I’tikaf is unique form of worship in this month of Ramdan, a person gives up all his activities, abandons his attachments, associations and routines and enters the masjid for a specific period. 

Islam does not approve monasticism which is based on the concept that Allah's pleasure cannot be attained without abandoning all worldly activities for ever. The Holy Qur'an has expressly condemned this concept. Islam has, instead, emphasized on earning one's livelihood through 
permissible means, on one's mingling with his family members and on discharging all the obligations toward his wife, children, relatives neighbors and other acquaintants. But at the same time, as explained earlier in more detail, sometimes one's deep involvement in these activities slows down his spiritual progress. In order to repair this loss, a Muslim is required to spare a time in which he separates himself from the normal routine of worldly activities and to sit in seclusion, devoting his heart and soul for pure spiritual acts. I'tikaf is a beautiful way to carry out this objective. In I'tikaf, one leaves his home and family and undertakes to remain in the masjid for a limited period. This unique mode of worship can be done any time in the year. However, it has been declared as a Sunnah mu'akkadah in the last ten days of Ramadan, because Ramadan is the most suitable time to carry out this worship. Moreover, the last ten days of Ramadan are the days in which Laylatul Qadr normally occurs and as explained earlier, its definite time is unknown. It may occur in any of the odd nights of these days. When one is in the state of I'tikaf for the last ten days of Ramadan, he can surely benefit from its infinite merits, because even if he is sleeping in the Laylatul Qadr, while he is in the state of I'tikaf, it will be credited to his account as 'worship' in the Laylatul Qadr, because each and every second in the state of I'tikaf is 'ibadah, even if one is eating, drinking or sleeping. This extraordinary privilege cannot be attained in one's home. That is why the Holy Prophet (PBUH) used to perform I'tikaf every year in Ramadan. 

The detailed instructions and regulations of I'tikaf are explained in my book, 'The Rules of I'tikaf' and it is not proper to reproduce all of them here. However, some fundamental rules of I'tikaf are summarized here:

Some Rules of I'tikaf:
1.     I'tikaf in the last ten days of Ramadan is Sunnah 'alal-kifayah. It means that in each masjid, at least one person should sit in I'tikaf. If he does so, the requirement of Sunnah is fulfilled for the whole locality. However, if no person performs I'tikaf, the whole locality is responsible for not observing the Sunnah. Therefore, the residents of a locality should make sure that some person is performing I'tikaf in their masjid. If no such person is available, they should prepare someone to do so. 

2.     The time of this I'tikaf commences immediately after the sunset of the 20th day of Ramadan. Therefore, a person who wants to sit in I'tikaf, must enter the masjid before sunset on that day, so that sunset takes place while he is in the masjid. 

3.     The main requirement for a valid I'tikaf is that one remains in the limits of the masjid throughout the period of I'tikaf and never comes out of it, except for the necessities like easing oneself by attending the call of nature. 

4.     The "limits of the masjid" for the purpose of I'tikaf are restricted to the places meant for offering salah and determined as such by the founders of the masjid or by its administration. Therefore, the places like the place of ablution, toilets, etc. are not included in the "limits of a masjid" for the purpose of I'tikaf. Therefore, if a person enters these places without the aforesaid necessity, his I'tikaf shall terminate. 

5.     One can go out of the masjid during I'tikaf only for the following needs: 

a.      to answer the call of nature
b.     to make obligatory ghusl, i.e. in the state of impurity (janabah) (It should be remembered that it is not allowed during I'tikaf to go out of the masjid for having non-obligatory bath, like the bath of Friday, etc.)
c.      to bring food where no other person is available to bring it. In this case, it is allowed either to bring food to the masjid or to have food elsewhere outside the masjid
d.     to offer the jum'ah prayer, if no jum'ah prayer is offered in the same masjid in which he is sitting in I'tikaf.
e.      to move to another masjid in the event of a serious danger to one's life or propert.

6.     It is advisable that a person performing I'tikaf avoids all unnecessary activities and spends the most of his time in the acts of worship, like salah, recitation of the Holy Qur'an or making dhikr or tasbeeh. However, it is makruh to remain silent totally. 

7.     The following acts result in terminating the I'tikaf

a.      to leave the masjid even for a moment without the aforesaid needs
b.     to remain outside the masjid after fulfilling the aforesaid needs
c.      to have sexual intercourse, or emission through some other intentional acts like kissing, cuddling, etc. which are totally prohibited in I'tikaf.
d.     any act which breaks one's fast, like eating, drinking, etc. (Since fasting is a pre-condition for a valid masnun I'tikaf, the I'tikaf is automatically terminated by breaking of the fast). 

8.     If the I'tikaf is terminated for any reason, it becomes obligatory on the relevant person that he make qada' of the I'tikaf for one day only (he need not to perform I'tikaf for ten days). For example, A started a masnun I'tikaf on 21st night of Ramadan with intention to sit in I'tikaf for ten days, but on 25th of Ramadan he came out of the masjid mistakenly or unconsciously. His I'tikaf is thus terminated. Now, he has to make qada' of one day only. He needs not to repeat the I'tikaf for ten days, nor for five days. Therefore, he can discharge this obligation by starting I'tikaf for one day, either in the same Ramadan, or after Ramadan by keeping a nafl fast, or in the next Ramadan. If he elects to perform qada' in the same Ramadan, he can sit in I'tikaf before the sunset of 25th Ramadan (in which his I'tikaf was terminated) and observe I'tikaf upto the sunset of the 26th. His obligation will be discharged. Then, he is at liberty either to go home or to continue his I'tikaf as nafl (and not as a Sunnah or wajib).

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