Short Answer: I’tikaf is not a “must”; it’s not an obligatory deed upon you. It is a beautiful Sunnah with many blessed rewards spiritually and physically. But if you are unable to commit to it due to your circumstances, then there is nothing upon you. Continue to do what you can do within your best abilities. If you want and you can, you can do I’tikaf for even one night. Allah rewards the sincerity and earnest efforts within the capacity of each individual.
Salam alaykum Brother,
Thank you for sending your question.
I’tikaf in the Quran and Sunnah
I’tikaf is an act of worship that has been mentioned both in the Quran and hadith.
For example, in the Quran, Allah says:
“It is made lawful for you to approach your wives during the night of the fast; they are an apparel for you and you for them. Allah knows that you were committing dishonesty to your souls. So He has relented towards you and pardoned you. Now, you may approach your wives and seek what Allah has written for you. Eat and drink until the white thread of dawn appears to you distinct from the black thread of night, then complete your fast till nightfall. Do not approach your wives during I’tikaf (retreat in the mosques in last ten days of Ramadan). These are the limits set by Allah: do not ever violate them. Thus Allah makes His revelations clear to mankind so that they may guard themselves against evil.” (Quran 2: 187)
And the blessed mother of the believers, A’isha (may Allah be pleased with her), narrated that:
The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings upon him) “used to perform I’tikaf during the last ten days of Ramadan until he died. Then his wives used to perform I’tikaf after his death.” [Agreed upon].
I’tikaf or retreat for a period of time in the mosques while remembering Allah and cutting off from the hustle and bustle, materialism and demands of the worldly life is a cleansing and purifying act. It helps put matters in perspective, recharges one’s energy, helps regain focus and brings a sense of direction and purpose.
However, it is not an obligatory act, and one shouldn’t feel burdened or pressured if this is something that is realistically not within their possible capacity.
The mercy of Allah is vast and the opportunities to gain maximum rewards are plenty. Allah wants to see the sincere and earnest effort from every person according to his/her best capabilities.
Seizing The Best Deeds & Rewards Nonetheless
As you can see from the following hadith, the Prophet (peace be upon him) instructed us within reason.
Abu Hurairah (May Allah be pleased with him) reported that the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) used to urge (the people) to perform (optional Tarawih) prayer at night during the month of Ramadan. He did not order them or make it obligatory on them. He (ﷺ) said, “Whosoever performs (optional Tarawih) prayers at night during the month of Ramadan, with Faith and in the hope of receiving Allah’s reward, will have his past sins forgiven.” [Muslim]
The Prophet instructed the night prayer and gave glad tidings of major rewards.
And this is open to everyone. The night starts from maghrib (sunset) until dawn. If it within everyone’s capacity to aim for praying the night prayers during Ramadan. For as little or as much as they possibly can. Allah will see the sincerity and the effort.
“And that there is not for man except that [good] for which he strives
And that his effort is going to be seen –
Then he will be recompensed for it with the fullest recompense” (Quran 53: 39-41)
Also, even if you didn’t manage to pray the whole night for some reason, the Prophet gave glad tidings that:
“Whoever prays Qiyam with the Imam until he finishes, Allah (SWT) will record for him the Qiyam of a (whole) night.” [Sunan an-Nisa’i]
So, if you can’t do I’tikaf, aim to pray taraweeh with the Imam after Isha for the last 10 nights, and this will count in rewards as a whole night in worship.
Also, if you can’t do I’tikaf for the whole 10 days and you really want to do it, nonetheless, then you may observe I’tikaaf for as long as you can: be it two or three days or even only one night. You can do what you can within your capacity.
To recap, simply and lovingly make use of the time you have in the precious last 10 Days of Ramadan:
- In the morning while at work, be conscious of Allah all the time (this is taqwa which is the purpose of Ramadan).
- Make dhikr all the time: tasbeeh, tahleel, istighfar…etc. Keep making dhikr it is extremely highly rewarding.
- Make dua and ask Allah a lot for all goodness in this life and the next.
- Listen to the Qur’an and read all times when you’re free.
- At night, pray the night prayer with the Imam.
- Even if you’re at home, seek to pray a few units of prayer in the last third of the night, when Allah is closer in the near Heaven, and ask Him for all you need.
- You can do I’tikaf for one night or a few nights if you are able.
Wherever you are, you’ll find Allah. If you seek Him as much as you can within your honest capacity and your true best effort, He will accept and reward you.
And Allah knows best.
I hope this helps.
Salam and please keep in touch.
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