In today’s world, it’s very difficult for people, even Muslims to cry when reflecting on their sins, but it’s easy for them to cry when their favourite teams or clubs lost a match.
Unfortunately, we cry for the wrong reasons – a reflection of our state mind. If you can, make yourself cry before Allah, it’s not hypocrisy; it’s a way of breaking the hardness of your heart, so said Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). This cry may not necessarily be manifest, it comes from within, between you and your Lord, Allah.
Dear brethren, how often do you cry? The opportunity has come, once again, to cry before Allah by seeking for His forgiveness, mercy and emancipation from Hell during i’tikaf (seclusion in the mosque) as the last ten days of Ramadan, which commences today (Thursday April 21).
I’tikaf in Arabic language means to compel oneself to do something or to stay in a place for something. According to Shari’ah, it means to stay in seclusion, in a mosque, in a certain specified manner with the intention of worship to Allah.
I’tikaf starts when Ramadan clocks 20 and ends immediately the new moon of Shawwal (tenth month of Islamic calendar) is sighted. I’tikaf is mentioned in the glorious Qur’an and is recognised as an established practice of Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him).
“…And We commanded Ibrahim (Abraham) and Isma’eel (Ishmael) that they should purify My House (the Ka’bah at Makkah) for those who are circumambulating it, or staying (I’tikaaf), or bowing or prostrating themselves (there, in prayer)” Qur’an 2: 125.
In another verse, Allah says, “Do not touch them (i.e your wives, sexually) while you are observing I’tikaf in the mosque.” Qur’an 2: 187.
“The mosque” mentioned above has been espoused by many scholars. Some agreed it could be any mosque, another group said it refers to only in three mosques: (Holy Mosque in Mecca – Ka’ bah; Mosque in Madina – An-Nabawi; and Mosque in Jerusalem, Al-Aqsa).
Most scholars however agreed that the correct explanation of the verse is: any Mosque in which five prayers are held in congregation. Apart from having facilities like rest and bath rooms, it must be a mosque where Solatul Jum’ah (Friday prayer) is being established because the intention behind seclusion should be strictly for worship and getting closer to Allah.
For those who have the means, the wisest idea is to perform Umrah (Lesser Hajj) to any of the three (Holiest Mosques) with the intention of performing i’tikaf.
There are many sayings of the Prophet (peace be upon him) on i’tikaf, such as the narration of Ai’sha (may Allah be pleased with her) who said that the Prophet (peace be upon him) used to observe i’tikaf during the last ten days of Ramadan until Allah took his soul, then his wives observed i’tikaf after he was gone.
This goes to show that i’tikaf is enjoined upon both man and woman. Allah’s Messenger and his wives all did i’tikaf. Another narration from Ai’sha said the Prophet Muhammad did I’tikaf for twenty days in his last year and three of his wives,: Ai’sha, Hafsah and Zaynab did same.
Activities During I’tikaf
A person, both male and female, doing i’tikaf should busy himself/herself with a lot of act of worship such as reading the noble Qur’an, remembrance of Allah, voluntary prayers, among others. Acts like backbiting, gossiping and all vain and forbidden utterances should be avoided during I’tikaf.
The mother of the Faithful, Aisha said, “The established conduct for a person in i’tikaf is that he doesn’t visit the sick, or attend a funeral prayer, he doesn’t have intercourse with his wife or embrace her in desire, he doesn’t go out of the mosque except in case of an unavoidable necessity…”
It’s however painful to see some places of I’tikaf becoming halls of discussion, story-telling, arguments, quarrels, unwarranted movement in and out of the mosques and siting in its surroundings without necessity. Entering of places of I’tikaf reserved for women, unnecessary free mixing and and exchange of messages with women folks. All these are actions that contradict the teachings of Allah’s Messenger.
However, there is nothing wrong with visiting receiving visitors in I’tikaf, especially visits by members of once family. Several sayings of the Prophet (peace be upon him) supported this. It must nevertheless be emphasised that the main objective of the Seclusion is to witness Lailatul-qadr (Night of Majesty) in prayer and devotion.
Allah has blessed the Muslims with Night of Majesty in Ramadan the most virtuous night of the year. It’s a night that is better than a thousand months and any action therein, for instance, reciting the Qur’an, is better than acting for one thousand months which do not contain the Night of Qadr.
Scholars hold different opinions as to the particular night, which is the Night of Qadr but the popular opinion, relying on the Sayings of the Prophet, says that it falls within the odd nights: 21, 23, 25, 27, 29 of Ramadan. The most popular opinion which is based on the tradition of Prophet Muhammad is 27th night of Ramadan.
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