“Khulwah” (seclusion) vs. “I‘tikaaf” - during Ramadan
Fatwa No: 111803


What is the difference between the “Khulwah” (seclusion) and “I‘tikaaf” ‎during Ramadhaan?


All perfect praise be to Allaah, the Lord of the Worlds. I testify that there is none worthy of worship except Allaah, and that Muhammad, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, is His Slave and Messenger.

Scholars have defined the Sharee‘ah-approved I‘tikaaf as “Staying in the mosque for the purpose of worshipping Allaah.”

It is a valid act in Islam according to the Quran, Sunnah and the scholars’ consensus.

Allaah The Almighty Says (what means): {…And do not have relations with them as long as you are staying for worship in the mosques…} [Quran 2:187]

With regard to the Sunnah, there are many authentic Hadeeths narrated by Al-Bukhari, Muslim  may  Allaah  have  mercy  upon  them and others proving that the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, performed this act of worship, namely, I‘tikaaf.

As for the scholarly consensus, Ibn Qudaamah  may  Allaah  have  mercy  upon  him mentioned in Al-Mughni:

“Ibn Al-Munthir said, ‘Scholars have unanimously agreed that I‘tikaaf is an act of Sunnah and not obligatory, unless one vows to perform it. In such a case, it will be obligatory.’”

I‘tikaaf, as unanimously stated by the scholars, is an act of Sunnah during the last ten days of Ramadan.

I‘tikaaf may also be called Jiwaar (neighborhood) as it came in an authentic Hadeeth narrated on the authority of ‘Aa’ishah  may  Allaah  be  pleased  with  her.

The rationale behind the legislation of I‘tikaaf is to reform and refine one’s soul as well as isolate oneself to be devoted solely to worshipping Allaah The Almighty and to self-reckoning.

As for the term Khulwah (seclusion), none of the senior scholars have used it to refer to I‘tikaaf. Hence, it is better to use the Sharee‘ah-approved terminologies that were used by the scholars as there is no need for introducing new terms that may be ambiguous.

Linguistically speaking, Khulwah may be more specific than I‘tikaaf, because the person who performs I‘tikaaf may or may not be in seclusion.

However, Khulwah may also be more general than I‘tikaaf, because it may take place inside or outside the mosque.

As for the ruling on Khulwah, if it is for performing Thikr (mentioning and remembrance of Allaah) and acts of worship away from religious innovations, then it is recommended. Imaam An-Nawawi  may  Allaah  have  mercy  upon  him said about such type, “Khulwah is the practice of the righteous and devoted worshippers.”

Allaah Knows best.

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