Sister's Annual I'tikaf Gathering
Reported by: Sister Ghazala Hassan Qadri
Alhumdulilah with the Praise and Blessings of Almighty Allah the annual I’tikaf gathering took place at the Minhaj-ul-Qur’an headquarters in Lahore. Every year thousands of mutakifeen flock to the Minhaj-ul-Qur’an mosque in Lahore to sit in the ten days of seclusion. They travel from the length and breadth of the country as well as from the rest of the world. The I’tikaf gathering, under the spiritual guidance of Shaykh-ul-Islam, Dr. Tahir-ul-Qadri is the third largest gathering in the entire world, after Harm Shareef in Makkah and Masjid e Nabi in Madina.
However what is more unusual is that it is not only men who sit in I’tikaf at the MQ mosque, but thousands of women also come from around Pakistan to take part in this ten day spiritual training camp. The sisters sit at the Minhaj-ul-Qura’an Girls Shariah College, which is completely cordoned off and solely dedicated for the I’ tikaf gathering during the last ten days of Ramadan. Alhumdulilah this year again proved to be a great success, with unprecedented numbers attending this year.
The sisters who came to sit in I’tikaf came from all walks of life and backgrounds. Some were local sisters of Lahore who found it fairly easy to leave their homes and come without any hesitation. However hundreds of other sisters came from different parts of Pakistan, including Sind, Balochistan and the Northen Frontier Areas, often having to convince their families to allow them to come. It is indeed a great achievement for these sisters to leave their families, homes and heavy responsibilities and devote their entire time to the obedience and worship of Allah Almighty. The young sat side by side with the old, the professional lawyer and doctor sat with house maids and the wealthier sisters sat with those sisters who have very little material comforts, sometimes in quite cold conditions and happily engaged in their ibadah together, putting aside their prejudices.
Accommodation was provided in the halls of residence of the college and the outside lawns were covered with huge tents for the sisters to pray together and listen to the variety of lectures that were given. The sisters’ day would begin at thahajjud time, through the reading of nawafil and recitation of the Holy Qur’an. Then after Fajr prayers the sisters would engage in collective Dhikr of Allah and then recite nasheeds to strengthen their love and relationship with Allah Almighty and the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him). After the mehfil and Dhikr the sisters would then be left to read their own wazaif, consisting of salat-ul-salam, darood and selected verses from the Holy Qur’an.
Once these were completed the sisters would gather again and perform salat-ul-tasbih collectively, after which the daily schedule of lectures would begin. The first session would consist of the sisters being placed in small groups/halaqha’s and be briefed on a variety of Islamic subjects depending on the requirements of the group. After Zuhur prayers Shaykh-ul-Islam, Dr. Tahir-ul-Qadri’s lecture on Imam Qadi Iyad’s (r.a) ash-Shifa bi-tareef haquq al-mustafa’, would begin which was viewed through a live television link. Many televisions as well as an enormous projector screen were used to ensure the sisters were fully accommodated. A break for Asr prayers would be taken after which the sisters were left to perform their own individual ibada’at until iftar and salat-ul-maghrib. The sister’s would then perform collective Isha prayers and tarawih prayers, followed by Shaykh-ul-Islams second lecture on tasawuf. After the lecture the day would end with collective Dhikr of Allah Almighty
Many sisters have been coming regularly for the last 5-7 years, but his year showed an enormous rise in numbers, and the new participants all said that the experience was a life changing one. From the beginning the sisters were told that sitting in I’tikaf was not just to eat less but also to sleep and talk less. Many sisters for instance had never sat together and participated in collective Dhikr so the sounds of thousands of sisters reciting the name of Allah or Allah Huh was a profound emotional experience. Others had never functioned with such little sleep and were amazed at their own stamina and lack of fatigue despite the rigorous schedule. Moreover most of them felt that this was in reality like a training camp for the rest of the year, a process of self-purification, tazkiyyah and then training, tharbiyyah for the heart, soul and egotistic desires of the nafs in order to combat the materialistic temptations of the world one faces in daily life.
During this time much credit also has to be given to the organisers of the event who worked night and day solely for the benefit of the mutakifeen. The event for the sisters was organized by the Minhaj-ul-Qur’an Women league and the students of the college all volunteered their services to look after the entire process. Catering for sehr and iftar for thousands of sisters is indeed a huge task, given the limited times for eating before the fast begins and then ends and preparations for salat. Moreover keeping the place clean for the mutakifeen was also a massive job, but Alhumdulilah the great dedication of all of the students, staff and Principal of the Girl’s College as well as the Women League and Brothers made things run smoothly, even if it meant some of the organizers often had no time to either eat anything at sehr and then just grab a few morsels of food at iftar.
May Allah Ta’ala accept the humble efforts of all those involved. Ameen.