What? More Fasting? The Benefits and Blessings of Fasting Outside of Ramadan
May 25, 2021
Image source: Thirdman from Pexels
Like a lot of Muslims who fasted during Ramadan, I felt the bittersweet mix of joy for completing the blessed month as well as sorrow that it was over and knowing that seeing the holy month again was not guaranteed. I offered the Eid prayer as a final farewell and greeted the attendants around me, making du’a that Allah accept theirs and my 30 days of fervent devotion. I then grabbed a cup of coffee, drinking and basking in the deliciousness of the brew and the sun on my face.
As I concentrated on the shift from the intense focus on ibadah– like salah, reading Quran and the foundational act of worship, fasting – I couldn’t shake the annual draining sensation of my spiritual vigor and the creeping misconception that I was finished fasting for the year, despite knowing that there are blessed fasting days peppered throughout the year.
Fasting in Ramadan is fard (an obligatory act commanded by God) for those who have the ability to do it. However, just like there are supplementary nawafil (extra) prayers outside of the fard salah (obligatory prayer) five times a day, we can participate in nawafil fasts the Prophet Muhammad (saw) engaged in year-round. Offering extra fasts can be ancillary in maintaining any increased iman (faith) conviction we gained during Ramadan, helping to limit any spiritual drain. We have been blessed with a lot of opportunities for nawafil fasts, and they come with rewards, so we don’t have to limit fasting – its benefits and blessings – to Ramadan.
Let’s take a look at the one that comes right after Ramadan – fasting in Shawwal.
Shawwal Fasts
Shawwal is the month after Ramadan. The Prophet (saw) advised us to fast for six days during this month.
“Whoever fasts Ramadan then follows it with six days of Shawwal, it is as if he fasted for a lifetime.” [Ibn Majah 1716]
I know, but Layla, we just fasted 30 days and everything! I also struggle with completing the six days despite the immense blessing fasting these six contain. But, the blessings promised with completing these fasts are a great motivator. I mean, a lifetime of fasting for six days? Who but Allah (S) can give that type of return?
One does not have to fast the six days of Shawwal during a certain time of the month or in a specific sequence, which makes it easier to fast. Some people decide to do all six days right after Eid day (fasting on Eid day is forbidden), while others will space the days out during the month. A person may decide to fast on Mondays and Thursdays, combining the blessing of those fasting days (which we will explore more below) with fasting in Shawwal.
Similarly, one may fast the 13th, 14th and 15th of Shawwal, merging more rewards. The point is to get those six days in before the next moon sighting or calculated day (if you go by calculations) and a new month begins.
Note: According to the majority of scholars, one can not combine missed fasts with the six days of Shawwal. Dr. Omar Suleiman explains in his video answering questions about Shawwal that “you cannot combine the intention of an obligatory and voluntary deed.”
You can combine the intentions of voluntary deeds, so it is fine to combine the six days of Shawwal with other nawafil fasts (like fasting on a Monday or a Thursday or on the 13th, 14th and 15th of a month, which we will discuss more below).
If you’re worried about making up your missed Ramadan fasts before being able to partake in the blessings of the nawafil six fasts of Shawwal, Imam Suleiman also points out that there exists a difference of opinion among fiqh scholars if a person has to make up missed Ramadan days before completing the six days of Shawwal. The majority of the scholars confirm that you do not, citing that Ayesha (ra) mentioned not making up for her missed days of Ramadan until Sha’ban (the month before Ramadan).
Image source: Thirdman from Pexels
There is still time to get the blessings of fasting for the six days of Shawwal. Develop a plan and include any family or friends who would like to fast. Space them out over the next 14 days or get them all done at once! You can do this!
Now, let’s look at other fasting days.
Fasting Throughout the Year
The Prophet (saw) exercised weekly fasting on special days allocated every month and on particular holy days. Below is a list of some of the well-known nawafil fasts of the Prophet (saw).
Mondays and Thursdays
Aishah narrated: "The Prophet used to try to fast on Mondays and Thursdays" [Tirmidhi, Nasai, and Ibn Majah].
Ayam Al-Beedh
Ayam Al-Beedh means “The White Days,” and it indicates the 13th, 14th and 15th of each month. These are the days of the full moon. The Prophet advised to fast three days each month for increased blessings. He said:
“It is sufficient for you to fast three days in a month, as the reward of a good deed is multiplied ten times, so it will be like fasting throughout the year.” [Bukhari 1975]
The Prophet Muhammad (saw) recommended the three middle days specifically:
“When you fast three days out of a month, then fast the thirteenth, fourteenth and fifteenth." [Tirmidhi 761]
Day of Ashura – 10th of Muharram
Ibn Abbas said, “I do not know Allah's Messenger (ﷺ) singling out any day's fast and considering it more excellent than another, except this day (the day of Ashura) and this month, meaning the month of Ramadan.” [Muslim 1132]
Arafah – Ninth of Dhul-Hijjah
Many Muslims who are not performing the acts of Hajj decide to fast the first nine days of Dhul-Hijjah (the month of the pilgrimage). Out of these days, the Day of Arafah (the ninth day of the month, which is considered to be the heart of the Hajj) is of profound significance as a means to have sins forgiven. For all of us who cannot be at Hajj on the plains of Arafah on this day, we are offered the blessing of fasting (and ibadah).
The Prophet (saw) said, “It [fasting the Day of Arafah] is an expiation for the sins of the preceding year and the current year." [Riyadhi Salihin 1250]
Sha’ban is the month before Ramadan. The Prophet (saw) fasted a lot during Sha’ban.
Aishah (ra) said, "The month which the Messenger of Allah most liked to fast was Sha’ban; indeed he used to join it to Ramadan." [Sunan an-Nasa'i 2350]
In one hadith, she mentions that Ramadan was the only month that she saw the Prophet (saw) fast for the entire month, but Sha’ban was the month when she saw him (saw) fast the most outside of Ramadan. It is important to note that we are recommended to fast in Sha’ban until it’s halfway point (the 15th) and then (according to some schools of thought) not fast the latter 15 days of the month, so as to prepare ourselves for the month of fasting in Ramadan.
There is an emptiness left in many of us when Ramadan is over. While we can’t completely fill it – only the next Ramadan will do that – we can continue to fast on various days throughout the year, gaining more discipline and blessings, by Allah’s (S) grace.
Fasting is a pillar of Islam and a shield from hellfire. Let’s not leave it off until the next Ramadan. Let’s keep it going!
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