Ibn Abbas R.A. reports that while he was once performing I’itikaaf in the musjidun Nabwi (Rasulullah’s musjid), a certain man came to him, greated him and sat down. Ibn Abbas said to him: “I see that you seem sad and troubled”. The man replied: “Yes, O son of the uncle of Rasulullah S.W., I am indeed troubled in that I have an obligation to fulfill to someone. I swear by the holiness of the inmate of this honoured resting place (Rasulullah’s grave S.W.) that I am not able to fulfill this obligation”. Ibn Abbas R.A. inquired: “Shall I intercede with that person on your behalf?” the man replied: By all means if you so wish”. Ibn Abbas put on this shoes and proceeded from the Musjid. The man seeing this said: “Have you then forgotten that you are in I’itikaaf?” With tears filling his eyes Ibn Abbas R.A. replied: “No, the time is still fresh in my mind, I heard the esteemed master of this tomb Rasulullah S.W. say, “Whoever sets forth in the way and makes an effort of settling a necessary affair on behalf of his brother, that service shall be better for him than to perform I’itikaaf for ten years, and whomsoever performs I’itikaaf for a day, thereby seeking the pleasure of Allah, Allah will open three trenches between him and the fire of hell, the width of each being the distance between heaven and earth”.
Reported by ‘Tabraani in Al Awsa’t.
Two things are clear from this Hadith. In the first place we are told, that by way of reward for one day’s I’itikaaf. Allah opens three trenches between him and the fire of Jahannam, the width of which being the distance between the heavens and the earth. Hence, for every additional day that I’itikaaf is performed so much more rewarded. In Kashful Ghummah, Allahmah Sharaani relates a Hadith wherein Rasulullah S.W. said, “Whoever performs I’itikaaf for the final ten days of Ramadhaan, for him is the reward of two Haj and two Umrahs and whoever performs I’itikaaf from Maghrib until ‘Ishaa’ doing nothing except performing ‘salaah and reciting the Qur’aan Allah will prepare a palace in Jannah”.
In the second place, we are told that fulfilling the need of a brother brings a reward greater than ten years of I’itikaaf. For this reason Ibn Abbas R.A. broke off his I’itikaaf. It was of course possible for him to continue it afterwards. (What he actually did was to leave the musjid to relieve some suffering of his brother, who was greatly troubled in the heart and mind). The ‘Sufis say that Allah has sympathy with very few things as He has with a broken heart. It is for this reason that we have been sternly warned of the pleas to Allah of that person whose heart we hurt through an unjust treatment and persecution. Whenever Rasulullah S.W. appointed someone as a governor, amongst the many counsels he used to also say, “Be mindful of the plea of the oppressed”.
Note that I’itikaaf breaks when one leaves the musjid even for the duty on behalf of fellow muslim. When that I’itikaaf is waajib, it will mean that it has to be performed all over again. Rasulullah S.W. never left the musjid except for the calls of nature and wudhu. As for Ibn Abbas R.A. leaving the musjid to do some favour to a friend, it was in the same spirit that is reminiscent of that soldier lying near death on the battle field of Yarmouk, refusing to drink water until his neighbor had been given to drink. On the other hand, however, it is possible that Ibn Abbas R.A. was performing nafl tit, in which case it was permissible for him to break it off.
In conclusion I now wish to quote length Hadith. In many virtues are mentioned, and with this do I conclude this book.