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I'tikaf in the Islamic Center of Hamburg
Ritual information
TimeNo specific time
PlaceJami' Mosque
OriginSince the time of the Holy Prophet (s)

I'tikaf in the Holy Shrine of Imam al-Rida (a), Rajab 15, 1434 (May 25, 2013).

Iʿtikāf (Arabic: الأِعْتِكاف) is a recommended worship in Islam that consists of at least three days of fasting in a masjid. Although there is no specific time to perform i'tikaf during a year, the last ten days of the month of Ramadan, as the Prophet (s) did so, is the most recommended days to do it.

Literal and Technical Meaning

I'tikaf is derived from " 'a-k-f " (عکف) which mostly means adhering to, devoting to or dedicating to something as a sign of honoring.[1] Derivatives form this word has been used in the Qur'an in this meaning.[2] In spite of that, "'Akif" (عاکف) (Qur'an 22:25; meaning resident) and "Ma'kuf" (معکوف) (Qur'an 48:25; meaning forbidden) are two derivatives from the same root used in the Qur'an.

In Jurisprudence

In jurisprudence, i'tikaf is defined as staying and residing in a mosque for at least three days and also observing required conditions with the intention of getting close to God.[3]

In Sufism

In Sufism, i'tikaf means emptying your heart from worldly concerns and submitting yourself to your Lord. Hence i'tikaf means staying and residing; it also means staying and not getting away from God's threshold so that he forgives you.[4]

Before Islam

Although Muslims learned how to perform i'tikaf from The their Prophet,[5] there was a ritual similar to i'tikaf prevalent amongst Arabs before Islam. For instance, it has been narrated that 'Umar b. al-Khattab asked the Prophet (s) that he had vowed during the Age of Ignorance to stay in al-Masjid al-Haram for a night, and the Prophet (s) told him to fulfill it.[6]

The Prophet's (s) I'tikaf

There is no information whether the Prophet (s) performed i'tikaf in al-Masjid al-Haram before Hijra (emigration to Medina). However, in his first year in Medina, he performed i'tikaf in the first ten days of the month of Ramadan, the next year in the second ten days, and afterward in the last ten days of the month of Ramadan. A tent was set up for him in the mosque during these days.[7]

Rulings and Conditions


There is no special time for i'tikaf. However, according to hadiths, the Prophet (s) did it in the month of Ramadan;[8] thus, this month is the best time for it, especially the last ten days.[9] Based on these hadiths, i'tikaf during these days is highly recommended although it remains recommended in other times. Nowadays, holding the ritual of i'tikaf during Ayyam al-Bid of the month of Rajab is very prevalent in Iran.


According to Shi'a jurisprudence, the duration of i'tikaf must not be less than three days (from the dawn of the first day to the sunset of the third day). If the i'tikaf is recommended (the performer did not make it compulsory by making a vow or oath) Mu'tkif may quit it before the sunset of the second day. But after the sunset of the second day, finishing it to the end of the third day is obligatory.[10] The same ruling is applied to the sixth, ninth, twelfth day, and so on.

There are many different opinions about the duration of i'tikaf among Sunnis, most of which believe that there is no minimum duration for it.[11]


Mu'takif students in Baqiyyat Allah Mosque in Tehran, Iran. Some of the students are reciting the Qur'an, while some others are sleeping.

According to some hadiths, al-Masjid al-Haram, al-Masjid al-Nabawi, Masjid al-Kufa and the mosque of Basra are the only places for i'tikaf. However, according to some others, every Jami' Mosque (the main and usually biggest mosque of a city) or every mosque that a just Imam has performed Jum'ah or Congregational prayer in it is suitable for i'tikaf.[12]

Based on hadiths, Shi'a jurists have different opinions here. Most of the earlier jurists supported the first group of hadiths[13] while in the following centuries, this specialty was doubted. For instance, al-Shahid al-Awwal and al-Shahid al-Thani[14] said that limiting the place of i'tikaf to the Four Mosques is a very weak opinion. Moreover, some jurists allowed i'tikaf in every mosque with the intention of Rajāʾ [15](hoping to receive a probable reward rather than the assured one, because the jurist is not sure whether this act is really recommended or not). Nowadays, most contemporary jurists permit performing i'tikaf in Jami' Mosque and some other important mosques of each city.


Fasting is one of the necessary conditions of i'tikaf according to Shi'a's jurisprudence.[16] Therefore, Mu'takif should fast during the i'tikaf and If someone couldn't fast -- such as, traveler, sick people, Ha'id (a woman during her Menstruation), Nufasa' -- or did not fast deliberately, his/her i'tikaf is void. Also, since fasting is haram (forbidden) in Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha, i'tikaf in these Eids and from two days before these Eids, so that the third day of the i'tikaf coincide with the Eid, is void.

There is no necessity for fasting to be especial for i'tikaf, and it is allowed to take compensation fasting or fasting which has became obligatory because of nadhr (vow).

Maliki and the majority of Hanafis consider fasting as a necessary element for i'tikaf too (rest of Hanafis say fasting is not compulsory in recommended i'tikaf).[17] On the other hand, Shafi'i and Ahmad b. Hanbal - in the most famous narration from him - basically believe that fasting is not a condition at all.[18]

Staying in Mosque

Leaving the mosque during i'tikaf is not permitted. However, there are exceptions such as participation in Salat al-Jum'a, participation in funeral procession (tashi'), giving testimony, visiting a sick, and preparing food and water. Even in these cases, Mu'takif must not sit while being out of the mosque and must not walk in shade as much as possible.[19]

Forbidden Acts

Sexual activities - even kissing -, using perfumes, selling and buying - except for food and other necessary things - and arguing about worldly affairs are forbidden to the Mu'takif. Some of the above-mentioned activities void the i'tikaf and also cause expiation (Kaffara).[20]

Works about I'tikaf

I'tikaf, as an important jurisprudential topic, was a subject of some individual and independent works. Muhammad b. Idris al-Shafi'i and Dawud b. Ali al-Isfahani, from Sunni school[21] and Abu l-Fadl al-Sabuni and al-Shaykh al-Saduq from Shi'a[22] are some of the most famous faqihs who have authored independent writings about i'tikaf.

Among the mid and recent Shi'a works, these could be mentioned:


  1. Rāghib, Mufradāt, p. 355.
  2. See: Qurān, 2: 125; 7: 138; 20: 97; 26: 71.
  3. Rāghib, Mufradāt, p. 355.
  4. Jurjānī, al-Taʿrīfāt, p. 25.
  5. Mālik, al-Muwaṭṭaʾ, vol. 1, p. 314.
  6. Bukhārī, Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī, vol. 3, p. 105-110; Ibn Māja, Sunan ibn Māja, vol.1, p. 563.
  7. Kulaynī, al-Kāfī, vol. 4, p. 175.
  8. Kulaynī, al-Kāfī, vol. 4, p. 175.
  9. See: Shahīd al-Thānī, al-Rawḍat al-Bahīyya, vol. 2, p. 149; Jazīrī, al-Fiqh ʿala l-madhāhib al-arbaʿa, vol. 1, p. 582.
  10. Muḥaqiq al-Ḥillī, Sharāyiʿ al-Islām, vol. 1, p. 216.
  11. Ibn Rushd, Bidāyat al-mujtahid, vol. 1, p. 314.
  12. Kulaynī, al-Kāfī, vol. 4, p. 176; Mufīd, al-Muqnaʿa, p. 363.
  13. See: Ṣadūq, al-muqniʿ, p. 18; also see: Sayyid Murtaḍā, al-Intiṣār, p. 72; Ṭūsī, al-Khilāf, vol. 2, p. 272.
  14. Shahīd al-Thānī, al-Rawḍat al-Bahīyya, vol. 2, p. 150.
  15. Khomeini, Taḥrīr al-wasīla, vol. 1, p. 305.
  16. Mālik, al-Muwaṭṭaʾ, vol. 1, p. 315; Muḥaqiq al-Ḥillī, Sharāyiʿ al-Islām, vol. 1, p. 215.
  17. See: Samarqandī, Tuḥfat al-fuqahāʾ, vol. 2, p. 372; Shaykh Niẓām al-Dīn, al-Fatāwa l-Hindīyya, vol. 1, p. 211.
  18. See: Shāfiʿī, al-Umm, vol. 2, p. 107; Ibn Hubayra, al-Ifṣāḥ, vol. 1, p. 170; also see: Marwzī, Ikhtilāf al-ʿulamāʾ, p. 75.
  19. Kulaynī, al-Kāfī, vol. 4, p. 178; Ibn Rushd, Bidāyat al-mujtahid, vol. 1, p. 317; Muḥaqiq al-Ḥillī, Sharāyiʿ al-Islām, vol. 1, p. 217.
  20. Ibn Hubayra, al-Ifṣāḥ, vol. 1, p. 171; Muḥaqiq al-Ḥillī, Sharāyiʿ al-Islām, vol. 1, p. 219-220; Jazīrī, al-Fiqh ʿala l-madhāhib al-arbaʿa, vol. 1, p. 585-587.
  21. See: Ibn Nadīm, al-Fihrist, p. 264-271.
  22. See: Najāshī, Rijāl al-Najāshī, p. 375-389.
  23. See: Āghā Buzurg, al-Dharīʿa, vol. 2, p. 230.
  24. See: Āghā Buzurg, al-Dharīʿa, vol. 2, p. 229; Mudarrisī Ṭabāṭabāʾī, Muqaddamiʾī bar fiqh-i Shiʿa, p. 338.
  25. Āghā Buzurg, al-Dharīʿa, vol. 2, p. 229-230.


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