Assalamualaikum. As we know, iktikaf in the last 10 days of Ramadhan is an encouraged worship. However, in our current situation where we are forced to close the mosques in order to contain the Covid-19 pandemic. Then, is it permissible for us to perform iktikaf in a special area in our house to replace the iktikaf in the mosque?
Alhamdulillah, praise and thanks to Allah for the countless blessings He has blessed us all with. Blessings and salutations to the Prophet Muhammad PBUH, his wives, his family, companions and all those that follow his teachings to the day of judgement.
The Encouragement of Iktikaf
There are numerous narrations which explained the encouragement of iktikaf, among the narrations is from Abdullah Ibn Umar R.Anhuma, where he said:
كَانَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم يَعْتَكِفُ الْعَشْرَ الأَوَاخِرَ مِنْ رَمَضَانَ
“The Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) used to perform I'tikaf during the last ten days of Ramadan.”
Sahih al-Bukhari (2025)
It is also narrated from Ummul Mukminin A’isyah R.Anha, she said:
كَانَ يَعْتَكِفُ الْعَشْرَ الأَوَاخِرَ مِنْ رَمَضَانَ حَتَّى تَوَفَّاهُ اللَّهُ عَزَّ وَجَلَّ ثُمَّ اعْتَكَفَ أَزْوَاجُهُ مِنْ بَعْدِهِ
“The Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) used to perform I'tikaf during the last ten days of Ramadan until he died. Then his wives used to perform I'tikaf after his death.”
Sahih Muslim (1172)
According to the above evidences, al-Imam al-Nawawi Rahimahullah stated the ruling of iktikaf is sunnah mu’akkadah (greatly encouraged). It is sunnah all the time, but it is especially encouraged in the last ten days in the month of Ramadhan. With the purpose of following the guidance of the Prophet PBUH and to seek Lailatul Qadr. (Refer Raudhah al-Tolibin 2/389)
Is Iktikaf Only Applicable in Mosques?
According to the opinion of madhhab Syaf’ie, among the requisites of iktikaf is that it must be performed in a mosque. When iktikaf is not performed in a mosque, then it is invalid for it neglects one of its requisites. This is based on the statement of Allah SWT:
وَلَا تُبَٰشِرُوهُنَّ وَأَنتُمۡ عَٰكِفُونَ فِي ٱلۡمَسَٰجِدِ
“And do not have relations with them as long as you are staying for worship in the mosques.”
Surah al-Baqarah (187)
وَعَهِدْنَا إلَى إبْرَاهِيمَ وَإِسْمَاعِيلَ أَنْ طَهِّرَا بَيْتِي لِلطَّائِفِينَ وَالْعَاكِفِينَ
“And take, [O believers], from the standing place of Abraham a place of prayer. And We charged Abraham and Ishmael, [saying], "Purify My House for those who perform Tawaf and those who are staying [there] for worship,”
Surah al-Baqarah (125)
This is the guidance of the Prophet PBUH where the Prophet PBUH would not perform iktikaf except in a mosque. Imam al-Nawawi said:
لا يصح الاعتكاف من الرجل ولا من المرأة إلا في المسجد، ولا يصح في مسجد بيت المرأة ولا مسجد بيت الرجل، وهو المعتزل المهيأ للصلاة، هذا هو المذهب، وحكى الخراسانيون وبعض العراقيين فيه قولين: (أصحهما) وهو الجديد هذا، (والثاني) وهو القديم: يصح اعتكاف المرأة في مسجد بيتها
The iktikaf of a man is invalid as well of a woman except in a mosque and the iktikaf of those in an area in their house is invalid; and this is the final opinion in the madhhab (Syafi’e). Khurasan scholars and some of the Iraqis scholars stated there are two qauls: the more sahih is qaul jadid which is it is invalid except in the mosque; the second qaul which is qaul qadim states that the iktikaf of a woman in her house is valid. (Refer al-Majmu’ Syarh al-Muhazzab 6/480)
From these words of Imam al-Nawawi, it shows that although the final opinion says that it is impermissible, however it signals that there is no consensus on the matter.
Imam Ibn Hajar al-‘Asqalani said:
وَاتَّفَقَ الْعُلَمَاءُ عَلَى مَشْرُوطِيَّةِ الْمَسْجِدِ لِلِاعْتِكَافِ إِلَّا مُحَمَّدَ بْنَ عُمَرَ بْنِ لُبَابَةَ الْمَالِكِيَّ فَأَجَازَهُ فِي كُلِّ مَكَانٍ وَأَجَازَ الْحَنَفِيَّةُ لِلْمَرْأَةِ أَنْ تَعْتَكِفَ فِي مَسْجِدِ بَيْتِهَا وَهُوَ الْمَكَانُ الْمُعَدُّ لِلصَّلَاةِ فِيهِ وَفِيهِ قَوْلٌ الشَّافِعِي قديم وَفِي وَجْهٍ لِأَصْحَابِهِ وَلِلْمَالِكِيَّةِ يَجُوزُ لِلرِّجَالِ وَالنِّسَاءِ لِأَنَّ التَّطَوُّعَ فِي الْبُيُوتِ أَفْضَلُ
“Scholars have agreed that the condition for iktikaf is in the mosque, except Muhammad bin Umar bin Lubabah – scholars of madhhab Maliki – who ruled iktikaf permissible in any place; Hanafiyyah scholars ruled it permissible for women to perform iktikaf in her house and on this issue there is a qaul qadim in madhhab Syafi’e which one wajh of the opinion among Syafi’iyyah scholars whilst Malikyyah scholars permits iktikaf at home for sunnah worships are prioritized to be performed at home. (Refer Fath al-Bari Syarh Sahih al-Bukhari 4/272. Also cited by Imam al-Syaukani in Nail al-Autor 4/317)
On this basis, Syeikh Dr Ali Muhiyiddin al-Qaradaghi issued a fatwa on this issue and among the contents of the fatwa affirms that:
- It is permissible for a woman to perform iktikaf in an area of her house and she would receive the rewards of iktikaf by the will of Allah SWT, especially when mosques are closed preventing iktikaf.
- It is permissible for a man to perform iktikaf in praying area of his house in countries where mosques are close preventing him from praying or performing iktikaf and he would receive the rewards of iktikaf by the will of Allah SWT.
As for countries where the mosques remain open, then it is impermissible to perform iktikaf in places other than mosques, it is prioritized to perform iktikaf in jami’ mosques where Friday prayer is performed.
This fatwa is issued on several considerations:
- There are fiqh opinions which supported this, where it is not a consensus which is tsabit by qath’ie (irrevocable ruling).
- The worship of iktikaf is a sunnah worship built on the principle of taysir (ease/facilitation) and its conditions are not as stringent as obligatory worship.
- The worship of iktikaf is different from Friday prayer where it is not obligatory to be performed in congregation and it is not conditioned that another person must be a person who is performing iktikaf.
However, Syeikh also reminded that iktikaf performed at home should maintain the conditions and dhawabit (guidelines) of iktikaf which are:
- A person must remain in the special area and does not exit it without any necessity and he should immediately return afterwards.
- Sincere intention for Allah SWT with determination to purify his soul and heart as well as repent and lower himself humbly to Him and regret for his sins.
- Do not have intercourse between husband and wife.
- Busy oneself with the recitation of the Quran, dhikr, prayer, tasbih and others. 
A very similar fatwa is issued by Syeikh Muhammad Abd al-Sami’, the Fatwa Secretary of Dar al-Iftaa al-Misriyyah which states that it is permissible for a woman to perform iktikaf in the praying area in her house, while for a man who always perform iktikaf in the month of Ramadhan in previous years and set the intention for iktikaf this year, inshaAllah he would receive the rewards of iktikaf the same as if he performed it in a mosque. 
However, this permissibility is only temporary and it remains permissible as long as the mosques and surau where Friday prayers are performed are closed from the public. An Islamic legal maxim states:
الحاجة تقدر بقدرها
“A necessity is limited to its rightful extent.”
However, after the situation stabilizes and the spread of the Corona virus has been successfully been contained and mosques are reopened, then it shifted back to the original ruling, where iktikaf is only permissible in mosques and surau where Friday prayer is performed.
In short, we would like to state that the original ruling for iktikaf according to the majority of scholars is it must be in a mosque, for both man and woman. However, in our current situation where mosques and surau are forced to close in an effort to curb the spread of Covid-19 pandemic, it is permissible to perform iktikaf at home in order to perform worship according to the qaul qadim of madhhab Syafi’e, several opinions from other madhhabs and fatwa of contemporary scholars.
This opens the space for Muslims to increase their opportunities to perform worship and multiply their rewards, especially during this honoured and blessed month of Ramadhan.