E’tikaf is to sit in the mosque with the specific intention of E’tikaf. In the opinion of the Hanafi scholars, E’tikaf is of three types.
1. Waajib (compulsory)
2. Sunnat-e-Muakkadah (emphasized Sunnah)
3. Mustahabb (desirable)
If a person takes an oath that if a certain task is fulfilled then he will observe E’tikaf for a fixed period of time and the task is completed, then E’tikaf is compulsory (waajib) on that person. To fast during waajib E’tikaf is a condition.
This is in the last ten days of the holy month of Ramadhan. This is because the Holy Prophet has emphasized observing E’tikaf in these ten days. This can be clearly understood from the following Hadith. It is reported from Hazrat Aisha that the Holy Prophet used to observe E’tikaf in the last ten days of Ramadhan until the time of his demise. After this, the Holy Wives of the Prophet used to observe E’tikaf. (Bukhari, Muslim, Mishkaat).
This is the reason why the Hanafi scholars categorize it as a Sunnah-e-Muakkadah. Hazrat Ibn Abbas relates that Rasullullah said:
“The person performing E’tikaf remains free from sins, and he is indeed given the same reward as all those who do righteous deeds. (Inspite of not having done those deeds as a result of having been secluded in the Masjid). (Ibn Majah)
By remaining secluded in the Masjid during the last ten days of Ramadhan, one completely avoids falling into unintentional evil acts, and by this E’tikaf, if one does miss an opportunity for any good deeds such as the funeral prayer, attending burials, visiting the sick etc; one is rewarded for these deeds without performing them.
There is no fixed period of time for this type of E’tikaf. One may perform this for as many days or as long as one desires. It is appropriate that a person makes the intention of E’tikaf whenever he enters the Masjid, so that he receives reward until he remains within the Masjid.
E’tikaf for Ladies
Ladies should perform E’tikaf inside their homes. The room where Salaah is normally performed should be set aside for this E’tikaf. If Salaah is performed in the bedrooms, E’tikaf should be performed there. The domestic duties should be carried out by daughters or servants while the person in E’tikaf remains constantly in worship in her room
Additional Rules For Ladies In E’tikaf
The following five rules apply to women only:
1. A woman may perform E’tikaf in the room that is used for her daily Salaah.
2. A woman must have the permission of her husband for E’tikaf. Once the husband has consented to his wife’s E’tikaf, he then cannot withdraw his permission.
3. If there is no person to serve her meals during E’tikaf, the woman is allowed to go to the kitchen to prepare a quick simple meal.
4. If during the E’tikaf the woman has her monthly periods or nifaas (bleeding after child’s birth) the E’tikaf is nullified. She must observe Qadha (recompense) of the remaining days after she is purified. This is if the E’tikaf is waajib or Sunnah, in which vowed days are fixed. In the case where the E’tikaf is Mustahab in which the days vowed for are not fixed, she will have to observe Qadha of the full E’tikaf.
5. A woman is allowed to sleep on her bed and use a chair while she is in E’tikaf. She can also walk around in her room for a short while to relieve the stiffness in her limbs.
Ibn Qayyem says that the sole reason of observing E’tikaf is to create a bond between Allah and his slave to such an extent that the slave leaves everything aside and becomes engrossed in the worship of Allah.
He becomes cut off from everything else so much so that all his thoughts are lost in the remembrance of Allah until he reaches such a stage that his love for the creation is changed into the love for Allah because of which he will be helped when he has to face the frightful sight of the grave. On that day, apart from Allah, there will be no friend and no protector. If a person has true love for Allah, then there is no limit to the ecstasy and happiness he will feel. Even if the most hard hearted of people were to perform E’tikaf with sincerity then there will be no barrier whatsoever to stop him from attaining the state mentioned above. Allah is such that He accepts any excuse to forgive and many times He forgives without any reason because of His mercy and love for forgiving. As a poet has said:
“May my blood be shed in your path.
This is what the heart yearns for and desires.
Your generosity is such that the door of
Your mercy is ever open.
As for Allah’s bestowal ask Musa Alayhis salaam,
he went to get flame
and was given Prophethood instead.”
E’tikaf enjoys a special relationship with Ramadhan. So what is the essence of E’tikaf? Its essence is an integral part of sacrifice because it constitutes four essential requirements:
1. Eating less
2. Sleeping less
3. Speaking less
4. Less intermingling with people.
In the Islamic Shariah all fardh (compulsory) acts are of a moderate nature. Subsequently, E’tikaf too has a great deal of moderation and in order to perceive this, it is necessary to be acquainted with true and genuine knowledge along with associating with the righteous. This moderate path will only be seen through the radiance which stems from authentic knowledge and association with the pious. The association of knowledge without pious company will not be adequate. Take for instance Balam-Ba’ura who was such a great saint that there was no one like him in his time, but since he did not associate with the pious he deviated to such an extent that he became cursed like Shaytaan. In short, this knowledge cannot be attained without the company of the pious. In a Hadith, it is stated that when you see an ascetic who speaks less then sit by him because his heart is full of wisdom. This wisdom will reflect on you because a heart is a mirror. Whatever is displayed in one will be reflected in the other.
It has been stated in a Hadith that the Prophet ’s mode of conduct was the Qur’an. This was because in all aspects of life he acted on the Qur’an.
In another Hadith, it is stated that the Prophet ’s conduct was the Qur’an. The E’tikaf is a Sunnah of the Prophet and although the Prophet himself performed it punctually and never missed it, he never rebuked those who did not observe it so the scholars are of the view that E’tikaf is a Sunnah-e-Muakkadah (an emphasized Sunnah) which is incumbent on the (local) community so if one person fulfilled this obligation (Sunnah-e-Muakkadah), the Sunnah will have been discharged. The blessings of this Sunnah are such that its observance by one individual will unburden the community of its performance and everyone will benefit.
Once E’tikaf has been initiated, it is necessary that some factors are taken into consideration. Firstly, it is very important to maintain respect of the mosque hence one should not indulge in unnecessary and useless talks and conversations. If one is indined to talk, it should be on some religious issue but even then care must be taken, not to disturb other mu’takifs (observers of E’tikaf) or those who are engaged in Salaah and, secondly, only those things should be brought which one will need.
One should bear in mind that the Masjid is a sanctum and so care should be taken to maintain its hygiene, cleanliness and it should not be made to resemble a home. Some people who are habitual smokers tend to go to the lavatory and smoke. This causes great inconvenience to others especially those who do not smoke. Islam prohibits troubling others so those who smoke are in fact perpetrating a sin whilst engaged in E’tikaf.
The following Hadith will give the reader an idea of the connection of the Qur’an with Ramadhan.
Hadith: Hazrat Ibn Abbas says:
“The most generous from people in terms of goodness was the Holy Prophet and he was most generous in those things which relate to Ramadhan. Hazrat Jibraeel Alayhis salaam used to come to the Prophet in all of the nights of Ramadhan. The Holy Prophet used to present the Qur’an to Hazrat Jibraeel Alayhis Salaam therefore Hazrat Jibraeel Alayhis Salaam used to visit him and the Prophet was most generous in goodness like the blowing wind.” (Mishkaat)
From this Hadith, we can conclude that the recitation of the Qur’an in Ramadhan is a Sunnah of the Prophet and we also learn from another Hadith that to recite in Ramadhan has more reward. The reward for one fardh is multiplied seventy times and the reward for nafl (optional prayer) becomes equivalent to that of a fardh prayer. We cannot imagine how much reward we will earn by reciting the Qur’an in Ramadhan. Plus reciting the Qur’an with Wudhu (ablution) will result in the reward being increased 25 times more for every letter recited.
The wisdom in increasing devotion towards Allah is that we earn a great deal of reward and we are able to supplicate to Allah at times when prayers are granted. Whenever we get an opportunity like this we should grasp it whole heatedly so that we do not deprive ourselves of its blessings and auspiciousness.
May Allah Taa’la increase our zeal for worship, and may He grant us many more of these occasions.
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