. Therefore, going to these places for any reasons other the necessity (the call of nature), will terminate the I’tikaf.
If a woman has household affairs to take care of, or needs to look after her children, she is allowed to give instructions from her place of I’tikaf only. She can nurse and feed her child if needed so. However, she is not allowed to answer doorbells etc if not necessary.
3. Things to do during I’tikaf
All unnecessary activities and worldly pursuits are to be abandoned during the I’tikaf. One must solely focus on individual worships in the form of their obligatory and non obligatory prayers, recitation of the Quran, making dhikr, and tasbeehats. The thoughts and actions should be concentrated over developing a strong relationship with Allah SWT. One can also listen to spiritual and religious talks for the purpose. Remaining completely silent is a makruh (disapproved and disliked) act. However, foul talk, lies or backbiting are prohibited during I’tikaf.
What terminates the I’tikaf?
- To leave the assigned I’tikaf place for anything other than the above cited situations.
- To remain outside the assigned I’tikaf place without any necessity or other than the above sited situations.
- Breaking of the fast. Any act that breaks the fast, for example eating, drinking or menstrual cycle, terminates the I’tikaf because fasting is a condition for a masnoon I’tikaf to be valid.
- Having intentional sexual intimacy like hugging, kissing, cuddling, which results in emissions, or sexual intercourse, either carried out by mistake or intentionally.
- For women, the menstrual cycle will terminate their masnoon I’tikaf. Therefore, woman expecting their menstrual cycle in the last 10 days of Ramadan are advised to make an intention for the nafl fast instead of the masnoon
When can Masnoon I’tikaf be terminated?
The masnoon I’tikaf can be terminated in some severe situations. For females, it can be terminated if she is needed somewhere where the life, honor, or property of someone depends upon her presence or help, or if her own life is in danger.
However, it is recommended to seek guidance from a teacher, or an expertise of the religious sciences if the situation necessitates the termination of I’tikaf or not.
Qada’ (make up) of the Masnoon I’tikaf
If the masnoon I’tikaf is terminated for some reason before its completion, that is, before the Eid moon is sighted, it becomes obligatory on the relevant person to make qada’ (make up) for the terminated I’tikaf by performing I’tikaf for one day only, either in the same Ramadan, or after Ramadan, in the normal days with a nafl fast, or in the next Ramadan. This 1-day make up will cover up for the complete 10 days of the I’tikaf.
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