What is itikaf in islam?
As a word itikaf means; to stay somewhere, wait, be patient, to not part from a certain location. Itikaf as a fiqh term; for a Muslim who has reached the age of discernment to wait in a masjid while fasting and distancing themselves from sexual engagement and everything to do with this. Itikaf is one of the nafilah ibadahs.
The minimum amount of time for the itikaf is one day and one night, the amount of time it is best to stay for is ten days. Staying in itikaf for a month is considered mandub. The most virtuous itikaf is the itikaf that is carried out in the last ten days of Ramadhan- Laylatu’l Qadr is amongst these days. In this case the person who is in itikaf returns home after they have prayed the Eid prayer.
The person who is going to carry out the itikaf enters the masjid they will do itikaf in before the sun goes down, they will leave the next day after the sun has set. When they enter the masjid before dawn after the sun has set, according to a trustworthy view of the mazhab, the itikaf will be considered sahih.
There are four rukuns of the itikaf:
1) The person who is doing the itikaf: Every Muslim who is at the age of discernment, even if they are a child or woman, may do the itikaf.
2) The place the itikaf is carried out: This is the masjid. If the person wants to carry out the itikaf for a period of over a week they are required to do so in a masjid in where the Jum’a salat is prayed.
3) Fasting: Without fasting the itikaf will not be considered sahih.
4) To continue the ibadah: The person who is doing the itikaf must continue to carry out the ibadah such as praying, reading the Qur’an, remember Allah and to make dua for matters concerning the dunya and akhirah.
It is considered makruh for the person who is in itikaf to avoid carrying out the actions stated above and for them to overly occupy themselves with the following; to visit the sick in the masjid, to go up the minaret to read the adhan, to occupy themselves with Sharia studies, to engage themselves with writing-even if it is the Mushaf. Because the aim of the itikaf is not to gain a lot of thawab but it is to purify the heart. It is considered makruh for the person who is doing the itikaf to not bring food, drink, clothings etc they will need along with them when they are staying at the masjid.
The itikaf will be broken when the person does not fast or breaks the fast, when they engage in sexual activity, when they carry out actions that lead to sexual activity, when they leave the masjid when it is not necessary, for them to drink something that makes them drunk. When the itikaf is broken, it is required to start again. If the person is very sick, so much so that they can not stay at the masjid, they may leave, when they recover they may return to the masjid and continue from where they left off. It is considered wajib for the person who is doing the itikaf to leave the itikaf when one of their parents become sick or when they die. In this situation the itikaf will be invalid, they will have to carry out the qaza to make up for it later.
If the itikaf coincides with the time of eid, it is considered mandub to stay in itikaf on the night of eid.
The person who is doing the itikaf may go out to buy something they need at the closest place where it is sold, they may say salam to someone that comes next to them, they may put on pleasant scents. They may go out to bathe to become clean when they are in a state of janabah, to get the hair cut, or to cut their nails.