It was reported by Aishah that The Prophet (pbuh) would strive to do good deeds daring the last ten days of Ramadan more than at any other time of the year. (Muslim)
The last ten clays of Ramadan bring freedom from the Fire of Hell according to the Prophet's Ramadan Khutbah quoted earlier in the book. It is an opportunity for us to increase in our ibadah to avail ourselves of the last precious days of Ramadan, which also contain the most important night: Laylat al-Qadr.
One of the special features of Ramadan is La)/lat al-Qadr or the Night of the Decree. It is the best of all the nights in the year as the following surah explains:
Truly We sent it down on the Night of Power.
And what will convey to you what the Night of Power is?
The Night of Power is better than a thousand months.
In it the angels and the Ruh descend by their Lord�s authority
with every ordinance.
It is Peace � until the coming of the dawn.
This was the night chosen by Allah for the revelation of His Divine Word to mankind. This was the night in which mankind was gifted with the Key to Success in this world and the Next, a light to guide us for all time. This was the night in which We were given the means to achieve peace and harmony both within ourselves and among ourselves. If we begin to consider the consequences of the events of that night, we see that they have had a more far-reaching effect than we can imagine.
And what will convey to you what the Night of Power is?
This night is better than a thousand months, and as people have pointed out, a thousand months is longer than the average lifespan. So this is a night that is better than an entire life. Many thousands of months, indeed years, have passed without producing a comparable event that resulted in changes like those brought about as a consequence of the events of that night.
We should spend the night in sincere devotion and ibadah seeking the pleasure of Allah. Allah has sent down angels, the purest of creatures, to pray with us and for us and to grace us with their presence if we choose to avail ourselves of this opportunity.
As an ummah, We tend to underestimate the value and importance of this night. After all, if we were asked by our employer to work through the night for financial gain, We would endeavour to please them in order to gain promotion in this life. Yet we overlook the fact that our Creator has offered us forgiveness, peace and elevation to the highest ranks for a night of pure ibadah and yet we sleep! Perhaps we have become used to material and immediate rewards, and so matters of spirit may be too esoteric for us to be concerned with.
Anas said, �The month of Ramadan began and the Messenger said, �This month has come to you and in it there is a night which is better than a thousand months. Whoever is forbidden it has heenforhidden ail good, and no one isforbidden its good except for someone who is deprived.� (lbn Majah)
The Messenger said:
Search for the night of Qadr in the odd nights of the last ten days of Ramadan. (Bukhari)
According to this hadith Laylat al-Qadr could fall on the 21st, 23rd, 25th, 27th or 29th nights of Ramadan. (It is important to remember that the night of the 2lst, for example, will precede the fast of the 21st day). The exact date of the Night of Power is known only to Allah and there are reasons for keeping the exact date a secret. It is a means of separating the fervent worshippers from those who are less devoted. Those who are keen to earn the blessings of this night and are aware of its splendour will perform ibadah on each of the possible dates, while those less devoted will do so on one night only.
There are many ways to perform ibadah on this night in order to earn the pleasure of?llah. One can perform na? salah as Well as sannah salah such as salat at-Tahajjad. While not performing salah, one can make dhihr or read the Qur�an or make sincere and humble du�a. A�ishah asked the Messenger 45$, �What should I pray on Laylat al-Qadr?� He replied, �Pray like this:
O Allah, You indeed are pardoning and You love to pardon, so pardon me." (Ahmad)
Abu Huraira narrated that the Messenger of Allah said:
Whoever stands the night [in prayer] on the Night of the Decree with faith, and seeking rewards [from Allah], his previous wrong actions will be forgiven. (Bukhari and Muslim)
There are three different types of VtihafObligatory (wajib).
This is when a person takes an oath or makes a pledge that he will go into retreat for a speci?ed number of days, for example, on acceptance of a particular da�a. If Allah ful?ls his pledge, he must then go into retreat.
Umar said to the messemger of Allah Messenger (if Allah, I had made a vow to stay one night in the inviolable mosque (as i'tikaf), and the Prophet said to him, Fulfill your vows.
This is Whenever a person enters the mosque and makes the intention of a short retreat. According to the Malikis and others, it should be at the least for a night and a day, but according to some schools it can be for even less than a day or for as long as one remains in the mosque.Sunnah.
This is the highly recommended i �tilecy� of the last ten days of Ramadan. It is a sunnah that at least one person in a locality goes into retreat.
Narrated A�ishah that, �The Prophet used to practice i �tikaf in the last ten days of Ramadan until he died and then his wives used to practice i�tihaf after him. � (Bukhari)
The Prophet would retire to the mosque during the last ten days of Ramadan to temporarily disassociate himself from worldly affairs and to immerse himself totally in the remembrance of Allah. This seclusion, known as i�tileaf; is still practised by many Muslims.
to isolate oneself, to devote oneself diligently to a task and to go into retreat. According to the shari�ah, it means to stay in a mosque with the intention of worshipping Allah and drawing closer to Him. Ptiieaf can be performed in any mosque in which the daily salah are held in congregation but if it is done over a period in which jiirritfah occurs then it must be done in a Jarna�ah mosque, since if the Jumm'ah occurred during the i'tikaf the person who was not in a _Iarnu�ah mosque would have to leave it to jumu'ah and this would invalidate his i�tiha)f. But about this, Abu I-Ianifah had a different view allowing that. In the Hanafi school, women do Vtiletj at home, where they can retreat by staying in one room or the corner of a room reserved for prayer. In the other schools of fiqh, they do i'tikaf in the mosque as the wives of the Prophet used to do.
Retreat is an effective means for spiritual development since the devotee temporarily dissociates himself from worldly affairs, spending his day and night immersed in the remembrance of Allah, constantly praying, supplicating, reciting the Glorious Qur�an and meditating. He longs for and yearns to be near his Lord. This highly charged spiritual state of the devotee is graphically captured in Zad al-Ma�ad:
�The heart becomes attached to Allah, exalted is He, and one attains inner composure and equanimity. Preoccapation with the mimdarze things of fife ceases and absorption in the eternai reality takes its place, and the state is reached in which all fears, hopes aria� apprehensions are superseded by anxiety for Him and every thought and feeling is blended with the eagerness to gain His nearness. Devotion to the Almighty is inculcated instead of devotion to the world and thus it becomes the provision for the grave in which there will be rteitherfriend rior helper. This is the lofty purpose I�tikaf�. (Zad al-Ma�ad)
The Messenger of Allah described two benefits of retreat. He said about the person in I�tikaf
He is prorected from committing wrong actions and he gets the rewards of good deeds like someone who does all of them. (lbn Majah)
The ?rst bene?t of spiritual retreat is that by being secluded all day and night in the clean environment of the mosque, one has no opportunity to do wrong. Secondly, one is rewarded as if one had done deeds one is unable to perform, like visiting the sick, attending funerals, and serving parents and family. So not only is reward incurred for those good deeds done but also for those not done.
Conditions of I'tikaf
- Fasting is a prerequisite for I'tikaf in Ramadan but not for any of the other types, except in the Maliki madhhab in which it is a prerequisite.
- Women must be free from menstrual or post-natal bleeding in order to sit in I'tikaf If the menstruation occurs While in Vtihaf they come out of it until it is over, when, if possible, they can return.
- Before sitting in I'tikaf in Ramadan, it is important to make the intention to do so. This must be made before the sunset of the 19th day. I'tikaf will end on the sunset of the last day of Ramadan even though only nine days may have elapsed, but in the Maliki school one remains in I'tikaf until it is time to go to the Eid prayer.
It is permissible to leave the mosque during I'tikaf for the following reasons:
- To attend the call of nature, do wudu or ghusl. To go to a jami�ah mosque for salat al-jumu�ah if it is not held in the same mosque according to the Hani? school but not the other schools, which consider that the I'tikaf should in that case only be held in a jami�ah mosque.
- If there is fear or danger of the mosque collapsing, one can leave the mosque to go to another mosque.
- To obtain food if there is no other means to do so.
The following things nullify I'tikaf?
- Leaving the mosque: if one is doing obligatory or sunnah Vtikqf one cannot leave the mosque except for the legitimate reasons given above. However, if one is doing a voluntary Vrikqf then it is permissible to leave the mosque whenever one likes because there is no set limit on how long one is staying in the mosque, except in the Maliki school which considers the least period to be a night and a day.
- Sexual intercourse, intentionally or unintentionally, even without ejaculation, as mentioned in the Qur�an (2:187) Other sexual activities that cause arousal are absolutely forbidden during it but nevertheless do not nullify 1' �tileqf according to the Hana? madhhab but contrary to the others.
- Becoming unconscious or insane nulli?es I'tikaf?
- Being detained because of a debt
- Becoming involved in a major wrong action such as slandering a Mluslim�s sexual virtue, but about this there is a difference of opinion.
- Menstruation or bleeding after giving birth for Women according to the Hana? school. According to the Malikis the menstruating woman is under the rule of the I'tikaf until the end of her menstruation when, if possible, she returns to I'tikaf
Undesirable Things in I'tikaf
- Silence becomes undesirable if one believes that it is an act of worship in itself. But if one does not think that, but remains silent because he is absorbed in dhikr and meditation then silence is not undesirable. In fact controlling the tongue and keeping quiet can be good actions.
- Bringing merchandise into the mosque for sale is unacceptable at any time. However, according to a very few of the 'ulama it is permissible to make a contract of sale in the mosque, but making other kinds of business agreements is not permissible.
It is important at this point to differentiate between worldly pleasures, from which I'tikaf offers a retreat, and worldly responsibilities. One must ensure before entering i�tileaf that for its duration all dependants are Well-provided for and that arrangements are made for their well- being.
The ?nal ten days of Ramadan are a time to earn great blessings and reward if we wish. While some in every community will sit in I'tikaf others should do as much as they are able to make the fullest use of this unique time.