Itikaf / Etikaf during Ramadan

Itikaf is a form of worship. It is formed by staying in a Mosque for a certain time. It is Ehtiyat that one should stay with the intention to worship Allah by praying formal or informal prayers although prayer is not a condition therein. The time for this form of worship could be anytime when one is allowed to fast. The best time is the month of Ramadan, especially, the last ten days.

Conditions for Etikaf during Ramadan:

  • Intention as in the rest of the worship acts. It is necessary that the intention be made at the beginning of Itikaf so that the rule, requiring the worship act to be completed with intention, be followed thoroughly from the beginning to the end. The decision made at the beginning of the night to start etikaf from the beginning of the following day will be open to objection. However, if one decides to start it from the beginning of the night it is not an offense to do so.  One is not allowed to change one’s mind from one Itikaf to another of the same qualities or different.
  • Belief in Islam.
  • Freedom from mental illness.
  • Fasting; thus the Itikaf of one who cannot fast for some reason is not valid.
  • Duration; which is three continuous days at least. It could be more but not less than three days.
  • If it is started from the beginning of a day the two nights in between will be part of the duration. Less than three days is not considered Itikaf. That it must take place in one of these Mosques: (a) The holy Mosque in Makkah, (b) the holy Mosque of the Prophet in Medina, (c) the holy Mosque of Kufa, (d) the holy Mosque of Basrah, and (e) the Mosque which is assigned for the Friday prayer in any town or city. It is Ehtiyat, however, to complete it in any of the first four Mosques. The roof and basement of a Mosque is part of the same and it is valid to complete Etikaf in such places of a Mosque.  Permission of the people whose permission are required such as the master for the slave, husband and parents for the wife and children if this will be against the right of the husband or causes trouble to the parents.
  • Completing it in the Mosque where it was started. Thus, going out of the Mosque without an acceptable reason will invalidate the Itikaf, regardless, one knows the rule or is ignorant or has gone out because of forgetfulness, except in the case of an emergency or one being forced or it is because of some need such as using wash room or having Taharat.
  • One is allowed to come out of the Mosque during Itikaf to take part in the burial of a deceased or to visit an ailing one; Going out of the Mosque for a time long enough to cause the Itikaf to become as non-existing will be considered as invalidating the same, even if one has not done it out of one’s own choice.
  • If one needs to have Ghusl/bath during the Itikaf and it is possible for him to have it inside the Mosque, and is not allowed to go out unless the reason for Ghusl requires him not to stay inside the Mosque.
  • Etikaf is originally an optional worship act but it may become obligatory because of a vow etc.

Things to avoid during Itikaf:

  • Having sex and also according to Ehtiyat kissing or playing with one’s wife;
  • According to a necessary Ehtiyat causing a semen discharge,
  • And smelling perfumes for enjoyment; it is not an offense if one cannot enjoy the perfume because of some defect in his smelling ability.
  • Selling or buying in the form of a business deal, according to a necessary Ehtiyat; there is no offense to be occupied with allowable activities as sewing or writing etc., although it is a Mustahab Ehtiyat to avoid them too. If one needs to buy something for food and there is no one to do the buying for him, it is not an offence for him to do it.
  • Expressing bitterness in talking about worldly or religious matters in order to prove one’s ability, not the truth which is one of the best worships.
  • The contracts of buying or selling during Itikaf invalidate Itikaf, but such contracts will be valid.
  • If Itikaf is invalidated because of having sex even, during the night, expiation will be due; if it is invalidated by other things, there will be no expiation, although it is a Mustahab Ehtiyat in this case too.
  • The expiation for invalidating an Itikaf is to set free a slave or if this is not possible, fast for two consecutive months or if this also is not possible, feed sixty poor people.


One of the many observances that are related exclusively to Ramadhan, particularly to it’s last ten days, is I’tikaf. The basic aim of I’tikaf is that the bondsman continued at the door of the Almighty, i.e.; in the corner of a mosque, cutting himself aloof from the world and devoting his time wholly to prayer and worship. It is the worship of the favourite worship of the bondsman of the Lord. Evidently, no time could be more appropriate for it than the month of Ramadhan, especially it’s ten days.

The powerful urge that had seized the Prophet (saw) before the revelation of the Qur’an to seek solitude and spend his time mostly in prayer and meditation, and , in consequence of which, he used to pass several months on end in the Cave of Hira – this, so to speak was the first I’tikaf of the Prophet (saw), and it was in that that his spirituality had evolved to the stage that marked the beginning of the revelation of the Qur’an. During the last ten days of this I’tikaf, Gabriel (as) came to him with the opening verse of the Surah of Iqra. Beyond doubt and for certain it was the month of Ramadhan, it’s last ten days, and the night was the Night of Power. The last ten days of Ramadhan have, thus, been set apart for I’tikaf.

The fasts of Ramadhan have been prescribed for all Muslims for the development of the soul and for enabling it to subdue the carnal appetites. In other words, this much exertion and sacrifice of sensual desires has been made obligatory for every Muslim that he neither ate nor drank anything nor sought sexual satisfaction during the whole of the blessed month, in compliance with the command of Allah (SWT) and with the intention of paying divine honours to Him, and, along with it avoided all sinful acts and worthless things. It is the general, compulsory course of spiritual training and self-purification for the month of Ramadhan. For higher upliftment and forging a closer affinity with the Celestial World we have I’tikaf.

In I’tikaf the bondsman cuts himself away from everything and throws himself at the threshold , or rather the feet oh his Lord and Creator. He remembers Him, exalts His name and offers earnest repentance to Him, cries over his sins and follies, entreats Him for mercy and forgiveness and seeks His countenance and propinquity. His days and nights are spent in that way. The holy Prophet (saw) used to take special care to observe I’tikaf during the Last ten days of Ramadhan. Once when he could not carry it out due to some reason, it observed it for twenty days in the following Ramadhan.

It is related on the authority of Ayesha (RA) that “The Apostle of Allah (saw) observed I’tikaf in the last ten days of Ramadhan, till the end of his life. After his death his wives continued with it.” ~ Bukhari and Muslim Commentary

The Prophet’s wives observed I’tikaf in their apartments, and for women, in general, the place where they celebrate the prayer-services at home is the right place for I’tikaf. If there is no such place in the house, arrangements should be made for it.

Anas narrates the “The Apostle of Allah (saw) observed I’tikaf during the last ten days of Ramadhan. One year he could not do the I’tikaf, and so in the next year he did it for twenty days.” Tirmidhi Commentary:

It is not stated in the above narrative of Hazrat Anas (RA) why the Prophet (saw) could not observe I’tikaf in that year. But in another tradition quoted in Nassai and Abu Dawood, on the authority of Hazrat Ubbi bin Ka’ab, it is told that once the Prophet (saw) had to go on a journey during the last ten days of Ramadhan, and therefore he could not carry out the I’tikaf that year, but in the next year he did it for twenty days.

It is further mentioned in Sahih Bukhari, on the authority of Hazrat Abu Hurairah that the Prophet (saw) had also observed I’tikaf for twenty days in the month of Ramadhan of the year in which he died. Perhaps the Prophet (saw) had received some indication that his hour of departure from the world was near, and after it he naturally felt more powerfully drawn to observances like I’tikaf.

Ayesh (RA) related to us that The rules of Shariat for the M’otakif (i.e.: one who is in I’tikaf) are that he should neither go out to visit the sick nor attend a funeral nor have sexual intercourse nor engage in (love play) like kissing and embracing nor even step out of the Mosque for personal needs save those that are unavoidable (such as, answering the call of nature), and I’tikaf (should be observed only with fasting) – there can no I’tikaf without fasting – and it must be carried out in the jam’I masjid and at no other place. -Abu Dawood Commentary

As we have explained earlier, when a Companion says about a thing that it is the Sunnat it denotes that it is what is prescribed in the Sharia and the inference is that he had learned it from the sayings or doings of the Prophet. The rules of I’tikaf delineated in the above tradition, thus, fall within the category of the Prophet’s commands and directives.

The term Jam’I masjid occurring in it means the “mosque of congregation”, i.e., the mosque in which the five daily services are celebrated in congregation.

It is related by Abdullah bin Abbas that the Apostle of God said about the person who is in I’tikaf that “(owing to I’tikaf and by reason of keeping within the limits of the mosque) he is protected from sin and the account of is virtues deeds goes on like that of any other virtues bondsman and (they ) are put down in his Balance-sheet of Deed.” ~ Ibn-I-Maja Commentary:

When the bondsman confines himself in the mosque for I’tikaf, he makes a great addition to his virtuous deeds through prayer, Zikr and Tilawat but, at the same time, he is prevented from performing certain acts of high moral and religious worth, as for instance, he cannot visit the sick or care for them which is a most meritorious act in the sight of God or work for the welfare of the weak, the indigent and the orphan and the widow or bathe the dead body which, is done with sincerity and there is the desire to earn the divine recompense, is a deed of much moral goodness. In the same way, he cannot go out to participate in the funeral service nor accompany the bier to the graveyard in doing which sin are forgiven at each step and good deeds are written in the Scroll of Deeds.

The above traditions, however gives, the glad tidings to the devotee observing I’tikaf that, by the command of God, all the good acts he used to perform normally but is kept away from performing owing to I’tikaf are written down in his Register of Deeds.



Hadhrat Ali Ibn Husain RA narrates from his father that Rasullullah SAW said: “He who observes the ten days I’tikaf during Ramadhan will obtain the thawaab of two Hajj and two Umrah.” (Bayhaqi)

Hadhrat Abdullah bin Abbas RA reported that Rasullullah SAW said: “Whosoever for Allah’s sake did even one days i’tikaf, Allah would keep him away from Jahannam by trenches.” (Tabarani)

Hadhrat Ibn Abbas RA reported that Rasullullah SAW said, (about him who engages in i’tikaf), “that he is safe from sin and he also gets that reward which everyone (outside i’tikaf) gets for pious deeds.” (Ibn Majah)

One of the virtues of I’tikaf , is the seeking and engaging in worship seeking Laylatul Qadr. Hazrat Abu Saeed Khudri(RA) reports that Rasullullah SAW once performed I’tikaf for the first ten days of Ramadhan. Thereafter he made I’tikaf in a Turkish tent (inside the masjid) for the middle ten days. Thereafter he raised his head out of the tent and said, “Verily in search of Laylatul Qadr did I perform I’tikaf for the first ten days, then for the middle ten days…….”(Mishkaat)


1) One should engage oneself in tilawat of Quran, durud and salawat upon Nabi SAW, istighfar and nafil salat.

2) He should abstain from all types of sin and guard his ears, eyes, heart, thus deriving maximum benefit from the I’tikaf.

3) The mu’takif should remember that he is the guest of Almighty Allah, therefore he should be extremely careful of his behaviour in the House of Almighty Allah.

4) The main objective of I’tikaf is to seek Laylatul Qadr, therefore the mu’takifin (brothers in I’tikaf) should exert themselves during the odd nights of Ramadhan.
Q: In a sunnah I’tikaf during the last ten days of Ramadhan, how does one make an intention?

A: Niyyat (intention) could be done in the heart or verbally expressed, eg. – O Allah I am making I’tikaf for the last ten days of Ramadhan.


Q: Can one leave the Masjid to take a bath just to cool off during I’tikaf?

A: It is not permissible to do so and the I’tikaf will be invalidated.



Q: Where should a female make her I’tikaf?

A: According to the Shafi’es, Malikis, Hanbalis, I’tikaf can only be performed in the Masjid. Hence, men will sit in the male section whilst females will perform their I’tikaf in the female section of the masjid. It is not permissible to perform I’tikaf at home according to the above mentioned scholars. However, the Hanafi scholars state that it is permissible for females to perform their I’tikaf at home in a place which is reserved for salat. Cognizance must be taken of the fact that women must not be in menses or post-natal (nifas), similarly she must take permission from her husband to sit in I’tikaf.


Q: Is there any difference between a male and females I’tikaf?

A: The same rules which apply to a man observing I’tikaf in the masjid, apply to a woman observing I’tikaf in a place of seclusion at home (according to the Hanafis). The majority of the scholars state that a woman can only perform I’tikaf in a masjid.



Q: Can a woman do her domestic duties whilst in I’tikaf?

A: She can perform her domestic duties in her room, eg. cooking, ironing etc. This is only according to the Hanafi scholars.


Q: Whilst performing I’tikaf, forgetfully I left the masjid for a few minutes, is my I’tikaf valid?

A: According to the Hanafis the I’tikaf is broken whilst the majority of the scholars, namely, Shafi’es, Malikis, Hanbalis, state that the I’tikaf is valid.


Q: If ones I’tikaf broke then how does one make qadha?

A: In the case of the Sunnah I’tikaf, a person has to make one days qadha from maghrib to maghrib whilst fasting during the day. Only the Hanafi scholars state that qadha is compulsory. This qadha can be kept during Ramadhan or after Ramadhan.


Q: What time does the I’tikaf start and end during Ramadhan?

A: The mu’takif (one who observes I’tikaf) should enter the masjid before sunset of the 20th day of Ramadhan. He must remain in the masjid until the sighting of the Eid moon is confirmed.


Q: What are valid reasons for leaving the masjid during I’tikaf?

A: 1. To answer the call of nature.

2. To pass wind.

3. To make wudhu.

4. To take an obligatory bath.

5. To proclaim the azan even if one is not the muazzin.


Q: Which things are undesirable during I’tikaf?

A: 1. To maintain total silence

2. To indulge in idle talk

3. To sleep excessively merely to pass time.

4. To unnecessarily pass wind inside the Masjid.

5. To engage in any occupation, eg. Teaching for a salary.

6. To read books which are not of a deeni nature.

7. To waste time with cell-phones etc.


Q: Things that are permissible during I’tikaf?

A: 1. Eating, drinking.

2. Sleeping

3. necessary conversation

4. to change clothes, to apply oil and perfume.

5. To walk inside the masjid

6. To cut hair and nails – these should not fall in the masjid.

7. To study deeni books.


Q: Is it permissible to go to the bathroom for a jummah bath during I’tikaf?

A: During I’tikaf it is not permissible for one to go for a sunnat bath, like the Friday ghusal. If one does so, then the I’tikaf is broken.


Q: If one has a wet dream, does it invalidate the I’tikaf?

A: Emission of semen in a wet dream does not invalidate the I’tikaf. However, as soon as he realizes that he is in the state of impurity, he should leave the masjid immediately and perform the fardh ghusal.


Q: I want to sit for I’tikaf during the last ten days of Ramadhan, do I need my husband’s permission, and can he and the children visit me?

A: It is compulsory for you to obtain the permission of your husband to sit in I’tikaf. Your husband and children can visit you, however your husband cannot fondle and touch you with lust etc.


Q: Is it permissible for children to sit for I’tikaf?

A: The venue for I’tikaf is a Masjid. Bulugh (puberty) is not a condition for the validity of I’tikaf. However, the children must understand the meaning of I’tikaf and must maintain the sanctity of the Masjid. Nowadays, some children sit for I’tikaf and one finds a carnival atmosphere prevailing in the masjid which is not permissible.


Q: Is it compulsory for the mu’takif (person performing I’tikaf) to remain in wudhu at all times?

A: It is meritorious to remain in wudhu as far as possible. If his wudhu breaks, it will be permissible for him to leave the masjid for the purpose of wudhu, even if it is not yet time for salat. Similarly it will be permissible for him to leave the masjid to make wudhu at night to enable him to sleep with wudhu.


Q: If someone’s fast breaks is the I’tikaf valid?

A: It is a pre-requisite for the validity of the I’tikaf that a person must fast. Hence, if the fast breaks, the I’tikaf is also broken according to the Hanafis.


Q: Kindly explain whether erecting cubicles for I’tikaf is necessary?

A: The purpose of I’tikaf is seclusion in order to maximize ones time in the worship of Almighty Allah. Therefore, the cubicle is conducive to the spirit of I’tikaf. Nabi SAW had a cubicle made of straw mats (Mirqaat, vol 4,page 329). However, if the cubicles are causing inconvenience to the musallees, then a portion of the majsid should be cordoned of for those performing I’tikaf without erecting the cubicles.


Q: We wish to make I’tikaf in a musallah (jamat khana), is it valid to do so?

A: The venue for I’tikaf is valid in a Masjid only. Almighty Allah states: “Do not touch your wives whilst you are in I’tikaf in the Masajid.” (surah 2 verse 187) Hence, for men to make I’tikaf in a musallah is not valid. There is consensus on this issue according to all four schools.


Q: What are the conditions for I’tikaf?

A: It must be a masjid. The person must be a sane Muslim and could be a minor or mature adult. A female has to be free from menses and post-natal. Similarly she must take permission from her husband to sit in I’tikaf.


Q: Is it permissible to use the mobile phone during I’tikaf?

A: It is permissible to do so when there is a need. However, if the person left the boundary of the masjid to make or receive a call then his I’tikaf is broken. Furthermore, it is not permissible to disturb other people in the masjid with the mobile. Cognizance must be taken of the fact that musical ring-tones are haram.


Q: Where is the best place to sit for I’tikaf?

A: The best place for I’tikaf is the Haram Shareef in Makka Mukarrama, then Masjid Nabawi in Madina Munawwara, then masjid Al-Aqsa in Palestine, thereafter all the masajid are equal.


Q: Is it permissible for the muezzin, who is in I’tikaf to go to the minaret to render the azan?

A: It is permissible for the muezzin to do so.


Q: Can a person in I’tikaf put his head out of the window of the masjid?

A: It is permissible for the mu’takif to protrude his head out of the window, whilst standing in the masjid.


Q: Can I join the brothers in I’tikaf for iftar and meals?

A: A person who is not in I’tikaf should not join the brother/s in I’tikaf for iftar or meals unless he also makes intention for I’tikaf. This intention will be a nafil and its duration can be for a minute. He should engage in some zikr and then join the brothers for iftar or meals.


Q: If one is sitting for I’tikaf, is one allowed to participate in a janaza salat or visit the sick?

A: If one is sitting for nafil I’tikaf, then one may leave the masjid for janaza salat, visit the sick or take a bath to cool off etc. However, if one is sitting for the sunnah I’tikaf, during the last ten days of Ramadhan then according to the Hanafis it is not permissible to leave the masjid for a janaza salat or visit the ill etc. If one does so then the I’tikaf will be broken and qadha will be compulsory. However, according to the Shafi’es, it is permissible to read the salatul janaza as the janaza salat is read in the masjid.


Q: When a person is about to start his I’tikaf can he make a condition that if somebody passes away, he will go for the janaza salat or visit the sick. Are these conditions permissible?

A: According to all the jurists it is permissible in nafil (voluntary) or wajib I’tikaf (when one takes a vow). However, it is not permissible in the sunnah I’tikaf of Ramadhan, according to the Hanafis. Imam Shafi’e RA allows these type of conditions.


Q: Is it permissible to move from one masjid to another whilst in I’tikaf?

A: It will nullify the I’tikaf if one does so. However, if the masjid is flooded or there is a natural disaster etc. then to leave the masjid for another masjid will be permissible provided that one goes straight to the other masjid. Similarly, if one’s life is seriously threatened, eg. criminals, then for one to transfer to another masjid will be acceptable.

For reference: Fathul Qadir by Ibn Hummam RA, vol 3, page 111.


Q: I intend observing I’tfikaf during the last ten days of Ramadhan but do not have the strength to fast, kindly advise?

A: Fasting is a condition for the I’tikaf during the last ten days of Ramadhan. Thus, I’tikaf without fasting will be considered a nafil I’tikaf. If you recover from your weakness then qadha of the fast is compulsory and if you are suffering from a chronic ailment then fidya will be compulsory upon you.


Q: In our town no one made the sunnah I’tikaf, what is the verdict?

A: According to the Hanafi jurists, the I’tikaf during the last ten days of Ramadhan is sunnat muakkada alal kifaya. This refers to an insisted sunnah which one person can fulfil. However, if no one performs it then everyone is a sinner and repentance is compulsory. Therefore, every town must make arrangements for someone to perform I’tikaf. According to the Malikis, Shafi’es, Hanbalis the I’tikaf is sunnah. Thus, if someone performs the I’tikaf then he/she will be rewarded, but if no one performs it, there is no sin upon them.


Q: Is it permissible to pay someone to perform the I’tikaf?

A: I’tikaf should be performed for the love of Almighty Allah and not for material gain. It is not permissible to pay somebody to sit for I’tikaf.

Ramadhan Q & A -By Mufti Abdool Kader Hoosen
Courtesy of al-Islaah Publications



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