My First Itikaf: An Experience I Won’t Forget


On the night of Saturday, August 15th, MAS Youth hosted an itikaf in the Islamic Center of Passaic County.  I only found out about the event on Tuesday the 11th and made the intention that I would be in attendance for this night of worshiping the Almighty with other friends.  As the week went on, I wavered back and forth about whether I really would be in attendance.  I never made it through a whole night of worship in the Masjid.  I have always made the intention to stay the night, yet always found myself thinking “I need to sleep the night in my own bed or else I won’t sleep well.”  The night of August 15, 2009, however, would be different. 

To start, August 15th was my birthday (I’m 24 years old in case you were wondering).  At work the day before, the staff and our students celebrated my birthday early with a large cake, a nice card signed by many and I even received a gift from a faculty member.  Everyone asked before I left for the day what I was doing for my birthday and I simply replied “absolutely nothing.”  I knew I was going to be doing something, but I didn’t want anyone to know I had plans to spend the night of my birthday with my Creator.

At 5 PM on that Saturday afternoon, I was sharing with a friend that I had plans on Sunday morning to help paint Dar-ul-Islam, a Masjid in Elizabeth that burned down a few years ago and was being restored.  My excuse to this friend was that “I want to go spend the night in the Masjid, but I don’t want to over do it and miss out on one of these two events.  I finished the conversation and said well inshaAllah I’m going, but I plan to sleep 3 hours so I have energy on Sunday to paint.

So I made my 26 mile trek to ICPC, albeit some traffic on the Garden State Parkway, in search of my first full qiyam and tahajud not knowing what to expect.  I had my sleeping bag, a pillow, my Quran, a bottle of water, a change of clothes and my iron will.  After we prayed Maghrib, I took a seat and listened to Imam Siraj Wahaj’s lecture on Ramadan.  Before I knew it, sadly the lecture was over, but at least I had some notes I jotted down.  The lecture was very easy going, uplifting and comical and all in English- a combination not heard often at ICPC.  After we prayed Isha, I retrieved my items from my car and changed my clothes.  My night of worship was about to begin.

The beginning of the itikaf was the easy part I was all too familiar with.  We each received a piece of paper with 9 questions on it and a selected surah from the Quran.  This itikaf was surah 39, versus 53-67.  We were split into roughly six groups of 4 to 5 students and had 45 minutes to answer our 9 questions.  After the allotted time for discussing, researching and answering these questions ended, we joined back into a large group to discuss our findings. 

In the larger group, we discussed actions that we did not take in prior Ramadans that we regretted, how we cope and repent from our sins, and what we could do to benefit from this Ramadan.  Believe it or not, someone actually shared that they made an Excel spreadsheet with every hour of the month plotted and what they would be doing in each hour time slot. 

After sharing our answers and tips for a more successful and fruitful Ramadan, it was time to eat and/or rest. After socializing with some of the guys, I took a peek at the clock and it was 2:20 AM already.  Most of the guys were in the extension room sleeping, some were praying tahajud on the side.  I decided to review the first ten ayahs from surat al anfal I was to memorize for my halaqa and then sleep from 2:30 to 3:00.  I ended up sleeping at 2:45 AM, only to wake up to a loud sound saying something to the extent of “brothers please wake up and get ready to pray.”


I scurried to make wudu before we began praying tahajud.  After both sets of tahajud were done (surat al mu’minoon and surat Maryam were recited in each set),  the time was exactly4:45 AM.  I was shocked for a few reasons.  To start, it meant after praying four rakas of tahajud, I couldn’t complete my salah for the day with a single raka of witr.  But I was more shocked that the muathin was soon going to make the athan for Fajr and I would have come even closer to finishing my goal.  Sadly, I was shocked at how fast time went.  I thought I would have more time to worship on my own, but time did not wait for me.  Still, I can now improve to make sure I get the most of future itikafs, inshaAllah. 

All I had to do was hear the athan for Fajr, renew my wudu and pray Fajr.  After I made wudu, I reviewed my ayahs from surat al Anfal.   The time was now 5:10 AM and the iqamah was in ten minutes.  I read and read over my ayahs and it was only 5:16.  I put the quran back on the shelf and waited out the last few minutes.  Although only four minutes were left for the iqamah, it felt like an eternity.  At last, 5:20 came and the iqamah was made.  I made sure to keep my spot in the front row.  I was so ecstatic.   I had the opportunity to pray maghrib, isha and fajr, all in the front row of the Masjid!  The imam began the salah and recited surat al anfal in both rakas.  At the end of the salah, I grabbed my belongings and left the Masjid.  I knew I had the energy, but I couldn’t take a chance after being up for all but 45 minutes of the night to delay my 26 mile venture home.

As I drove home, I listened to the morning athkar.  I made it home somehow in 23 minutes and sat parked in my driveway for an extra 5 minutes until the athkar finished.  When it was done, my mission finally completed.  I went inside and as I entered my house, I told myself I would be back to do this again.  I am now officially ready for the month of Ramadan.

End note: Jazaka Allahu Khairan to Ahmad for letting me be a part of this blog.  I am really excited to bring my experiences, thoughts and ideas here and share them with all his loyal readers.  Also, Ramadan Mubarak to everyone.  May Allah (swt) bless you all in this month and keep you energized to worship in the night and fast during the day.



~ by Yousaf on August 21, 2009.

One Response to “My First Itikaf: An Experience I Won’t Forget”

  1. Inshallah you’ll have many more itikafs in the future. Welcome to the blogoshpere Jesus.

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