Islamic way of vacationing and self-rejuvenation
By Ayub A. Hamid
I’tikaaf is an act of worship where a worshipper secludes himself or herself from the public and from routines of daily life and, in addition to fasting, spends time exclusively in remembering Allaah Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aala with a profound consciousness of His presence and a strong feeling of humility in front of His majesty, glory and greatness (Dzikr). This Dzikr or remembrance may also be expressed by performing supererogatory Salaah (Nawaafil), reflecting on the messages of the Qur-aan, sharing and propagating those messages, reflecting deeply on the ways of effectively achieving Islamic objectives and executing those plans.
These activities take all of a worshipper’s time during the days and nights of I’tikaaf, except for the minimum time required for sleep, suhoor and iftaar. During the period of I’tikaaf, the Mu’takif (one performing the I’tikaaf) cannot leave the place of seclusion except for calls of nature or physical cleanliness and purification needs. All social activities and obligations are completely abandoned during the period of I’tikaaf. Even utterance of any words not directly related to the aforementioned acts of worship is avoided. The men seclude themselves in a Masjid and women in a room of their home where they usually perform their Salaah.
I’tikaaf can be performed for any duration of time at any time of the year -- from a few hours to a few days. The Prophet Sall Allaahu `alayhi wa sallam had started performing I’tikaaf in the cave of Hiraa in his yearning to worship Allaah even before he was told that he was being appointed as the Messenger of Allaah. In fact, the first revelation came to him during such an I’tikaaf in Hiraa on one of the last ten nights of Ramadhaan -- the night of Qadr. The Prophet Sall Allaahu `alayhi wa sallam continued to perform this I’tikaaf during the last ten days of Ramadhaan every year. It is reported that one year he could not perform it so the subsequent year, he performed it for 20 days, as he did in the last Ramadhaan of his life.
In this way, I’tikaaf during the last ten days of Ramadhaan is a highly emphasized Sunnah of the Prophet, Sall Allaahu `alayhi wa sallam.
If I’tikaaf is performed, sincerely and devotedly, it has all the ingredients of spiritual growth as well as rejuvenation of mental faculties and relaxation from stress and pressure of daily life. Unfortunately, Muslims have stopped paying much attention to this very important tool of upliftment and rejuvenation that not only helps a person grow in their relationship with Allaah but also washes away their stresses and pressures, giving a very healthy contentment to their hearts – a contentment that only comes from the relationship and remembrance of Allaah:
“Those who believe and whose hearts attain peacefulness by the remembrance of Allaah; know that it is by the remembrance of Allaah that hearts attain peacefulness.” (Ar-Ra’d 13:28)
This is the Islamic concept of vacationing and taking holiday from the drudgeries of day-to-day life. This kind of holiday not only gives us the benefits of relaxation and rejuvenation, but also helps us fulfill the objectives of pleasing Allaah Subhaanahu wa Ta`aala through excellence and purification of our personal and collective life. It leads us to the eternal and permanent happiness, joys and relaxation among the superbly beautiful gardens, rivers, springs and the perfect weather conditions of Jannah as well as enjoyment of the exquisitely delicious food and amazing refreshing drinks of Jannah. It prepares us for our release from the prison of the earthly life to the freedoms and joys of the eternal life Hereafter.
One of the prominent contemporary concepts of relaxation is going for a vacation to a resort on a beach, where the vacationers forget about everything in the world, sitting around leisurely and indulging in excessive drinking and extravagant fulfillment of their lusts and desires. Families with small children may opt for theme parks. It is supposed to relax and rejuvenate them for being more productive and healthy on their return. Whether it makes them more productive or not is subject to debate.
However, it definitely makes them more subjugated to their lusts and desires and to instant gratifications of their urges. They become more of the slave of animalistic urges and tendencies instead of redeeming and uplifting themselves to become better human beings. This concept is based on the view of living this life as if it is itself Jannah with no other life beyond it, while making them commit the crimes that will take them into the prison of Hell forever.
The Prophet, Sall Allaahu `alayhi wa sallam mentioned this difference in the two paradigms of life in the following words:
“This world is a prison for the believer and the paradise for the disbeliever.” (Reported from Aboo Hurayrah in Muslim and Tirmidzee)
Unfortunately, many Muslims have been deeply affected by the Western philosophy of life. When they think of vacations, they only think of visiting back home or going on tours, beaches and theme parks like Disney World. Hardly anyone thinks of taking a true holiday from the drudgeries of this world and committing their time to I’tikaaf. The people who usually perform this important act of worship are those who have nothing else to do, are retired or are on welfare. Usually it is performed more as a ritual that someone has to do, rather than an act of passion and love for Allaah Subhaanahu wa Ta`aala.
We need to retune our thinking to the Islamic paradigms. That will benefit us both in this world and in the Hereafter. Many working people who have two or three weeks of vacation and have the option of choosing their own vacation time must pay attention to this important act of worship and use their vacation time for their spiritual growth as well as physical and mental health through I’tikaaf, Hajj or ‘Umrah
Those who spend their vacation time only on visiting vacation attractions created by Dajjaalies not only end up wasting their precious time and money on something that is totally useless for any of a Muslim’s objectives in this life, they also end up contributing to the war against Islam and Muslims, financed from profits of those ventures.