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View Full Version : Book me a 5-star Itikaaf please

Khalid Saifullah
12-04-2015, 04:03 AM
It seems that we are beginning to grade our religion and religious practices just like we grade products, hotels, restaurants or motor vehicles. How we practice our religion, to a large degree, is reflective of our position in society. Let us look at only two examples:

Our Hajj packages are graded according to our degree of luxury. You could purchase a R120 000-00 p/p package with our very eager travel agents or pay as little as R17 500-00 per person with certain travel agents. People booking the higher priced package would enjoy benefits such as air-conditioned tents in Mina and prawns for breakfast, and the lower priced one’s will also enjoy a leg of tandoori chicken and some 7up (Sprite is not so popular in Saudi Arabia), but both would make tawaaf around the same Ka’bah. Strangely enough, the elitist Hajees would prefer making tawaaf at certain times of the night when it is cooler provided it does not interfere with their shopping sprees, whilst the poorer ones will at least try to do a few tawaafs after Fajr or Asr salaat when it is cooler!

Another example is how we make iftaar in Ramadaan. We can make iftaar with a few dates, water and some simple food a light stomach to do some serious ‘ibaadat at night, or we can lay out the table with the most delicious savouries, faloodas and curries, only to realize that our eyes were bigger than our stomachs. We then become so lazy that either we dodge Taraweeh salaat or simply walk away after eight rakaats thinking that the balance of the twelve is simply not necessary. At home, the food either finds itself in the dustbin, or it is frozen and stored for our poor maids to eat for the next six months by some of our recession-struck housewives! There are many more examples. Our rich Muslims will have personalized number plates and cell numbers – some with even a double 786 in it – whilst the rest will have to contend with confusing numbers that they keep on forgetting!

Now let us examine the issue of I’tikaaf in the modern day, and may Allah grant all of you the full reward of this very lofty form of worship – amen. By now, many of us desirous of sitting in I’tikaaf would have already booked their place after carefully examining which Masjid has the softest carpets, the best shower facilities, and the shortest Taraweeh! We may have already told some people to bring the best meals for them and make sure that all their whims are catered for. For some others, they will merely settle for the Masjid nearest to them because it is the ‘ibaadat that matters, not the recreation. They will leave their cellphones at home so that none can disturb them, and pack about three or four pairs of simple clothing. After ten days, it will be a genuine reunion with their family and they will experience the true goodness of Eid – Insha Allah!

For the more sophisticated, they will update their contact on their cellphone so that they can catch up on conversations with long lost friends and bring along their laptops to monitor how well their business or petrol station is doing in their absence! Their drivers will visit them four times a day and they will have a change of clothing twice a day. A high-quality foam mattress will be installed in their cubicle and the window will be draped by curtains. Their family will visit them quite often, and even treat them with extra delicacies for their tahajjud-time prayers!

Whilst everyone should be praised and encouraged to sit for I’tikaaf, we need to get back to simplicity. There are some rules about I’tikaaf that we seem to ignore at will:

  1. People sitting in I’tikaaf should not venture out of the Masjid boundary area, except for acute necessities like making wudhu and visiting the bathroom. When doing so, they should not indulge in vain talk or actions with others. And “No”, smoking is not regarded as a necessity!
  2. One is only allowed to take a shower when one is najis (impure) or if ones body odour would offend others.
  3. Maximum time should be spent in seclusion, and not in the company of the others sitting in I’tikaaf. Take the time to reflect, make du’a, reciting the Qur’an and performing Salaat. I’tikaaf is a reorientation process of directing our lives in the right direction, not a “holy picnic”. Forget about the world for ten days.
  4. Be particular about the odd numbered nights (21, 23, 25, 27 & 29) for Laylatul Qadr could fall in any of these nights.
  5. Leaving the Masjid completely for an invalid reason nullifies the I’tikaaf. Valid reasons would be for purposes of security, fear of life, necessity of seeking specialized medical treatment and burying someone (even if it close family) if none else is available to do the same. In South Africa, we do not have much in Ramadaan, so our mu’takifeen need not worry about attending, but there are instances of funerals. Convey your condolences after the I’tikaaf!

Lastly, I’tikaaf is a Sunnat of Rasul (SAW) and should be experienced at least once in a lifetime by all Muslims. Working-class people can take their December leave rather in Ramadaan and experience the true joy of union with Allah Ta’ala. Females too can practice I’tikaaf in their homes. Contact the local ‘ulama on guidelines on how to perform this. For those sitting in I’tikaaf this year, may it be the best I’tikaaf yet and may you reap the many virtues promised by Allah – ameen.

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