Historically, one of the virtuous religious practices of Muslims is voluntary fasting during the month of Rajab. Unfortunately, there are a growing number of Muslims that consider this practice a blameworthy innovation. The following discussion, taken from Lata’if al Ma’rif fi ma li Mawasim al-‘Amm min al-Wadha’if (The Subtleties of Knowledge Concerning the Religious Duties Associated with Each Month of the Year), by Ibn Rajab al-Hanbali, helps to shed light on this increasingly contentious issue.
Ibn Rajab, may God have Mercy on him, mentions:
As for fasting [during the month of Rajab] there is no specific narration from the Prophet, peace upon him, mentioning its virtue; nor is there anything narrated from his Companions in that regard. However, it is related from Abu Qilaba: “In Paradise there is a palace for those who fasted during Rajab.” Imam al-Bayhaqi mentioned that Abu Qilaba was one of the successors known to narrate traditions related by the companions and he would never utter such a statement without proof that it came from the Prophet, peace upon him.”
[That aside] there is the narration of Mujiba al-Bahiliya from her father, or her uncle, that the Prophet, peace upon him, said to him: “Fast during the sacred months, or leave fasting therein.” He repeated that three times. ‘Urwa b. al-Zubair asked ‘Abdullah b. ‘Umar: “Did the Prophet, peace upon him, fast during Rajab?” He answered: “Yes and he would hold the month in special esteem.” He repeated that three times. This narration is transmitted by Abu Dawud, and others. [Concerning fasting during the sacred months] Ibn Majah relates: “Fast the sacred months.” Some of the righteous forebears would fast all of the sacred months, among them Ibn ‘Umar, al-Hasan al-Basri, and Abu Ishaq al-Sabi’i. Sufyan al-Thawri would say: “It is more beloved to me that I fast during the sacred months.”
Ibn Majah relates a tradition mentioning that Usama b. Zayd used to fast the sacred months. The Prophet, peace upon him, said to him: “Rather fast Shawwal.” He thereafter left fasting the sacred months and fasted during Shawwal until he died. He also relates, with a weak chain of transmission, on the authority of Ibn ‘Abbas, that the Prophet, peace upon him, prohibited fasting Rajab. This narration is more accurately attributed to Ibn’Abbas [not the Prophet, peace upon him].
‘Abdul Razzaq relates from Zayd b. Aslam that a group of people who were fasting Rajab were mentioned to the Prophet, peace upon him, he said to him: “Why do they not fast Sha’ban?” Azhar b. Sa’id al-Jumahi related on the authority of his mother that she asked ‘A’isha about fasting Rajab. She replied: “If you like to fast voluntarily then fast Sha’ban.” This tradition is also attributed to the Prophet, peace upon him. However, its attribution to ‘A’isha is more accurate.
It is related that ‘Umar used to beat the feet of people fasting Rajab until they broke their fast. He would say: “What is Rajab? The people of pre-Islamic ignorance used to venerate Rajab. However, that veneration and the practices associated with it was left with the coming of Islam.” In a variation of this narration he said: “It is disliked to consider fasting [Rajab] a prophetic practice.” It is related that Abu Bakra saw some people preparing to fast Rajab and said to them: “Have you made Rajab like Ramadan?”
[These narrations are contextualized by the following ones]. It is related from Ibn ‘Abbas they he disliked fasting the entirety of Rajab. It is related that both he and Ibn ‘Umar considered it best to break fast during some of its days. This was also the opinion of Sa’id b. Jubayr. Yahya b. Sa’id al-Ansari and Imam Ahmad used to dislike fasting for the entirety of Rajab. He [Yahya] would say: “Break fast during it for a day or two.” This advice is also related from Ibn ‘Abbas and Ibn ‘Umar.
Imam al-Shafi’i relates in his ancient (Iraqi) school: “I dislike a man fasting any month in its entirety as he does during Ramadan.” He supported this opinion with the narration of ‘A’isha: “I never saw the Messenger of God, peace upon him, fast any month in its entirety other than Ramadan.” Imam Al-Shafi’i also said: “Similarly [disliked is] constantly fasting a particular day in isolation. The reason I dislike it is that an uninformed individual might see this practice and imitate it thinking it is obligatory, and by undertaking it he has done a good deed.”
Some of the Hanbali scholars consider that the disliked nature of fasting Rajab in its entirety is removed if the fasting person voluntarily fasts another month along with it, such as the sacred months, or fasting Rajab along with Sha’ban. Imam Ahmad is of the opinion that no one should fast it in its entirety except one in the habit of perpetually fasting. “A’isha relates that the Prophet, peace upon him said: “Other than Ramadan, do not fast any month in its entirety except Rajab and Sha’ban.” One of the narrators in the chain of transmission, Yusuf b. ‘Atiyya, is extremely weak. ‘A’isha also relates that the Prophet, peace upon him, would fast three days from every month. He might delay that sometimes and atone for it during Rajab and Sha’ban. Another narration of this tradition does not mention Rajab. End Quote from Ibn Rajab.
Based on what is mentioned by Ibn Rajab, fasting during Rajab should not be considered a blameworthy innovation. Rajab is one of the sacred months that the believer is generally encouraged to fast. Fasting during this month is a practice supported by prophetic tradition, although the relevant narrations have some weakness in them. It is also a practice that was undertaken by many of the righteous forebears.
However, to be careful in one’s religion, one fasting during Rajab should break his/her fast for a day or two, least he/she give the impression to himself/herself or others that fasting the entirely of the month is an obligation. In our materialistic world, anything that can assist a person in warding off the perpetual bombardment of stimulants to his/her carnal desires should be considered encouraged. What better protection for the believer than fasting.
On the other hand, fasting during Rajab, or any month other than Ramadan, is not an obligation. Therefore, those choosing not to fast, rather they substantiate their position with some of the narrations mentioned above or not, should be respected for their choice.
May Allah accept the fasting of everyone who fasts during this sacred month, and may He accept the righteous deeds of those who chose not to fast. …and the last of our prayers is, Praise to God the Lord of the Worlds.
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Dear Imam Zaid, thank you for presenting both opinions. However, to me this is another example where debate should not occur. It is not obligatory to fast in Rajab, but it is also not wrong, as you clarify. Rajab is the month of God's forgiveness and according to a hadith transmitted from the Prophet Muhammed (pbuh) through Ahmed (ra) "fasting is a shield and a powerful fortress." Fasting is a form of worship and gratitude. And we are urged to fast a few days out of every month besides Ramadhan (where we fast the whole month), not only in Rajab. Hence it is logical that in order to seek God's forgiveness earnestly we should perform as many acts of worship as possible. Those who need to argue about whether this is permissible, should spend their time this month seeking forgiveness anyway they wish to instead.
Assalamu alaikum wa rahmatallahi wa barakatu. Thank you Imam Zaid for giving us clarity on this issue. One point that certainly resonated with me was your mentioning that in this materialistic world, what better protection for the believer than fasting. It truly is a gift from Allah (swt). May Allah (swt) reward you our dear brother and scholar and may He guide us all and reward us for our sincere actions.
That's the best ansewr of all time! JMHO
Jazakallah khair Imam saheb one can fallow the quoted Sunnat in Uswahe Hasan Shareef .To me the best nis to fallow Sunnat and add good deed not waste time in arguments.Allah Guide Us best Ameen .