Question # 89: What is the minimum period for I’tikaf?
bismi-llahi r-raḥmani r-raḥīm,
Assalamu ‘laikum warahmatullahi wabarakatuh,
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Shorter Answer: It is better for a Muslim to observe i’tikaf during all of the last ten days, following the example of the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم); however, it is valid to observe i’tikaaf for shorter period, say one day, two days or more. For genuine I’tikaf, two conditions have to be met, namely, having the right intention and staying in a Masjid, where five prayers and Friday Salah are held regularly.
Long Answer: I’tikaf means to stick to something, whether good or bad, and to block out everything else. Allah says in the Qur’an: “What then are images that you pay devotion [akifun] to them?” (Soorah al-Anbia, 21:52); that is, what they devoted themselves to in worship. What is meant here is the seclusion and staying in the mosque with the intention of becoming closer to Allah. (‘Fiqh Us-Sunnah’ by As-Sayyid Sabiq)
It is better for a Muslim to observe i’tikaf during all of the last ten days, following the example of the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم). Al-Bukhari and Muslim narrated from ‘Aa’ishah (رضي الله عنه) that the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) used to spend the last ten days of Ramadan in i’tikaf, until he passed away. (Narrated by al-Bukhari and Muslim)
If he cannot spend all of the last ten days in i’tikaf, and he limits himself to some of the days or nights, there is nothing wrong with that. Al-Bukhari narrated that ‘Umar ibn al-Khattab (رضي الله عنه) vowed to spend one night in i’tikaf in al-Masjid al-Haram, and the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) told him to fulfil his vow. (Narrated by al-Bukhari and Muslim) This indicates that it is valid to observe i’tikaf for one night.(Islamqa.info)
Shaykh Ibn Baaz (may Allah have mercy on him) said: “I’tikaf means staying in the mosque to worship Allah, whether that is for a longer or shorter period, because there is no report – as far as I know – to indicate a specific length of time, whether one day, two days or more.” (Fataawa al-Shaykh Ibn Baaz)
According to the most correct opinion of scholars; whatever is counted as a (stay) in the Masjid is counted as I’tikaf. So, spending the whole night is not a must, as there is no minimum time for staying. For genuine I’tikaf, two conditions have to be met; having the right intention and staying in a Masjid where the five prayers and Friday Salah are held regularly. (Dr. Main Khalid Al-Qudah, Member of the Fatwa Committee of Assembly of Muslim Jurists in America)
Allahu A’lam (Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) knows best) and all Perfections belong to Allah, and all mistakes belong to me alone. May Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) forgive me, Ameen.