بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم
Ramaḍān 19, 1441 – May 12, 2020
Through Allāh’s mercy and blessings, we have reached Ramaḍān. Our fasts have continued, our night vigil prayers have been observed, and our charity has been given. May Allāh accept from all of us. Tomorrow, a very virtuous and important time of the year will come; soon we will enter Ramaḍān’s last ten days and nights. For many, this is a time in which one would observe ritual seclusion (ar. iʿtikāf) at the masjid.
However, this year unique circumstances may hinder how this is normally observed. The shelter-in-place orders that have been issued because of the Coronavirus pandemic are still in effect. This will result in many masjids remaining closed for communal acts of worship. Herein, we will discuss some points regarding iʿtikāf this year.
The Ruling on Iʿtikāf During the Last Ten Days
Observing iʿtikāf during the last ten days of Ramaḍān is a highly emphasized communal Sunnah. The Prophet (upon him be peace) observed it after he entered Madīnah and continued doing so until he passed away. This practice recurred every year and he did not omit it. ʿĀʾishah (Allāh be pleased with her) related:
«أَنَّ رَسُولَ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ كَانَ يَعْتَكِفُ الْعَشْرَ الْأَوَاخِرَ مِنْ رَمَضَانَ حَتَّى قَبَضَهُ اللَّهُ تَعَالَى»
“The Prophet (upon him be peace) observed iʿtikāf during Ramaḍān’s last ten days until Allāh took him.”
Furthermore, none of the Companions were ever reprimanded for not performing it. Some of them would make iʿtikāf, but not everyone. In considering the Prophet’s unvarying practice of always practicing it and the fact that those who did not practice it were never corrected, the Ḥanafī jurists concluded that it is an emphasized communal recommendation (ar. sunnah muʾakkadah ʿalā al-kifāyah). When some of the community upholds it, the duty to observe it is lifted from everyone else. No sin is incurred for those who do not observe iʿtikāf, even if they persist in its nonperformance without an excuse.
Like what was mentioned as advice for performing the tarāwīḥ prayers in the current situation, there will be small groups of individuals, like those who are vested with the responsibility of being the mosques’ caretakers, who will make iʿtikāf this year. The number of individuals performing it will be few but enough to fulfill the duty of iʿtikāf for everyone else.
The Ruling on Where A Man Performs Iʿtikāf
The foremost opinion that the scholars maintain is that men must observe iʿtikāf at the mosque. Some juristic works mention that this point is agreed upon. Thus, a man may not perform iʿtikāf at home or any other place. His iʿtikāf must be performed at the mosque.
Iʿtikāf & Mujāwarah
Iʿtikāf is an act where a specific individual secludes himself at the mosque according to specific rules. In Arabic, mujāwarah and iʿtikāf come with similar meanings; in fact, they may be used synonymously. Some said that they are synonyms, while others considered them to be different. Some lexicographers mentioned that iʿtikāf is one manifestation of mujāwarah.
The word mujāwarah comes in reports. For instance, it comes in a version of the report transmitted on ʿĀʾishah’s authority (may Allāh be pleased with her):
«كَانَ رَسُولُ اللهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ يُجَاوِرُ فِي العَشْرِ الأَوَاخِرِ مِنْ رَمَضَانَ»
“The Prophet (upon him be peace) observed iʿtikāf during Ramaḍān’s last ten.”
As well, the Prophet (upon him be peace) said:
«جَاوَرْتُ بِحِرَاءَ شَهْرًا»
“I was in seclusion at Hera for a month.”
Regarding the second report, some mentioned that Hera was not a masjid, which indicates to the fact that the Prophet (upon him be peace) did not perform iʿtikāf but secluded himself there and engaged in worship. Ibn Isḥāq mentioned that this was during Ramaḍān. One difference that has been mentioned regarding the two words is that iʿtikāf is performed inside the mosque and mujāwarah may take place outside of it. In fact, Suhaylī mentioned that this is the primary difference between the two.
Thus, there may be a basis for one to seclude himself for worship and devotion in a place outside the mosque in a way that is similar to it in meaning. However, this would not be considered as “iʿtikāf” in its sharʿī sense.
What Should a Man Who Wants to Perform Iʿtikāf This Year Do?
Al-ḥamdu liLlāh, one can rest assured that there will be individuals who will fulfill the communal duty of performing iʿtikāf at the mosque this year. And unfortunately, due to the current situation, there may be some who desire to participate who will not find that opportunity.
If one wants, he may seclude himself at home and engage in the activities that he would while performing iʿtikāf. He will not be staying at the masjid; but, praying, reciting the Qurʾān, supplicating to Allāh, and searching for Laylat al-Qadr may be done just the same.
The rules for performing iʿtikāf do not apply to one in this situation. The reason for this is that a man’s iʿtikāf must be made in the mosque, and what is made elsewhere is not considered to be iʿtikāf.
A Woman Performing Iʿtikāf at Home
Regarding the womenfolk, it is permissible for them to perform iʿtikāf at home. A woman should observe it in the place that she has set up to offer her prayers. If a prayer area is not set up inside the home, then she should make one and then perform her iʿtikāf there. This is the most virtuous place for her iʿtikāf. She may only make iʿtikāf in this area, performing it in another area of the home is not valid.
And after entering iʿtikāf, it is necessary that she continue to observe it and its rules. The rulings on how men in the masjid perform it are the same for the womenfolk at home.
The Basics of Iʿtikāf
Iʿtikāf is defined as: “Remaining secluded in the mosque with an intention.” And in this definition its most important conditions are mentioned. They are: (1) the seclusion and (2) the intention.
There are also conditions specific to the one performing it. They are: (1) being a Muslim, (2) sanity, and (3) being pure from major ritual impurity, menstruation, and post-natal bleeding.
Except for sexual relations, one in iʿtikāf can do things that they normally do, like sleeping, eating, and conversing with others. Engaging in worship, praying, and reciting the Qurʾān are the best things that one can do while observing their seclusion, especially during the last ten nights. Reciting and studying the Qurʾān is highly recommended.
One may not go out except for because of a need that is sanctioned in the Sacred Law, like to perform the Friday prayer or because of a natural need, like using the restroom, performing a purificatory bath, or removing an impurity from one’s person. The scholars also note that one may leave because of a necessity, like if the building they are performing iʿtikāf in would collapse, or if one is summoned to bear testimony, etc.
In brief, one who has the legal capacity to observe iʿtikāf must formulate an intention to observe it and then remain in the place where they will perform it. The optimal way to spend one’s time is by observing devotional acts that are pleasing to Allāh.
And Allāh knows best.
 Marāqī al-Falāḥ, 700.
 Sunan al-Tirmidhī, 2:149.
 al-Baḥr al-Rāʾiq, 2:322; Radd al-Muḥtār Sharḥ al-Durr al-Mukḥtār, 2:442; Ḥāshiyat al-Ṭaḥṭāwī, 700.
 Radd al-Muḥtār Sharḥ al-Durr al-Mukḥtār, 2:442.
 DarusSalam Seminary. “Some Points Regarding Tarāwīḥ During the Coronavirus Shelter-In-Place Order.” MasjidDS.org. http://masjidds.org/2020/04/23/some-points-regarding-tarawi%e1%b8%a5-during-the-coronavirus-shelter-in-place-order/. May 12, 2020.
 al-Mawsūʿat al-Fiqhīyah, 5:211-12. It may be noted that Ibn Ḥazm related from al-Shaʿbī and others what seems to indicate to the permissibility of a man performing iʿtikāf at home. (al-Muḥallā, 3:430) This is not to say that the view should be practiced on, but rather may be noted regarding the passage indicated to from al-Mawsūʿat al-Fiqhīyah, which includes a citation of scholarly consensus (ar. ijmāʿ). Still, Ibn Taymīyah related this as a point of agreement. (Majmūʿat al-Fatāwā, 27:252) Ibn ʿAbd al-Barr related this too. (Istidhkār, 3:385) As well, Ibn Qudāmah al-Maqdisī related it. (Mughnī, 3:65)
 Sunan al-Tirmidhī, 2:150.
 Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim, 1:144; Musnad Aḥmad, 22:192.
 Irshād al-Sārī, 1:62.
 Awjaz al-Masālik, 5:18; Ṭarḥ al-Tathrīb, 4:166; ʿUmdat al-Qārī, 1:53.
 al-Rawḍ al-Unuf, 2:256. Also see: Sharḥ al-Zurqānī ʿalā al-Mawāhib al-Ladunnīyah, 1:409.
 Nūr al-Īḍāḥ, 145.
 Tabyīn al-Ḥaqāʾiq, 1:350.
 Tuḥfat al-Fuqahāʾ, 373.
 Radd al-Muḥtār Sharḥ al-Durr al-Mukḥtār, 2:441.
 Badāʾiʿ al-Ṣanāʾiʿ, 2:108; Radd al-Muḥtār Sharḥ al-Durr al-Mukḥtār, 2:441.
 Radd al-Muḥtār Sharḥ al-Durr al-Mukḥtār, 2:441.
 al-Ikhtiyār li Taʿlīl al-Mukhtār, 136.
 al-Baḥr al-Rāʾiq, 2:322.
 Ibid., 264.