I’tikaf and its Virtues
by Musa Bukhari
"My servant does not come closer to Me with anything more beloved to Me than what I have obligated upon him.” [Bukhari]
I’tikaf is when a person makes their heart devout in worship, secluding themselves from worldly desires. This takes place in the mosque, an ideal environment to gain inner peace and focus. I’tikaf is conventionally carried out in the last ten days of Ramadan, with the intention of seeking out Laylat ul Qadr and developing and strengthening one’s bond with Allah (swt).
Aishah (RA) reported that the Prophet (PBUH): "Used to perform i'tikaf in the last ten days of Ramadan until Allah the Mighty & Majestic, took him." [Bukhari & Muslim]
Listed below are some virtues that come along with I’tikaf, benefiting the believer in terms of faith and self-development.
1. Seeking Laylat ul Qadr
Abu Sa’īd al-Khudri said: the Messenger of Allah (saw) observed i’tikāf in the first ten days of Ramaḍān; he then observed i’tikāf in the middle ten days staying inside a Turkish tent with a mat hanging at its door. He took hold of that mat and placed it in the nook of the tent. He then put his head out and talked with people and they came near him, and he said: “I observed I’tikāf in the first ten days in order to seek that night (i.e., Laylat ul Qadr). I then observed i’tikāf in the middle ten days. Then (an angel) was sent to me and I was told that this night is among the last ten. Whoever amongst you desires to observe I’tikāf should do so; and the people observed it along with him.” [Sahih Muslim]
Performing I’tikaf is the perfect opportunity to immerse ourselves in worship, seeking Laylat ul Qadr. We can often find our minds swaying or being distracted from worship with other thoughts or responsibilities. Nevertheless, I’tikaf creates a platform, separating us from worldly desires and thoughts, and we find ourselves worshipping peacefully and unconditionally. This in turn, allows us to reap the fruits of the worship and therefore, making the most of the potential Laylat ul Qadr days.
Ibn Abbas (ra) reported that the Prophet (saw) said, (about him who engages in i’tikaf), “that he is safe from sin and he also gets that reward which everyone (outside i’tikaf) gets for pious deeds.” [Ibn Majah]
Rewards in Ramadan are already multiplied by 70 or 100 and therefore, taking time out to perform I’tikaf can enable someone to get maximum benefits out of this blessed month. Being a recommended act from the Prophet (saw) means there’s already reward performing I’tikaf in itself. Also, the time spent away from our busy lives helps us to immerse ourselves in Qur’an recitation and performing plenty of nawwafil prayers. I’tikaf therefore encourages you to develop and prosper in your acts of worship, building up more and more rewards.
Ali Ibn Hussain (RA) narrates from his father that Prophet (PBUH) said: “He who observes the ten days I’tikaf during Ramadhan will obtain the reward of two Hajj & two Umrah.” [Bayhaqi]
Imam Ibn Qayyim (rh) mentioned about how you feel when performing I’tikaf: "This leads him to feel contented with Allah instead of the people, which 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 Itikaf"
Being alone in solitude allows us to attain the goals mentioned by Ibn Qayyim (rh). The virtues of being in solitude is that you feel more of a closeness to Allah (swt), a tighter bond with no people, objects or unnecessary thoughts hindering your devotion to the Divine.
Ibn Al-Qayyim (rh) also comments that “In the heart are disorders that cannot be remedied except by responding to Allah. In it is a desolate feeling that cannot be removed except by intimacy with Him solitude.” Solitude allows you to rewind and re-energise your mind. It helps you to rediscover yourself, assess your spiritual condition and build upon it. And just how Ibn Qayyim (rh) mentions, solitude gives an insight to the believer of the grave and being lonely in this situation.
“O you who believe! Fear Allah and keep your duty to Him. And let every person look to what he has sent forth for tomorrow, and fear Allah. Verily, Allah is All-Aware of what you do” [al-Hashr 59:18].
I’tikaf is a great opportunity to reflect. Reflection allows you to look back at your life, reviewing your strengths, weaknesses and how you can improve going forward. Reflecting also allows you to set goals and aspirations, looking at what you have already achieved and how you can escalate from that platform. Spiritually, this is uplifting. As believers, we are encouraged to have a vision so we are constantly motivated and focused in life with lofty aims.
Reflection also helps improve our mental health. It allows us to take a step out from our busy lives, calming our minds down. This soothes our minds and scaffolds the concentration given to worship at this time.
“Those who remember Allah (always, and in prayers) standing, sitting, and lying down on their sides, and think deeply about the creation of the heavens and the earth, (saying): Our Lord! You have not created (all) this without purpose, glory to You! (Exalted are You above all that they associate with You as partners). Give us salvation from the torment of the Fire” [Aal ‘Imraan 3:191]
5. Protection from Hell
“Whosoever for Allah’s sake did even one days I'tikaf, Allah would keep him away from Jahannam by trenches.” [Tabarani]
The month of Ramadan itself allows us to take up great opportunities of seeking forgiveness from Allah (swt). Performing I’tikaf is a bonus in this aspect. Not only did our Prophet (PBUH) mention about being protected from Hell if I’tikaf is carried out, but it allows you to self-reflect and ponder on your previous actions. Through this, you becomes alert of the necessity of seeking forgiveness. As humans, it is common to make mistakes even unintentionally. I’tikaf allows you to assess your actions and constantly seek protection from Hell.
May Allah allow us to observe these sacred acts of ibadah with ease and if we are unable may He facilitate a way for us to seek His pleasure and raise our stations in jannah and protect us from the Fire, ameen.