Friday, September 27, 2013

Itikaf Survival Guide Part 1

One of the many blessings Ramadan brings is the opportunity to perform i'tikaf during its last ten days. AlhamduliLlah, I had the opportunity to perform i’tikaf this recent Ramadan.

Briefly, an i'tikaf is akin to a spiritual retreat where one attaches himself to the masjid while in a state of fasting, and engages himself in personal worship, only speaking when necessary and only leaving the masjid when necessary (e.g., to answer the call of nature or make wudu). The sunnah is to perform i'tikaf during all of Ramadan's last ten days, but a person may perform a nafl i'tikaf for any length of time during Ramadan's last ten days. The Prophet ﷺ would normally perform i’tikaf every Ramadan, but once when he was unable to do so, he made up those days at a later time (Tirmidhi), indicating the importance of the i’tikaf to the Prophet 

The beauty of the i'tikaf is that it enables what Imam al Ghazali calls the highest level of fasting - to fast from everything other than Allah. The mu'takifun (people performing i'tikaf) do not just fast from food, drink and intercourse - they fast completely from the dunya - from all of one's responsibilities, activities, and people, thereby unshackling themselves from their worldly affairs to completely focus on Allah. Moreover, since the i’tikaf is performed in the masjid, there's no resistance in performing all five daily prayers in congregation, and praying taraweeh. Meals are normally arranged for by the masjid, so nourishment is also not an issue. And the most valuable advantage of an i’tikaf is the increased probability of catching laylatul Qadr, since the mu’takifun are usually awake for all ten nights, engaged in worship.

So far, an i'tikaf sounds great - no worries, no distractions, just a spiritual high. However, while an 'itikaf is indeed a beautiful act of worship,  it can turn ugly if certain things are not anticipated. The following are some sources of trouble during an i'tikaf:

  • Absence of comforts of home
  • Other mu'takifun
  • Boredom
  • Wireless communication
  • The habit of worrying
  • Sickness

I won’t deny it - it can get pretty horrific. If the guy next to you is snoring like a donkey, the wudu area is slimy and filthy, you have a cough that sounds like a dog barking, your manager is flooding your inbox with work-related messages, and you can’t remember if your car is due for a muffler change, it’s going to be an excruciating ten days. You may not even survive them.

But there is hope… stay tuned for my next post on how to survive an i'tikaf - and thrive in it.


  1. I think the most worrisome of all is the Muffler change! Haha

  2. Thank you very much for this great post. thesurvivallife

  3. Great post but I was wondering if you could write a little more on this subject? I’d be very thankful if you could elaborate a little bit further. Thanks in advance!