Ibn Abbas narrated, Once I was in a state of i’tikaf in the Prophet’s Mosque (Medina). A certain person came to me and sat down. I said to him, ‘O so and so, you look sad’. He said, ‘Yes of course, o fraternal brother of the Prophet. So-and-so has his due on me, and by the one who lies in eternal peace in the grave (i.e. Prophet Muhammad), I am not able to pay the debt’ I said, ‘Should I not talk to him about your debt?’ He said, ‘You can do so if you like’ Thereupon I put my shoes on and went out of the mosque. The person asked him, ‘Have you forgotten the state you were in (i.e. i’tikaf)?’ I replied, ‘Not at all, but I have heard from the one who lies in eternal peace in the grave [saying this his eyes became filled with tears], said:
“One who moves to fulfill any need of his brother, and makes effort for it, will find it better than itikaaf of ten years; and one who performs i’tikaf for one day for the pleasure of Allah, he will create a distance of three ditches between him and the hell – and each ditch has a width which lies between East and West, or between the heaven and earth.”
Source: Al Targhib Vol II p 272.
By the blessings of Allah, we are approaching another Ramadan. For most of us, we feel a little taste of hunger during this month only. But there are billions for whom it is a matter of daily life. Let us get immense rewards by helping our needy brothers and sisters around the world during this month of generosity.
Itikaf means seclusion and staying in the mosque with the intention of worshipping and becoming closer to Allah. Every Ramadan, the Prophet (peace be upon him) would retreat himself in Itikaf for the last 10 days. The year he died, he observed Itikaf for twenty days. (Bukhari)
As the month of blessings and mercy is coming to the end, similarly, the recitation of the complete Qur’an is also coming to the Khatam which would be on the 27th night of Ramadan. The last ten nights are very important nights. Ayesha (may Allah be pleased with her) said that the Prophet (peace be upon him) used to exert himself in night prayer especially during the last 10 days of Ramadan.
Ayesha (may Allah be pleased with her) said, “Allah’s Messenger used to practice Itikaf in the last ten nights and say: ‘Seek out Lailat-ul-Qadr in the (odd nights) of the last ten days of Ramadan.” (Bukhari and Muslim).
Lailat-ul-Qadr (Night of Decree) is the greatest night of the year. It is a night about which Allah revealed a full Surah, Surah Al-Qadr, and verses 3-6 of Surah Al-Dukhan. Allah the Almighty said in the Qur’an, “Verily, We have sent it (his Qur’an) down in the night of Al-Qadr (Decree). And what will make you know what the night of Al-Qadr (Decree)is? The night of Al-Qadr (Decree) is better than a thousand months (i.e. worshipping Allah in that night is better than worshipping Him a thousand months, i.e. 83 years and 4 months). Therein descend the angels and the Ruh [Jibril (Gabril)] by Allah’s Permission with all Decrees, (All that night), there is Peace (and Goodness from Allah to His Believing slaves) until the appearance of dawn.” (Qur’an, 97:1-5)
Abu Hurairah reported that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “…there is a night (during this month) which is better than a thousand months. Whoever is deprived of its good is really deprived (of something great). (Ahmad, an-Nisai and al-Bayhaqi).
Spend more time with the Qur’an. Read the Qur’an every day. Try to recite the whole Qur’an at least once during this month. Pray on time. Men should try to observe all the prayers with the congregation at mosques. Do not ignore the Taraweeh. Make more extra and voluntary prayers.
Do as much worship as you can. Do more Dhikr (remembering Allah) and Du’a (supplication) for yourself and for others. Repent and seek forgiveness for yourself and for others as much as you can. This is the best time for devotion and seeking Allah’s forgiveness. Seek the Night of Qadr by special devotion during the last 10 nights of this month.
The month of blessing and forgiveness is passing away very quickly. Do not miss the remaining last ten days and nights. Let us clear our sins. Let us seek the Night of Qadr!
FASTING during Ramadan was ordained during the second year of Hijra. Why not earlier? In Makkah the economic conditions of the Muslims were bad. They were being persecuted. Often days would go by before they had anything to eat. It is easy to skip meals if you don’t have any. Obviously fasting would have been easier under the circumstances. So why not then?
The answer may be that Ramadan is not only about skipping meals. While fasting is an integral and paramount part of it, Ramadan offers a comprehensive program for our spiritual overhaul. The entire program required peace and security that was offered by Madinah.
Yes, Ramadan is the most important month of the year. It is the month that the believers await with eagerness. At the beginning of Rajab — two full months before Ramadan — the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) used to supplicate thus : “O Allah! Bless us during Rajab and Sha’ban, and let us reach Ramadan (in good health).”
During Ramadan the believers get busy seeking Allah’s mercy, forgiveness, and protection from Hellfire. This is the month for renewing our commitment and re-establishing our relationship with our Creator. It is the spring season for goodness and virtues when righteousness blossoms throughout the Muslim communities. If we combine all the blessings of the other 11 months, they would not add up to the blessings of Ramadan. It offers every Muslim an opportunity to strengthen his Iman, purify his heart and soul, and to remove the evil effects of the sins committed by him.
“Any one who fasts during this month with purity of belief and with expectation of a good reward (from his Creator), will have his previous sins forgiven,” said Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). He further said: “Anyone who stands in prayers during its nights with purity of belief and expectation of a reward, will have his previous sins forgiven.” As other Ahadith tell us, the rewards for good deeds are multiplied manifold during Ramadan.
Along with the possibility of a great reward, there is the risk of a terrible loss. If we let any other month pass by carelessly, we just lost a month. If we do the same during Ramadan, we have lost everything. The person who misses just one day’s fast without a legitimate reason cannot really make up for it even if he were to fast everyday for the rest of his life. And of the three persons that Prophet (peace be upon him) cursed, one is the unfortunate Muslim who finds Ramadan in good health but does not use the opportunity to seek Allah’s mercy.
Know, that in the fast (Sawm) is a special quality that is not found in anything else. And that is its close connection to Allah, such that He says:
‘‘The Fast (Sawm) is for Me and I will reward for it.’’
This connection is enough to show the high status of fasting. Similarly, the Ka’bah is highly dignified due to its close connection to Him, as occurs in His statement:
‘‘And sanctify My House.’’
Indeed, the fast is an excellent act of worship due to two significant reasons:
· It is a secret and hidden action, thus, no one from the creation is able to see it; therefore riya‘ (showing off) cannot enter it.
· It is a means of subjugating the enemies of Allah. This is because the road that the enemies (of Allah) embark upon (in order to misguide the son of Adam) is that of desires. And eating and drinking strengthens the desires. There are many Prophetic traditions that indicate the merits of fasting, and they are well-known
Recommended acts of fasting
The pre-dawn meal (suhoor) and delaying in taking it are preferable, as well as hastening to break the fast and doing so with dates. Generosity in giving in charity is also recommended during Ramadan, as well as doing good deeds and giving more and more in charity. This is in accordance with the Sunnah of the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him).
It is also recommended to study the Qur‘an and perform I‘tikaf (seclusion for worship) during Ramadan, especially in its last 10 days, as well as exerting in doing good deeds in it. In the two Saheehs, ’Aa‘isha said: ‘‘When the last 10 days (of Ramadan) would come, the Prophet would grid up his loins’’
The scholars have mentioned two views concerning the meaning of ‘girding up his lions.’ The first is that it means the turning away from women.
The second is that it is an expression denoting his eagerness and diligence in doing good deed. They also say that the reason for his making an extra effort the last 10 days of Ramadan was due to his seeking of the Night of al-Qadr (Laylatul-Qadr).
Inner secrets of fasting
There are three levels of fasting, the general fast, the specific fast and the more specific fast. As for the general fast, it is the restraining of one’s stomach and private parts from fulfilling their desires.
The specific fast is the refraining of ones gaze, tongue, hands, feet, hearing and eyes, as well as the rest of one’s body parts from committing sinful acts. As for the more specific fast, it is the heart’s abstention from its yearning for the worldly objects and the thoughts which distance one away from Allah, as well as its (the heart’s) abstention from all the things that Allah has placed at the same level.
Among the characteristics of the specific fast is that one lowers his gaze and safeguards his tongue from the repulsive speech that is forbidden, disliked, or which has no benefit, as well as controlling the rest of his body parts. As is mentioned in a Hadith by Al-Bukhari: ‘‘Whosoever does not abandon false speech and acting upon it, Allah is not in need of his giving up food and drink.’’
Another characteristic of the specific fast is that one does not overfill oneself with food during the night. Instead, he eats in due measure, for indeed, the son of Adam does not fill a vessel more evil than his stomach. If he were to eat his fill during the first part of the night, he would not make good use of the remainder of the night.
In the same way, if he eats to his fill for suhoor, he does make good use of himself until the afternoon. This is because excessive eating breeds laziness and lethargy.
Therefore, the objective of fasting is lost due to one’s excessive in eating, for what is indeed intended by the fast, is that one savours the taste of hunger and readily shuns his carnal desires.
“O you who believe! Fasting is prescribed for you as it was prescribed for those before you, that you may become Al-Muttaqun (the pious).
(Fasting) for a fixed number of days, but if any of you is ill or on a journey, the same number (should be made up) from other days. And as for those who can fast with difficulty, ( i.e. an old man, etc.), they have (a choice either to fast or) to feed a poor person (for every day). But whoever does good of his own accord, it is better for him. And that you fast, it is better for you if only you know.” (2:183-84)
“The month of Ramadan in which was revealed the Quran, a guidance for mankind and clear proofs for the guidance and the criterion (between right and wrong). So whoever of you sights (the crescent on the first night of) the month (of Ramadan), he must fast that month, and whoever is ill or on a journey, the same number (of days which one did not fast must be made up) from other days.
Allah intends for you ease, and He does not want to make things difficult for you. (He wants that you) must complete the same number (of days), and that you must magnify Allah for having guided you so that you may be grateful to Him” (2: 185).
“It is made lawful for you to have sexual relations with your wives on the night of the fasts. They are garments for you and you are the same for them. Allah knows that you used to deceive yourselves, so He turned to you and forgave you. So now have sexual relations with them and seek that which Allah has ordained for you, and eat and drink until the white thread (light) of dawn appears to you distinct from the black thread (darkness of night), then complete your fast till the nightfall.
And do not have sexual relations with them (your wives) while you are in Itikaf in the mosques. These are the limits (set) by Allah, so approach them not. Thus does Allah make clear His signs to mankind that they may become Al Muttaqun (the pious)” (2:187).
“Verily! We have sent it (this Quran) down in the night of Al-Qadr.
And what will make you know what the night of Al-Qadr is?
The night of Al-Qadr is better than a thousand months
Therein descend the angels and the Ruh (Gabriel) by Allah’s Permission with all Decrees,
Peace! until the appearance of dawn (97:1-5).
The Messenger of Allah (blessings of Allah be upon him and his family) is reported to have said:
“The persons who secludes himself (for I’tikaf) in true faith and hope (of reward from Allah), all of his previous sins shall be forgiven.” (Kanzul Ummal, Hadith 24007)
The meaning of Itikaf is to seclude oneself in the Masjid with the express niyyah (intention) of Itikaf.
Allah has indeed in his perfect wisdom created humanity in a unique way. He has made it such that from time to time His creation needs a rest. We rest at night to give our bodies time to recover. Birds retire to their nests, horses to their stables, bees to their hives etc. However there comes a time when more intensive rest or retreat is required. Sometimes due to a person’s physical condition he is admitted into the hospital’s intensive care unit allowing his or her body time to recover.
Likewise the soul also needs to recover from the hustle and bustle of the world, the spiritual pollution caused by evil elements of society, the rat race of wanting, desiring and acquiring more of this world and the distractions that has diverted our mind, heart and soul from the remembrance of Allah Ta’ala and His Beloved Messenger Muhammad (peace be upon him).
The Intensive Care Unit(ICU) for the soul is the Musjid and Itikaf is the facitilty within this ICU to allow the soul to not only recover but be spiritually rejuvenated!
Itikah is indeed a Spiritual Retreat!
Inside each and every human being, a constant battle rages. It is like a battle between two wolves. One of the wolves is evil. It is full of hate, lust, and greed. His fangs drip with bitterness and strife. The other wolf is a good one. He is full of love, compassion, and honesty. He never betrays his brother.
These two wolves are constantly at war. Which wolf is going to win the battle?
The answer is quite obvious…. Whichever one you feed.
Our soul is being bombarded by forces of good and evil. We need to feed it good so that it overpowers the evil….and Itikaf is indeed an excellent opportunity to achieve this.
Since the life of the transient world keeps us busy for the whole year in studies, work, social functions, business, travelling and other such things that causes us to be negligent of our souls and the next life, we may sometimes think that these things are the sole purpose in life and thus, we end up forgetting our true goal – Allah (Glory and Greatness be to Him). Thus, it is for this reason that I’tikaf is referred to as “The spring of life in a world struck with the drought of negligence of Allah (Glory and Greatness be to Him).”
The period of I’tikaf is the best time to force one’s self to sit and think and reflect on the self and the world around; the period of the I’tikaf is the best time to forget the worries of the transient world and to return to nurturing the soul and linking oneself with the Creator of the soul; the period of the I’tikaf is the best time to return back to Allah (Glory and Greatness be to Him) in true repentance for our sins committed through the year and to give our souls the spiritual strength desperately needed to live a spiritual and pure life in this challenging world.