Kitaab-ul-I`tikaaf [Book of Retiring to a Mosque for Remembrance of Allah] starts today..
Volume 3, Book 33, Number 242:
Narrated Abdullah bin Umar (radiallaahu `anhu):
Allah's Apostle (sallallaahu `alayhi wasallam) used to practise Itikaf in the last ten days of the month of Ramadan.
Volume 3, Book 33, Number 243:
Narrated 'Aisha (radiallaahu `anhaa):
The Prophet (sallallaahu `alayhi wasallam) used to practice Itikaf in the last ten days of Ramadan till he died and then his wives used to practice Itikaf after him.
Volume 3, Book 33, Number 244:
Narrated Abu Said Al-Khudri (radiallaahu `anhu):
Allah's Apostle (sallallaahu `alayhi wasallam) used to practice Itikaf in the middle ten days of Ramadan and once he stayed in Itikaf till the night of the twenty-first and it was the night in the morning of which he used to come out of his Itikaf. The Prophet (sallallaahu `alayhi wasallam) said, "Whoever was in Itikaf with me should stay in Itikaf for the last ten days, for I was informed (of the date) of the Night (of Qadr) but I have been caused to forget it. (In the dream) I saw myself prostrating in mud and water in the morning of that night. So, look for it in the last ten nights and in the odd ones of them." It rained that night and the roof of the mosque dribbled as it was made of leaf stalks of date-palms. I saw with my own eyes the mark of mud and water on the forehead of the Prophet (sallallaahu `alayhi wasallam) (i.e. in the morning of the twenty-first).
The i’tikaaf which the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) always observed at the end of his life is i’tikaaf during the last ten days of Ramadaan. These few days may indeed be regarded as an intensive course of spiritual education which brings immediate positive results in a person’s life during the days and nights of Ramadaan and in the coming days, until the next Ramadaan comes.
The basic goal of the Prophet’s i’tikaaf was to seek Laylat al-Qadr.
Muslim (1167) narrated that Abu Sa’eed al-Khudri (may Allaah be pleased with him) said: The Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) observed i’tikaaf during the first ten days of Ramadaan, then he observed i’tikaaf during the middle ten days in a small tent at the door of which was a reed mat. He took the mat in his hand and lifted it. Then he put his head out and spoke to the people, and they came close to him. He said: “I observed i’tikaaf during the first ten days seeking this night, then I observed i’tikaaf during the middle ten days. Then someone came and said to me that it is in the last ten days, so whoever among you wishes to observe i’tikaaf let him do so.” So the people observed i’tikaaf with him.
This hadeeth teaches us a number of things:
- That the basic goal of the i’tikaaf of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) was to seek Laylat al-Qadr and to prepare to spend that night in worship. That is because of the great virtue of that night of which Allaah says (interpretation of the meaning): “The Night of Al‑Qadr (Decree) is better than a thousand months (i.e. worshipping Allaah in that night is better than worshipping Him a thousand months, i.e. 83 years and 4 months)” [al-Qadr 97:3].
- The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) strove to seek that night before he was told when it is. So he started with the first ten days, then he observed it during the middle ten, then he continued to observe i'tikaaf during the last ten days, when he was told that it is in the last ten days. This is the utmost effort to seek Laylat al-Qadr.
- The Sahaabah (may Allaah be pleased with them) followed the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him), because they started i’tikaaf and continued with him until the end of the month, because they were so keen to follow his example.
- The Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) was compassionate towards his companions and showed mercy to them, because he knew that i’tikaaf was difficult for them. So he gave them the choice between staying with him or of leaving, and said: “…so whoever among you wishes to observe i’tikaaf let him do so.”
There are other aims of i’tikaaf as well, including the following:
- Being alone with Allaah and cutting oneself off from people if possible, so that one may focus completely on Allaah.
- Renewing oneself spiritual by focusing totally on Allaah.
- Cutting oneself off completely in order to worship Allaah with prayer, du’aa’, dhikr and reading Qur’aan.
- Protecting one’s fast from everything that may affect it of whims and desires.
- Reducing permissible worldly pleasures and refraining from many of them even though one is able to enjoy them.