Abu Sa’eed al-Khudri (radi Allahu anhu) said: The Messenger of Allah (sal Allahu alaihi wa sallam) observed i’tikaaf during the first ten days of Ramadan, then he observed i’tikaaf during the middle ten days in a small tent at the door of which was a reed mat. He took the mat in his hand and lifted it. Then he put his head out and spoke to the people, and they came close to him. He (sal Allahu alaihi wa sallam) said: “I observed i’tikaaf during the first ten days seeking this night (Laylat ul-Qadr), then I observed i’tikaaf during the middle ten days. Then someone came and said to me that it is in the last ten days, so whoever among you wishes to observe i’tikaaf let him do so.” So the people observed i’tikaaf with him.
We learn a number of things from this Hadith and they are as follows:
- That the basic goal of the i’tikaaf of the Prophet (sal Allahu alaihi wa sallam) was to seek Laylat ul-Qadr and to prepare to spend that night in worship. That is because of the great virtue of that night of which Allah says (interpretation of the meaning): “The Night of Al?Qadr (Decree) is better than a thousand months (i.e. worshipping Allah in that night is better than worshipping Him in a thousand months, i.e. 83 years and 4 months).” [Al-Qadr 97:3]
- The Prophet (sal Allahu alaihi wa sallam) strove to seek that night before he was told when it is. So he started with the first ten days, then he observed it during the middle ten, then he continued to observe i’tikaaf during the last ten days, when he was told that it is in the last ten days. This is the utmost effort to seek Laylat ul-Qadr.
- The Sahaaba (radi Allahu anhum) followed the Messenger of Allah (sal Allahu alaihi wa sallam), because they started i’tikaaf and continued with him until the end of the month, because they were so keen to follow his example.
- The Messenger of Allah (sal Allahu alaihi wa sallam) was compassionate towards his companions and showed mercy to them, because he knew that i’tikaaf was difficult for them. So he gave them the choice between staying with him or of leaving, and said: “…so whoever among you wishes to observe i’tikaaf let him do so.”
There are other aims of i’tikaaf as well, including the following:
- Being alone with Allah and cutting oneself off from people if possible, so that one may focus completely on Allah.
- Renewing oneself spiritual by focusing totally on Allah.
- Cutting oneself off completely in order to worship Allah with prayer, du’aa’ (supplication), dhikr (remembrance) and reading Qur’aan.
- Protecting one’s fast from everything that may affect it of whims and desires.
- Reducing permissible worldly pleasures and refraining from many of them even though one is able to enjoy them.
And Allah knows best!