Reviving the Spirit of Ramadan
Ramadan is a month of spiritual rejuvenation, a time for Muslims to strengthen their faith, reflect on their actions, and reconnect with Allah Ta’ala. As the holy month comes to a close, Muslims look forward to the joyous celebration of Eid al-Fitr, marking the end of the month-long fast. However, the spirit of Ramadan need not end with Eid, as Muslims have the opportunity to continue fasting in the month of Shawwal.
Shawwal is the tenth month of the Islamic calendar, immediately following Ramadan. Fasting in Shawwal is considered a voluntary act of worship and is highly recommended in Islam. The Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) is reported to have said, “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.” (Muslim)
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 (R.A), the wife of the Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) 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 (ﷺ) 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)
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 Ta’ala.
Can you combine your missed fast days of Ramadan with the sunnah fasting?
It is permissible for women to combine two intentions, i.e. making-up missed Ramadhan fasts (qadha) and the six fasts of Shawwal, one should principally make an intention of Qadha. Thereafter, as a ‘secondary’ intention, one may also keep in mind that it is the month of Shawwal. By doing so, it is hoped from the mercy of Allah that along with the missed fasts being made-up, one will receive the reward of fasting in Shawwal. But, it is important that the main and predominant intention is of making-up the missed fasts.
However, it is better that one makes up for the missed fasts separately from fasting the six days of Shawwal, since some scholars are of the view that one does not receive the reward of optional (nafl) fasting when combined with make-up (qadha) fasts.