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Rules concerning Fasting the Six Days of Shawwal

MIT
7/2/2017
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All praises and thanks are due and belong to Allah and may His infinite salutations and blessings be upon His final Prophet and Messenger, his household and companions

The month of Shawwal is singled out for the observance of extra fasts, since this month follows immediately after Ramadan. The six days of voluntary fasting are to the obligatory fast of Ramadan what the Sunnah prayers are to the obligatory prayers.

Fasting six days of Shawwal after the obligatory fast of Ramadan is Sunnah Mustahabbah, not wajib. It is recommended for the Muslim to fast six days of Shawwal, and in this, there is great virtue and an immense reward. Whoever fasts these six days will have recorded for him a reward as if he had fasted a whole year, as was reported in a Sahih Hadith from the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him). Abu Ayyub (may Allah be pleased with him) reported that the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said: “Whoever fasts Ramadan and follows it with six days of Shawwal, it will be as if he fasted for a lifetime.” (Narrated by Muslim, Abu Dawud, At-Tirmidhi, An-Nisa’i and Ibn Majah).

 

This is because the reward of actions is multiplied (at least) ten-fold. Therefore, Ramadan is like fasting 300 days, and the six days of Shawwal like fasting 60 days. The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) himself stated this explictly: “Fasting Ramadan is like fasting ten months, and fasting six days [of Shawwal] is like fasting two months. That is like fasting a full year.” [Ahmad & Nasa’i]

It is related from Thawban that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said: "The fast of Ramadan is like observing ten months of fasting. Fasting six days of Shawwal is like observing two months of fasting. This together is like fasting throughout the year." [Sahih Ibn Khuzaymah (2115) and Sunan al-Nasa'ial-Kubra (2860) – and authenticated by al-Albani]

The Hanbali and Shafii fuqaha explained that fasting six days of Shawwal after fasting Ramadan makes it as if one has fasted for an entire year of obligatory fasts, because the multiplication of the reward applies even to nafil fasts, because each hasanah brings the reward of ten like it.

 

Al-Nawawi observes [Sharh Sahih Muslim (8/56)]: Scholars have explained that it is like observing a year of fasting because the reward of one's good deeds are multiplied tenfold. Therefore fasting the month of Ramadan is like fasting for ten months and fasting six days in the month of Shawwal is like fasting for two months.

Based on the outward purport of the above mentioned Ahadith, the majority of the scholars–including Imam Shafi`i, Imam Ahmad, and Imam Abu Hanifa consider it a recommended sunna to fast six days in Shawwal. There are narrations from Abu Hanifa and Imam Malik indicating its dislikedness, but these are understood to relate to considering it a duty to fast these days. They argue that it is feared from the public that they might misconstrue fasting these six days to be something obligatory. They also see it as emulating the People of the Scripture to exceed the number of fasting days in the prescribed month of fasting.

 

However, these objections are spurious in the face of the clear statements of the Prophet (peace be upon him) that encourage this fast. If we were to abandon a Sunnah act on the grounds that we are exceeding what is obligatory, then we would have to abandon all recommended fasts, including the fast of `Ashura' and the fast of the middle of the month.  [Nawawi, Majmu`; Ibn Qudama, Mughni; Ibn al-Humam/Marghinani, Fath al-Qadir `ala al-Hidaya; Ibn Abidin, Radd al-Muhtar].

 

Furthermore, some scholars hold the view that it is preferable to fast the six days in consecutive order, starting from the second day of Shawwal. This is the view of al-Shafi`I and Ibn al-Mubarak. They based this on a hadith related by Tabarani and others in which the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) is reported to have said, “Fasting six consecutive days after Eid al-Fitr is like fasting the entire year.”  Other scholars, including both the Hanbalis and Hanafis, considered it the same to fast consecutively or not–because they deemed the above hadith to be excessively weak. Then there are those who hold the view that the days should all be postponed until later in the month and not close to the day of `Id, which is a time of celebration and feasting. They prefer fasting the three days in the middle of the month (ayyam al-bid) along with the three days right before or after. This is the opinion of Ma`mar and `Abd al-Razzaq.

 

There is considerable flexibility in all of this. We can choose to follow any of the approaches that we wish.  Therefore, it is not a necessary condition that they should be fasted consecutively. If you fast them separately or consecutively, it is permissible. The sooner you do them, the better, because Allah says:

فَاسْتَبِقُوا الْخَيْرَاتِ " "

"So compete in good deeds."

 

Qur'an 5:48

. Allah also says:

 

"وَعَجِلْتُ إِلَيْكَ رَبِّ لِتَرْضَى"

 

" [Musa -peace be upon him - said:] … and I hastened to You, O my Lord, that You might be pleased."

Qur'an 20:84

And (you should hasten to fast these six days) because delaying may cause problems. This is the view of the Shafi'is and some of the Hanbalis, but it is permissible if you do not hasten it and you delay it until the middle or end of the month. An-Nawawi (may Allah have mercy on him) said: "Our companions said: it is mustahabb to fast six days of Shawwal. Because of this hadith they said: it is mustahabb to fast these days consecutively at the beginning of Shawwal, but if one separates them or delays them until after Shawwal, this is permissible, because he will still be following the general guidelines of the hadith. We have no dispute regarding this matter, and this was also the view of Ahmad and Dawud."Al-Majmu' Sharh al-Muhadhdhab.

 

Although, the majority of the scholars did not obligate the six days of Shawwal to be immediate, or six consecutive days, it is easier and safer to do it that way and you would have avoided any differences between the scholars. However, the matter is flexible.






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