Yes, there is an authentic hadeeth that states this.
So, is itikaf only allowed in the three masjids (i.e. Masjid Al-Haraam, Masjid An-Nabawi, and Masjid Al-Aqsa)?
Firstly, here is a treatise which shows that this is an authentic hadeeth: Clarifying the Evidence in Referencing and Verifying the Hadeeth “There is no Itikaf except in the three Masjids” by Shaikh Muhammad Al-Wasaabee.
[It’s a bit hard core.]
Secondly, this is not how most of the scholars understood it. The following article explains the issue:
I heard a hadeeth which says that i’tikaaf is only valid in al-Masjid al-Haraam (in Makkah), al-Masjid al-Nabawi (in Madeenah) and al-Masjid al-Aqsa (in Jerusalem). Is this hadeeth saheeh?
Praise be to Allaah.
The hadeeth to which the questioner is referring was narrated by al-Bayhaqi (4/315) from Hudhayfah, who said to ‘Abd-Allaah ibn Mas’ood (may Allaah be pleased with him): I saw some people who were observing i’tikaaf between your house and the house of Abu Moosa (i.e., in the mosque) and I know that the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “There is no i’tikaaf except in the three mosques: al-Masjid al-Haraam…” ‘Abd-Allaah ibn Mas’ood said: Perhaps you forgot and they remembered, or you made a mistake and they were correct.
This was classed as saheeh by al-Albaani in Silsilat al-Ahaadeeth al-Saheehah (2876). Secondly: With regard to the ruling on this matter, the majority of scholars are of the view that it is not essential for i’tikaaf to be observed in one of the three mosques. They quoted as evidence for that the verse in which Allaah says (interpretation of the meaning): “And do not have sexual relations with them (your wives) while you are in I‘tikaaf (i.e. confining oneself in a mosque for prayers and invocations leaving the worldly activities) in the mosques” [al-Baqarah 2:187] The word masaajid in this verse includes all mosques, except those of which the evidence states that i’tikaaf is not valid therein, such as mosques in which prayers are not held in congregation, if the person who is observing i’tikaaf is one of those on whom prayer in congregation is obligatory. See question no. ( 48985 ) Imam al-Bukhaari referred to the general meaning of the verse. He said:
You know what I find amazing?
I’ll tell you.
I’m all excited about something in Islam and then I mention that to another person who doesn’t seem at all excited. That’s what I find amazing.
It doesn’t shock me or disgust me. It just makes me very sad because it’s sad to see someone who calls herself a Muslim look very unexcited about the sunnah of the Messenger (salallahu alaihi wasallam).
Oh and in case you think that this keeps happening with those who are far from Islam, then you are mistaken. I’m talking about those who attend regular Islamic classes.
One of those things that I keep telling all the sisters about is itikaf (seclusion in the masjid). Their reaction? It was more like a non-reaction. I might as well have said “Hey, it’s hot today.” Many of the sisters that I spoke to didn’t even express a DESIRE to do itikaf.
Now, someone might say: “Hey, listen I have 5 kids! There’s no way I can stay in the masjid” or say “I’m at work so how can I stay at the masjid?”
Did you notice that I put the word DESIRE in caps? What that means is that even if you are unable to do something, you at least WISH that you could do it.
I have a question for all of you: When you come across any action or order (that pertains to you*) of the Messenger of Allah (salallahu alaihi wasallam) or one of his Companions (radiallahu anhum) do you feel any sort of DESIRE to do it, if not today, then one day in the future?
[*For example, some of his actions are only for the men e.g. growing the beard and some of his statements were only directed towards the women e.g. obedience to the husband.]
If the answer is no, then we have a problem. Why? Because if we’re being told about an act that we know for certain would please Allah, and we don’t show any inclination towards doing it, then I think it shows that perhaps we are not concerned with pleasing Allah.
One of those actions is itikaf. Most people don’t show any inclination whatsoever towards it. It’s easy to understand why, of course. I’ll let the article spell it out for you.
[To the brothers and sisters (who don’t have young children): Please try to go for at least one night. You’ll love it.
Brothers: Please give your wives/daughters permission to go to itikaf if they ask.]
[And if you can actually go for ten days then please don’t even think of doing less than that. I’ve been dreaming (it’s one of my biggest dreams in life) and doing dua for that for 7 years and I’ve never had the opportunity. I can’t believe that someone who has this opportunity would actually give it up.]
[For all the itikaf newbies: Don’t worry, I’ll be putting up some advice tomorrow on what to take with you.]
Why have the Muslims forsaken i’tikaaf, even though it is the Sunnah of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him)? What is the purpose of i’tikaaf?
Praise be to Allaah.
I’tikaaf is one of the confirmed Sunnahs which the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) did regularly.
See the evidence for its being prescribed in the answer to question no. 48999.
This Sunnah has disappeared from the lives of the Muslims apart from those on whom Allaah has mercy. It is like many Sunnahs which the Muslims have virtually forsaken.
There are several reasons for this, including the following:
1- Weakness of faith in many hearts
2- Increased focus on worldly pleasures and desires, which leads to an inability to keep away from them even for a short time.
3- Lack on interest in Paradise on the part of many, and their inclination towards leisure and relaxation, so that they do not want to put up with the hardship of i’tikaaf even for the sake of earning Allaah’s pleasure.
Whoever understands the significance of Paradise and the greatness of its delights will sacrifice his life and that which is most precious to him in order to attain it. The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “The reward of Allaah is precious, the reward of Allaah is Paradise.” Narrated by al-Tirmidhi and classed as saheeh by al-Albaani, 2450.