I’tikaf – Temporary Social Isolation
Narrated Aisha (the wife of the Prophet):
“The Prophet used to practice i`tikaf in the last ten days of Ramadan till he died and then his wives used to practice i`tikaf after him.” (Al-Bukhari)
When the last third of Ramadan commenced, Prophet Muhammad became extra stringent in nightly prayer and daytime worship, secluding himself from not just his companions, but also his own family. The only conversations and social interactions he had during this time period were minimal, only the ones based on need.
It was narrated that Aisha said:
“The Prophet used to strive hard (in worship) in the last ten nights of Ramadan as he never did at any other time.” (Ibn Majah)
The root of the Arabic word “i`tikaf” lies in the letters ain-kaf-fa’, and it means, “to continue intent upon something, constantly or perseveringly” (Lane).
The meaning ties in perfectly with the actions of the Prophet in the last ten days and nights of Ramadan. As the month began its last leg before departing, he seemed to cling to it harder than before, and with even more zeal, maximizing the time he spent in complete devotion to God before it went away for eleven lunar months.
“With the start of the last ten days of Ramadan, the Prophet used to tighten his waist belt (i.e. work hard) and used to pray all the night, and used to keep his family awake for prayers.” (Al-Bukhari)
The Prophet remained awake at night engrossed in voluntary prayer, and spent the days fasting in social seclusion. During the last Ramadan of his life, before he passed away, he spent the last twenty days of this month in i`tikaf (instead of ten), and reviewed the entire Quran twice with angel Gabriel.
“The Prophet would awaken his family during the last ten (nights) of Ramadan.” (At-Tirmidhi)
The above hadiths clearly indicate that even the Prophet’s wives and children would join him in observing a more stringent routine of worship during the last ten days of Ramadan, backed by his prodding and encouragement. As his ummah, we should also do the same.
We should focus on reviewing our Quran in such a manner that our study and recitation of it lasts throughout Ramadan, and does not end well before the last few days, which are supposed to be the zenith of our worship, not the rock-bottom.
Instead of trying to “finish” our Quran review before the last week in order to “prepare” for Eid, we should continue reciting Quran and standing in prayer right until the Shawwal moon is sighted.
As Shawwal approaches, we should try not to get distracted by Eid preparations and last minute shopping, which is sadly the case with most Muslims around the globe, whose vigor to travel to join their families living in other countries for Eid celebrations, makes them waste the precious days and nights of the last week of Ramadan shopping for gifts, cooking food, spring-cleaning the house, packing suitcases, and to achieve all this, spending a lot of time in malls and markets at night.
The world and its colorful distractions, as well as our self-imposed social obligations, should be the last thing on our minds as Ramadan draws to a close.
As the Prophet’s sunnah demonstrates practically, we should cling even harder to the blessings of Ramadan as it begins to slip away.
In order to welcome Ramadan, let us transform our state of mind and spirit to one that is eagerly waiting for and craving its many benefits and rewards. Let us take out our wallets/cheque-books/debit cards and loosen our ‘purse strings’ in anticipation of giving heartily to those who are needy. Let us humble our hearts in advance, and beg Allah to open up our chests in order to let the light and guidance of the Quran enter them in the coming month.
And let us train our bodies in preparation of taking on long, hot hours of hunger and thirst – all in order to submit ourselves – heart, body and soul – to our benevolent Creator, who sends us this beautiful month every year as an open “invitation” to go running back to Him in humility and repentance.
(From Discovering Islam archives)Pages: 1 2