I'Itikaf, Spiritual Retreat, in the Shafi'i Madzhab

بِسۡمِ ٱللهِ ٱلرَّحۡمَـٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ

The following is extracted and adapted from the classic manual of Shafi’i madzhab, “The Reliance of the Traveler & Tools of the Worshipper”, from Imam Shihab ad-Din Abu al-‘Abbas Ahmad ibn an-Naqib al-Miswri (r.a.), from the section on i’itikaf, spiritual retreat.

It is sunnah, at any time, to make spiritual retreat, i’itikaf, in the mosque.  I’itikaf is especially recommended in Ramadhan, particularly in the last ten days of it, seeking Laylat al-Qadr.  Indicating its excellence, the Prophet (s.a.w.)said, “He who prays on Laylat al-Qadr in faith and expectation of its reward will be forgiven his previous sins.”

Laylat al-Qadr could be on any night of Ramadhan, or any other month of the year, according to some.  It probably occurs within the last ten nights, more likely on the odd numbered ones, remembering that the night of an Islamic date comes before the day of that date, the 21st and 23rd of which are the likeliest, though most scholars hold it to be the 27th.  On Laylat al-Qadr, it is recommended to frequently repeat, “O Allah, You are Oft-Relenting and Love to Forgive, so Forgive me.”

At minimum, i’itikaf consists of staying, with the intention of i’itikaf, for more than the least amount of time that can be considered repose, which may be a moment); while being Muslim, sane, conscious, and free of major ritual impurity; in a mosque, even when this stay is no more than entering the periphery and then leaving by the same entrance, taraddud, though to merely pass through is insufficient.  Optimally, the i’itikaf should be accompanied by fasting, take place in the Friday congregational mosque because of the size of the group prayer therein, and so as not to have to leave to attend the Friday prayer, and be no less than a day.

If one vows to make i’itikaf in Masjid al-Haram in Makkah; Masjid al-Aqswa in Jerusalem; or Masjid an-Nabawi in Madina; then the vow cannot be fulfilled elsewhere.  I’itikaf in Masjid al-Haram fulfills a vow to make i’itikaf in either of the other two, al-Aqswa or an-Nabawi, but not vice versa.  I’itikaf in Masjid an-Nabawi fulfills a vow to do so in Masjid al-Aqswa, but not vice versa.  If one vows to make i’itikaf in any mosque besides these three, the vow can be fulfilled in any mosque since none, besides these three, is superior to any other.

If one vows to make i’itikaf for a consecutive period, then one is obligated to do so.  The consecutiveness of such a period is not nullified by leaving the mosque for something necessary such as eating, even when it is possible to do so in the mosque; drinking, provided it is not possible to do so in the mosque; using the lavatory; attending to an illness; the onset of a menstrual period, or similar things; though one’s spiritual retreat is interrupted by leaving the mosque to visit a sick person, perform a funeral prayer, or attend the Friday prayer.

Touching another with sexual desire is unlawful for someone in i’itikafI’itikaf is invalidated by sexual intercourse and by orgasm as a result of touching.  It is not permissible for a wife to make i’itikaf without her husband's permission.


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