Fasting Six Days in Shawwal – Voluntary Fasting
Q: Now that Ramadan is over and Muslims have fasted the whole month, is voluntary fasting also rewarded by God?
A: Now that Ramadan is over, a unique season of worship has come to an end. For a whole month we have been fasting from dawn to dusk, willingly depriving ourselves of eating and drinking. 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 guidance of the Prophet (peace be upon him). We have a Hadith in which the Prophet reproaches Abdullah ibn Amr for fasting continuously for long periods. In fact, the Prophet speaks 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 Prophet David (peace be upon him).
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 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. The fact is that any three days in the month will earn the same reward. 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. At no time did the Prophet fast a whole month voluntarily. The only month he fasted from beginning to end was Ramadan.