The Three Types of I’tikaf
There are three types of spiritual retreats (I’tikaf) that a person may perform:
2. emphasized sunna, and
The necessary I’tikaf is an I’tikaf that one vowed to make.
The emphasized sunna I’tikaf is the I’tikaf performed during the last 10 days and nights of Ramadan. It is a communal sunna. If an entire community left the emphasized sunna I’tikaf, then they are sinful. However, if a few people perform the emphasized sunna I’tikaf, then they raise the sin from the community.
The recommended I’tikaf is any I’tikaf aside from the aforementioned. It has no minimum time length and fasting is not a stipulation for its validity. As such, it is recommended to intend to perform I’tikaf whenever one passes through the mosque during any time of the year in order to receive the reward.
[Shurunbulali, Maraqi al-Falah; Ala al-Din Abidin, al-Hadiyya al-Alaiyya; Shurunbulali Imdad al-Fattah]
Ruling on Performing An I’tikaf Of Less Than Ten Days in Ramadan
If one intends to perform I’tikaf for less than ten days during the last ten days of Ramadan then he receives the reward of the recommended I’tikaf but not the full reward of the emphasized sunna I’tikaf.
One should strive to perform whatever one can reasonably handle. Scholars say, “If one cannot do something completely, then one shouldn’t leave it completely.”
If one can only perform a few days of I’tikaf due to external reasons, then the last ten days of Ramadan are better than the rest of the month. Also, the odd nights are better than the even nights.