If a woman wants to perform I’tikaaf, what about cooking?

Answered according to Hanafi Fiqh by DarulUloomTT.net

Can a woman observe itikaf at home , what if she has to cook?

Praise be to Allaah.
I’tikaaf is only valid if done in the mosque, because Allaah Aza wa Jal says (interpretation of the meaning):

“And do not have sexual relations with them (your wives) while you are in I‘tikaaf (i.e. confining oneself in a mosque for prayers and invocations leaving the worldly activities) in the mosques”

[al-Baqarah 2:187]

Men and women are equal in this regard.

Ibn Qudaamah said in al-Mughni:

A woman has the right to observe i‘tikaaf in any mosque, and that is not subject to the condition that it be a mosque where prayers are performed in congregation, because that is not obligatory upon her. This was the view of al-Shaafa’i.

She does not have the right to observe i’tikaaf in her house, because Allaah says “while you are in I‘tikaaf (i.e. confining oneself in a mosque for prayers and invocations leaving the worldly activities) in the mosques”, and because the wives of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) asked him for permission to observe i’tikaaf in the mosque, and he gave them permission.

Al-Nawawi said in al-Majmoo’ (6/480):

It is not correct for a man or a woman to observe i’tikaaf anywhere except in the mosque.

This is the view favoured by Shaykh Ibn ‘Uthaymeen in al-Sharh al-Mumti’, 6/513

And Allaah knows best.

As Salaamu Alaikum,
With respect to a woman performing Itikaaf in the masjid of the community, there is a difference of opinion among the Imams of Fiqh. Some of the Imams like Imam Malik, Shafi and Ahmad bin Hambal (AR) have stated that a woman can only perform Itikaaf in the masjid (Al Mughni; Al Majmoo- Fiqh Al Islami wa Adilatihi vol. 3 pgs 1756,1756).
In this mas’ala, Imam Abu Hanifa has adopted the opinion that the best place for a woman to perform her Itikaaf is in the ‘place of Salaah’ in her home.
It is not the best and virtuous thing for her to do it in the masjid (Bada’i As Sanaa’i vol.2 pg.113).
Allama Haskafi has mentioned in his famous work ‘Ad Durrul Mukhtaar’ ‘that it is makrooh (reprehensible) for a woman to perform Itikaaf in a masjid, and it will not be allowed for her to do it in any other place except the place of her Salaah in her home’. On this point, Allama Ibn Adideen Shami has explained that what is meant by it being makrooh is that it is Makrooh Tanzihi (reprehensible to a light degree), for a woman to do Itikaaf in the masjid. (Raddul Muhtaar vol. 2 pg. 441 Published H.M Saeed Company Karachi).
Allmah Tahtawi has also explained, while discussing the statement ‘for a woman, Itikaaf is done in the masjid of her house, and that is the fixed place for her Salaah in her home’ that ‘based on what has been clearly expressed by the scholars that the preferred and best position is that a woman be prohibited from going to the masjid, analogy requires that in the same way, she be prohibited from going for Itikaaf in the masjid’. (Hashiya At Tahtawi ala Maraqi’ul Falaah pg. 382- Published Qadeemi Kutub Khana Karachi; Hashiya Tahtawi ala Ad Durrul Mukhtar vol. 1 pg. 483 Published Maktaba Rasheediya Queta Pakistan).
Similarly, the great Muhadith and Faqih, Imam Burhanudeen (died 616AH) wrote in his famous work, ‘with respect to a woman, the most virtuous thing is for her to do Itikaaf in the Masjid (place of Salah) of her home’. (Al Muheet Al Burhani vol.3 pg. 379 Published Idaratul Quran- Karachi 2004).
With respect to those who have stated that a woman must do her Itikaaf in the masjid, they have cited the verse of the Holy Quran in which Allah says, ‘And do not have sexual relations with them while you are in Itikaaf in the Mosques’ (2: 187).
These scholars have mentioned that while speaking of Itikaaf, Allah Has stated (in the verse) ‘while one is in the mosque’- which goes to show that Itikaaf is done in the mosque and in this regard, both men and women are equal. The other reason is that the wives of the Prophet(SAS) made Itikaaf in the mosque (Al Fiqhul Islami wa Adilatihi vol.3 pgs. 1753,1756).
With respect to the explaination of Imam Abu Hanifa’s position, the great jurist Allama Kasaani (died 587AH) writes. ‘Imam Abu Hanifa has mentioned that the verse of the Holy Quran in Sura Baqara speaks about Itikaaf in the masjid, however, for a woman, the masjid (place of Salaah) of her home has the ruling of a masjid with respect to Itikaaf (for the woman).
This is so because this area of Salaah in her home had already been given the status of being a masjid for her for all the five compulsory Salaah in order to fulfill her need of obtaining the blessings of Salaah in Jamaah. For this reason, her masjid at home (i.e the place fixed for Salaah in her home) has been given the ruling of a masjid of congregation in her right, to the extent that her Salaah at her home is more virtuous for her than going to the masjid (of the community/city). It is in this regard it is reported that the Prophet (SAS) said, ‘The Salaah of a woman in the masjid of her house (room) is more virtuous than in her verandah/hall, and her Salaah in the courtyard of her home is more virtuous than her Salaah at the masjid in her locality’-(Tabrani).
On this, Allama Kasani further writes, ‘When the masjid of her home has been given the ruling as a masjid in her right for the performance of the compulsory Salaah, then so too, will it be with respect to Itikaaf since both of these acts of worship (Salaah, Itikaaf) are equally made specific to the masjid’. (Bada’i us Samaa’i vol 2 pg. 113 Print Maktaba Rasheediya Queta Pakistan 1990)
With respect to the wives of the Prophet (SAS) doing Itikaaf in the masjid (through which an evidence was taken by the other Imams), the great 4th Century Muhadith and jurist, Imam Abul Husain Ahmad bin Muhammad bin Jafar Al Baghdadi Al Qudoori (known as Imam Qudoori) writes about this and says, ‘Women were prohibited from Itikaaf in the masjid. The proof of this is what Yahya bin Saeed has narrated from Amra, who narrated from Aisha (RA) that she said, ‘Whenever the Messenger of Allah (SAS) intended to do Itikaaf, he would perform the Fajr Salaah and then enter his place for itikaaf’. Aisha said, ‘Once he intended to do Itikaaf in the last ten days of Ramadhan and he ordered his tent, so it was pitched. When I saw this, I ordered for my tent, and it was erected’. She said, ‘Then other wives of the Prophet (SAS) besides me ordered their tents and these were erected’.
‘When the Prophet (SAS) performed the Fajr Salaah, he looked at the erected tents and (in a disapproving tone ) said, ‘What are these?’ ‘Do they intend to achieve piety (through this)’. Aisha (RA) says, The Prophet (SAS) ordered his tent to be taken down, and so, it was taken down. He ordered his wives to take down their tents, and these were taken down. He then delayed his Itikaaf to the first ten days of Shawwaal’. (Abu Dawood-Chapter of Itikaaf. Tirmizi- The chapter that comes about Itikaaf; Ibn Majah- Chapter that comes about that person who begins Itikaaf). This tradition has also been recorded by Imam Bukhari in the ‘Chapter of Itikaaf for women and in the ‘Chapter of building tents in the masjid’ with a slight variation of words. Imam Muslim has recorded it in his Saheeh with similar words in the chapter of ‘when should one who intends Itikaaf, enter his place of Itikaaf’.
Having narrated this tradition, Imam Qudoori writes in his famous work ‘At-Tajreed’, ‘Here, it is narrated that the Prophet (S.A.S) asked, ‘Do they intend to achieve piety (through these)’. This is a disapproval (from the Prophet (S.A.S)) which indicates upon the dislike of women’s itikaaf in the masjid. (At-Tajreed Vol. 3 Pg. 1582-1583. Print Darus Salaam 2006).
The great 9th century Muhadith and jurist, Allama Badrudeen Al Aini (A.R) (died 855 A.H) explains this same point in his famous commentary of Sahih Al Bukhari, Umdatul Qaari. While explaining the above mentioned hadith in which the Prophet (S.A.S) ordered that all the tents of his wives erected for itikaaf in the masjid be taken down, he states, ‘Qaazi Ayaaz has said that the Prophet (S.A.S) said these words as a disapproval to their action because he feared that they may not be sincere in the Itikaaf, rather (it is possible) that they simply wanted to be close to him and they competed for this. He did this also, because the masjid is a place which gathers all people. The desert Arabs and the hypocrites frequent the masjid, and seeing that the women (wives) would have the need to enter and exit the masjid, they would be uncomfortable with the entering and exiting of all these people. Also, when the Prophet (S.A.S) sees them in the masjid, it will be as if he is at home being present with his wives. In this way, the objective of itikaaf which is to be away from the wives will be lost’. (Umdatul Qaari Vol. 11 Pg. 148)
Allama Aini has also quoted the statement of Ibraheem bin Ulayya (A.R.) that he said, ‘The statement of the Prophet (S.A.S) in which he said (about his wives) ‘Do they intend to achieve piety/ goodness (through these)? is an indication that it is not for them to do itikaaf in the masjid. This is so because it was said that there was no goodness/ piety for them in this’. (Umdatul Qaari Vol. 11 Pg. 148).
The gist of this discussion is that according to the Mazhab of Imam Abu Hanifa a woman should do her itikaaf in her home in the place that has been fixed for salaah. She cannot do it in any other place of her home. This verdict is keeping in line with the teachings of the Prophet (S.A.S) in which he strongly encouraged the women to perform their salaah at home. In fact, it is related that Umm Humaid (a female companion) expressed her desire to offer salaah with the Prophet (S.A.S) at his mosque. Upon this, the Prophet (S.A.S) advised her that although she wished to pray with him, it was more virtuous and better for her to pray in her room at her house. This was better for her than coming to the mosque. Upon this, Umm Humaid (R.A) prepared the innermost room in her house that was very dark for her salah. There she kept praying regularly until her death. (At Targheeb wat Tarheeb).
In another tradition, it is narrated from Umm Salma (R.A) that the Prophet said, ‘and her Salaah in her home is better than her Salaah in the mosque of her people (neighbourhood mosque)’. (Tabrani in his Al Awsat).
In this way, the Prophet (SAS) encouraged the women to remain at home to perform their Salaah instead of coming to the mosque. In fact he once said, ‘A woman never worships her lord better than when she worships Him at her home’.
From this, it can be seen that when a woman was asked to remain home to fulfill one of the greatest acts of worship (Salaah), then itikaaf would also be treated in the same manner. It would be impractical to advise a women to follow the instructions of the Prophet of performing salaah at home, but do itikaaf in the mosque.
The act of women coming to the mosque was one which Aisha (R.A) spoke against. It is narrated that during her time(after the demise of the Prophet (S.A.S))when she saw the changing lifestyle of the women, she said, ‘if the Prophet (S.A.S) were to see the state of the women, he would have prohibited them from going to the mosque just as the women of Bani Israel were stopped’. (Sahih Al Bukhari vol.1 Pg. 120)
From this, one can see that women were discouraged from going to the mosque, (by impressing upon them to perform their salaah at home instead of coming to the masjid). And as the time passed by and the conduct and behavior of women changed, this discouragement increased. This is the position that has been adopted by the majority of the sound and reliable scholars today.
Hence, as mentioned by the scholars of the mazhab of Imam Abu Hanifa, it is far better and more virtuous for the woman to do her itikaaf at home. As for doing it in the masjid, these scholars have stated that it is Makrooh Tanzihi (reprehensible to a light nature) (as mentioned before).
And Allah Knows best,
Mufti Waseem Khan
18/ 07/ 2013

This answer was collected from DarulUloomTT.net, which is operated under the supervision of Mufti Waseem Khan from Darul Uloom Trinidad and Tobago.