I’tikaaf means staying in the mosque for a specific purpose, which is to worship Allah. It is prescribed in Islam and is Musthahab (recommended) according to the consensus of the scholars. Imam Ahmad (RA) said, as was narrated from him by Abu Dawood: “I have not heard from any of the scholars that it is anything other than Sunnah.”
Az-Zuhri said: “How strange the Muslims are! They have given up I’tikaaf, despite the fact that the Prophet, Sallallahu 'Alayhi Wasallam, never abandoned this practice from the time he came to Madinah until his death.”
The benefits of I’tikaaf
There are many hidden benefits in the acts of worship and much wisdom behind them. The basis of all deeds is the heart, as the Messenger of Allah, Sallallahu 'Alayhi Wasallam, said: “In the body there is an organ which if it is sound, the entire body will be sound, and if it is corrupt, the entire body will be corrupt. That organ is the heart.” (Al-Bukhari and Muslim)
What corrupts the heart most is distractions and preoccupations – such as food, drink, sex, talking too much, sleeping too much and socializing too much, and other distractions – which divert people from turning to Allah and cause the heart to be unfocused and unable to concentrate on worshipping Allah. So Allah has prescribed acts of worship, such as fasting, to protect the heart from the negative effects of these distractions. Fasting deprives a person of food and drink and sex during the day, and this denial of excessive enjoyments is reflected in the heart, which gains more strength for seeking Allah and frees it from the chains of these distractions which take a person from thinking of the Hereafter by occupying him with worldly concerns.
Just as fasting is a shield which protects the heart from the influences of physical excessive indulgence in food, drink and sex, so I’tikaaf offers an immense hidden benefit, which is protection from the effects of excessive socializing. For people may take socializing to extremes, until it has a similar effect on a person to the effects of over-eating.
I’tikaaf also offers protection from the evil consequences of talking too much, because a person usually does I’tikaaf on his own, turning to Allah by praying Qiyaam al-Layl (Standing in night for prayer), reading Quran, making Dhikr, reciting du’a, and so on.
It also offers protection from sleeping too much, because when a person makes I’tikaaf in the mosque, he devotes his time to drawing closer to Allah by doing different kinds of acts of worship; he does not stay in the mosque to sleep.
Undoubtedly a person’s success in freeing himself from socializing, talking and sleeping too much will help him to make his heart turn towards Allah, and will protect him from the opposite.
It is also permitted for women to do I’tikaaf (spiritual retreat) in a specific place in their house, whenever they have the time and are able to do so without neglecting their family duties and other responsibilities.
The same considerations would apply as in any other I’tikaaf: ones primary concern during the time should be towards worship, and unnecessary worldly activity should be avoided.
Even when one is in their monthly period, it is recommended in the Hanifa school to sit in a designated place of prayer (Mussallah) at home, after having made Wudhu, and make Dhikr for the time it takes to pray.
It is recommended for women to designate a place in their houses as their 'Masjid'. They can do I’tikaaf there at any time, even for a brief period of time, [Radd al-Muhtar] and attain the great rewards mentioned in the hadith’s for I’tikaaf (as long as they fulfil their other worldly and religious duties, as is the case for men).
9. Sincerely repenting to Allah
Allah says: O son of Adam, if your sins were to reach the clouds of the sky and you would then seek My forgiveness, I would forgive you.
When a person sins and then sincerely turns to Allah for forgiveness, one will find Allah ready to accept his repentance and to forgive him, as this verse indicates:
And whoever does a wrong or wrongs himself, but then seeks forgiveness from Allah, he will find Allah forgiving and merciful. (Surat an-Nisaa 4:110)
Everyone commits sin and does wrong, but Allah is always willing to forgive and He always gives them a chance to repent and seek His forgiveness. A believer should never forget the fact that Allah is so forgiving. If Allah had willed, He could have held everyone accountable for his or her sins, but He has decreed that He shall allow His servants to seek His forgiveness and that He shall in fact forgive who and what He wills. In fact, Allah commands that His servants seek His forgiveness:
And seek Allahs forgiveness. Certainly, Allah is Forgiving, Merciful. (Surat al-Muzzammil 73:20)
Repentance is an act, which purifies the soul and brings the servant closer to Allah. It puts the heart at rest from guilt. It protects one from falling prey to his desires and lusts and increases his faith.
We must ask ourselves this question:Would we be willing to forgive anyone who hurts us and disobeys us constantly as easily as Allah is Able to forgive? Most probably, the answer would be no. But our Creator is the Most Kind and He is the Most Perfect.
Lo! Allah is a Lord of Kindness to mankind, but most of mankind give not thanks. (Surat al-Baqarah 2:143)
In Hadithi Qudsi, mankind is encouraged to seek Allahs forgiveness and repent, but there are five conditions of repentance, which must be met for ones repentance to be accepted. They are:
The first and most important is that the act of repentance be sincerely for Allah alone.
Secondly, the person must feel remorse and guilt over his actions so much so that he wished he had never done it in the first place.
The third condition is that the person must immediately cease performing the wrong and sinful act.
Fourthly, the repentant person must have a firm intention to never commit the sin again.
And lastly, the person must repent before it is too late, meaning before death approaches.
However, there is a condition. One must not associate any partners with Allah, which is shirk. And Allah does not forgive shirk and if one dies without believing in Allah alone as ones Creator, then he will be doomed to the Hellfire for all of eternity.
So, Allah emphasizes the importance of calling on Him alone. He has no and needs no partners, associates, wives, children, etc. There is no god, but Allah. None forgives sins except Him, so one who is seeking forgiveness should seek it only from Allah.
Allahs forgiveness and mercy is far greater and vaster than the sins of the creation. One must always have trust and hope in Allah in both good times and bad times and especially when seeking Allahs forgiveness. And the believer who calls out to his Lord for forgiveness demonstrates his true weakness and that he is totally dependent on the Creator.
When one confesses his sins to Allah and sincerely repents with hope in Allahs mercy, the heart should come to peace and the soul should feel rest. When a person has hope, he has no reason to despair because it only leads to destruction. Allah gives hope to all, especially those who despair that there is no reason to despair because Allah is the Most Merciful of all those who show mercy. Allah praises those who repent and turn to Him:
And those who, when they commit a lewd act or wrong themselves with evil, remember Allah and ask forgiveness for their sins and who forgives sins except Allah? And they do not persist in what (wrong) they were doing while they knew it. For such, the reward is forgiveness from their Lord and Gardens with rivers flowing through, wherein they shall abide forever. How excellent is the reward of the doers (of good)! (Surah Ali Imran 3:135-136)
The Prophet said: "Whoever observes fast during the month of Ramadan out of sincere faith, and hoping to attain Allah's rewards, all his past sins will be forgiven." (Sahih Al-Bukhari, Book of Fasting)
Therefore let us strive to try and gain forgiveness for all of our past major and minor sins by feeling remorseful and crying to Allah asking of him sincerely and repenting to him with the intention NEVER to repeat such act! Let us leave our past behind and build ourselves a better future practising our beautiful way of life Islam!
Remember Allah loves forgiveness and loves to forgive so ask of him to forgive as much as possible!
10. Having good manners, character and being humble
Many of us think that “a perfect Muslim” is simply one who is correct in the observance of the salah (ritual Prayer), the fasting, the zakah (payment of a certain portion of one’s wealth to the poor), and the Hajj (pilgrimage to Makkah). This indeed is not the case.
If the ritual observances do not help the person to be humble, virtuous and truly God-fearing, then he or she is not a real Muslim. A Muslim should be good and just in dealing with others, no matter their religion, and take special care to keep away from all the shameful and sinful things Allah has forbidden.
One can never get close to Allah by being arrogant, full of pride and having a bad character and manners. Those who have humility and are humble and have good character and manners are the closest to Allah and Allah raises their ranks in the hereafter. The best person is the one who is best towards others.
The superiority of good character:
Hadrat Abu Darda, may Allah be pleased with him, relates that the Holy Prophet Muhammad, may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, said, “Nothing is heavier in the scales of a believer on the Day of Judgement than his good behaviour. Allah detests a person who is obscene and shameless”. (Tirmidhi)
The best friend in the sight of Allah is he who is the well-wisher of his companions, and the best neighbour is one who behaves best towards his neighbours. (Tirmidhi)
Having humility and being humble:
The Prophet (PBUH) said: "He who was humble for the sake of God by one degree, God (SWT) would then elevate them to a degree till they reach the uppermost of high Orders, and he who was arrogant to God (SWT), God (SWT) would then lower him for a degree till he reaches the lowest of low Orders", (Narrated by: Muslim (Hadeeth: 6535).
The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said:“And no one humbles himself before Allaah but Allaah will raise him (in status).”
Humbleness is to know the value of oneself, to avoid pride, or disregarding the truth and underestimating people. As the Prophet sallallahu`alaihi wa sallam said, according to Muslim and others, "Al-Kibr is rejecting the truth and looking down upon people" [Muslim, Tirmidhi and Abu Dawud].
Humbleness is for one who is important and significant and he fears to gain notoriety or to become too great among people. Humbleness is that one should humble himself with his companions.
Humbleness is to humble oneself to one who is below you. If you find someone who is younger than you, or of less importance than you, you should not despise him, because he might have a better heart than you, or be less sinful, or closer to Allah than you. Even if you see a sinful person and you are righteous, do not act in arrogance towards him, and thank Allah that He saved you from the tribulation that He put him through.
Remember that there might be some riyaa' or vanity in your righteous deeds that may cause them to be of no avail, and that this sinful person may be regretful and fearful concerning his bad deeds, and this may be the cause of forgiveness of his sins.
Humbleness is that your deed should not become too great in your eyes. If you do a good deed, or attempt to get closer to Allah ta`ala through an act of obedience, your deed may still not be accepted, "Allah only accepts from those who have taqwa (fear of Allah)." (Surat al-Maida: 27)
Humbleness is that, when you are advised, if Shaytaan calls you to reject the advice, you must negate him. Because the purpose of advice is that your brother points out the defects that you have.
The arrogant never gives credit to anybody or mentions good about someone, and if he needed to do so, he would also mention five defects of that person. But if he hears somebody reminding him about his own defects, he will not be flexible nor comply due to his inferiority complex. This is why it is among man's moral integrity to accept criticism or comment without any sensitivity or discomfort or feelings of shame and weakness.
We can summarize the teachings of Islam about the Muslim character in the following list:
Be truthful in everything, don’t lie.
Be sincere and straightforward, don’t be hypocritical.
Be honest, don’t be corrupt.
Be humble, don’t be boastful.
Be moderate, don’t be excessive.
Be reserved, don’t be garrulous.
Be soft-spoken, don’t be loud.
Be refined and gentle in speech, don’t curse and use foul language.
Be loving and solicitous to others, don’t be unmindful of them.
Be considerate and compassionate, don’t be harsh.
Be polite and respectful to people, don’t be insulting or disrespectful.
Be generous and charitable, don’t be selfish and miserly.
Be good natured and forgiving, don’t be bitter and resentful.
Share and be content with what Allah has given you, don’t be greedy.
Be cheerful and pleasant, don’t be irritable and morose.
Be chaste and pure, don’t be lustful.
Be alert and aware of the world around you, don’t be absent-minded.
Be dignified and decent, don’t be graceless.
Be optimistic and hopeful, don’t be cynical or pessimistic.
Be confident and have deep faith, don’t be doubtful and wavering.
Be spiritually oriented and not materialistic.
Be confident of the mercy of Allah, don’t be despairing and lose heart.
Be diligent and vigilant of your duties, don’t be negligent.
Be thankful to Allah and constantly pray to Him, don’t be forgetful of His innumerable blessings.
Allah's Messenger (pbuh) said, "Whoever does not give up forged speech and evil actions, Allah is not in need of his leaving his food and drink" (Bukhari)
Therefore we should not use foul speech or slander, backbite or lie in this most blessed month and if we continue to do so then Allah is not in need of us fasting. Therefore know that the purpose of fasting is for us to perfect our character and change ourselves for the better. If we are not willing to do that then there is no point of us fasting as we would just gain hunger out of it. So let us make the effort and control our tongue!
Finally as the righteous say, "The love of Allah is the axis around which all good revolves." If you fall in love with Allah, and then strive to be true in your love--in accordance with the way of the Beloved of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace), then you'll find nothing but increasing light and contentment in your life.
And Allah alone gives success.