Itikaf was a practice consisting of a period of devotion in a mosque for a certain number of days in accordance with the believer’s own wish. It is most common during the period of Shahr Ramadan for ten days.
2:187 It has been made lawful for you during the night of fasting to approach your women sexually. They are a garment for you and you are a garment for them. Allah knows that you used to betray your souls so He has accepted your repentance, and forgiven you; now you may approach them and seek what Allah has written for you. And you may eat and drink until the white thread is distinct from the black thread of dawn; then you shall complete the fast until night; and do not approach them while you are devoted (ITIKAF) in the mosques (Masjids). These are the boundaries of Allah, so do not transgress them. It is thus that Allah clarifies His revelations to the people who they may be righteous.
THE WORD ITIKAF
The word Itikaf comes from the word “AKIFUNA” mentioned in verse 2:187 which means
Ayn-Kaf-Fa = to arrange, set a thing in order, he kept or clave to it constantly and perseveringly, continue intently, they went round something, advance/approach it, withheld/detain/confined, to seclude oneself, remain/stay/dwell.
ya’kufuuna (imp. 3rd. m. pl.): they clung to.
‘aakif (act. pic. m. sing.): inhabitant.
‘aakifuuna / aakifiina (acc./ act. pic. pl.): those who are performing i’tikaaf.
ma’kuufan (pic. pac. acc.): detained, stopped.
akafa vb. (1)
impf. act. 7:138
pcple. act. 2:125, 2:187, 20:91, 20:97, 21:52, 22:25, 26:71
pcple. pass. 48:25
MAN MADE RESTRICTIONS DURING ITIKAF
According to man made hadiths extra restrictions are placed for the person who participating in the practice of Itikaf.
These man made restriction are
Person is not allowed to visit any sick person during his Itikaf.
Person is not allowed to accept any invitation.
Person is not allowed to attend his family’s needs.
Person is not allowed to attend any funeral.
Person is not allowed to go to work outside the mosque.
Above restrictions came from the following hadith:
Narrated Aisha, Ummul Mu’minin:
The sunnah for one who is observing i’tikaf (in a mosque) is not to visit a patient, or to attend a funeral, or touch or embrace one’s wife, or go out for anything but necessary purposes. There is no i’tikaf without fasting, and there is no i’tikaf except in a congregational mosque.
Grade : Hasan Sahih (Al-Albani)
Sunan Abi Dawud 2473
Book 13, Hadith 2467
According to my understanding the Itikaf was a practice done by the Muslims at the time of Prophet to devote their time and energy to ponder over the Quran. The only restriction mentioned in the Quran is not approaching the wives while in Itikaf.