Alhamdulillah, we have been blessed with yet another Ramadan this year. As we celebrate Eid in the new normal, let’s continue to keep up the highly rewarded deeds that we have practiced during Ramadan, such as reading the Quran, qiyamullail (waking up before dawn for prayers) and fasting.
For Muslims, fasting six days in the month of Shawwal is sunnah. It is a recommended act that does not only bring a host of health benefits but also a magnitude of rewards for those who practise it.
Here are the five things you need to know about this special sunnah.
1) Fasting six days in Shawwal is like fasting throughout the year
The immense reward of fasting six days of Shawwal is explained in a hadith narrated by Abu Ayyub, “Whoever fasts the months of Ramadan and then follows it with six days of fasting in the month of Shawwal, it will be as if he has fasted the year through.” (Sahih Muslim).
This is because, Allah said in Surah Al-An’am verse 160, “Whoever comes with a good deed will receive ten times as much.” Since one’s good deed is multiplied by tenfold, fasting in the month of Ramadan is like fasting for 10 months and fasting six days in the month of Shawwal is like fasting for 60 days (two months). When the two are added up, it makes up to one year.
The Prophet explained, “Whoever fasts six days after the Fitr will have completed the year, for whoever does a good deed will have the reward of ten like it.” (Sunan Ibn Majah).
2) Can you fast any six days of Shawwal?
You can fast on any day in the month of Shawwal except on the first day itself. This is because fasting on the first day of Eid is prohibited in Islam. A’isha, the wife of the Prophet Muhammad said, “The Prophet forbade us to observe fast on two days: the day of Fitr and the day of Adha.” (Sahih Muslim)
The rationale of this is explained in a hadith narrated by Abu ‘Ubaid, “The Messenger of Allah forbade fasting on these two days, the day of Fitr and the day of Adha. As for the day of Fitr, it is the day when you break your fast, and on the day of Adha you eat the meat of your sacrifices.” (Musnad Ahmad)
3) Do you have to fast for six consecutive days in Shawwal?
There are a couple of opinions from reputable Islamic scholars and considerable flexibility on this. According to Imam Shafie, it is preferable to fast the six days in a consecutive order, starting from the second day of Shawwal.
On the other hand, other scholars including Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal are of the opinion that it is recommended to fast the six days intermittently, spreading them out throughout the month of Shawwal.
Whether you fast six days consecutively or otherwise, it is important to note that both acts are accepted by Allah.
4) Can you combine your missed fast days of Ramadan with the sunnah fasting?
It is permissible for women to make up for their missed fast days of Ramadan during the month of Shawwal to obtain the rewards for fasting six days of Shawwal.
However, the intention should be for making up for what you have missed from Ramadan and not for fasting six days of Shawwal.
According to Shafi’i scholars, whoever fasts the missed days of Ramadan simultaneously with the six days of Shawwal have fulfilled their religious obligation as well as obtain the reward for fasting the six days from Shawwal.
In short, as long as you fast six days of Shawwal, whether the primary intention is to make up for the missed fasts or for the sunnah itself, you will get the rewards of fasting six days of Shawwal. Indeed, Allah is the Most Generous and the Most Merciful.
5) Some health benefits of fasting, backed by science
Aside from the immense rewards one would get from six-day sunnah fasting, fasting has countless health benefits too. Experts say restricting food intake during the day can help prevent health problems, improve weight management and regenerate healthier blood cells.
According to a Nutritionist Claire Mahy, “Fasting allows the gut to cleanse and strengthen its lining. It can also stimulate a process called autophagy, which is where cells self-cleanse and remove damaged and dangerous particles.”
In other words, it is a great way to cleanse the human body and detoxify; improving the function of organs whilst getting rid of any harmful toxins in the body.
Happy fasting and remember to stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water during sahoor.