ISLAMABAD: Thousands of people are expected to go into voluntary spiritual retreat (aitekaf) beginning today (Thursday) till the sighting of the Eid moon across the country.
Itikaf is a Sunnah of Holy Prophet (pbuh) and according to him, “The person who secludes himself in true faith and hope (for the reward of Allah), all of his previous sins shall be forgiven.”Men observe itkaf in small cubicles, set up by hanging large cloth sheets inside mosques, whereas women observe it at any corner or quiet place in the house which is not frequented by others.Mosques allocate places to the worshippers on the first come first served basis because of an increasing number of those willing to observe aitekaf.
More than 1,527 faithful mostly from twin cities of will observe itkaf at Faisal Mosque. Special arrangements have been made for the Motakafeen (Aitekaf observers) to impart them education about ‘Fiqhi’ problems besides lectures from religious scholars.Similarly in Lahore, more than 3,000 people will sit in voluntary seclusion in the Badshahi Mosque. Arrangement for aitekaf has also been made in various mosques all over the cities. The number of people in the mosques is expected to increase on Thursday (today).
ALTRUISM: As is the tradition, the motakafeen are provided with sehr and iftar by volunteers. Many philanthropists and common citizens also take part in facilitating those who sit in aitekaf.“This is my third year in a row that I am helping out with the arrangements for aitekaf. My job is in the mornings so I cannot sit in aitekaf but the feeling that I can assist those who are sitting in aitekaf is great,” said Abbas Rehman, a resident of Ghaziabad who was helping out with the arrangements.
The Fiqh of aITEKAF
Everything normally permissible, besides sexual relations, is permitted during aitekaf, such as eating, drinking, and talk.
What to do during aitekaf
One should busy oneself with the beneficial as much as one meaningfully can, such as:
1. Voluntary prayer,
2. Reciting the Book of Allah, with reflection, contemplation, and passion,
3. Remembrance of Allah, in all its forms,
4. Gaining beneficial knowledge, and listening to inspiring religious discourses (which is why it is wise to make aitekaf in a mosque with people of learning, and good company to inspire one towards the good).
One should avoid simply wasting time in things bereft of benefit, let alone the haram, though there is nothing wrong in taking ‘breaks’ in which one relaxes with others, as a means of being able to return to one’s worship with vigour and devotion.
How does aitekaf end?
When one leaves the mosque or (for women) place of prayer, one’s i`tikaf ends.
During an extended aitekaf, one may leave the mosque:
1. For a necessary ghusl.
2. To perform wudu (if such facilities are not found within the mosque),
3. To use the toilet.
Leaving for other reasons will end the aitekaf.
Itikaf for Women at Home
It is recommended for women to do aitekaf (spiritual retreat) in a specific place in their house, a quiet room, for example, whenever they have the time and are able to do so without neglecting their family duties and other responsibilities. It is recommended for women to designate a place in their houses as their ‘masjid’. They can do aitekaf there at any time, even for a brief period of time, and attain the great rewards mentioned in the Hadiths for aitekaf (as long as they fulfill their other worldly and religious duties, as is the case for men).
The full communal sunna aitekaf is for the entire ten days (in the mosque, for men). This is not expected of those working or housewives, for that matter. If one is able to arrange things, and one’s family agrees, one may perform aitekaf for the entire 10 days. However, the fiqh principle is that, “If something cannot be done completely, it should not be left completely.”Thus, whenever free of pressing responsibilities, women should go to their place of worship, intending aitekaf (spiritual retreat), even if only for a short amount of time, and keep themselves busy as much as possible in worship. When she has to do something important, such as go to the kitchen or go shopping or visit a sick neighbor, she can leave her aitekaf and return when able. Such an aitekaf is valid (and recommended) even outside Ramadan for women. In fact, it is best for them to intend aitekaf every time they enter their place of worship (musalla) even for their daily prayers.
It is not valid for men to do aitekaf in other than a mosque. – PT