In some places during the last ten days of Ramadhan, group I’tikaaf programmes are organized. Large numbers of people occupy the Musjid for I’tikaaf. Congregational thikr takes place. Food is provided for the whole group. Durood Shareef majlis also takes place. Here where I am, this question cannot be asked because the mureeds of the sheikh will shoot one down and interpret the question as disrespect for the sheikh. Please clarify in the light of the Shariah whether these group I’tikaaf programmes are permissible.
The group form of ‘I’tikaaf’ which has gained momentum where the halqah thikr shaikhs visit and establish bases, has exceeded the bounds of the Shariah and has entered into the domain of bid’ah. In most places the I’tikaaf has been reduced to merrymaking functions whereas I’tikaaf is supposed to be in seclusion and solitude as much as possible. The manner in which these public group I’tikaafs is conducted defeats the objective of I’tikaaf. These functions resemble feasting at wedding gatherings. They have degenerated into bid’ah.
It is precisely for this reason that you are unable to pose the query. The wayward mureeds believe that their shaikh’s I’tikaaf function is waajib, hence they take offence when questioned. Furthermore, there is no origin in the Sunnah for this practice. These functions also disturb the other musallis and interfere with their freedom and their few minutes of solitude (Nafl I’tikaaf). If Hadhrat Abdullah Ibn Mas’ood (radhiyallahu anhu) had been alive today, he would have expelled all these bid’atis from the Musaajid.