Al-‘Iqtikaf in the Masjid
Tajuddin Ibn Shu’aib
In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful;
All praise and thanks are due to Allah, May Allah blessings and peace be upon His Messenger.
Al-‘Iqtikāf is from the root word "Akafa" to adhere, cling, stick or keep. It means to engage and to devote something, especially to a good thing.
Allāh Subhānahu wa Ta`ala states in Al-Qurān:
"...What are these images to which ye are (so assiduously) devoted?" (Al-Anbiya’, 21:52).
In Shari'ah it means to engage in a retreat in the Masjid and stay there with the intention of seeking nearness to Allāh the Almighty, and His reward.
The majority of Muslim scholars agree that ‘Iqtikāf is permissible, for the Messenger of Allāh (Sallallāhu `Alayhi Wa Sallam) observed ‘Iqtikāf in the Month of Ramadan during the last ten days. In his last Ramadhan he observed it 20 days, as is related by Bukhari and others. Besides, his companions and wives observed it during his lifetime and after. ‘Iqtikāf can be either Sunnah or obligatory, wajib. The Sunnah ‘Iqtikāf is when a Muslim volunteers to seek nearness to Allāh, and to imitate the Messenger by observing this kind of 'Ibadah, and the Sunnah is meritorious in the last ten days of Ramadan.
The obligatory ‘Iqtikāf is the one when a believer makes it obligatory on himself, by invoking a conditional vow, such as saying: I am vowing in the Name of Allāh to engage in retreat; or if Allāh cures my sick relative, I will engage in ‘Iqtikāf. In Bukhari, the Messenger of Allāh (Sallallāhu `Alayhi Wa Sallam) said: "Whoever vowed to obey Allāh, should obey him." In the same hadith, Umar (radiallāhu`anhu) told the Messenger (Sallallāhu `Alayhi Wa Sallam), "I vowed to engage in a night retreat in the Sacred Masjid, and the Messenger responded, "Fulfil your vow." (Bukhari)
Time of Retreat
The mandatory retreat can be observed according to the vow of the avower. If he vowed to retreat a day or more, it becomes necessary for him to fulfil it. But voluntary retreat has no time limit. It may be done by staying in the masjid with the intention of ‘Iqtikāf for short or long periods of time, and the person will be rewarded so far as he remains in the masjid. If he leaves the masjid and returns, he should restate his Niyyat (intention).
The one who is in retreat may cut off his ‘Iqtikāf, when he feels like it, before the time that he had intended. 'Aishah (radiallāhu`anha) the Messenger's wife, said: "Whenever the Messenger (Sallallāhu `Alayhi Wa Sallam) intends to engage in retreat he will pray his Fajar, and then he begins ‘Iqtikāf." She continued, "One day the Messenger (Sallallāhu `Alayhi Wa Sallam) intended to engage in retreat the last ten days of Ramadan, and he ordered his pouch to be built. When I saw that, I asked for my own tent to be built, and the rest of his wives asked for the same thing. After Fajar prayer, he looked at the tents, `what do you intend with this righteousness?' So he asked his tent and his wives to be removed, then he delayed his ‘Iqtikāf to the first ten days of Shawwal." (Bukhari) This report is an indication that it is permissible to disengage from the retreat after starting.
The Prerequisites of ‘Iqtikāf
For a retreat to be valid, the observer must be Muslim, must have reached puberty, and must be pure from janabah, (major defilement, menstruation, and post-childbirth bleeding). People who are impure cannot engage in ‘Iqtikāf.
The Pillars of Al-‘Iqtikāf
There are two pillars for ‘Iqtikāf: intention, and staying in the Masjid. Niyyat or intention has been discussed earlier, but regarding staying in the masjid, Allāh states:
"...But do not associate with your wives while you are in retreat in the masajid... “(Al-Baqarah, 2:187)
This verse prohibits two things: marital relationships during ‘Iqtikāf because this contradicts the spirit of devotion, and observing ‘Iqtikāf in any place but a masjid. Thus, any believer man or woman who desires to observe ‘Iqtikāf may do so only in a masjid as we see the Messenger's wives were building their tents in the masjid.
Which Masjid Can ‘Iqtikāf Be Held?
Some scholars are of the opinion that any masjid in which the five daily prayers are observed can be used for retreat, but this opinion is based on a weak hadith. Imams Malik and Shafi'e and others said ‘Iqtikāf is permissible in any masjid because the verse is general, and did not single out or specify any particular masjid. The retreated cannot leave the masjid, but he can leave his tent to join the congregational prayer, and climb the minaret for adzan. But, if he steps out of the masjid the retreat is invalid.
The majority of scholars said if the masjid is in a house - such as a room in a house turned into a masjid, it cannot be used as a place for ‘Iqtikāf because it does not have the name "masjid," and it may be sold; whereas, you cannot sell a masjid, (unless it is to be sold in order to build a new one on the same spot, or move it somewhere else).
Vowing ‘Iqtikāf in a Special Masjid
Whoever vows to engage in ‘Iqtikāf in the Masjid Al-Harām, the Messenger's Masjid, or Masjid Al-Aqsa, he should make it in the masjid that he intended. But if he vows to engage in retreat in any masjid, he can ‘Iqtikāf in any masjid anywhere because no masjid, (except the three mentioned above), is better than another masjid.
If he vowed to engage in retreat in Masjid An-Nabawi he can do it in Masjid Al-Harām, because the latter is better in merit than the former.
Fasting In Retreat
If the retreater fasts, it is good, if not the retreat is still valid. In a Hadith reported earlier 'Umar told the Messenger (Sallallāhu `Alayhi Wa Sallam) that he had vowed to observe retreat one night during the pre-Islamic (Jahiliyyah) period the Masjid Al-Haram. The Messenger (Sallallāhu `Alayhi Wa Sallam) responded "Fulfil your vow." In the hadith, there is an indication that fasting is not necessary for ‘Iqtikāf because 'Umar (radiallāhu`anhu) vowed ‘Iqtikāf at night and the Prophet told him to fulfil his vow and there is no fasting at night.
The Beginning and Ending Time of ‘Iqtikāf
There is no specific time for beginning or ending ‘Iqtikāf. Whenever one enters into the masjid with niyyat, he begins his retreat. If he intends to engage in ‘Iqtikāf the last ten days of Ramadhan, he should prepare his tent before sunset. In a hadith related by Abu Sa'id (radiallāhu`anhu), the Messenger of Allāh (Sallallāhu `Alayhi Wa Sallam) said: "Whoever intends to retreat with me should retreat during the last ten nights (of Ramadan)." (Al-Bukhāri).
The first night of the ten is the night of the 21st of Ramadan because in Islam the days begin at sunset. However, the hadith that said the Messenger (Sallallāhu `Alayhi Wa Sallam) entered his ‘Iqtikāf place after Fajar prayer do not mean he started after Fajar, they mean he returned to his place of ‘Iqtikāf at that time.
If ‘Iqtikāf is for the last ten days of Ramadan, the observer should leave after sunset the last day of the month, but it is preferred that he remain in the masjid and should not leave it until the time of 'Eid. If a person intends to engage in ‘Iqtikāf for a day, or several days, as voluntary ‘Iqtikāf, he will enter into his place of ‘Iqtikāf before the break of dawn and will leave after sunset, whether it is in Ramadan or not. If a person intends to engage in ‘Iqtikāf for a night or two as a voluntary act, he should enter before sunset and leave after the break of dawn.
The reason is the night begins with the sunset and completes with the break of dawn, and the day begins with the break of dawn and completes with sunset. If a believer intends to engage in ‘Iqtikāf for a month he should enter the first night of the month before sunset and leave after sunset when the month finishes.
What a Retreater Should Engage In
It is recommended that the retreater should engage in supererogatory worship, and engage himself with prayer, recitation of Al-Qurān, Glorification of Allāh , Praising Allāh , frequent declaration of Kalimat, Takbir, seeking forgiveness from Allāh , invoking Allāh 's blessing on the Messenger of Allāh , and supplications, as well as any act of worship that will bring the servant nearer to Allāh . Included in these acts of worship is studying the books of Tafsir, hadith, the life history of the Prophets, as well as any books on fiqh and religion. He should build a retreat (store his provisions) in the corner of the masjid where he or she will not disturb the regular worshippers.
He should not concern himself with what does not concern him, which is the best way to seek nearness to Allāh. In a hadith reported by Ibn 'Abbas (radiallāhu`anhu), the Messenger of Allāh (Sallallāhu `Alayhi Wa Sallam) was delivering a sermon, khutbah, and a man stood up but would not talk. A companion said, "This is Abu Israel. He vowed to not stand, nor sit, nor seek shade, nor speak, but fast." The Messenger (Sallallāhu `Alayhi Wa Sallam) said, "Command him to speak and seek shade, to sit and complete his fast." (Bukhari, Ibn Majah; Abu Dawud). In a related report the Messenger of Allāh (Sallallāhu `Alayhi Wa Sallam) stated: "No person can be called orphan after puberty; and no person should remain silent all day and night." (Abu Dawud)
What Is Permitted of Retreater
He may leave the retreat and go out to bid farewell to his family. Safiyyah (radiallāhu`anha) said: "The Messenger of Allāh (Sallallāhu `Alayhi Wa Sallam) was in his retreat, so I came to visit him at night. I spoke to him, and when I was leaving he stood to bid me farewell. When we reached the door to open it and they quietly passed and greeted the Messenger (Sallallāhu `Alayhi Wa Sallam) then the Messenger told them: 'Slowly, you don't need to run, she is Safiyyah binti Huyayy, (my wife; don't think I am walking with another sister)' they said in surprise: 'Glory be to Allāh , O Messenger of Allāh !' (For they were baffled for what he said to them.) The Messenger (Sallallāhu `Alayhi Wa Sallam) said 'The Satan circulates in the human system the same way the blood circulates, so I was afraid that Satan might throw or whisper (ill thoughts) in your heart." (Bukhari; Muslim) The Prophet (Sallallāhu `Alayhi Wa Sallam) left his retreat. Thus it is permissible to leave.
It is permitted to comb one's hair, shaves, trim the nails, clean the body, wear one's best clothes and use perfume. In a report by 'Aishah (radiallāhu`anha), she said: "The Messenger (Sallallāhu `Alayhi Wa Sallam) used to be in ‘Iqtikāf and he would put his head through the window and I would wash it for him, while I was in my menstruation." (Muslim; Bukhari).It is permitted for him to leave the masjid to take care of essential things. The scholars agreed that the retreater is permitted to leave to eat and drink and to use the toilet, also to leave the masjid to purify the body from janabah and to clean the clothes.
It is permitted to eat and drink and sleep in the masjid, but extreme care should be taken to safeguard the cleanliness of the Masjid. The person may be a party to weddings and some legal contracts taking place in the masjid during the ‘Iqtikāf.
Things That Invalidate Al-‘Iqtikāf
Exiting from the masjid without any good reason, even if it is for a moment, because that is one of its pillars. Apostasy (riddah) for it contradicts ibadah. Allāh (SWT), states: "But it has already been revealed to thee as it was to those before thee, - if thou were to join gods with Allāh, truly fruitless will be thy work (in life) and thou will surely be in the ranks of those who lose (all spiritual good)". (Az-Zumar, 39:65)
Insanity due to madness, drugs or intoxicants, for sanity is prerequisite in all forms of worship.
Menstruation (haid) and postnatal bleeding (nifās).
Allāh states: "...But do not associate with wives while you are in retreat in the masājid." (Al-Baqarah, 2: 187)
Nothing is wrong with touching one's spouse provided it is free from passion. This does not include kissing. If one kisses or touches his spouse with passion, he or she has done wrong, for it contradicts the spirit of ‘Iqtikāf, but the āis valid provided he does not discharge semen. That is according to Imams Abu Hanifah and Ahmed. Imam Malik, on the other hand, said in this instance, the ‘Iqtikāf becomes invalid because this is illegal association, even without discharge of semen. The reason for the difference of opinion is the interpretation of the word "association" (mubasharah).
Originally bāshara means to touch, scrape off; or to have sexual intercourse. The point here is a usul Fiqh, Islamic legal theory question. That is, does the word that implies both actual and metaphorical have a general implication, ām, or not? Those who say it has a general implication, ām, say mubasharah in the above verse mean actual marital intercourse and any association that is less than intercourse. Those who say it does not have a general implication say mubasharah here means only sexual relations. Wallāhu 'alam.
Redemption of ‘Iqtikāf
Whoever starts ‘Iqtikāf voluntarily and then breaks it is recommended to redeem it. But if he vows a day, or two, then starts and then invalidates it, he must redeem it whenever he is able, according to the majority of the scholars. If he died before making it up redemption is not necessary, however, Imam Ahmed said: "His next of kin should redeem it for him."