The correct way of performing Itikaf
Itikaf is the spiritual retreat which connects an individual to Allah and disconnects an individual from worldly things and from people of World. Itikaf is the practice of Muslims in the month of Ramadan and Muslims usually perform this practice by the end ten days of Ramadan. Itikaf is not fard but it is a sunnah and it is the highly encouraged sunnah in Islam.
Can Muslims perform Itikaf in only last ashra of Ramadan?
This is not necessary for a Muslim to perform Itikaf by the end ten days but end ten days are highly encouraged in Islam for this spiritual practice of Itikaf. The first major reason of performing itikaf in last ashra of Ramadan is Laylat al-Qadr. And the second important reason of performing itikaf in the end ten days of Ramadan is that our beloved Prophet Mohammad (P.B.U.H) used to perform itikaf in the last ashra of Ramadan.
Narrated by Hazrat Aisha (the wife of the Prophet):
“The Prophet Mohammad (P.B.U.H) used to practice Itikaf in the last ten days of Ramadan till he died and then his wives used to practice Itikaf after him.” [Vol 3, Book 33, Number 243]
Did Prophet Mohammad (P.B.U.H) perform Itikaf only in the last ashra?
We can find some references in hadith that Prophet Mohammad (P.B.U.H) performed itikaf other than last ashra as well. However, Prophet Mohammad (P.B.U.H) himself encouraged people to practice itikaf in last ten days of Ramadan and he has instructed Muslims to find the greatest night (Laylat al-Qadr) in the odd nights of last ashra. Following is supporting this statement:
Narrated by Abu Said Al-Khudri (R.A):
“Allah's Apostle used to practice Itikaf in the middle ten days of Ramadan and once he stayed in Itikaf till the night of the twenty-first and it was the night in the morning of which he used to come out of his Itikaf. The Prophet said, "Whoever was in Itikaf with me should stay in Itikaf for the last ten days, for I was informed (of the date) of the Night (of Qadr) but I have been caused to forget it. (In the dream) I saw myself prostrating in mud and water in the morning of that night. So, look for it in the last ten nights and in the odd ones of them." It rained that night and the roof of the mosque dribbled as it was made of leaf stalks of date-palms. I saw with my own eyes the mark of mud and water on the forehead of the Prophet (in the morning of the twenty-first).” [Vol 3, Book 33, Number 244]
Can Muslims enter in house during Itikaf?
Muslims are allowed to leave the mosque only when there is a need. For example, to get the food, or to use the washroom Muslims can leave the mosque. Otherwise it is not appreciated to leave the mosque without any major necessity because in this way Muslims may get distracted by any worldly activity and this distraction can somehow break the purpose of itikaf.
Hazrat Aisha has narrated:
“Allah's Apostle used to let his head in (the house) while he was in the mosque and I would comb and oil his hair. When in Itikaf he used not to enter the house except for a need”. [Vol 3, Book 33, Number 246]
The above narration states that Prophet Mohammad (P.B.U.H) used to only let his head in the home for combing and oiling hair but he never entered the house unless there was any need. He only used to let his head in the house without stepping inside house except for a need.
Is it important to stay in itikaf for complete ten days?
No it is not important to stay in itikaf for complete ten days but itikaf can be completed in any days of a person’s feasibility. But it is very important to understand that if a person vows or oaths for any particular days then he or she has to complete those days in itikaf. For example, if a person vows to Allah that fulfill my this wish and I will complete these particular days in itikaf then that person needs to complete those days in itikaf without breaking the promise with Allah.
It is mentioned in the hadith that Hazrat Umer (R.A) asked the Prophet (P.B.U.H) that:
"I vowed in the Pre-lslamic period of ignorance to stay in Itikaf for one night in Al-Masjid al-Haram." The Prophet said to him, "Fulfill your vow." [Vol 3, Book 33, Number 248]
On the other hand if a Muslim initiate the itikaf with the love in himself that he will perform itikaf the more days he can and in between itikaf whenever he feels to end itikaf then he can end it with the good intentions.
Thus, itikaf or any other ibadah are explained in the easiest way by Islam because Islam wants Muslims to perform ibadah without feeling that a burden on them.