Is Itikaf obligatory?
According to most of the scholars, Itikaf in Ramadan is Sunnah Kifaya. It means (if not all) at least some Muslims need to observe Itikaf, so that this Sunnah is fulfilled and exposition of Islam is maintained.
Is Itikaf observed for ten days?
It can be observed for ten days, but it is not necessary. One can observe Itikaf for two, three or even one day, according to his own ease and convenience. He would be entitled for the rewards (Ajr) of Itikaf.
Conditions of Itikaf:
Can the person observing Itikaf go outside the mosque?
A person observing Itikaf can only go outside if he needs to:
If all of these facilities are available in the mosque, then he cannot go outside.
However, if the person is observing Itikaf in a small mosque where Juma’ prayer is not held, he can leave the mosque for Juma’ prayer (in Jama’ Mosque) and afterwards return to resume Itikaf.
ولا تباشروھن وانتم عاکفون فی المساجد
This ayah shows that Itikaf can be observed in any mosque, not just Jama’ Mosque.
Hadith from Masnad Ahmed and Sunan Abi Dawood shows that whenever our Prophet صَلَّى اللّٰهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّم observed Itikaf, he would observe it in a mosque.
Sunan Abi Dawood:2463
The Scholars and Ummah agree that Itikaf can only be observed in the mosque; nowhere else.
Itikaf for Women:
Most Scholars agree that observing Itikaf in the mosque is an essential condition that needs to be fulfilled by all Muslims, irrespective of their gender.
At the times of our Prophet صَلَّى اللّٰهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّم , whenever women observed Itikaf, they would observe it in mosques.
Even the Wives of Our Prophet observed Itikaf in mosques.
The correct Sunnah is to observe Itikaf in mosques, irrespective of gender.
Some Hanafi Scholars of Indo Pak have recommended for women to observe Itikaf in their homes. This is against the tradition of the Wives of Our Prophet.
Prophet صَلَّى اللّٰهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّم used to observe Itikaf (in mosque) in Ramadan in the last Asharah (10 days) till his death and after his death the Wives of Prophet used to observe Itikaf (in mosques)
Sahih Bukhari: 2026
Sahih Muslim: 2784
We should properly observe and fulfill all conditions of Itikaf. Except for Indo Pak, all across the globe, wherever the Muslim men are observing Itikaf, arrangements are also made for Muslim women and they are observing Itikaf freely there. The only condition is ensuring their safety (of chastity, belongings and self).
All Scholars agree that staying in the mosque is an essential condition for Itikaf. Without staying in the mosque, there is no Itikaf.
واللہ اعلم و بالصواب