From the virtues of the last ten days of Ramadhaan is that the Prophet صلى الله عليه و سلم used to perform Al-Itikaf in them. Al-Itikaf is to dedicate your time (to be) in Allah’s service by staying in the Masjid. The proof for its legislation is mentioned in Allah’s Book and the tradition of His Messenger صلى الله عليه و سلم.
Allah the Most High said:
وَلَا تُبَاشِرُوهُنَّ وَأَنتُمْ عَاكِفُونَ فِي الْمَسَاجِدِ
“And do not have sexual relations with them (your wives) while you are in Al-Itikaf (i.e confining oneself in a Masjid for prayers and invocations leaving the worldly activities) in the Masjids.” (Al-Baqarah: 187)
The Prophet صلى الله عليه و سلم isolated himself in the Masjid, as well as his companions followed him. As it is narrated by Abu Sa’id Al Khudri:
“The Prophet صلى الله عليه و سلم isolated himself in the Masjid during the first ten days of Ramadhaan and then the middle ten days of Ramadhaan. Then he said: ‘I remained in the Masjid for the first and middle ten days of Ramadhaan looking for the night of Qadar. But then it was said to me that the Night of Qadr is in the Last ten days of Ramdhaan. Therefore anyone amongst you who wants to isolate himself in these ten days should do so.” (Collected by Muslim)
It is also narrated by Aishah رضي الله عنه who said:
“The Prophet صلى الله عليه و سلم used to remain in the Masjid during the last ten days of Ramadhaan and he continued upon that until Allah the Most High took his soul. Then his wives performed Al-Itikaf after his death” (Collected by Al-Bukhari and Muslim)
It is also narrated by Aishah رضي الله عنه :
“The Prophet صلى الله عليه و سلم used to isolate himself in the Masjid for ten days in every Ramadhaan, but in the following year he isolated himself in the Masjid for twenty days (to make up a previous year he missed)” (Collected by Al-Bukhari)
It is also narrated by Anas رضي الله عنه :
“The Prophet صلى الله عليه و سلم used to isolate himself in every last ten days of Ramadhaan. So there was a year that he missed and did not seclude himself. So when the next year came he performed Al-Itikaf for twenty days.” (Collected by Ahmad and At-Tirmidhi. Al-Albani graded it to be authentic]
Aisha, may Allah be pleased with her, said:
“The Prophet صلى الله عليه و سلم used to pray the dawn prayer and then isolate himself in his tent in the Masjid. So I asked permission from him to set up my tent in the Masjid and he granted me permission. Then Hafsah asked me to seek permission for her from the Prophet صلى الله عليه و سلم to set up her tent and permission was granted to her. When Zaynab saw this she also asked that a tent be erected for her. And when the Prophet صلى الله عليه و سلم saw the tents in the Masjid he asked: “What are these?’ They said: ‘They are tents for Aisha, Hafsah and Zaynab.’ So the Prophet صلى الله عليه و سلم said: ‘Do you seek with this to be obedient to Allah? Take them down I do not want to see them.’ They then took them down. But the Prophet صلى الله عليه و سلم did not make Al-Itikaf in that Ramadhaan and made them up in the first ten days of Shawwal.” (Collected by Al-Bukhari and Muslim)
Al-Imam Ahmad bin Hanbal may Allah have mercy on him, said :
“I do not know anyone from the scholars that opposed the legislation of Al-Itikaf being a supererogatory (act of worship).”
Al-Itikaf is when a Muslim secludes himself from the people in order to devote his time in the worship of his Lord in a Masjid seeking with that his Lord’s pleasure and reward as well as seeking the Night of Qadar. This is the reason why it is highly recommended for the one performing Al-Itikaf to keep himself busy with the remembrance of Allah, Qur’anic recitation, prayers, and worship. Likewise, it is also recommended for him to stay away from things that do not concern him and from talking about worldly affairs. There is nothing wrong with talking seldom about permissible things with one’s family or with others if there is a need to it. And the proof for this is the narration of Safiyyah, the Mother of the Believers, may Allah be pleased with her, who said:
“The Prophet صلى الله عليه و سلم was performing Al-Itikaf in the Masjid when I came and visited him and spoke with him one night. I then stood up to return back to the house and the Prophet صلى الله عليه و سلم also stood up with me and escorted me.” (Collected by Al-Bukhari and Muslim)
It is impermissible for the one performing Al-Itikaf to have intercourse with his spouse or involve in flirtatious behavior including kissing and touching for sexual desires. This is because of Allah’s statement, The Most High:
وَلَا تُبَاشِرُوهُنَّ وَأَنتُمْ عَاكِفُونَ فِي الْمَسَاجِدِ
“And do not have sexual relations with them (your wives) while you are in Al-Itikaf (i.e confining oneself in a Masjid for prayers and invocations leaving the wordly activities) in the Masjids.” (Al-Baqarah: 187)
But as for leaving the Masjid, if only part of the body is outside the Masjid (and not the entire body) then there is nothing wrong with that. This is based on Aisha’s رضي الله عنه statement:
“The Prophet صلى الله عليه و سلم used to push his head from the Masjid to my room while he was in his seclusion. And I would wash his head while I am on my menses.” (Collected by Al-Bukhari)
In another narration, it says she used to comb his head while she was on her menses and while he was in seclusion (worshipping) his Lord in the Masjid.
Leaving the Masjid in totality (with one’s entire body) is of three types:
1) To leave the Masjid for an inescapable matter religiously or naturally.
For example, relieving oneself, performing an obligatory ablution, performing the mandatory washing due to major ritual impurity, eating drinking, or other than what are mentioned. In this case it will be permissible for him to leave the Masjid as long as those needs cannot be fulfilled inside the Masjid.
However, if these needs can be fulfilled in the Masjid then there is no need for him to go out. For example, if there are bathrooms in the Masjid where he can relieve himself, perform the ritual ablution, and even wash up, and if there is someone who provides him with food and drink (then he not allowed to leave the Masjid).
2) To leave for the purpose of worship that is not obligatory on him.
This includes visiting the sick, following the funeral procession, and other deeds. It is permissible for him to leave the Masjid for these acts of worship as long as he put a condition from the beginning of his Al-Itikaf that he wants to visit a sick person that he knows who is in a critical condition, otherwise it is not permissible.
3) Leaving the Masjid to do something which contradicts Al-Itikaf.
An example of this is leaving the Masjid for the purpose of buying and selling, or to have relations with one’s wife, or to behave in a flirtatious manner etc. In this case, he should not leave the Masjid whether with conditions or without, because these things contradict Al-Itikaf and the intended objective behind in.
[Taken from Sittings During the Blessed Month of Ramadhaan by Shaykh Saalih Al-Uthaymeen].