The last ten days of the month of Ramadhan. Having completed 20 days of fastings in the month of Ramadhan, a believer feels a sense of achievement towards the attainment of God’s pleasure and therefore wishes to complete the remaining ten days with greater vigour and enthusiasm. It is reported that the Holy Prophet used to tighten his girdle, keep awake for most of the night for prayers and exhort his family to do the same during the last ten days of Ramadhan. Ayesha further reported that every year till the time of his death, the Holy Prophet used to go into retreat into the mosque during these ten days and nights of Ramadhan, and the same practice was continued by his wives after his demise. This retreat starts after the morning prayers on the 20th of Ramadhan. It is permissible for a person observing this seclusion to go out of the mosque for Friday prayers or for personal hygienic matters. It is reported that the Holy Prophet, while walking outside the mosque, used to enquire about a person’s health without stopping.
Abu Hurairah relates that the Holy Prophet, may peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, went into retreat for ten days in the month of Ramadhan but in the year in which he died he went into retreat for twenty days. (Bukhari).
This period of retreat of the last ten days of Ramadhan is known as ‘Itikaf‘ and is devoted to silent meditation, recitation or study of religious books, prayers and supplication. This short burst of meditation and ‘soul-searching’ is much better than the prolonged exposure to the physical exercise of yoga and transcendental meditation which has become all the rage inl the west. During itikaf sex is totally forbidden even at night.