New Islamic Directions

By Imam Zaid Shakir

Fasting Six Days in Shawwal: Part One

Posted in articles by Imam Zaid Shakir on 2009-09-29

The following passage is exerpted from the chapter on Shawwal in Ibn Rajab al-Hanbali’s work, Lata’if al-Ma’arif. It gives us insight into a number of issues related to fasting six days of Shawwal, the lunar month that follows Ramadan, pp. 389-392.

Imam Muslim relates from the narrations of Abu Ayyub al-Ansari, may Allah be pleased with him, that the Prophet, peace upon him, said: “Whoever fasts Ramadan then follows that with six says from Shawwal, it is like fasting perpetually.” [1] The authenticity of this Hadith as well as its implementation are disputed. Some scholars consider it sound, while others consider it an utterance of Abu Ayyub [al-Ansari]. This latter position is that of Sufyan bin ‘Uyyaynah and others. Imam Ahmad inclines towards this position. Yet other scholars question to probity of some of its narrators. As for its implementation, most of the scholars consider fasting six days from Shawwal to be highly desirable. This position has been related from Ibn ‘Abbas, Tawus, al-Sha’bi and Maymun bin Mahran. It is also the position of ‘Abdullah bin al-Mubarak, Imam al-Shafi’i, Imam Ahmad, and Ishaq. [However,] some scholars reject this opinion.

Sufyan bin al-Thawri, Abu Hanifa, and Abu Yusuf disliked fasting these days. The early Hanafis justified the position of their two Imams as being based on imitating the Christians, meaning their adding nonobligatory fasting days to their obligatory fast. The latter-day Hanafi scholars hold that there is nothing wrong with fasting these days, a position they explain by the separation that occurs [between these days and Ramadan] because of the ‘Id. The author of al-Kafi mentions this position. [2]

Ibn Mahdi used to dislike fasting these days but he did not discourage others from the practice. Imam Malik also disliked the practice and mentions in the Muwatta that he did not know any scholar or jurist who fasted during them. He said that it had not reached him that any of his predecessors fasted these days, and that the scholars held it to be an undesirable practice. They feared that it might be an innovative practice and that the ignorant people would appendage it to Ramadan if they saw people of knowledge fasting [during these days].

It is opined that Imam Malik fasted these days privately and held it to be disliked to fast them in a manner that gave the impression that their fasting is obligatory and they would thus be joined to Ramadan, while they are not a part of it.

As for those who encourage fasting these days they are divided into three camps concerning the actual implementation [of this fast]:

1. It is highly desirable to fast them from the beginning of the month on successive days. This is the opinion of Imam al-Shafi’i and Ibn Mubarak. It has been related in a Hadith on the authority of Abu Hurayra, “Whoever fasts six consecutive days after ‘Id al-Fitr it is as if he has fasted the entire year.” It has been related by al-Tabarani and others with a weak chains of narration. [3] It is also related directly from the companions. [For example] it is related directly from Ibn ‘Abbas with a chain of narration that is also weak.

2. That there is no difference between fasting [the six days] consecutively or intermittently throughout the month. This is the opinion of Waki’ and Imam Ahmad.

3. That they are not to be fasted immediately after ‘Id al-Fitr for these are days of eating and drinking. Rather they should be fasted along with the three white days of the month, [4] either before or after them [making the fast one of six days]. This is the opinion of Ma’mar and ‘Abd al-Razzaq. This opinion has also been related from ‘Ata. He held this opinion so strongly that he disliked anyone making up obligatory fasting days and then immediately following them by fasting voluntarily. He would order that there be days separating the two. However, this is a divergent opinion. Most scholars see no problem in fasting the day after ‘Id al-Fitr. This position is supported by the Hadith of ‘Imran bin Husayn, from the Prophet, peace upon him, that he said to a man, “Once you have broken one fast start another one.” We have mentioned this Hadith at the end of the section dealing with fasting the latter part of Sha’ban.

As for fasting the entire month of Shawwal, there is a Hadith in which a man from Quraysh mentions hearing the Prophet, peace upon him saying, “Whoever fasts Ramadan, then Shawwal, along with Wednesdays and Thursday, will enter Paradise.” This is narrated by Imam Ahmad and Imam al-Nasa’i. Imam Ahmad, Abu Dawud, [5]  al-Nasa’i, and al-Tirmidhi mention a Hadith related by Muslim al-Qurashi, from the Prophet, peace upon him, that he was asked about fasting perpetually. He responded, “That is something that would utterly ruined you. Therefore, fast Ramadan, the month after it and every Wednesday and Thursday. When you do that you would have both fasted perpetually and broken your fast.”

Ibn Majah relates, with a broken chain, that Usama bin Zaid used to fast the Sacred Months, [6] The Messenger of Allah, peace upon him said to him, “Fast Shawwal!” He ceased fasting the Sacred Months and fasted Shawwal until he died. [7]
  (to be continued)


[1] Muslim, 1164

[2] Al-Kafi fi Sharh al-Wafi by Abu Barakat Abdullah bin Ahmad al-Nasafi.

[3] This hadith is not found in Imam al-Tabarani’s, al-Awsat, as Ibn Rajaab mentions here. However, it is mentioned bby Imam al-Mundhari in al-Targhib, 2:111.

[4] The three white days are the three days of the full moon, the thirteenth, fourteenth and fifteenth days of the lunar month.

[5] Abu Dawud, 2432

[6] The sacred months are the following months of the Arab/Muslim lunar calendar: Rajab, Dhu’l Qa’dah, Dhu’l Hijjah, and Muharram.

[7] Ibn Majah, 1744


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