Answered by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

Question: In our city, there aren’t any “formal” mosques. We have several rented prayer spaces (musalla). Is the spiritual retreat (i`tikaf) valid there? What can we do to attain the reward of the sunna of i`tikaf?

Answer: Walaikum assalam wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh,

I pray this finds you in the best of health and spirits. May Allah reward you generously for your high intention and aspiration.

The spiritual retreat (i`tikaf) is a communal emphasized sunna, and it was from the regular habit of the Beloved Messenger of Allah (peace & blessings be upon him & his folk) to enter into i`tikaf for the last ten days of Ramadan. [Bukhari]

(1) There is scholarly consensus that i`tikaf is only valid in a “masjid.” [Ibn al-Mundhir, Kitab al-Ijma`, Ibn Qudama, Mughni]

(2) A musalla (prayer hall) isn’t valid to perform i`tikaf in.

(3) In the absence of a masjid to perform i`tikaf in, one can perform a retreat (khalwa) in a prayer hall (musalla). If one has the intention that (a) one would have performed i`tikaf in a mosque if available and (b) hopes that Allah accept this retreat in its place, then one should be hopeful of full reward and benefit of i`tikaf.

Reminder: It is recommended for the person in i`tikaf to busy themselves in prayer, recitation of Qur’an, remembrance, seeking forgiveness, and supplication.

Many scholars also considered seeking knowledge to be praiseworthy in i`tikaf, including Abu Hanifa and Shafi`i. Others considered it a time for devotion rather than study, including Malik and Ahmad. [Rahmat al-Umma] Some joined between the two positions, that it is praiseworthy to seek spiritually-inspiring and uplifting knowledge and reminders–rather than formal “seeking of knowledge.” And Allah knows best.

Related Answers:

The Spiritual Retreat (i`tikaf)

The Three Types of Spiritual Retreat (i`tikaf)

Can One Perform I`tikaf for a Portion of the Last 10 Days of Ramadan?

A Ramadan Reader: A Comprehensive Answers Guide to Getting the Most Out of Ramadan

And Allah knows best.

wassalam, Faraz Rabbani

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"Whoever guides someone to goodness will have a similar reward"-- The Prophet (Peace and Blessings Be Upon Him)