Voluntary Fasting After The Month Of Ramadan: Eid Day(s) And Ash-Shawaal
11 September 2010
Islamic Perspectives -
Arab News & Information - By Adil Salahi
When Ramadan ends, a unique season of worship is over. For a whole month we
fast from dawn to dusk, willingly depriving ourselves of eating and drinking
when our bodies have been crying for both food and drink.
It is this element of willing obedience and compliance with an order which is
in conflict with our basic needs that gives fasting its unique place among all
acts of worship. To fast in the month of Ramadan is compulsory to every Muslim
who has attained the age of puberty. We know, however, that we can offer
voluntarily more of any type of obligatory worship. Such voluntary worship
earns very high reward. In the few articles we have recently carried on
fasting, references were made to voluntary fasting. This needs discussion in
Since fasting is such a great act of worship that God singles it out for a
special reward which is measured only by God’s kindness and generosity, some
people may wonder that the surest way of earning admission into heaven is to
fast voluntarily, as frequently as possible. What if someone is able to fast
day after day and year after year. To such a question we reply that it is
against the Prophet’s (peace be upon him) guidance. We have a Hadith in which
the Prophet reproaches Abdullah ibn Amr for fasting continuously for long
periods. In fact, the Prophet spoke against such fasting on more than one
occasion. His own guidance was that he himself used to fast some days and not
to fast on others. The maximum of voluntary fasting was to fast on alternate
days. He described this as the best one can achieve since it was the practice
of the Prophet David.
Having said that, it is important to know which days are recommended to fast.
The first thing that comes to mind here is that the Prophet recommends us to
fast six days after the end of Ramadan. We obviously cannot fast on the Eid
day. The prohibition is for several reasons, one of which is that fasting on
Eid day could be seen as an extension of Ramadan, when no one can add to
Ramadan any extra days. Although most scholars agree that the six recommended
days should be in the month of Shawwal, some scholars argue that this is not
necessary. The reason why six days have been chosen is that the general rule
for the rewarding of good actions gives every such action 10 times its worth.
Hence, if one fasts the month of Ramadan, he is rewarded for fasting 10
months. Six more days of fasting earn the reward of fasting sixty days or two
more months. That makes up for the whole year.
The Prophet also recommends us to fast three days of each lunar month. Again
the reason for choosing only three days is the multiplicity of reward by ten
times the value of the action. Thus, three days earn the reward for fasting
the whole month, and if one keeps up this habit, he is rewarded for fasting
the whole year. Scholars have different preferences for which days of the
month to fast. Some suggest that the beginning of the month is better, some
the end, while others suggest that one day in every ten is more appropriate.
If one makes these three days the middle days of the month, starting with the
thirteenth, he fulfils another recommendation by the Prophet who speaks
favourably of fasting the three ‘white’ days. The middle days of the month are
considered to be the ‘white’ days because the night is made light by the moon
which is seen in its fullness.
The fact is that any three days in the month will earn the same reward. The
only proviso that can be given in this context is that one should not choose
Friday for fasting unless he joins it with fasting either the preceding
Thursday or the following Saturday. Muhammad ibn Abbad reports that he asked
Jabir, a companion of the Prophet, whether the Prophet spoke against fasting
on Friday, and he answered in the affirmative. (Related by Al-Bukhari.
Juwairiyah bint Al-Harith, one of the Prophet’s wives, reports that the
Prophet once entered her home on a Friday on which she was fasting. He asked
her: “Were you fasting yesterday?” She answered in the negative. He asked her
then whether she intended to fast the following day and she again answered in
the negative. He told her that in this case she should end her fast without
completing the day.” The reason is that Friday is normally a day of rest and
festivity. Hence, it should not be singled out for voluntary fasting.
There are also suggestions that fasting on Mondays and Thursdays is
recommended. This view is based on some reports which quote the Prophet as
recommending that. This may be the case, but the Prophet used to fast
voluntarily on any day. Apart from singling out Friday in the preceding
fashion, any day of voluntary fasting is a praiseworthy act of worship. The
Prophet fasted on all days. One of his companions suggested that any time he
wished to see the Prophet fasting, he saw him doing so. That obviously means
on different occasions. Moreover, Ayesha answers a question on whether the
Prophet selected any particular day for fasting, and she answered in the
negative. He used to fast on any day in the week.
At no time did the Prophet fast a whole month voluntarily. The only month he
fasted from beginning to end was Ramadan. This was to make certain that no one
could ever suggest that fasting any particular month could be recommended by
the Prophet. Yet, the Prophet used to increase the number of days he fasted
voluntarily in the month of Shaaban, which immediately precedes Ramadan.
Perhaps this was to prepare himself for the approaching fasting month. There
are certain reports which suggest that the Prophet fasted the whole month of
Shaaban, but these are not authentic. It may be that the Prophet fasted many
days in Shaaban which could have been interpreted by one or two of his
companions as fasting the whole month. Indeed, that was not the case.
There are special occasions on which we are recommended to fast. One such
occasion is fasting on the tenth of Muharram. This was the day when the
Muslims were required to fast before God made fasting in Ramadan obligatory to
all Muslims. Fasting on that particular day is thus made a matter of choice.
Similarly, fasting on the day of Arafat, which is immediately before the day
of the Eid of Sacrifice, is also recommended, except for those who are doing
the pilgrimage. It was on that day during his pilgrimage that the Prophet made
certain that all his companions saw that he was not fasting. Apart from these
two, no special occasions are recommended for fasting. That includes fasting
on the 27th of Rajab, the 15th of Shaaban and on the Prophet’s birthday. None
of these days is recommended to fast.
Voluntary fasting earns reward and we should encourage each other to fast
voluntarily, in accordance with the Sunnah of the Prophet. Perhaps three days
every month is the ideal, since it gives us the reward of fasting the whole
year round. Alternatively six days during the year is good enough.
Adil Salahi was the executive director of Al-Furqan Islamic
Heritage in London and has edited the Saudi Arab News' column 'Islam in Perspective' ever since it
started, over three decades ago.