E'tikaf (retiring in a mosque for devotion)

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E'tikaf (retiring in a mosque for devotion)

Rule no.1754. E'tikaf means that a sane Muslim stays in a mosque for three days, and as a precaution he does so with the objective of worshipping, offering prayers, and supplications, although according to the most authentic opinion, this intention is not necessary.

The conditions for the validity of E'tikaf

1. Intention

  • Like the other acts of worships, a person should make the intention of Qurbah (i.e. to seek nearness to Allah), exclusively in His obedience and for His pleasure, for performing E'tikaf. Also, he must remain consistent in his intention from the beginning until the end of the E'tikaf. Hence if he makes the intention at night and starts performing E'tikaf from dawn, it is a problematic matter.
  • It is not permissible to leave one E'tikaf to join another, and it does not matter that both E'tikafs are obligatory or recommended, or one is obligatory and the other one is recommended.
  • If a person is performing E'tikaf on behalf of a person, it is not permissible for him to change his intention so that he is performing it on the behalf of some other person. If a person is performing his own E'tikaf, it is also not permissible to change the intention to that of on behalf of another person and vice versa.

2. Fast

· The second condition for the validity of E'tikaf is that one should be fasting. If the fast of person is valid, his E'tikaf is also valid. Hence if the fast of a person is not in order due to travelling, his E'tikaf will also be not in order.

· It is better to perform E'tikaf in the Holy month of Ramadhan, especially during the last ten days of the month.

3. Duration

· One should not stay in the mosque with the intention of E'tikaf for less than three days. However, there is no harm if one stays for more than three days.

  • Unlike the first and fourth nights, the nights in between them, i.e. the second and third nights, are included in the E'tikaf. However, including the first and fourth nights in E'tikaf is also permissible.
  • If a person make a vow for performing E'tikaf, its duration should be at least for three days. If a person makes a vow for three fixed days and if it is Eid on the third day, his E'tikaf will not be in order.
  • If a person makes a vow of performing E'tikaf for five days on the condition that the number of days cannot be increased or decreased, his vow is void. Also, if the condition is laid that the days will not exceed five days, but it is not said that the days will not be less than such number of days, then it is obligatory to perform E'tikaf for three days. Additionally, if the condition laid is that the number of days will not be less than five days, and it is not said that the days will not exceed five days, then it is obligatory to include the sixth day in E'tikaf. In the latter situation, he has a choice to combine the fasts of the fourth and fifth days with the fasts of the three preceding days, or to combine the fourth and fifth days with the sixth day and treat them as three separate fasts.

4. Place

  • A person should stay in one of the following mosques for performing E'tikaf. As a precaution, perform E'tikaf in these mosques if possible:
    • Masjid-ul-Haram (in Makkah)

o Masjid-un-Nabi (the Mosque of the Prophet (P.B.U.H.) in Madinah)

o Mosque of Kufa

    • Mosque of Basra
    • Central mosque of the city
  • If a person is performing E'tikaf in a specified mosque, and if later due to some excuse it is not possible to continue to perform E'tikaf in that mosque, the E'tikaf becomes void. In this situation, continuing E'tikaf in some other mosque is not in order. He must perform its Qadha in some other mosque or in the same mosque after the removal of the excuse, if the E'tikaf is obligatory.
  • The prayer niche, the pulpit, the roof, the courtyard, and all the adjoining parts of the mosque are included in the mosque. Also, the intention of performing E'tikaf at a particular place in the mosque has no importance.

5. Permission

  • Before performing E'tikaf, one should get permission from the people from whom it is necessary to get permission. For example, a slave from his master and a wife from her husband, especially if by not doing so she would not be able to attend to her duties to her husband.
  • Additionally, children should get permission from their parents, especially if it causes emotional suffering to their parents due to love.

6. Continuation

  • A person should spend the whole period of E'tikaf in a mosque. If he comes out from the mosque without any reason, whether he knows the rule or not, his E'tikaf is void. In fact, if he comes out forgetfully, his E'tikaf is most probably void, except when he is taken out forcefully or he comes out due to some other reason (for passing of urine or stool, performing the ritual bath for sexual ritual impurity, menstruation, or the ritual bath for touching a dead body), although its cause may be voluntary.
  • Besides this, it is also permissible to come out for visiting the sick, or for participating in a funeral, or for giving the funeral bath, joining the funeral prayer, or the burial of a dead person. However, it is not permissible to come out for giving a witness testimony or to see off a Muslim.
  • It is also permissible to come out for some work which is generally considered as a necessity, but it is a recommended precaution that one should choose the shortest route and should not stay out more than what is necessary. If taking a ritual bath is not possible in the mosque, and if staying in the mosque is also not prohibited (such as for the funeral bath), it is not permissible to come out from the mosque.
  • Being busy in such activities which change the form of E'tikaf are prohibited while performing E'tikaf, even if one is compelled to do so or obliged to do so due to helplessness. As an obligatory precaution, one should avoid sitting outside and if this is not possible, he should not sit under the shade of anything.
  • E'tikaf itself is a recommended act, but sometimes it becomes obligatory due to a vow, for example. If E'tikaf is obligatory and time-specified, it becomes obligatory as and when it is started, and as a recommended precaution, the same rule applies if it is not time-specified. According to the strongest opinion, if it is recommended or obligatory but not time-specified, it does not become obligatory from the beginning. However, it becomes obligatory after passing two days, except when at the time of making the intention the condition is made to abandon the E'tikaf on the third day due to some reason or excuse, and if after two days that reason or excuse arises, he can abandon the E'tikaf. If no condition is laid at the time of intention, then laying the condition before or after the intention has no importance.
  • If a condition is laid to abandon the E'tikaf on third day without some excuse, as a precaution it is not permissible. If a person laid a condition to abandon the E'tikaf at the time of making the intention, and later he ceases the condition, the impermissibility remains.
  • If a person makes a vow of performing E'tikaf on a condition to abandon it on third day, and if he does not lay the condition at the time of intending to begin E'tikaf, it is not permissible to abandon it.
  • If a person usurps the place of a person performing E'tikaf and sits there, and the person performing E'tikaf regains it and sits there again, invalidation of E'tikaf is a matter of consideration, but most probably it does not become void.

Some other rules relating to E'tikaf

The person performing E'tikaf must abstain from certain things, as follows:

  • Sexual companionship with a woman, and as a precaution, to touch her, and kissing a man or a woman with lust.
  • Any deliberate action causing discharge of semen.
  • Smelling any incense or perfume for enjoyment, but there is no harm if the sense of smell is absent in someone.
  • As an obligatory precaution, buying and selling, and in fact to make any transaction of trade; however there is no harm in doing other permissible work, such as weaving or sewing cloths, although, as a recommended precaution, one should also avoid these. However, if it is necessary to provide the basic necessities to others by selling goods, and if there is no other way to provide such necessities except by selling them, and it is also not possible to appoint an agent to sell the goods, it is permissible for him to sell them.
  • To exchange bitter words with someone for some worldly affair, except when its purpose is to disclose a truth or to save someone from evil.
  • As a recommended precaution, a person performing E'tikaf should avoid all those things which are prohibited during Hajj, although the most probable case is that doing some such acts is permissible, particularly to wear stitched clothes, combing the hair, eating the hunted animal, and marriage are permissible for a person performing E'tikaf.
  • The acts which are prohibited for a person performing E'tikaf, whether they are committed during day or night, they make the E'tikaf void.
  • If the E'tikaf became void due to the above mentioned acts, and if E'tikaf was obligatory and time-specified, then performing it with the intention of Qadha is obligatory, and if it was obligatory but not time-specified then he should do E'tikaf again with the intention of Ada (within time and not lapsed). Similarly, if E'tikaf was recommended and it became invalidated after passing two days, its Qadha is obligatory. However, if it became void before passing the two days, nothing is obligatory on the person performing E'tikaf, and offering its Qadha is not obligatory immediately.
  • If a person performing E'tikaf makes a transaction, his E'tikaf becomes void, but the transaction is in order.
  • If a person performing E'tikaf makes his E'tikaf void by committing sexual intercourse, whether he committed it during day or night, expiation becomes obligatory on him. However, according to the strongest opinion, expiation does not become obligatory due to some other act which invalidates the E'tikaf. Although acting on precaution is recommended, and its expiation is most likely that of Zihar (pre-Islamic form of repudiating a marriage).
  • If a person is performing E'tikaf in the month of Ramadhan, and makes it void by having sexual intercourse during the day, two expiations are obligatory on him (one expiation of the fast of Ramadhan and the other is of E'tikaf). Similarly if a person invalidates his E'tikaf while offering the Qadha of the fast of Ramadhan after the midday, and if the E'tikaf was obligatory due to a vow, then three expiations are obligatory on him and the third expiation will be due to breaking the vow.
  • If a person performing E'tikaf in the month of Ramadhan commits sexual intercourse with his fasting wife without her consent, as a precaution, four ransoms are obligatory on him.