Permissible Actions In I’tikaaf
‘Aa’ishah, may Allah be pleased with her, relates that, at times, she combed the hair of the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa salam, while he was observing I’tikaaf (seclusion in the mosque for worship) and she was in her chamber during her menses. The Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa salam, would put his head in the room [for her to comb his hair]. [Al-Bukhari and Muslim]
According to a narration of Muslim: “The Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa salam, did not enter his house [while in I’tikaaf], except for a natural human need.”
It is further narrated on the authority of ‘Aa’ishah, may Allah be pleased with her, that “the Messenger of Allah, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa salam, would be in I’tikaaf in the mosque, when he sometimes gave me his head through an opening of the chamber to wash” [Abu Daawood]; and in another version, “so that I would comb [his hair], while I was menstruating”.
Moreover, ‘Aa’ishah, may Allah be pleased with her, recounts: “Sometimes, [while I was in I’tikaaf], I would enter the house for a necessity; and, although there might be a sick person inside, I did not inquire about his/her health, except as I was passing by.” [Muslim]
She, may Allah be pleased with her, also said: “It is from the Sunnah for one performing I’tikaaf to not visit a patient [to ask after him], attend a funeral procession, touch women or have sexual relations with them, or go out [of the mosque], save for a basic need. Furthermore, I’tikaaf is neither valid without fasting, nor done in any place other than a mosque in which the Friday prayer is established.” [Abu Daawood]
Benefits and rulings [derived from these reports]
First: The whole body of the menstruating woman is not impure; only the place from where menstrual blood flows, is. The same is true of a Muslim in the state of Janaabah (post-coital impurity).
Second: If one observing I’tikaaf lets a part of his body out of the mosque, he is neither considered to have exited the premises nor does this affect the validity of his I’tikaaf. Therefore, he is allowed to take or give anything through the window or door of the mosque.
Third: It is acceptable in the Sharee’ah (Islamic jurisprudence) for one observing I’tikaaf to wash and comb his hair, apply perfume, perform Ghusl (ritual bath for purification), shave and groom himself.
Fourth: The Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa salam, had a thick head of hair.
Fifth: It is an act of Sunnah for one with a lot of hair to clean and comb it. Conversely, it is contrary to it and to the Sharee’ah to neglect keeping clean and having a good appearance.
Sixth: The Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa salam, used to comb his hair, which indicates a permissibility for Muslims to use all that benefits their bodies, in terms of nutrition and personal hygiene.
Seventh: It is permissible for one observing the I’tikaaf to look at his wife and be touched by her without lust.
Eighth: It is valid under the Sharee’ah for the wife to serve her husband, such as cleaning and combing his hair, and washing his clothes, etc.
Ninth: It is impermissible for one in I’tikaaf to exit the mosque, save for the express purpose of fulfilling a natural inevitable necessity, such as urination, excretion and fetching food and water for himself, if there is no one else to bring it to him. The same applies to any essential need which he can not satisfy in the mosque; he has the right to go out for it without fearing for the validity of his I’tikaaf.
Tenth: Whoever takes an oath not to enter a house and subsequently lets his head in, whilst the rest of his body is outside, is not regarded to have broken his vow.
Eleventh: If a person performing I’tikaaf goes out of the mosque due to a need, it is not binding upon him to move hastily. He should walk at his normal pace, provided that he returns to the mosque as soon as he has achieved his objective.
Twelfth: According to the majority of religious scholars, the one observing I’tikaaf must not leave the mosque to visit a patient or even attend a funeral procession. But, he does have the right to inquire about the health of a patient while passing by, without going to him.
Thirteenth: If one observing I’tikaaf goes out for a necessity, such as the death of his father or son, and he has not previously stipulated that he may have to leave the mosque for a similar critical reason, he must restart his I’tikaaf after he has fulfilled his need.
Fourteenth: It can be derived from the aforementioned Hadeeth that a wife is to abide in her husband’s house, even if he will not go to her for any purpose or if a Sharee’ah-defined impediment hinders him from going home, such as traveling or I’tikaaf; in all cases, it is forbidden for the wife to go out of his home, without his permission.
Fifteenth: If one exits his place of seclusion without a necessity, his I’tikaaf becomes invalid.
Sixteenth: There is a difference of opinion among scholars with regard to the prerequisites of I’tikaaf, [as it is said one must] be fasting and seclude himself only in a mosque where the Friday prayers are held in congregation. The sound view is that fasting is not a precondition, since the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa salam, observed I’tikaaf in Shawwaal. Furthermore, it is permissible to do I’tikaaf in the mosque in which, though congregational prayers are offered, the Friday prayer is not, necessarily. In that case, one should go out to attend the Friday prayer and his I’tikaaf will still be valid. But, it is better for one to seclude himself in a mosque in which the Friday prayers are held.