Fasting, one of the five pillars of Islam, can be described as abstaining from eating, drinking, and sexual intercourse from dawn to dusk in its most basic definition. Because fasting in Ramadan is obligatory for Muslims, the first thing that comes to mind when fasting is mentioned is the month of Ramadan. However, fasting is not just specific to this month. There are also sunnah and voluntary fasts in order to gain rewards and obtain spiritual strength throughout the year. Prophet Muhammad (s.a.s.) used to fast on certain days and recommended these fasts to those around him. These voluntary fasts include the weekly Monday and Thursday fasts1, the monthly fasts on the days called “Al-Ayam Al-Bid”2, and the annual fast on the day of Ashura3.
Fasting in the month of Shawwal, which follows the month of Ramadan, is the sunnah and advice of our Prophet (s.a.s.) as seen in the following hadith of glad tidings: “Whoever fasts during the month of Ramadan, and then follows it with six days of Shawwal will be (rewarded) as if he had fasted the entire year.”4 Scholars explain how the six-day fast in Shawwal leads to rewards as if fasting all year: In a Hadith Qudsi5, Allah (s.w.t.) declares that He will reward all good deeds tenfold or more6. According to this calculation, a person who fasts in the month of Ramadan for thirty days receives three hundred rewards. When he/she fasts for an additional six days in Shawwal after Ramadan, he/she receives sixty rewards which sums up to three hundred and sixty in total which is equivalent to a one-year fast.
This six-day fast, unlike the fast of kaffara7, does not have to be done consecutively8. It can be fasted either intermittently or consecutively starting from the second day of Shawwal. The purpose of this voluntary fast is to fast for six days before the month of Shawwal ends. Therefore, the choice is left up to the person in this regard. The kaffara, on the other hand, is an obligatory expiation for Muslims who miss a day of fasting during Ramadan for illegitimate reasons.
For those who could not fast in Ramadan due to a legitimate excuse, is it permissible to combine the six days of Shawwal fast with missed fasts (qadha) in Ramadan?
There are different opinions on this matter. It is stated in a hadith that: “..If one fasts in Ramadan and adds six days from Shawwal..” the prevailing opinion is that one must fast the six days in addition to the qadha fasting of Ramadan because the qadha fasts are separate and make up for the fasts that were missed during Ramadan. Also, according to many scholars, one cannot combine both intentions for one worship. In other words, one cannot make both obligatory and supererogatory intentions in one fast. However, for those who are unable to fast any supererogatory fasts in Shawwal, it is considered more suitable for them to at least make up their qadha fasts to benefit from the blessings of this month.
May Allah make our shortcomings complete. (Ameen)
Theologian, Educator Öznur Zeybek
Translated by Filiz Arslan
- Abu Hurairah (May Allah be pleased with him) reported: The Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said, “Deeds of people are presented (to Allah) on Mondays and Thursdays. So I like that my actions be presented while I am fasting.” [At-Tirmidhi].
It was narrated from Jarir bin ‘Abdullah that the Prophet said: “Fasting three days of each month is fasting for a lifetime, and the shining days of Al-Bid, the thirteenth, fourteenth and fifteenth.” [An-Nasa’i].
- ‘Abdul-Malik bin Abi Al-Minhai narrated from his father that: The Prophet commanded them to fast the three days of Al-Bid. He said: “That is (equivalent to) fasting for the whole month.” [An-Nasa’i].
- Ibn ‘Abbas (May Allah be pleased with them) reported: The Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) observed Saum (fasting) on the day of ‘Ashura’ and commanded us to fast on this day. [Al-Bukhari and Muslim].
- Abu Aiyub Al-Ansari (RAA) narrated that The Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said: “Whoever fasts during the month of Ramadan and then follows it with six days of Shawwal will be (rewarded) as if he had fasted the entire year.” [Related by Muslim].
- Hadith Qudsi are direct revelations from Allah (s.w.t.) to the Prophet (s.a.s.) but conveyed to the people in the Prophet’s own words. The chain of authority of Hadith Qudsi ends with Allah (s.w.t.).
- ‘Abdullah bin ‘Abbas (May Allah be pleased with them) reported: Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said that Allah, the Glorious, said: “Verily, Allah (SWT) has ordered that the good and the bad deeds be written down. Then He explained it clearly how (to write): He who intends to do a good deed but he does not do it, then Allah records it for him as a full good deed, but if he carries out his intention, then Allah the Exalted, writes it down for him as from ten to seven hundred folds, and even more. But if he intends to do an evil act and has not done it, then Allah writes it down with Him as a full good deed, but if he intends it and has done it, Allah writes it down as one bad deed”. [Al-Bukhari and Muslim].
- Kaffara (expiation) provides an opportunity to recompense for individuals who deliberately miss or break a fast during Ramadan without a valid reason. In the Hanafi school, if a person misses a day of fasting unnecessarily, he or she should either fast for 60 consecutive days or feed 60 poor people.
- Ibn ‘Abidin, Radd al-Muhtar III, 421, 422