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Virtues of I'tikaaf

Library - Ramadhan

HADITH: Abu Saeed Khudri (Radhiallahu anhu) reports that Rasulullah (Sallallaahu alayhi Wasallam) once performed 'I'tikaaf' in a tent (inside the Masjid) for the first ten days of Ramadan. Thereafter, he extended it to the middle ten days. Thereafter, he put his head out of the tent and said: "Verily in search of "Laylatul Qadr" did I perform "I'tikaaf" for the first ten days and extended it to the next ten days for the same purpose; then I was told that this night is in the last ten days; so those with me should also continue the "I'tikaf". I had indeed been shown that night and then made to forget which one it shall be. And verily did I see myself prostrating to Allah with my forehead in mud on the morning after that night. Therefore, seek "Laylatul Qadr" among the last ten nights of Ramadan; seek it among the odd ones." Abu Saeed (Radi Allaho anho) says: "That same night it rained. The roof of the Masjid leaked, and I saw Rasulullah (Sallallaahu ?layhi Wasallam) performing 'Sujood' (prostration) in muddy clay; and that was the morning of the 21 st night."

COMMENTARY: It was the general practice of Rasulullah (Sallallaahu alayhi Wasallam) to perform "I'tikaaf" in Ramadhan. At times he used to remain in the mosque for the whole month and, during the last year of his life, he was in "I'tikaaf" for twenty days. Because he usually secluded himself in the Masjid for the last ten days of Ramadhan, the 'ulama' consider it "Sunnah Muakkadah" to perform "I'tikaaf" for that period.

From the above Hadith, it can be deduced that the major objet behind "I'tikaaf" was to search for "Laylatul Qadr". What better manner can there be for this search to remain in "Ibaadah" all the time, as in "I'tikaaf", whether one is awake or asleep. Furthermore, in "I'tikaaf" one is free from all daily tasks and thus has all the time to be devoted to "Zikruilah" (the remembrance of Allah) and meditation.

Throughout Ramadhan, Rasulullah (Sallallaahu alayhi Wasallam) remained in "Ibaadah" and particularly, when the last ten days came along, he set no limit in exerting himself. He himself remained awake throughout the night and set the example of waking up his family for the same purpose. Aa'isha (Radhiallaahu anha) reports: "During the last ten days of Ramadhan, Rasulullah (Sallallaahu alayhi Wasallam) tied his "Lungi" (trouser-cloth) tightly about him, staying awake all night, and waking his family (for the purpose of "Ibaadah)". "Tied his "Lungi" tightly about him" could mean either that he set no limits in exerting himself in "Ibaadah"; or that he completely avoided all forms of sexual contact with his wives.


Ibn Abbas (Radi Allaho Anho) relates that Rasulullah (Sallallaho alaihe wasallam) said: "The person performing "I'tikaaf" remains free from sins, and he is indeed given the same reward as for those who do righteous deeds (in spite of not having done these deeds) as a result of having been secluded in the masjid."

(Note that one remaining secluded in the masjid is not allowed to depart from there for worldly deeds. He may only go outside for the call of nature, to perform ablution or bath or for attending "Jumu'aa" when that is not performed in the same masjid, after which he must return forthwith.


Now this Hadith points to two great benefits of "I'tikaaf".

First, one avoids sin. The world all around us is full of temptations and very often one falls into sin without even intending to do so. To commit sin in the blessed month of Ramadhan is indeed a great injury to ourselves. Through remaining secluded in the masjid, one completely avoids the temptation to sin.

Secondly, it would appear outwardly that, when one is secluded in the masjid, one is apparently at a disadvantage by not being able to perform certain good deeds like joining in funeral prayers, attending burials, visiting the sick, etc. Therefore, according to this Hadith, one is rewarded for these deeds even though not performing them. What a great favour from Allah! How great is Allah's bounty! If only we can understand and properly appreciate these favours, which can attract the Mercy of Allah, but we are very neglectful of this and place little value on our "Deen."


Hazrat Ibn Abbas (RadhiAllaho anho) reports that, while he was once in "I'tikaaf" in the Masjid-e-Nabawi (Prophet's mosque), a certain man came to him, greeted him and sat down. Ibn Abbas said to him, 'I see that you seem sad and troubled." The man replied: "Yes. O son of the uncle of Rasulullah (Sallallaho alaihe wasallam), I am indeed troubled in that I have an obligation to fulfil towards someone. I swear by the holiness of the inmate of this honoured resting place (Rasulullah's (Sallallaho alaihe wasallam) grave) that I am not able to fulfil this obligation." Ibn Abbas inquired: "Shall I intercede with that person on your behalf?" The man replied "By all means, if you so wish." Ibn Abbas put on his shoes and proceeded out from the mosque. The man, seeing this, said: "Have you then forgotten that you are in "I'tikaaf?" Tears filling his eyes, Ibn Abbas replied: 'No, but the occasion is still fresh in my mind when I heard the esteemed inmate of this tomb say:

"Whoever sets forth in the way of settling a necessary affair on behalf of his brother, that service shall be better for him than to perform "I'tikaaf" for ten years; and whosoever performs "I'tikaaf" for a day (thereby seeking the pleasure of Allah, Allah will spread three trenches between him and the fire of Hell, the width of each trench being greater than the distance between Heaven and the Earth."


Two things are clear from this Hadith. In the first place, we are told that, by way of reward for one day's 'I'tikaaf', Allah spreads three trenches between him and the fire of "Jahannam", the width of which equals the distance between the Heavens and the Earth. In Kashful Ghummah, Allaama Sha'raani relates a Hadith wherein Rasulullah (Sallallaho alaihe wasallam) said: "Whoever performs "I'tikaaf" for the final ten days of Ramadhan; for him is the reward of two Hajj and two Umrahs; and whoever performs "I'tikaaf" from 'Maghrib' until Eshaa, doing nothing except performing "Salaat" and reciting the Qur'an, Allah will prepare a place for him in "Jannah."

In the second place, we are told that performing a service for one's brother brings a reward greater than ten years of "I'tikaaf". For this reason, Ibn Abbas (RadhiAllaho anho) broke off his "I'tikaaf"; it was of course possible for him to continue it afterwards. The Sufis say that Allah has such sympathy for very few things as He has for a broken heart. It is for this reason that we have been so much warned of the Appeals to Allah of that person whose heart has been hurt through any unjust treatment or persecution. Whenever the Prophet (Sallallaho alaihe wasallam) appointed anyone as a governor, in addition to advising him, he would also warn him to beware of the invocation (to Allah) of the persecuted. Note that "I'tikaaf" terminates when one leaves the mosque even for a task on behalf of a fellow Muslim. When that "I'tikaaf" is "Waajib", it will mean that it has to be performed all over again. Rasulullah (Sallallaahu ?layhi Wasallam) never left the mosque during "I'tikaaf", except for the calls of nature and "Wudhu". As for Ibn Abbas (Radhi Allaho anho) leaving the mosque to do some favour to a friend, it was in the spirit that is reminiscent of the soldier lying near death on the battle field of Yarmouk, refusing to drink water until his wounded comrade had been given the drink. On the other hand,it is quite possible that Ibn Abbas (Radhi Allaho anho) was performing "Nafl "I'tikaaf", in which case it was permissible for him to break it off.

In conclusion, I now quote a lengthy Hadith, in which many virtues are mentioned, and with this I conclude the book.


Ibn Abbas (Radi Allaho anho) says that he heard our Nabi (Sallallaho alaihe wasallam) say: "Jannah" (paradise) is made fragrant with the sweetest perfumes in Ramadhan. From the very beginning of the year till the end, it is brightly decorated for the coming of this blessed month. And when the first night of Ramadhan appears, a wind blows from beneath the Arsh (Throne). It is called 'Mutheera' and causes the leaves of the trees of "Jannah" to rustle and door handles to vibrate, thus giving forth such a melodious sound as had never been heard before. The dark-eyed damsels of 'Jannah' then step forth till they appear in the centre of the balconies of "Jannah", exclaiming, " Is there anyone praying to Allah for us that Allah may join us in marriage with him?" Then these damsels call out: "O Ridhwaan, Keeper of Jannah! what night is this?" He replies: "Labbaik", it is indeed the first night of Ramadhan, when the doors of "Jannah" are opened to those who observe the fast from among the "Ummah" of Muhammad (Sallallaho alaihe wasallam). Rasulullah (Sallalaho alaihe wasallam) further said: "Allah says, "O Ridhwan, open the doors of "Jannah" and O Maalik (Keeper of "Jahannam"), close the doors of "Jahannam" for those who fast from among the "Ummah" of Ahmad (Sallallaho alaihe wasallam). O Jibraeel, proceed down to the Earth and bind all.the rebellious "Shayateen", put them in chains, cast them in the oceans, so that they make no mischief, to spoil the fast of the "Ummah" of My beloved Muhammad (Sallallaho alaihe wasallam).' Allah commands a caller from the heavens to call out three times on every one of the nights of Ramadhan: "Is there anyone begging of Me that I may grant him his desire? Is there anyone repenting to me that I may turn in mercy to him? Is there anyone begging my forgiveness that I may forgive him? Who is there who shall give a loan to the One whose wealth does not diminish, and the One Who duly pays back without any deductions."

Rasulullah (Sallallaho alaihe wasallam) said further: "Every day at the time of "Iftaar" Allah sets free one thousand such souls from the fire of "Jahannam" who had previously been found deserving Jahannam. On the last night, He sets free as many more as had been set free throughout the month. On the night of Laylatul Qadr, Allah commands Jibra'il to descend to the earth with a large group of "Malaaikah". They descend carrying a green flag, which is then planted on top of the Ka'bah. Jibra'il (Alayhis Salaam) himself has one hundred wings, two of which are spread out on this night only. He spreads out these two wings so that their width extends from east to west. Jibraaeel (Alayhis Salaam) then sends out the "Malaaikah" in all directions to offer salutation to anybody they find standing in prayer or sitting, performing "Salaat" or celebrating the praises of Allah. They shake hands with them and say "Aameen" to all their prayers (Duaas) until dawn. When dawn comes, Jibra'il (Alayhis Salaam) calls out: 'Depart "Mala'ikah" of Allah, depart.' The Mala'ikah then inquire: 'O, Jibraeel what did Allah do regarding the needs that the faithful ones from among the "Ummah" of Ahmad (Sallallaho alaihe wasallam) put before Him?" Jibra'il (Alayhis Salam) replies: "Allah looked at them with Mercy and pardoned them all, except four kinds of people."

Thereupon, we the "Sahaabah inquired: "Who are they, O Rasulullah?" Rasulullah (Sallallaho alaihe wasallam) replied: "They are the ones who are addicted to wine, those disobedient to their parents, those who cut themselves off from their near relatives, and those who harbour ill-will against their fellow beings and break off relations with them."

And then the night of Eidul Fitr, the night that is called "Laylatul Jaa'izah", (the night of prize giving), comes along. On the morning of Eid, Allah sends down the Malaa'ikah to all the lands of the Earth, where they take their positions on all the streets and lanes, calling out with a voice that is heard by all except men and Jinn: "O "Ummah" of Muhammad, (Sallallaho alaihe wasallam) come forth from your houses towards the Lord, Who is Noble and Gracious, Who grants abundantly and pardons the major sins." When they proceed for their Eid "Salaat", Allah says to the Malaaikah: "What indeed is the reward of that employee who has rendered full service?" The "Malaaikah" reply: "O our Lord and Master, it is only right that he shall receive his reward in full for his services." Allah then says: "I call you to witness, O My Malaa'ikah, that for their having fasted for Me during the month of Ramadhan, and for their having stood before Me in prayer by night, I have granted to them as a reward of My pleasure and have granted them forgiveness. O My servants, ask now of Me, for I swear by My Honour and Greatness, that whatsoever you shall beg of Me this day in this assembly of yours for the needs of Your Hereafter, I shall grant you; and whatever you shall ask for your worldly needs, I shall grant what is to your advantage. By My Honour do I swear, as long as you shall obey My commands, I shall cover up your faults. By My Honour and My Greatness do I swear, that I shall never disgrace you in front of the transgressors and disbelivers. Return now from here; you are forgiven. You have indeed pleased Me, and I am pleased with you.

The Malaa'ikah, on seeing this great reward bestowed upon the "Ummah" of Muhammad (Sallallaho alaihe wasallam) on the day of Eid, become greatly pleased and happy. (O Allah, make us also in those fortunate ones, Aameen).


The previous pages of this book have already dealt with most of what is contained in this long Hadith. A few points need further attention. We see here that there are a few people who are deprived of the general forgiveness in Ramadhan and are unfortunate indeed in not being able to get a share even on the morning of Eid. Among them are those who fight and quarrel among themselves and those disobedient to their parents. One may well ask them: "You have displeased Allah, and having done so, what other refuge do you now have?" We feel indeed sad that, for some worldly gain or honour, you have made yourselves the target for the curse of Rasulullah (Sallallaho alaihe wasallam) and Jibraeel, while at the same time being excluded from Allah's freely granted forgiveness. You may have gained a temporary victory over your adversary and gained some worldly honour, but this short-lived gain will avail nothing when the Prophet (Sallallaho alaihe wasallam)'s curse is on you, confirmed by Jibra'il, and you are being refused Allah's forgiveness and mercy. I implore you, my dear brothers and sisters, think about your position at this moment and desist from all your quarrels. There is still time to repair and repent today. Tomorrow you shall have to stand before a Judge, before Whom no rank, no honour, position or wealth shall avail you - a Judge before Whom only your actions shall count and Who is aware of your movement. Remember that Allah may forgive our failings as far as our relationship with Him is concerned, but will not forgive, without equivalent penalty, the transgressions in our relations with our fellow-men.

Rasulullah (Sallallaho alaihe wasallam) said, "The bankrupt one from among my "Ummah" is that person, who shall appear on the day of "Qiyaamah", bringing with him righteous deeds like "Salaat", "Sawm" (Fast) and Charity; but he had also sworn at someone, falsely accused someone else, and hurt someone, with the result that all these people shall come forward with complaints against him bearing witness against him. As a penalty, his good deeds shall be taken away and given to the injured ones. And when his good deeds are exhausted in this manner, their sins shall be loaded upon him (when he is not able to pay the full penalty through lack of good deeds); because of this load he shall enter "Jahannam". So we see that, in spite of many good deeds, he shall be in great despair (O Allah, save us from that).

Another point is worth emphasising in this connection. In these pages we have mentioned various occasions and deeds through which forgiveness comes. A question may arise that, when forgiveness is being granted, why should it be granted time and again. In other words, once a person was forgiven, there are no sins left on him. So why is forgiveness granted again? The answer to this is that when forgiveness is granted to a person with a load of sins upon him, sins are wiped away, but if he has no sins, then Allah's mercy and grace descend upon him.

A further interesting point to note is that Allah repeatedly calls the Malaa'ikah to bear witness to His granting forgiveness. The reason is that the conduct of affairs at the time of reckoning in "Qiyaamah" has been laid down such that witnesses shall be brought forward to testify. Hence the Prophets (Rasuls) shall be required to bring witnesses as to whether they had delivered the message. Accordingly, very often our Nabi (Sallallaho alaihe wasallam) used to say "Verily you shall be asked about me (and my mission); so bear witness that I did deliver the message."

In Bukhari we read a Hadith, "On the day of "Qiyaamah", Nooh (Alayhis Salam) shall be called and asked: 'Did you deliver the message in the proper manner?' He shall reply, 'Yes I did'. Then his "Ummah" shall be asked: "Did he deliver My commandments?" They shall reply:

"No, neither did a bringer of glad tidings came to us, nor a warner."

Thereupon Nooh (Alayhis Salaam) shall be asked to bring a witness. He shall call upon the "Ummah" of Muhammad (Sallallaho alaihe wasallam). This "Ummah" shall be called forward and they shall testify (as to the truth of Nooh Alayhis Salaam's evidence.) In some versions of this Hadith, this "Ummah" shall be cross-questioned. How do you know that Nooh (Alayhis Salaam) did deliver commands of Allah, when you were not present at the time?' They shall reply: "Our Nabi (Sallallaho alaihe wasallam) informed us of that; the True Book revealed to him informed us of that." In this same manner, All the Ummas of Prophets (Anbiyaa) shall be questioned. For this reason the Qur'aan Karim says:

"Thus we made you an Ummah justly balanced, that you might stand witnesses over the nations."

Imaam Raazi writes that on the day of Judgement (Qiyaamah) there shall be four types of witnesses:

a) The Malaaikah, The Quran says:

"And there will come forth every soul: with each will be our angels to bear witness." (L. 21)

"Not a word does he utter, but there is Sentinel by him ready (to note)" (.18)

But verily, over you (are appointed angels ) to protect you, kind and honourable, writing down your deeds, that they know and understand all that you do." (LXXMll: 12).

b) The Prophets (The Ambiyaa). The Quran says:

"And I was a witness over them while I dwelt among them." (V: 120).

"And how shall it be when we shall bring forth every nation with its witness, and. shall bring you forth, O Prophet, as a witness over these (the Ummah)?"

c. The "Ummah" of Muhammad (Sallallaho alaihe wasallam). The following verse refers to this:

"The Prophets and the witnesses will be brought forward."

d) The parts of man's body. Thus the Qur'an states:

"That day shall we set a seal on their mouths; but their hands will speak to us, and their feet will bear witness to all that they did." (XXXVI: 65)

To be brief, all these verses indicate bearing witness on the day of Judgment of all those mentioned therein.

The last Hadith under discussion also brings out a joyous message. Allah says that He shall not disgrace and humiliate his dutiful servants in front of (and among) the unbelievers and evil-doers. Is not that in itself a great favour to the seekers of His goodwill, that He shall hide their faults and not reveal these to others?

Abdullah ibne Umar (Radhi Allaho anho) reports that Rasulullah (Sallallaho alaihe wasallam) said: 'On the day of Judgement (Qiyaamah), Allah shall call a believer to draw near and drop a curtain, so that none else may see; Allah shall then remind him of each and every evil deed and transgression of his, which/he shall be obliged to admit. Seeing the great number of his sins, that person shall feel that he indeed is bound to perish. But then Allah shall say: "In the world I did cover up your faults, and today I hide them and forgive them" Thereafter, his book of good deeds shall be given to him.

The contents of this Hadith are found in many other Ahaadith also that faults of these who obey Allah and seek His pleasure are forgiven. One should therefore be careful of.not humiliating and attacking the righteous ones for their faults, lest we may be the real losers through backbiting and jeering at those who in their own manner seek to please Allah, Who may cover up their faults and forgive them through the blessings of their other good deeds, while we, who continue to backbite, scoff and jeer at them, may be causing our own destruction. May Allah in His Mercy Pardon us all. This Hadith also states that the night before the day of Eid is called the night of prize giving, the night when Allah gives a reward to his servants who should also properly value this night. It is usual that once an announcement is made that next day Eid, the majority of us (including the good Muslims) feel fatigued because of Ramadhan and prefer on this night to enjoy rest and sleep, whereas this too is a valuable night that should be spent in "Ibaadah". Rasulullah (Sallallaho alaihe Wasallam) said: "Whoever stays awake for "Ibaadah" on the night preceding either Eid, with the aim, of gaining reward, his heart shall not die on that day when hearts shall wither: "the meaning here is that at the time when evil will have over-powered every-body, his heart shall stay alive (guarded against evil). 'It may also be perhaps refer to the time when the trumpet shall be blown to hold the day of judgement (Qiyaamah), on that day his soul shall not become unconscious.

Rasulullah (Sallallahu alaihe wasallam) is also reported to have said, "whoever stays awake for prayers (Ibaadah) on the following nights shall enter Jannah; "Laylatul Tarwiyah" (the night after the seventh Zil hajj), "Laylatul Arafa" (the night after the eight Zil-Hajjah), "Laylatun Nahr" (the night after the ninth day of Zil Hajjah), the night preceding Eidul Fitr, and night preceding the 15th of Sha'ban.

The Jurists of Islam have written that it is "Mustahab" (desirable) to remain in prayers (Ibaadah) on the nights of both Eids. Imaam Shaafi'ee is reported to have said that prayers are answered on the nights of Friday (the night after the day of Thursday), the nights before two Eids and on the night preceding the fifteenth of Sha'baan.

Some divines have said that, because of the exceptional greatness of Friday night, one should spend this night in Ibaadah during the month of Ramadhan. But there are some Ahaadith wherein we are prohibited from fixing only that night for Ibaadah; it is best that one or two other nights should be joined with it.

I have now come to the end of this book and, in conclusion, hope that this shall be of benefit to those who seek Allah's pleasure. I beg and implore all readers to pray for me, the humble writer of these pages, during those special hours (of acceptance) in Ramadhan. Do mention. me too in your prayers and Allah may, in His Infinite Grace and Mercy, also bestow His Grace and Pleasure upon me, Aameen.

Virtues of Ramadaan: Sheikhul Hadith Muhammad Zakariyya RA