I’tikaf, The Spiritual Retreat 3

Leaving the Masjid During the Period of I’tikaf

It is not permissible to leave the Masjid during the state of I’tikaf except for a reason and necessity which would (a) be a logical and reasonable excuse; (b) be deemed so according to the general population and (c) the religious rules of Islam dictate.

Thus, in the following examples, it would be permitted to leave the Masjid while in the state of I’tikaf: going to a doctor in cases of emergency, going to the bathroom (as these are logical reasons), visiting someone who is very sick and taking part in the burial rites of a person IF the person who has passed away was a close relation to the person performing I’tikaf (which would be a necessity deemed so by the general consensus and population), or to perform a Ghusl(if needed) or to do Wudhu (which are necessities which the religion dictates).

Leaving the Masjid for classes (school) or for study sessions with a study partner or for Tabligh and propagation of the faith and other things such as this is not permissible as they do not fall into any of the three categories mentioned above (since when a person makes the intention to perform I’tikaf he has also taken into consideration that he will not be attending school and has made the necessary arrangements beforehand. Similarly, the one engaged in I’tikaf knows from beforehand that if his ‘field of work’ is Tabligh, that he would be disconnecting himself from that ‘job’ for this period).

If a person performs his I’tikaf in a place in which another person was already in I’tikaf (but had left for a brief moment) however he has left his prayer mat or other signs that he was coming back to that spot, then the second person must leave that area, otherwise he would be considered as a usurper of that piece of land where he is performing his I’tikaf. His I’tikafwould be correct if he continues to stay there however he would have committed a sin.

If a person in I’tikaf has a wet dream and needs to perform a Ghusl, however it is not possible to do this in the Masjid (or its compound), it is obviously obligatory upon him to leave the Masjid and his I’tikaf will be considered null and void. The same rule applies to sisters who are not able to stay inside the Masjid due to their monthly cycle since they are not permitted to stay inside a Masjid, they too must immediately leave the Masjid and for them too, their I’tikaf is null and void.

According to obligatory precaution, if a person leaves the Masjid for a necessity, he must choose the shortest and closest route to leave and return by and it is obligatory that he does not keep himself out of the Masjid for more than the needed time period. It is also obligatory that he does not sit underneath an area which shades him. Rather, according to precaution, it is not permitted for him to sit outside of the Masjid except for cases of necessity.

If the person performing I’tikaf leaves the Masjid in order to complete a necessity upon him, and the time period which he leaves the Masjid for is a very long one such as that people would doubt or not consider him being in a state of I’tikaf, then his I’tikaf would be null and void.

Penitence for Breaking the Rules of the I’tikaf

In some instances, if a person does one of the things which breaks his state of I’tikaf, he must offer a penitence. Some examples of this are mentioned as follows:

If a person has sexual relations during the period of I’tikaf and I’tikaf was wajib for him to perform (due to a promise, oath, etc… which he made), then he must make up the I’tikaf by performing it properly at a later date. If a person performs one of the other things which makes I’tikaf void and his I’tikaf was obligatory (due to a promise, oath, etc… which he made), then he must finish the time remaining of I’tikaf and redo it later on.

If I’tikaf was not obligatory and if a person does something on the first day of I’tikaf then he must immediately come out of this state, however if it is on the third day then he must finish the period remaining. If a person performs one of the other things which makes I’tikaf void and his I’tikaf was a recommended one and this happens after the second day, then he must redo the I’tikaf later on, however if it is before the end of the second day, then he has no responsibility on him to redo it.

Frequently Asked Questions on I’tikaf

There is a close relationship to I’tikaf and the ihram for Hajj. As was seen, there are certain things forbidden while in the ihram of Hajj which are also forbidden for the one in the state of I’tikaf. This point should be kept in mind especially in the spiritual aspect of this great act of worship. The intention for this act should be pronounced verbally just so one is focused on this act and whom he is doing it for. Some scholars have even stated that the intention should be renewed every day.

Although it is discouraged to sleep in a Masjid according to the verdict of the scholars, there are ‘exceptions to this rule’ – one being in the state of I’tikaf as this itself is an act of worship which has been legislated by Allah (Glory and Greatness be to Him) to be performed only in a Masjid. To sleep at other times is discouraged. A person can change his clothes during the period of I’tikaf if the need arises (they become dirty, Najis, etc…) and there is no problem in this, however to take a bath, especially with soap which may be perfumed (done with the intention of clinging to the transient world) must be avoided – except in the case of necessity where one must take a bath.

People can come and visit the Masjid during the period of I’tikaf and there is even no problem if friends or family come to bring the person in I’tikaf food, drink (to break his fast with) or things which they may need and are a dire necessity during this three day period. Food is usually prepared by the community members or the leaders of the Masjid for those in the state of I’tikaf as the people in I’tikaf are not permitted to leave the Masjid (except for the conditions previously stated). The person who plans to enter this spiritual retreat can also bring things with him when he begins his three day sojourn if he so desires.

In regards to the breaking of the fast and eating before the fast starts, one cannot leave the Masjid to procure this. Therefore, he should have either brought things with him or the Masjid organizers should be so kind so as to provide this to those in the state of worship for this three day period. If there is a kitchen in the Masjid, those in the worship of Allah (Glory and Greatness be to Him) may use it to make their own food. The three day period should be spent in contemplation of the faith of Islam, recitation of the Noble Quran and supplications and anything else which can draw a person closer to Allah (Glory and Greatness be to Him).

If a person has missed prayers, he should try and make them up in this special period. If he has a clean slate of prayers, then he should try and recite the recommended prayers. Other than this, all other spiritual acts of nearness to Allah (Glory and Greatness be to Him) should be maintained.

However at the same time, one should not do things which keep him busy with the transient world that he has turned away from for these three days – meaning that reading things which would keep his mind busy with work, school, etc… should be refrained from. In addition, all other things which are commonly used to “kill time” should be completely left for this short three day period. … and all the praise belongs to Allah (Glory and Greatness be to Him) for the help in the writing and translation of this work, only the mistakes are mine.

Authors(s): Shaykh Saleem Bhimji