Tuesday, July 30, 2013

I’tikaf in the age of political Islam

Photo by Navesh Chitrakar/Reuters in a series in
We’re into the final days of Ramadan.
The last 10 days of the Holy Month are the most blessed and are very special in the life of every Muslim.
In this period of political Islam and sectarianism, it is maybe a good time to go on retreat and return to the roots of Islam and its true message.
It is with great anticipation that the faithful await Laylat al-Qadr and sit in I’tikaf (spiritual retreat).
I’tikaf began Monday (20 Ramadan), before maghreb prayers, and runs on until August 8 (30 Ramadan).
In the age of technology, I wonder how many people can still take the time off work and obligations to go on retreat for 10 days. I know one friend who has done just that and wish him well on his spiritual journey.
Laylat al-Qadr (Night of Destiny or Night of Power) is described in the Qur’an, Surat al-Qadr (Chapter 97):
In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful
We have indeed revealed this message in the Night of Power.
And what will explain what the Night of Power is?
The Night of Power is better than a thousand months.
Therein come down the angels and the spirit, by Allah's permission, on every errand.
Peace! Until the rising of the morn!
Tradition holds Laylat al-Qadr is the night the first revelation of the Quran was sent down to the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).
Muslims will seek Laylat al-Qadr during the last 10 days of Ramadan, particularly on the odd nights – the 21st (tonight), 23rd, 25th, 27th and 29th Ramadan.
The Prophet said, "Whoever stays up (in prayer and remembrance of Allah) on the Night of Qadr, fully believing (in Allah's promise of reward) and hoping to seek reward, he shall be forgiven for his past sins." [Bukhari and Muslim]
Muslims worldwide spend these last nights in devotion. They retreat to the mosque to read the Qur’an (I’tikaf), recite special supplications (du’a) and reflect on the meaning of God's message to them. It is believed to be a time of intense spirituality, when angels surround the believers, the gates of heaven are open, and God's blessings and mercy are abundant.
As narrated by Abu Huraira, the Prophet said, "When the last one third of the night remains, our Lord, the Glorious One, descends towards the lower heaven and proclaims: 'Is there anyone supplicating to Me so that I grant his supplication? Is there anyone begging of Me for anything so that I grant him his wish? Is there anyone who seeks My forgiveness so I forgive him?'" [Bukhari and Muslim]
The Prophet performed I’tikaf in the mosque during the last 10 days of Ramadan, barely sleeping during that time.
Abu Said Al-Khudri relates, “Allah's Apostle used to practice I’tikaf in the middle 10 days of Ramadan and once he stayed in I’tikaf till the night of the 21st and it was the night in the morning of which he used to come out of his I’tikaf. The Prophet said, "Whoever was in I’tikaf with me should stay in I’tikaf for the last 10 days, for I was informed (of the date) of the Night (of Qadr) but I have been caused to forget it. (In the dream) I saw myself prostrating in mud and water in the morning of that night. So, look for it in the last 10 nights and in the odd ones of them." It rained that night and the roof of the mosque dribbled as it was made of leaf stalks of date palms. I saw with my own eyes the mark of mud and water on the forehead of the Prophet (on the morning of the 21st).” [Bukhari, Volume 3, Book 33, Number 244]
If the faithful cannot sit I’tikaf for the full 10 days and, they can try for as many days and nights as they possibly can.
Both men and women can sit in I’tikaf.
Aisha, the wife of the Prophet, says, “The Prophet used to practice I’tikaf in the last 10 days of Ramadan till he died and then his wives used to practice I’tikaf after him.” [Bukhari, Volume 3, Book 33, Number 243]
There was, however a little problem…
The jurist Umra bint Abderrahman, who was a pupil of Aisha bint Abu Bakr, relates the Prophet’s wife as saying:
Allah's Apostle mentioned that he would practice I’tikaf in the last 10 days of Ramadan. Aisha asked his permission to perform I’tikaf and he permitted her. Hafsa asked Aisha to take his permission for her, and she did so. When Zainab bint Jahsh saw that, she ordered a tent to be pitched for her and it was pitched for her. Allah's Apostle used to proceed to his tent after the prayer. So, he saw the tents and asked, "What is this?" He was told that those were the tents of Aisha, Hafsa and Zainab. He said, "Is it righteousness which they intended by doing so? I am not going to perform I’tikaf." So he returned home. When the fasting month was over, he performed I’tikaf for 10 days in the month of Shawwal (the lunar month after Ramadan). [Volume 3, Book 33, Number 261]
In these sad days of violence and killing, maybe these special days will bring comfort and inspiration to those in need.
May all your prayers be heard and answered.
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