The month of Shawwal is singled out for the observance of extra fasts, since this month follows immediately after Ramadan. The six days of voluntary fasting are to the obligatory fast of Ramadan what the Sunnah prayers are to the obligatory prayers. The blessings of keeping up with the fasts of Shawaal are mentioned in Imamia Jantri 2022.
It is related from Thawban that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said:
The fast of Ramadan is like observing ten months of fasting. Fasting six days of Shawwal is like observing two months of fasting. This together is like fasting throughout the year. (Sahih Ibn Khuzaymah (2115) and Sunan al-Nasa’i al-Kubra (2860))
Al-Nawawi observes (Sharh Sahih Muslim (8/56)):
Scholars have explained that it is like observing a year of fasting because the reward of a good deed is multiplied tenfold. Therefore fasting the month of Ramadan is like fasting for ten months and fasting six days in the month of Shawwal is like fasting for two months.
Advantages of fasting in Shawal for 6 days
Those who observe the fast of Ramadan get their recompense of the day of Eid al-Fitr. Getting into the habit of fasting again soon thereafter is a means of giving thanks to Allah for the blessings that we have received. There is no blessing greater than forgiveness of sins.
Indeed, Allah has commanded us to give thanks for the blessings of the Ramadan fast and to do so by making mention of Him and through other means of giving thanks. Allah says:
(He wants you) to complete the number of days, and to glorify Him in that He has guided you; and perchance you may give thanks. (2: 185)
An indication of accepted Ramadan
Our return to the habit of fasting right after Ramadan, in Shawwal, is a sign of acceptance of our Ramadan fasts. When Allah accepts our worship, He blesses us to engage in further acts of piety.
The saying goes: “The reward of virtue is further virtue”
Therefore, following one good deed with others like it is a sign that the first deed had been accepted by Allah.
Fasting six days in Shawwal after observing the Ramadan fast gives the person the reward of fasting throughout the year.
Cover up the deficiencies
The fasts of Sha’ban and Shawwal are like the Sunnah prayers that accompany the five obligatory prayers. Like the Sunnah prayers, these extra fasts cover up for the deficiencies in our performance of our obligatory worship.
On the Day of Judgment, our voluntary acts of worship will compensate for the shortcomings in how we carried out our duties. Most of us have deficiencies in our observance of our Ramadan fasts. We need something to cover up for those deficiencies.
How We Should Fast the Six Days in Shawwal
There are various opinions about this question:
1. Some scholars hold the view to fast the six days in consecutive order, starting from the second day of Shawwal. This is the view of al-Shafi`i and Ibn al-Mubarak. You can always track the correct today Islamic Date by using our official application or by visiting our website. This way you can know the best dates for fasting in Shawaal.
2. Others are of the opinion that it is preferable to fast the six days intermittently, spreading them out throughout the month of Shawwal. This is the position of Ahmad b. Hanbal and Waki`.
3. Then there are those who hold the view that the days should all be postponed until later in the month and not close to the day of `Eid, which is a time of celebration and feasting. They prefer fasting the three days in the middle of the month (ayyam al-bid) along with the three days right before or after. This is the opinion of Ma`mar and `Abd al-Razzaq.
There is considerable flexibility in all of this. We can choose to follow any of these approaches that we wish.
And Allah knows best.