Women performing Itikhaf during Ramadan remains a popular subject of discussion. Exactly what Itikhaf is, the method in which it is performed, and choices women have with regards to where it is observed, will be explored.
What is Itikhaf?
Itikhaf is literally seclusion, seclusion within a masjid, for the purpose of worshipping Allah. It is a highly regarded Sunnah, classified as a very noble and great act of worship. Observing it in conjunction with fasting can occur throughout the year, but is of exceptional significance during the last ten nights of Ramadan, a habit of the Muhammad sallallahu alaihi wasallam.
Itikhaf for Men and Women
Both men and women are encouraged to observe this Sunnah.
Men usually perform Itikhaf in the masjid, and it involves secluding and isolating oneself within the confines of the masjid as much as possible.
Interesting to note that, with regards to women observing this Sunnah, scholars differ in terms of the locality of Itikhaf – within the masjid or at her home-but its significance and reward remain intact wherever one choses to observe it.
In the Hanafi mathhab, the ruling is that women may perform Itikhaf in any location of choice, so it is permitted to either do so in a masjid or at home, with reference made to the hadith stating that the masjid of the home is better than the masjid of the area in which one lives.
Also extrapolating from this hadith, some scholars have said that it is permissible for women to perform Itikhaf at home and there is greater merit in it.
Amazing to note that a large number of scholars support women performing Itikhaf within the boundaries of the mosque, as it pertains to rulings by Imam Shaafi, Hanbal and Maalik, as well as explicit statements in the :in Suratul Baqarah –
“Do not approach your wives while you are performing Itikhaf in the masjids”
Hadith states that the Prophet Muhammad sallallahu alaihi wasallam, would do Itikhaf within his masjid. Taking into account that his house was attached to the masjid, as mentioned by Sheikh Yasir Qadhi, there would be no reason for him sallallahu alaihi wasallam to leave the comforts and security of his home but for the fact that Itikhaf is to be performed in the masjid only. Also note that the homes of the wives of the Prophet sallallahu alaihi wasallam, like Umm Salamah, were also attached to the masjid. When they wished to do Itikhaf, with reference to the particular case of Umm Salamah, a special tent was constructed for her within the masjid, which further indicates the performance of Itikhaf by women within masjid boundaries sallallahu alaihi wasallam wives, given their status, were instructed to have an additional veil covering over and above what is mandatory, and thus a tent would not be necessary for women ordinarily. Various salafs have also found numerous hadith that support women doing Itikhaf in masjids rather than within their homes, as stated by Dr Zaakir Naik.
- Women’s Facilities
Women facilities are necessary. Masjid administrations would need to cater for women wishing to observe Itikhaf there, providing proper facilities, and a designated area ensuring privacy, safety and security, as well as community members being supportive and vigilant in this regard, treating this as a concern.
- Performing Itikhaf
The principle of Itikhaf is not to leave the mosque, or allocated area within the home unless necessity dictates. One is allowed to go out only to answer the call of nature, or eat if unable to eat inside the masjid, or to perform whudhu, or ghusl, or to take a bath. It is best to do it for the full ten nights, and the minimum time frame is a day and a night.
Narrated by Aisha (radihullahu anhu): “Prophet Muhammad sallallahu alaihi wasallam never entered the house unless it was for a need.”
[Sahih Bukhari, volume 3, Book of Itikhaf, hadith 2029]
Ayesha (Radiullahu Anhu) related to us that:”The rules of Shariat for the person who is in Itikhaf are that he should neither go out to visit the sick nor attend a funeral nor have sexual intercourse or embrace ones wife, nor even step out of the Mosque for personal needs save those that are unavoidable (such as, answering the call of nature), and Itikhaf (should be observed only with fasting) – there can be no Itikhaf without fasting – and it must be carried out in the masjid and at no other place.”
[Sunan abu Dawud, vol 2, Book of Fasting, hadith 2467]
One should also, once ones need has been met, return as quickly as possible.
A Productive Approach
- Plan what you wish to do every day, whether you’re sitting in Itikhaf for a day or for the entire period. Have a day by day plan, or an hour by hour outline; plan the surahs you may read, a slot for making dua, factor in a slot for sleep, and when you may freshen up and maybe take a shower.
- Try to avoid technology, like laptops and smartphones; this is not haram – but it does pose a distraction if in your personal space, so unless it provides a function like as a Quran reader for example, consider sitting in seclusion without it to derive more focus.
- Have good companionship – choose people who remind you, help you and advise you during Itikhaf, as opposed to those whom you would just hang out with and neglect the purpose you chose.
It is evident that Itikhaf is recommended for both men and women, and that women have a choice between performing Itikhaf at home or at the masjid. The duration may extend from a day and a night to observing the entire 10 days, leaving only if necessity permits. Careful planning allows for a more productive experience.