Now that Ramadan has departed, we all are encouraged to extend its spiritual momentum by observing the six fasts of Shawwal.
The Prophet (ﷺ) famously said as per the hadith in Sahih Muslim: Whoever observes the fast of Ramadan and follows it up with six fasts in Shawwal will be rewarded as if he has fasted the entire year.”
Fasting six days of Shawwaal after the obligatory fast of Ramadaan is Sunnah Mustahabbah, not wajib. It is recommended for the Muslim to fast six days of Shawwaal, and in this, there is a 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 Saheeh hadeeth from the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him). Abu Ayyoob (may Allaah be pleased with him) reported that the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “Whoever fasts Ramadaan and follows it with six days of Shawwaal, it will be as if he fasted for a lifetime.”
(Narrated by Muslim, Abu Dawood, al-Tirmidhi, al-Nisaa’i, and Ibn Maajah).
The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) explained this when he said: “Whoever fasts for six days after (Eid) al-Fitr has completed the year: (whoever does a good deed (hasanah) will have ten hasanah like it).” According to another report: “Allaah has made for each hasanah ten like it, so a month is like fasting ten months, and fasting six days completes the year.”
(al-Nisaa’i and Ibn Maajah. See also Saheeh al-Targheeb wa’l-Tarheeb, 1/421). It was also narrated by Ibn Khuzaymah with the wording: “Fasting for the month of Ramadaan brings the reward of ten like it, and fasting for six days brings the reward of two months, and that is the fasting of the whole year.”
Few Question we have regarding the fasting of Shawwal
1. Religiously recommended. Based on the outward purport of this hadith, the majority of the scholars–including Imam Shafi`i, Imam Ahmad, and Imam Abu Hanifa consider it a recommended sunnah to fast six days in Shawwal. There are narrations from Abu Hanifa indicating its dislikedness, but these are understood to relate to considering it a duty to fast these days. [Nawawi, Majmu`; Ibn Qudama, Mughni; Ibn al-Humam/Marghinani, Fath al-Qadir `ala al-Hidaya; Ibn Abidin, Radd al-Muhtar]
2. Consecutive or not? Some of the scholars considered it recommended to fast these days consecutively after Eid al-Fitr, including Imam Shafi`i. 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.
However, they caution that one shouldn’t put it off such that one ends up missing the great reward of fasting six days. It is also a consideration that avoiding differences of opinion is religiously recommended–so trying to fast the six days consecutively would appear to be superior.
3. Combining intentions with missed fasts. It is valid to combine the intention of making up missed Ramadan fasts and the sunna of fasting the six days of Shawwal, though performing both separately is greater in reward.
4. The wisdom of fasting these six days. Among the benefits of fasting the six days of Shawwal is:
[i] Sign of acceptance. It is a sign of the acceptance of one’s Ramadan fasts. This is because a sign of Allah’s accepting a good deed is to be granted the success to perform similar good deeds, with consistency.
[ii] Consistency itself is beloved. The actions most beloved to Allah and the Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him) are those done most consistently.
[iii] Sign of thankfulness. Fasting these six days is an expression of thankfulness for the reward of fasting that Allah grants on the day of Eid. Continuing to fast is a sign of being, as the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) described himself, “A truly thankful servant.” Thankfulness is the key to increase, and a means of securing one’s blessings and good.
[iv] Sign of commitment to continue. Fasting these six days is a sign of one’s commitment to continue in worship and submission to Allah, willingly–and not merely out of obligation.
5. If unable to fast the six days of Shawwal due to some genuine excuse, one should make the firm intention that if this excuse didn’t exist one would have fasted. If one is sincere & true in one’s intention, then one will–by Divine Grace–have the full reward of fasting these days, because, “Actions are by their intentions, and each person shall have whatever they intended,” as the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) explained. [Muslim] The signs of being true in one’s intention is that if one’s excuse is lifted, one hastens to fulfill the intended matter.