Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Spiritual Retreat

Like lion in daylight.......

Like 'abid during night

Taken from Reliance of the Traveller by Ibn Naqib al-Misri

It is sunnah at any time to make spiritual retreat (i'tikaf) in the mosque.Spiritual retreat is especially recommended in Ramadan, particularly in the last ten days of it, seeking Laylat al-Qadar (the Night of Divine Decree) which is, Allah Most High says "better than thousand months".This implies that spiritual works therein are better than works of a thousand months lacking Laylat al-Qadar.Indicating its excellence, the Prohet(Allah bless him and give him peace) said,

"He who prays on Laylat al-Qadar in faith and expectation of its reward will be forgiven his previous sins"

Laylat al-Qadar can be on any night of Ramadan(or on any other month of the year according to some, with referance to Sheikh al-Akbar, Muhyiddin Ibnu 'Arabi in his Futuhat al-Makkiyya). It probably occurs within the last ten nights, more likely on the odd-numbered ones.Twenty-first and twenty-third of which are the likeliest,though most scholars hold it to be on twenty-seventh (Mughni al-Muhtaj ila Ma'rifa Ma'ani alfaz al-Minhaj by Khatib Sharbini).On Laylat al-Qadar it is recommended to frequently repeat,

"O Allah, You are oft-relenting and love to forgive, so fogive me!

At minimum, spiritual retreat(i'tikaf) consists of;

(a) Staying,with the intention of spiritual retreat, for more than the least amount of time that can be considered repose(i.e a moment)
(b) Being a Muslim, sane, conscious and free of major ritual impurity(i.e of menstruation, postnatal bleeding, and major impurity(janaba) )
(c) In a mosque even when this stay is no more than entering the periphery and then leaving by the same enterance(taraddud), though to merely pass through is insufficient.

Optimally,the spiritual retreat should be accompanied by fasting,take place in the Friday congregational mosque, (because of the size of the group prayer therein, and so as not to have to leave to attend the Friday prayer) and be no less than a day.

In Fiqh Sirah Nabawiyya written by Dr Said Ramadan al-Bouti, he explains that the spiritual retreat (i'tikaf) by the Prophet(Allah bless him and give him peace) in Cave of Hira' is a proof that all human, in one phase of his life should undergo spiritual retreat.This is the time when we can reflect ourselves, correcting our deeds and trying to leave behind worldly matters.And there is no period better than the last ten nights of this Holy Ramadan.

Allahumma innaka 'affuwwun, tuhibbul 'afwa, fa'fu 'anni!!!

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