I’tikaf, The Spiritual Retreat 2

Time Period (Length) of the I’tikaf

The person performing I’tikaf must stay in this state for a minimum of three complete days from sunrise of the first day until the sunset of the third day (for example if he starts I’tikaf on Monday at Fajr time, he must complete it until Thursday at Maghrib time). The first two days of I’tikaf are recommended and if a person wishes, he may leave after this period and end his I’tikaf, however if he completes two full days of I’tikaf in the Masjid (until the Maghrib of the second day), then it becomes obligatory upon him to continue his fast on the third day and to stay in the Masjid for the remaining period of his I’tikaf – meaning till the time of Maghrib of the third day.

Similarly, if a person goes into I’tikaf for 5 days, the 6th day becomes obligatory; and if he goes into I’tikaf for 8 days then the 9th day becomes obligatory and so on… .Thus, I’tikaf is for 3 full days and 2 nights which are in between these days and this period must be maintained. In this ruling, just as that of the daily Salat, the meaning of three complete days means three periods of Fajr to Maghrib.

Time of I’tikaf

Anytime in which fasting is permissible is an opportune time for I’tikaf and the state of I’tikaf does not have a specific time related to it. Of course the “White Days” which are the 13th, 14th and 15th of the lunar month and the last ten days of the Month of Ramadhan are the best times for this spiritual exercise. Therefore, one cannot make I’tikaf on the day of ‘Eid since it is forbidden to fast on that day and similarly, he cannot start I’tikaf two days before ‘Eid.

It has been mentioned that the Prophet of Islam (blessings of Allah be upon him and his family) used to perform I’tikaf in the Month of Ramadhan in the first 10 days (three days), the second 10 days (three days) and then in the last ten days (three days) as well.

Permission of the Guardian

As mentioned previously in passing, I’tikaf performed without the permission of his guardian or any person whose rights would be taken away if the person was to go in a state of I’tikaf is not correct. Thus, it is for this reason that the wife must also take her husband’s permission if her I’tikaf would infringe on martial rights with his wife. Similarly, if one’s parents are not happy or are concerned for their son or daughter and do not permit him to make I’tikaf, then the child is not permitted to go forth for this (recommended) act of worship.

The Intention (Niyyah) for I’tikaf

The intention for I’tikaf is of three main types. The most common form is the recommended I’tikaf, however it can also become obligatory (wajib) if a person makes an oath or promise to Allah is for the fulfillment of something (and in that oath he had promised Allah is that he would perform I’tikaf if his prayer is fulfilled).

The third intention which can be made for I’tikaf is that it is being done on behalf of someone else – similar to how people perform Hajj for their deceased relatives or make up missed prayers of parents who have passed away or others. Therefore, it is necessary for the correctness of I’tikaf to specify the intention and the type that one wants to perform.

Time and Place of the Intention of the I’tikaf and the Place of I’tikaf

The intention must be made from the beginning of the time of Fajr on the first day and it is not permissible to delay it until the end of the time of Fajr (just before sunrise), however if just before the rising of the sun of Fajr, one makes his intention, this will still be sufficient. At the time of making intention for I’tikaf, the person must be inside the Masjid in which he/she wishes to perform I’tikaf, however if at the beginning time of Fajr he leaves to redo his Wudhu or for another important task, then he is still able to do his intention (upon returning).

The place of I’tikaf must be the Masjid and therefore, performing I’tikaf in any place other than a Masjid such as a room or hall used for Salat, a Musalla (specific building which is made only for Jam’at Salat and other places like this (which are not proper Masajid) is not correct. The preferential order of where I’tikaf should be performed is: Masjidul Haram, Masjid an-Nabi (blessings of Allah be upon him and his family), Masjid Kufa and then the Masjid of Basrah – after these, then any other “Central” and “Congregational” Masjid is permissible to perform the I’tikaf in.

By stating this, it clearly means that in places like the traditonal Hussainiyah or Imambargah and other places such as this, it is not correct to perform the I’tikaf– this act is limited to the four mentioned Masajid and then the Central Masjid of a city. Based on this ruling, although the scholars permit I’tikafin these other buildings (which are not proper Masjid), however the specific rulings of I’tikaf would not hold in other such venues. If one was to perform I’tikaf in any place other than the “Central Masjid” then he would need to do so with the intention that this act would bring him closer to Allah (Glory and Greatness be to Him) and that he is hoping for a reward in this act (of being done outside of a proper Masjid as per the Islamic legislations).

Therefore, if there are three or four Masjid in one city, since they are not of the four Masjid which I’tikaf can be performed in (with that special intention), the people may use all of them for the program of I’tikaf. The meaning of the Central or Congregational Masjid is that which a majority of the people frequent (other than this Masjid would be those referred to with names such as the Masjid of the Bazar, the Masjid of a School, the Masjid inside a factory, etc…) and it is not permissible to perform the I’tikaf in these places.

The courtyards and entrances of the Masjid are not considered as a part of the Masjid except in the case that they are recognized and known (by others) to be an actual part of the Masjid. If a person doubts if the place in which he is, is actually a Masjid or not, then according to the rules, he is not permitted to perform I’tikaf there until he ascertains and has certainty that the place where he is truly is a part of the Masjid.

Prohibited Acts During I’tikaf

The prohibited acts during the state of I’tikaf include: Applying perfume and smelling perfume with the intention of deriving pleasure. This act makes I’tikaf null and void and is also a sin.

Discussions and arguments both in relation to the world and the faith. This means that a person argues with another to prove that he is better or smarter or that he knows more, etc… However, if a person must argue or debate to uphold the truth and destroy falsehood, it is permissible - rather this is the best form of worship and servitude to Allah (Glory and Greatness be to Him) during this noble state. Buying and selling anything. Deriving pleasure from the opposite sex in any way – holding hands, hugging, kissing, etc… is completely forbidden in the state of I’tikaf. If any of these things are performed, one’s I’tikaf becomes void and in certain cases a Kaffarah or penitence must be paid out (which will be discussed below).


Seeing as how the person in I’tikaf is also in a state of fasting, all of those things which make the fast void must not be performed which include: eating, drinking, sexual intercourse, masturbation (which is a sin at all times), ascribing lies to Allah (Glory and Greatness be to Him), the Noble Prophet (blessings of Allah be upon him and his family) or the A’immah (prayers be upon all of them), swallowing thick dust (and smoking as an extension), immersing one’s head in water (such as in a swimming pool), remaining in a state of ritual impurity until the time of Fajr, and vomiting. If any of these are done, then one must make up the fast in those ways mentioned in the books of Legal Rulings.

In addition, the rights of others who are in the Masajid must also be observed. The respect and honor of the Masjid must be observed and one should try to stay in a state of Wudhu the entire period. Also, the cleanliness of the Masjid must also be maintained. Those in this state should also try and keep away from talking about issues of the transient world (talking about anything other than Allah) are some of the things which have been mentioned in the books which highlight the spiritual traits of this state.

Continue in the next article: ( I’tikaf, The Spiritual Retreat 3 )