Summer season of 2011 was different for for variety of reasons. It was a tumultuous time for my growth. I started reading different religious texts to explore this vast territory. Fazayil-e-Aamaal by Moulana Zakariya (r.a) is a complete package. Reading it encourages you to follow the commandments of Allah and practices of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). It captures the essence of E’tikaf lucidly and beautifully. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), the last messenger of Allah, was very particular about E’tikaf.
The area which a Mu’takif covers is mostly covered with curtains. Before sundown, a mattress and blanket and Usul-E-Tajweed is all I could gather in my bag. I broke down the moment I stepped inside God’s abode. I felt some supernatural force cuddling me as if angels were dancing. I stayed hungry that night and it changed me forever. The reason I am inking my experience, exactly a decade later, is to push for this recommended act. It is not obligatory but a highly beneficial practice. In the Grand Mosque of my village, I sat down in the corner, away from the material world. In Arabic, it means to stick to or adhere to something. Here it refers to renew your relationship with Allah.
Freshness of Masjid enveloped me during this spiritual retreat. Fragrance of heaven can be felt. The main purpose of E’tikaf is to shut off from the worldly distractions and focus on worship. This temporary world is full of temptations and it does affect our heart. The key of E’tikaf is to turn around your heart, return to supreme Almighty. Talk to your God in private in the dead of the night when the world sleeps. These private conversations please Allah and the creator bestows us with the best of everything. E’tikaf allows us to take our time-out and exert more force to get close to the divine power. It strengthens our shield against the tricks of devil.
We change the annual routine and come out of our comfort zones for over a week, eat less, minimize the interactions. Tranquil environs of Masjid give peace to our soul. We all make mistakes and evil follows us like a shadow. E’tikaf for me is to supplicate honestly and fall in love with Allah. Once you fall for your lord, the world can’t harm you. When you love the lord, He fulfills your dreams and desires.
The cave of Hirra in Makkah was the focal point, the place where Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) used to perform E’tikaf. It speaks volumes about the importance of the E’tikaf. Before Torah was revealed to Prophet Moses, he also did this act for 40 days. Even Prophet Jesus performed E’tikaf. The reward for this seclusion is overwhelming. Confining to the corner, as Sheikh-ul-Alam (r.a) did, in far-away forests, reciting Quran and abstaining from evil deeds, remembering Allah becomes a great act of worship.
This 1400 year old scholarly practice has a unique significance. The objective is to imprison your heart. Disconnect yourself from the disloyal world in the last 10 days of this blessed month and plead in private and achieve whatever you want to. You will feel the Allah’s Noor will sooth your nerves. Miracles happen during these days. For obvious reasons, I can’t reveal what happened during those most peaceful days of my life.
To encourage others, what I can unveil is that I accomplished the task of learning Tajweed-reading Quran with fluency and correct grammar. I followed the checklist and prayed for the humanity. My family was upset back then, but I decided to go against the wind. Devotees must train themselves and come with a clear intention- to befriend God Almighty. The aura and ambience of House of Allah will definitely change you within.
In my opinion, only a handful of devotees should perform E’tikaf every year and take turns. In many seminaries, thousands perform E’tikaf. It is not a correct understanding of the act. The essence is lost in huge gatherings. Staying in Masjid and listening to high-decibel speeches is not what E’tikaf stands for. It ruins its spirit. Focus should be spiritual awakening in Khalwat – solitude. To attain salvation, we need to be just with Allah. At one point, you will feel the Noor entering your body and making you feel contended. As I left the premises in the wee hours of Eid that year, I thanked God for being my companion, my friend forever.