The Itikaf of the Prophet
Itikaf: Seclusion in the masjid (mosque) for the purpose of worship usually performed during the last 10 days of Ramadan
Aisha, may Allah be pleased with her, explains:
The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings upon him, would perform itikaf on the last ten days of Ramadan. He continued it till he passed away. (Bukhari, Itikaf: 1; Muslim, Itikaf: 2)
When the last ten days of Ramadan came, Allah's Messenger (PBUH) would collect himself, make good use of the night, and wake up his household. (Bukhari, Qadr: 5)
Aisha, may Allah be pleased with her, narrates:
Allah's Messenger (PBUH) performed itikaf on the last ten days of Ramadan until he passed away. After his death, his wives continued performing itikaf. (Bukhari, Itikaf: 1)
Literally, itikaf means waiting somewhere and stopping. Whether good or bad, it means binding the soul to something.
Religiously, it refers to a Muslim abandoning outside relations and cares and staying in a mosque for some time with the purpose of worship.
In the 187th verse of Chapter al-Baqarah of the Qur'an, it is stated: “...do not associate in intimacy with them (your wives) during the period when you are in retreat in the mosques...”; so itikaf is a type of worship which is present both in the Qur'an and in the Sunnah (the practice of the Prophet).
Itikaf is a sunnah of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) pertaining to action.
He would himself perform this worship every year on the last ten days of Ramadan, which was continued by his venerable wives after his death.
In a hadith narrated by Ibn-i Maja; Ibn-i Umar, may Allah be pleased with them, said:
When Allah's Messenger, peace and blessings upon him, wanted to perform itikaf, his bed or his bedstead on which he slept would be placed in front of or behind the Pillar of Repentance (Abu Lubaba), which was in the mosque. (Ibn-i Majah, Siyam: 61)
Itikaf is a sunnah kifaya; in other words, if one person performs this sunnah in a town, other Muslims are saved from responsibility. For this reason, in some of our mosques in Turkey, Muslims continue this sunnah on the last ten days of Ramadan; as well as in Makkah and Madinah, where the sunnah of itikaf is more intensively performed.
One who is engaged for ten days in worship, dhikr (remembrance of Allah), Qur'an, istighfar (asking for forgiveness), salawat (sending salaams to the Prophet), supplication and prayer tries to purify one's soul and gets ready for the Night of Power (Laylat al-Qadr).