Why do I observe I`tikaf (intentions of i'tikaf (retiring to the mosque for worship))?
I`tikaf is the real test for sincerity because nothing more achieving to sincerity than I`tikaf. During I`tikaf a person stops his desires, a servant becomes alone with his Lord (may He be Glorified and Exalted), and the greatest goal is achieved which is directing the heart to Allah (may He be Exalted).
However, what are the intentions that can be recalled for I`tikaf?
1- The intention of following the Sunnah of the Prophet (peace be upon him) because following the Sunnah of the Prophet (peace be upon him) is the great success.
Abu Hurayrah (may Allah be pleased with him) narrated that the Prophet (peace be upon him) used to observe I`tikaf in the last ten days of Ramadan until Allah caused him to pass away. Ubay ibn Ka`b (may Allah be pleased with him) narrated that the Prophet (peace be upon him) used to spend the last ten days of Ramadan in I`tikaf. One year he was traveling, so the following year he spent twenty days in I`tikaf. [Sahih Sunan Ibn Majah].
Az-Zuhry said: I wonder how do people refrain from I`tikaf while the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) used to do things sometimes and leave them sometimes except I`tikaf which he never abandoned until he passed away. [Al Mabsut: (3/114) and `Umdat Al Qary: (12 / 1402)].
2- The intention of making good use of Laylat-ul-Qadr (the Night of Decree): "Verily, We have sent it (this Qur'ân) down in the night of Al-Qadr (Decree). * And what will make you know what the night of Al-Qadr (Decree) is? * The night of Al-Qadr (Decree) is better than a thousand months (i.e. worshipping Allâh in that night is better than worshipping Him a thousand months, i.e. 83 years and 4 months)." [Surat Al Qadr: 1 - 3].
So, the closest people to attain that night are those who observe I`tikaf because they spend their daytime in fasting, their night in Qiyam, they stay in submissiveness, their remembrance to Allah is tears, their hearts are submissive, and they are asking for forgiveness to gain the satisfaction of the Most Gracious.
3- The intention of trying to get rid of the five diseases of the heart:
(Long sleep -excessive eating - excessive mixture with people - excessive look - and idle talks).
If this is achieved, your heart will be reformed and if this is done, your entire body and condition will be good. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: "Beware! There is a piece of flesh in the body if it becomes good (reformed) the whole body becomes good but if it gets spoilt the whole body gets spoilt and that is the heart." [Reported by Al Bukhari and Muslim].
4- The intention of attaining the love of staying in the masjid:
Recall this intention so as to get abundant goodness: After you had stayed for ten days inside the masjid, why do not you ask Allah (may He be Exalted) to grant you the love of staying in the masjid? The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said: "Allah will give shade to seven kinds of people on the Day when there will be no shade but His... Among them was a man whose heart is attached to the mosques (i.e. to pray the compulsory prayers in the mosque in congregation)." [Reported by Al Bukhari and Muslim].
Imam An-Nawawy (may Allah bestow mercy on his soul) said in Sharh Sahih Muslim: "Whose heart is attached to the mosques" means: Very loving to them and adherent to perform Salah in congregation therein; it is not meant to always sit in masjids without any purpose.
5- The intention of learning many good manners:
During I`tikaf you can learn many good manners that are impossible to learn outside the masjid.
Of these manners: Asceticism in the world, being satisfied with the destiny of Allah, patience, and restraining one's desires; you shall learn these manners and others by staying in the masjid.
6- The intention of the optimum use of time along with accustoming to order:
During I`tikaf you abide by a specific system that is laid by the masjid concerning (sleeping - eating - and talking) ant that will help you follow regulations and maintain your time to the maximum.
7- The intention of reaching the two acquittal of Hell and hypocrisy:
During your stay in the masjid for ten days, you shall have a good chance to reach the acquittal from Hell and hypocrisy about which the Prophet (peace be upon him) informed by his saying: "As for him who prayed for forty days purely for Allah's Sake beginning with the very first takbir, he will get deliverance from two things: Deliverance from the fire and deliverance from hypocrisy." [Reported by At-Tirmidhy in Sahih Al Jami`: 6365].
So, make up your mind and sharpen your will to get the two acquittal from Hell and hypocrisy.
8- The intention of guarding fasting against anything that may corrupt it:
Why not? The one who observes I`tikaf in the purest spot on earth i.e., masjids recalls this intention because he is working hard to guard his fasting against anything that may corrupt it.
9- The intention of raising the degree of your Salah and its acceptance:
This intention is absent from most people who observe I`tikaf although it is possible to recall it. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: "Salah after another is written in `Illiyyun." [Sahih Al Jami`: 3837]. Performing Salah after another without making idle talks in between will be written in a high rank and shall be accepted. Ali Al Qary (may Allah bestow mercy on his soul) said in `Awn Al Ma`bud Fi Sharh Sunan Abu Dawud: It is the name of the record of good deeds in which righteous actions are recorded. Allah (may He be Exalted) says: "Nay! Verily, the Record (writing of the deeds) of Al-Abrâr (the pious believers of Islamic monotheism) is (preserved) in 'Illiyyûn. * And what will make you know what 'Illiyyûn is? * A Register inscribed. * To which bear witness those nearest (to Allâh, i.e. the angels)." [Surat Al Mutaffifin: 18 - 21].
10- The intention of erasing sins, raising degrees, and attaining the intention of keeping to righteous actions along with staying in the masjid during the duration of I`tikaf may increase the reward by recalling these intentions. Yes, by the favor of Allah, it is possible to recall these intentions which were mentioned in the Prophet Hadith in which he said: "Shall I tell you something by which Allah effaces the sins and elevates ranks (in Paradise)?The Companions said: Certainly, O Messenger of Allah. He (peace be upon him) said: Performing ablution thoroughly in spite of difficult circumstances, walking with more paces to masjids, and waiting for the next As-Salat (the prayer) after observing Salat;and that is Ar-Ribat, and that is Ar-Ribat [keeping to righteous actions]." [Sahih Muslim: 251].
Allah (may He be Exalted) says: "O you who believe! Endure and be more patient (than your enemy), and guard your territory by stationing army units permanently at the places from where the enemy can attack you, and fear Allâh, so that you may be successful." [Surat Al `Imran: 200]. The meaning is: Wait for the Salah after another (Thus, said Ibn `Abbas). It is said: Observe patience for performing obligatory duties and avoidance of sins. It is said in Tafsir Al Jalalayn: Observe patience for righteous actions, afflictions, and sins.
11- The intention of persistence on the Optional Night Salah:
I`tikaf is a great chance for attaining the love of Optional Night Salah and keeping to it through Tarawih (the Voluntary Night Salah that is performed in Ramadan) every night in addition to Salat-ul-Tahajjud (Optional Night Prayer). So, if you stay up at night for worship and you left Ramadan while you love Qiyam-ul-Layl, it will be enough.
There are other intentions that are possible to recall at I`tikaf which Sheikh Abu Hamid Al Ghazaly (may Allah bestow mercy on his soul) mentioned, of which:
Seclusion, freeing oneself of any business, thinking in the Hereafter, and preparing for it. Moreover, a person should recall that he is a visitor to Allah in His House. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: "Whoever sits in the masjid has visited Allah (may He be Exalted) and it is a due right on the host to honor his guest." [Reported by At-Tabarany in Al Mu`jam Al Kabir and one of its chain of transmission is full of Rijal Al-Sahih (narrators of Hadith compiled by Al-Bukhari and/or Muslim)].
Furthermore, freeing oneself for listening to Dhikr and making others hear it. Teaching those who make mistakes in Salah and others. Enjoining good and forbidding evil so as to spread goodness and to be a partner in reward. To leave out sins for fear of Allah (Glory be to Him) by perfecting the intention in sayings and actions. Then he said: By combining these intentions, actions will become pure and righteous, but by leaving these conditions, actions shall be deviant such as the people who sit in the masjid with the intention of idle talks, mocking at people's honors, sitting there for fun and amusement, looking at women and children, boasting of their righteous actions, and so on.
 Correct your intention of Abu Ahmad Mustafa.
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