I’TIKAF and the last 10 days of Ramadan

The blessed month of Ramadan is the 9th month on the Islamic lunar calendar. For Muslims this month holds significant virtues. Many worshippers choose to occupy the mosques during the last ten days of this auspicious month as this period coincides with Laylat Al Qadr (the night of power) which is better than a thousand months. Allah Ta’aala confirms the afore-stated in the Quran, Surah 97: 3.

The spiritual retreat during the last ten days of Ramadan is known as I’tikaf which literally means confinement to a specific area thing or place, or retreat or seclude, while technically it means to confine oneself for a period of time to a mosque with the objective being to worship or at least to seclude oneself from worldly things. Although I’tikaf can be performed throughout the year, it is Sunnah Al-Muaqidah (Sunnah that is urged to be performed) to perform I’tikaf during the last ten days of Ramadan. The person performing I’tikaf is known as a Mu’takif.

Fasting during the month of Ramadan became obligatory during the month of Sha’ban (8th Month) in the second year after the Muslims migrated from Makkah to Madina. It was in Madina where the prophet Muhammed (Peace and Blessings Be Upon Him) performed I’tikaf during the last ten days of Ramadan in the mosque. The companion Abdullah ibn Umar said: “The Messenger of Allah (Peace be upon him) used to make ritual retreat (I’tikaf) the last ten days of Ramadan” (Sahih Al Bukhari 3: Book 33, Hadith 242). Narrated by Abu Huraira: “The Prophet (S.A.W) used to perform I’tikaf every year in the month of Ramadan for ten days, and when it was the year of his death, he stayed in I’tikaf for twenty days” (Sahih Al Bukhari 3: Book 33, Hadith 260).  

Notwithstanding the fact that many worshippers perform I’tikaf during the last ten days of Ramadan, such action is recommended (Sunnah) to perform anytime in a mosque. It is not valid from a person who is obliged to attend the congregational salah unless he is in a masjid where the salah is held. I’tikaf does not need to be for ten days, rather it can be even for an hour or so. The Hanabila and the Shafi’yyah say that it is mustahab (recommended, favoured or virtuous actions) that if someone is going to spend a decent time in the masjid, they then intend to do I’tikaf.


At minimum I’tikaf consists of:

  • staying with intention of spiritual retreat for more than the least amount of time that can be considered repose, i.e. a moment. The intention is obligatory. Hence, if the person is not in the mosque or did not do it with the intention to please Allah Ta’aala, it is not I’tikaf;
  • the worshipper should be a Muslim, sane, conscious and free of major ritual impurity i.e. menstruation, postnatal bleeding and major impurity (janaba);
  • it is imperative that I’tikaf is done in a mosque as Allah says: “And do not approach them (your wives) while you are secluding yourselves in the houses of Allah” (Surah Al Baqarah verse 187). It should be borne in mind that even when this stay in the mosque is no more than entering the periphery and then leaving by the same entrance, though to merely pass through is insufficient. Note that I’tikaf should be performed in a mosque where the Friday congregational prayer is held.


If someone vows to perform I’tikaf in a masjid other than the three holiest Masajids, then one can perform the retreat in that or any other masjid as all the Masajid are equal and the vow is deemed complete. However, if the vow is made for one of the three Masajid, then the vow has to be completed in that said Masjid or in one greater than it. The most superior masjid is Masjid al-Haram followed by Masjid al-Nabawi and then Masjid al-Aqsa.

IBADAH (Worship)
All things that are considered Ibadah can be done in I’tikaf such as:

  • Making Thikr.
  • Reciting Al Quran.
  • Reciting Durood.
  • Making Dua.
  • Talking or thinking about the good and righteous things.
  • Making Taubah (repentance).


  • The person may leave his place of I’tikaf to bid farewell to his wife.
  • Combing and cutting one’s hair, clipping one’s nails, cleaning one’s body and wearing nice clothes are all permitted.
  • The person may go out for necessities such as food in the event that there is no one to attend to this need, answer the call of nature, taking wudhu or do Ghusl (bath for purification).
  • The person may eat, drink and sleep in the mosque and should keep the area clean. He may make contracts for marriage, buying and selling.


  • Intentionally leaving the mosque without a valid reason to do so, even if it is just for a short period.
  • Abandoning belief in Islam.
  • Losing one’s reason due to insanity, or drunkenness, or the onset of menstruation or post-childbirth bleeding.
  • Performing the act of sexual intercourse. However, one may touch his wife without there being any desires.
  • I’tikaf is not acceptable for a woman who did not obtain her husband’s permission to do same.

May Allah Ta’aala increase us in knowledge and make the knowledge that we gain beneficial to us all.

By Ustadh Nezaam Luddy
Resides in South Africa, Cape Town
29 April 2021
Ramadan 1442

Article checked by Sheikh Abdul Aziz Aziz
Graduate of Jaamiatul Islamia (Madinatul Munowara, Saudi Arabia)

Akhsar Al-Mukhtasarat | Book of Fasting.
Al Quran (Surah 2:187 & Surah 97:3).
Sahih Al Bukhari 3: Book 33, Hadith 242.
Sahih Al Bukhari 3: Book 33, Hadith 260. 
The Reliance of the Traveller: A Classic Manual of Islamic Sacred Law.


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