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Glory is to Allah (SWT) for bringing us to where we are now in the course of this year’s Ramadan fast. With only two days to bring our count of the Ramadan fast to twenty, it is pertinent to discuss i’tikaf and lailat-ul Qadr. The act of secluding in a mosque during the last ten days of Ramadan is referred to, in Islam, as i’tikaf. It was a popular tradition of the prophet (SAW) to observe i’tikaf during the last ten days of Ramadan in the last nine years of his life. A believer who undertakes i’tikaf is called Mu’takif in Arabic. I’tikaf aims at distilling the heart of the Mu’takif from everything that is worthless in the sight of Allah (SWT).
The time to enter into i’tikaf is usually before sunset of the day the Mu’takif desires to begin the seclusion. The Mu’takif, while in seclusion, is prohibited from visiting the sick; attending funeral prayers even if it were for his parents; having conjugal relationships; and from buying and selling. Engaging in any of these acts vitiate the i’tikaf. Allah (SWT) mentions in Qur’an 2:187 “…then complete your fast till the night appears; But do not associate with your wives while ye are in seclusion in the mosques. Those are limits (set by) Allah: Approach not nigh thereto. Thus doth Allah make clear His signs to me: that they may learn self restraints”. A Mu’tikaf is also not required to engage in extensive studies or writing of academic or religious note. What is recommended during i’tikaf is for him to engage in voluntary prayers, constant recitation of the holy Qur’an and the glorification of Allah’s beautiful names.
A Mu’takif must also avoid as much as possible entering into his family house or intermingling with his family members. His interaction with the outside world should be minimized to the barest minimum except for reasons of answering the call of nature or a dire need to communicate with them on a very important subject matter. He must however return to his i’tikaf spot immediately after attending to such necessities in order to continue his seclusion. Imam Malik (RA) writes in his Al-Muwatta that he saw some of the people of knowledge who, when they observed i’tikaf in the last ten days of Ramadan, would not go back to their families until they have attended the Eidl-fitr prayer. The Mu’takif is required to, on the first day of the Islamic month of Shawwal (i.e. Eidl-fitr day), proceed directly from the mosque in which he observed i’tikaf to the Eid praying ground and would not return to his family until he had offered the Eid prayers along with other worshippers. Women who wish to partake in i’tikaf may do so only with the express permission of their husbands.
Although men are allowed to have physical relationships with their wives during Ramadan, such a contact is prohibited while in i’tikaf. Allah (SWT) states in Qur’an 2:187 “Permitted to you on the night of the fasts is the approach to your wives. They are your garments and ye are their garments…But do not associate with your wives while ye are in seclusion in the mosques…”. Nevertheless, there is no harm for a Mu’takif to enter into a marriage contract as long as the marriage is not consummated during i’tikaf. May Allah (SWT) give us the ability, the capacity and a strong will power to observe i’tikaf in this year’s Ramadan.
The last ten days, which is the period of i’tikaf is usually the pinnacle and the most crucial part of Ramadan because, within it is a night described by Allah (SWT) as “better than a thousand months”. This unique night is called the Night of Power (lailat ul-Qadr). It is the night in which Allah (SWT) revealed the holy Qur’an to the prophet (SAW) through Angel Jibril (AS). The knowledge of exact night upon which lailt ul-Qadr falls in Ramadan is unknown. Allah (SWT) has concealed it from us. The only clue to it as given by the prophet (SAW) is that, the night is within the last ten days of Ramadan with greater emphasis on the night preceding the odd days namely: the 21st, 23rd, 25th, 27th and 29th of Ramadan. Many scholars give prominence to it being the 27th night of Ramadan. Aisha (RA) reports that the prophet (SAW) said “search for lailat ul-Qadr in the last ten days of Ramadan”.
Believers are enjoined by Allah (SWT) to search for Lailat ul-Qadr with diverse acts of worship which may include recitation of the Holy Qur’an, observing superogatory (nafilat) prayers and glorifying Allah (SWT) through tasbih (saying of Subhana llahi); tamhid (saying of Alhamdu lillahi); tahlil (saying of La ila illa-llah); and takbir (saying of Allahu Akbar). Imam Tirmidhi relates on the authority of Aisha (RA) that the prophet exhorts believers to, among other supplications of lailat ul-Qadr recite, “Allahumma! Anta Afwun, Tuhibb ul afwa, fa’fu ani” meaning ‘O Allah! You are indeed the most Pardoning; you love to pardon; so pardon me”.
The month of Ramadan in which lailat ul-Qadr is concealed, comes but once in a year. Let us at this stage of the Ramadan fast intensify our commitment to the worship of Allah (SWT). Let us endeavour to stay awake to observe tahajjud prayers in the remaining nights of this blessed month, perchance we might find this honourable night rewarding. Let our beds, mattresses and pillows miss the company of our flanks for these few nights. Allah (SWT) speaks of those who shun the comfort of their beds at night in Qur’an 32: 16 and states “Their limbs do forsake their beds of sleep, the while they call on their lord, in fear and hope…” Allah (SWT) similarly commands us in Qur’an 17:79 wherein He states “And pray in the small watches of morning; (it will be) an additional prayer (or spiritual profit) for thee: soon will thy lord raise thee to a station of praise and glory”.
Our resistance against the devil’s persistent intrigue begins from the point of planning our daily activities. If we can afford to organize our time to enable us browse the internet throughout the night, we should in the same wise be able to systematically arrange and coordinate our daily engagements for the sake of devoting the midnight hours to the worship of Allah and Allah alone! May He (SWT) accept all our voluntary forms of worship; forgive our sins and grant us mercy, amin.