13) Spiritual Retreat (I‘tikaf) and Types of I‘tikaf and The Night of Power (Laylat al-Qadr)
sectio taken from Rulings of Ramadan According to the Way of the Best of Mankind (S.A.W.) –by Abu Ammar MS Word Format
Abu Hurayrah (Allah be well pleased with him) narrated:
The Quran was presented to the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) once each year. But it was presented twice in the year in which he passed away. And he used to make spiritual retreat for ten nights, and twenty in the year in which he passed away.
‘A'ishah (Allah be well pleased with her) narrated:
The sunnah for one who is in I‘tikaf is not to visit the sick, nor attend a funeral prayer, nor touch one's wife, nor go out for any need except when there is no alternative to it. There is no spiritual retreat except with fasting, and there is no spiritual retreat except in a congregational Mosque.
‘Abdullah Ibn ‘Umar (Allah be well pleased with them both) narrated that when the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) made I‘tikaf, his bedding (or bed) was spread for him, behind the Pillar of Repentance [tr: a pillar in the Mosque of the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace)].
Spiritual retreat (I‘tikaf) means to remain in the mosque with the intention of devoting oneself to Allah Most High. It is a means by which one can draw nearer to Allah Most High. The one who makes the intention for I‘tikaf turns away from the life of this world and seeks the Mercy and Forgiveness of Allah Most High. Imam ‘Ata' al-Khurasani has said that the one whom performs I‘tikaf is like the one who humbles himself in prostration before Allah Most High and vows not to lift his head until he is forgiven.
The I‘tikaf is a communal sunnah, that is, if a single person from a community performs it, the sunnah has been fulfilled, but if not a single person has performed it, the sunnah remains unfulfilled. For men, it must be performed in the mosque, but for women this is disliked. Rather, they should perform it in an area of the house which has been set-aside for prayer (musalla). The mosque in which I‘tikaf is valid is that in which the five daily obligatory prayers are offered in a group. The I‘tikaf of a woman becomes invalid if the signs of menstruation appear.
14) Types of I‘tikaf
‘A'ishah (Allah be well pleased with her) narrated that the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) used to make I‘tikaf during the last ten days of Ramadan, until Allah Most High took his soul. Then his wives continued to make I‘tikaf after he passed away.
(Bukhari and Muslim)
There are three types of I‘tikaf or spiritual retreat:
1) the wajib I‘tikaf, which one has vowed to observe;
2) the emphasised sunnah (sunnah mu'akkadah) I‘tikaf, which is observed during the last ten days of Ramadan;
3) and the recommended (mustahabb) I‘tikaf, which is observed when one enters a mosque with the intention of devoting oneself to Allah Most High alone, even for a short period.
Someone who makes I‘tikaf (Mu‘takif) continues to receive reward until he leaves the mosque. When observing the wajib I‘tikaf, one must fast and make I‘tikaf for as much as one originally intended to perform when making the vow. For the sunnah mu'akkadah I‘tikaf, one must start the I‘tikaf before the sunset prayer (maghrib) of the 20th day of Ramadan, and must complete it on seeing the new moon of ‘Eid al-Fitr.
The Mu‘takif is not permitted to leave the mosque for any reason except answering the call of nature, making wudu', ghusl and the like. Leaving the mosque for a worldly need invalidates I‘tikaf. There is no harm in eating or drinking in the mosque. A woman who observes I‘tikaf in her home is not permitted to leave the place which has been fixed for I‘tikaf, in the same way that a man is not permitted to leave the mosque.
I‘tikaf is a spiritual retreat, so one should busy oneself with spiritual works, for example, reciting the Quran, performing prayers, especially those which one must makeup and learning Islamic Sacred Law (shari‘ah). One should also keep oneself far away from vulgarity, and useless speech.
15) The Night of Power (Laylat al-Qadr)
‘A'ishah (Allah be well pleased with her) narrated that the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace) said:
Seek Laylat al-Qadr in the odd numbered nights, among the last ten of Ramadan.
‘Abdullah Ibn ‘Umar (Allah be well pleased with both of them) narrated:
Men from amongst the Companions of the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) were shown in a dream that Laylat al-Qadr was in the last seven nights. The Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace) said, ‘I see that your visions regarding the last seven, agree. So whomsoever searches for it, let him search for it in the last seven.'
(Bukhari and Muslim)
‘A'ishah (Allah be well pleased with her) narrated:
I once asked, ‘O Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace), what should I say if I have knowledge of which night is Laylat al-Qadr?' He replied, ‘Say these words: O Allah, thou art forgiving, loving forgiveness. So forgive me.'
(Ahmad, Ibn Majah and Tirmidhi)
‘Ubada Ibn al-Samit (Allah be well pleased with him) narrated that the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace) went out to inform the people about Laylat al-Qadr [tr: its date], but there was a dispute between two Muslims. The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said, ‘I came out to inform you about Laylat al-Qadr, its knowledge has been taken away and maybe it was better for you. Now look for it in the 27th 29th and 25th.'
Anas (Allah be well pleased with him) narrated that the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace) said:
When Laylat al-Qadr appears, Gabriel descends with a company of angels who pray for everyone who is making the Remembrance of Allah Mighty and Majestic, whether standing or sitting.
It is a great blessing that the Quran was first revealed on this night. This is the night on which all decisions are made, meaning that everything for the year is copied from the preserved tablet (al-Lawh al-Mahfuz) and then distributed among various angels.
The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) once mentioned some devotees from the children of Israel. Among them, there was one who spent a thousand months in continuous struggle in the path of Allah Most High (jihad). Also, among them were four devotees who spent eighty years in the worship of Allah Most High, such that not even a single moment was wasted in disobedience. The Companions of the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace), on hearing this, were amazed. The angel Gabriel then came with the chapter of the Quran called, ‘The Night of Power' (surat al-Qadr) which contained the promise that, whomsoever spends the whole night of Laylat al-Qadr in worship, will be rewarded as if he spent more than a thousand months in the worship of Allah Most High.
It has been mentioned that the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) saw that the lifetimes of the previous nations were very long, and he became sad at the fact that his ummah would not be able to undertake as much worship as the other nations. On this, angel Gabriel descended and revealed surat al-Qadr, and gave the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) the good news that the ummah of the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) has been honoured with a blessed night in which one night's worship will be worth more than the worship of a thousand months.
(Tafsir Ibn Kathir, Tafsir al-Qurtubi and Ruh al-Mani, by Hafiz Ibn Kathir, Imam al-Qurtubi and Imam al-Allusi al-Hanafi respectively, under surat al-Qadr)
16) The Descending of the Angels Knowledge of Laylat al-Qadr
Hafiz Ibn Kathir mentions this athar (narration). Various forms of this have also been mentioned by Ibn Abi Hatim and Imam al-Qurtubi. Ka‘b (May Allah be well pleased with him) narrated:
Verily the Lote Tree (sidrat al-Muntaha) is on the border of the seventh heaven, where it adjoins Paradise, on the border of the breezes of this world and the next. Its height is in Paradise, and its shoots and branches are below the Throne. Upon its branches, there are angels worshipping Allah Mighty and Majestic, no one knows their number except Allah Mighty and Majestic. There is an angel in even the smallest of places. The place of Gabriel (Upon whom be peace) is in the middle of it [tr: the tree]. Gabriel is called upon by Allah to descend each Laylat al-Qadr, with the angels who inhabit the Lote Tree. Each angel is given mercy and compassion to pass on to the believers. The angels descend with Gabriel on Laylat al-Qadr when the sun sets. On Laylat al-Qadr, the angels are found everywhere either prostrating or standing, making supplication for the believing men and believing women. But they do not go where there is a church, a synagogue, places of fire-worship, an idol, a village rubbish dump, a house in which there is a drunkard, a place in which there is an intoxicant, a house in which an idol has been set up, a house in which there is a hanging bell, a lavatory or a place in which there is household rubbish. They spend their night there, making supplication for the believing men and the believing women and Gabriel shakes the hand of each and every believer. The mark of this is that the believer's skin shivers; his heart becomes tender and his eyes water. For verily this is from the handshake of Gabriel.
Whomsoever says on Laylat al-Qadr, ‘There is no god but Allah,' three times, Allah will forgive him with one [tr: utterance], and He will save him from the Fire with another, and admit him into Paradise with another.
Those listening to him asked, ‘O Abu Ishaq, when it is said in truth?' Ka‘b al-Ahbar said:
‘Is he who says, ‘There is no god but Allah,' on Laylat al-Qadr, other than truthful? By Him in whose Hand my soul is, indeed Laylat al-Qadr is upon the disbeliever and the hypocrite as if it were a mountain on his back.
The angels continue in this way, until daybreak. The first to ascend is Gabriel, who ascends until he is in front of the uppermost horizon. He then spreads out his wings. He has two green wings which he does not spread out except in that hour; the rays of the sun diminish. Gabriel then calls angel upon angel and ascends. The light of the angels and the light of the two wings of Gabriel combine together; the sun remains bewildered that day. Gabriel and those with him are made to stand between the earth and the heavens of this world in supplication, seeking mercy and forgiveness for the believing men and the believing women and for the one who fasted Ramadan with belief, seeking reward. And Gabriel makes supplication for the one who tells himself that if he lives until the next Ramadan, he will fast Ramadan for Allah.
When the evening comes, the angels enter into the heaven of this world and sit in circle upon circle, gathering with the angels of the heaven of this world. They ask them concerning man after man and woman after woman. They talk about them until they say, ‘What has so-and-so done and how have you found him this year?' They say, ‘We found so-and-so last year, in this night devoting himself in worship, but we find him this year, in innovation. We found so-and-so in innovation, but we find him now in worship.' They stop seeking forgiveness for the former and continue to seek forgiveness for the latter. They say, ‘We found so-and-so and so-and-so making the Remembrance of Allah, and we found so-and-so bowing, and so-and-so in prostration, and we found so-and-so reciting the Book of Allah.'
Their day and night continue in this manner until they ascend to the second heaven. In each heaven they spend a day and a night, until they stop at their place at the Lote Tree. The Lote Tree says to them, ‘O my inhabitants, tell me about the people and name them to me, for verily I have upon you a right, and I love him who loves Allah.' They enumerate and give accounts of men and women by their names and the names of their fathers. Paradise draws near to the Lote Tree saying, ‘Inform me of what your inhabitants from amongst the angels, have informed you of.' Paradise then says, ‘May the Mercy of Allah be upon so-and-so man and so-and-so woman. O Allah, hasten them unto me.' Gabriel, who reaches his place [tr: at the Lote Tree] before the rest of the angels, is inspired by Allah to say, ‘I found so-and-so in prostration so forgive him.' And he will be forgiven. Gabriel hears the carriers of the Throne saying, ‘May the Mercy of Allah be upon so-and-so man and upon so-and-so woman, and may His forgiveness be upon so-and-so.' Gabriel says, ‘O Lord, I found Your servant named so-and-so, which I found last year upon the sunnah and in worship, but I found him this year, innovating a new act, and he has turned back on that which You have commanded him with.' Then Allah says, ‘O Gabriel, if he makes repentance three hours before death, I will forgive him.' Then Gabriel says, ‘Praise be to You, my god. You are more merciful than all of Your creation and You are more merciful with Your servants than Your servants are with themselves.' Then the Throne, that which is around it and the veils, tremble. The heavens and that which is in them say, ‘Praise be unto Allah, the Most Merciful.'
Whomsoever fasts the month of Ramadan, telling himself that when he breaks fast after Ramadan, he will not disobey Allah, will enter Paradise with neither questioning nor account.
(Tafsir Ibn Kathir, by Hafiz Ibn Kathir, surat al-Qadr)
Imam Fakhr al-Din al-Razi writes concerning the word of Allah Most High, ‘Therein, angels and the Spirit descend by the leave of their Lord,' that from this, it is known that the angels, including Gabriel, seek the permission of Allah Most High, to descend to the Earth. On being granted permission, they descend from the heavens. From this, it is proved that the angels long to meet the ummah of the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace). When they are granted permission they descend in large numbers. A question is raised, as to why they would long to meet the likes of us, sinful people. When the angels read the Preserved Tablet, they read about the good deeds of the Muslims, but our bad deeds are hidden from them.
(al-Tafsir al-Kabir by Imam Fakhr al-Din al-Razi, under surat al-Qadr)
At this time, the angels uncontrollably sing praises of Him who has made the good deeds apparent, and has hidden the bad deeds. At this, the angels know of the greatness of this ummah and they long to meet the servants from amongst them.
17) Knowledge of Laylat al-Qadr
Allah Most High has hidden the true knowledge of Laylat al-Qadr so that people would go in search of this blessed night and spend as much time as possible in His worship. If precise knowledge of this night were disclosed, people would strive for more worship on a single night alone. Another reason could be that if this night were to be disclosed, the one disobedient to Allah Most High would receive a greater punishment for persisting in the act of disobedience even on Laylat al-Qadr.
Hafiz al-‘Asqalani mentioned forty-five reports concerning the date of Laylat al-Qadr, with evidences, from amongst the Companions (Allah be well pleased with them all), those who studied under the Companions (tabi‘in), those who studied under the tabi‘in (tabi‘ al-Tabi‘in), and the scholars of the biography (sirah) of the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace). May Allah be well pleased with one and all of them. Due to the length of these accounts, they cannot be mentioned here.
There is some disagreement, both amongst the companions and the scholars of the ummah concerning the exact night of Laylat al-Qadr. It is believed by some that this night is on the twenty-seventh of Ramadan, and this is the most common view. Imam Abu Hanifah has said that the night changes each Ramadan. Qadi Abu Yusuf has said that Laylat al-Qadr can be in any one of the nights of the year. Imam al-Shafi‘i has said that this night is found in the first night of the last ten days of Ramadan. Imam Malik and Imam Ahmad have said that this night is in the last ten days of Ramadan. And so on and so forth.
(Fath al-Bari by Hafiz al-‘Asqalani, chapter on Laylat al-Qadr)
The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) was given knowledge of exact night of Laylat al-Qadr as illustrated in the hadith narrated by ‘Ubada Ibn al-Samit and recorded by Imam al-Bukhari (see above).
Imam al-Bukhari records a narration of Abu Salamah where he mentions that the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said that he had been shown Laylat al-Qadr, but he had been made to forget its date. The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) then said that it is in the odd nights of the last ten.
(Sahih al-Bukhari by Imam al-Bukhari, chapter on Fada'il laylat al-Qadr)
Hafiz al-‘Asqalani mentions that Ibn ‘Uyaynah said that the knowledge of Laylat al-Qadr was known by the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) and that its knowledge was only removed for that year alone.
(Fath al-Bari by Hafiz al-‘Asqalani, chapter on Fada'il laylat al-Qadr)
One can conclude that the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) had knowledge of Laylat al-Qadr, but it was removed for a single year alone, and then returned the following year. And Allah knows best.
18) Witnessing Laylat al-Qadr
Hafiz al-‘Asqalani writes concerning Laylat al-Qadr:
It is said that one sees all things in prostration, that there is radiant light in every place even in dark areas and that one hears the Salams or speech of the angels. It is also said that its mark is that the supplication of the one who has witnessed it, is accepted. Imam al-Tabari has noted that all of the above are not necessary, and that it is not a condition that one sees or hears anything, for it to have taken place.
(Fath al-Bari by Hafiz al-‘Asqalani, chapter on Fada'il laylat al-Qadr. See also Nayl al-Awtar by Qadi al-Shawkani, chapter on Fada'il laylat al-Qadr)
Imam Badr al-Din al-‘Ayni has mentioned that Imam al-Tabari has heard this from a whole community of people.
Even today we hear of such accounts displaying the Omnipotent Power of Allah Most High. The author has personally heard an account from a brother in Ealing, London. During Ramadan, the family were busy in the worship of Allah Most High, and one from amongst them went to get a drink from the kitchen. Upon opening the tap, milk began to flow. Others were called to witness this great event, and they drank from the sweet milk. They thanked and praised Allah Most High for the blessing they had received. This demonstrates that Allah Most High chooses whom He wills from His servants, to display Laylat al-Qadr.