Muslim Spaces of Worship and Gathering
Spaces of Personal Retreat
In addition to spaces for congregational prayers, there are a range of spaces in the Muslim world that facilitate meditation, personal reflection, reading the Qur’an in seclusion, reciting litanies and the repetition and glorification of God’s names and attributes (dhikr
). These spaces bear a range of names, but ultimately serve similar purposes. In the Arabic-speaking world, these spaces are most commonly known as khalwa
s (retreats). They can be found within mosque complexes or on the perimeters of zawiya
s and khanqah
s. Amongst areas populated by Hui Muslims in China, they are known as bayt al-‘itiqaf
. In this context, they are portable structures brought into the mosque during the month of Ramadan and used primarily by the akhun
on behalf of the congregation.
In the Persian and Indo-Muslim world, they are invariably known as chehel-neshini, chilla or chehel-khana, terms that refer to the mystical practice of an inward retreat lasting forty days. Amongst the Nurbakhshi Muslims, centred in Baltistan, they are known as ‘itiqaf-khanas and amongst Druze Muslims, they are an important element of spiritual growth, used regularly by initiated members of the community.
The Institute of Ismaili Studies - Spaces of Personal Retreat
Last updated: 12/17/2009 17:04