Question # 122: What is the importance of fasting on the day of Arafah?

bismi-llahi r-raḥmani r-raḥīm,

Assalamu ‘laikum warahmatullahi wabarakatuh,

All praise and thanks are due to Allah (سبحانه و تعالى), and peace and blessings be upon His Messenger (صلى الله عليه و سلم).

Dear questioner,

First of all, we implore Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) to help us serve His cause and render our work for His sake.

Shorter Answer: This fasting on the day of Arafah is mustahabb (recommended) for those who are not on Hajj because Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) said in an authentic hadith that fasting on the day of ‘Arafah is expiation for two years, the year preceding it and the year following it. In case of one who is on Hajj, it is not Sunnah for him to fast on the Day of ‘Arafah, because the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) did not fast on this day in ‘Arafah.

Long Answer: This fasting is mustahabb (recommended) for those who are not on Hajj. In the case of the one who is on Hajj, it is not Sunnah for him to fast on the Day of ‘Arafah, because the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) did not fast on this day in ‘Arafah. The following ahadith highlight the importance of fasting on the day of Arafah:

  • Abu Qatadah (رضي الله عنه) reported that the Messenger of Allah (صلى الله عليه و سلم) said: “Fasting on the day of ‘Arafah is expiation for two years, the year preceding it and the year following it. Fasting the day of ‘Ashurah is expiation for the year preceding it.” (This is related by “the group,” except for al-Bukhari and at-Tirmidhi)
  • Hafsah (رضي الله عنه) reported: “There are five things that the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) never abandoned: fasting the day of ‘Ashurah, fasting the [first] nine [days of Dhul-Hijjah], fasting three days of every month and praying two rak’ah before the dawn prayer.” (This is related by Ahmad and an-Nasa’i) [Graded Hasan]
  • Abu Hurairah (رضي الله عنه) stated: “The Messenger of Allah (صلى الله عليه و سلم) forbade fasting on the day of ‘Arafah for one who is actually at ‘Arafah.” (This is related by Ahmad, Abu Dawud, an-Nasa’i, and Ibn Majah) At-Tirmidhi comments: “The scholars prefer that the day of ‘Arafah be fasted unless one is actually at ‘Arafah.”

(‘Fiqh Us-Sunnah’ by As-Sayyid Sabiq)

OPINIONS OF THE FOUR MADHAHIB

Al-Nawawi (may Allah have mercy on him) said in al-Majmoo’, which is a Shafi’i book: “With regard to the ruling on this matter, al-Shafi’i and his companions said: It is mustahabb to fast on the day of ‘Arafah for the one who is not in ‘Arafah. As for the pilgrim who is present in ‘Arafah, al-Shafi’i said in al-Mukhtasar and his companions said: It is mustahabb for him not to fast, because of the hadith of Umm al-Fadl. A number of our companions said: It is makrooh for him to fast this day. Among those who stated that it is makrooh were al-Daarimi, al-Bandaneeji, al-Muhaamili in al-Majmoo’ and al-Musannaf fi’l-Tanbeeh, and others.”

Ibn Qudaamah (may Allah have mercy on him) said in al-Mughni (4/443), which is a Hanbali book: “It is a great and noble day, and a blessed festival which is of great virtue. It is narrated in sahih reports from the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) that fasting it is expiation for two years.”

Ibn Muflih (may Allah have mercy on him) said in al-Furoo’, which is also a Hanbali book: “It is mustahabb to fast the first ten[1] days of Dhu’l-Hijjah, especially the ninth day, which is the day of ‘Arafah, according to scholarly consensus.”

Al-Kasaani (may Allah have mercy on him) said in Badaa’i’ al-Sanaa’i’, which is a Hanafi book: “With regard to fasting the day of ‘Arafah, for people other than those who are performing Hajj it is mustahabb, because of the many ahadith which recommended fasting on this day, and because it is superior to other days. That also applies to the pilgrim if it will not make him too weak to stand in ‘Arafah and say du’aa’, because this is combining two acts of worship. But if it will make him too weak, then it is makrooh, because the virtue of fasting on this day is something that may be made up in some other year, whereas the virtue of standing in ‘Arafah and making du’aa’ is something that is not attainable for most people, except once in a lifetimes, therefore attaining that virtue (of standing in ‘Arafah and making du’aa’) takes precedence.”

In Sharh Mukhtasar Khaleel, by al-Khurashi, which is a Maliki book, it says: “Fasting on the day of ‘Arafah, for one who is not doing Hajj, and the ten days of Dhu’l-Hijjah,” what is meant is that fasting on the day of ‘Arafah is mustahabb for the one who is not doing Hajj. As for the pilgrim, it is mustahabb for him not to fast this day, so as to strengthen himself for supplicating (du’aa’), and the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) did not fast during Hajj.”

Shaykh Ibn ‘Uthaymeen (may Allah have mercy on him) said: “Fasting on the day of ‘Arafah for non-pilgrims is a confirmed Sunnah. The Messenger of Allah (صلى الله عليه و سلم) was asked about fasting on the day of ‘Arafah and he said: “I ask Allah that it may expiate for (the sins of) the year that comes before it and the year that comes after it.” According to another report he said: “It expiates for the past and coming years. (Islam Q&A)

As for the pilgrim, it is not Sunnah for him to fast on the day of ‘Arafah, because the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) did not fast on the day of ‘Arafah during the Farewell Pilgrimage. In Sahih al-Bukhari, it is narrated from Maymoonah (رضي الله عنه) that the people were not sure whether the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) was fasting on the day of ‘Arafah, so she sent him some milk when he was standing in ‘Arafah, and he drank it whilst the people were looking on.” (Majmoo’ Fataawa Ibn ‘Uthaymeen)

Allahu A’lam (Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) knows best) and all Perfections belong to Allah, and all mistakes belong to me alone. May Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) forgive me, Ameen.

Wassalaam

[1] Fasting should only be performed during the first nine days; the tenth day is the day of Eid when it is haram to fast. Based on this, what is meant by the virtue of the ten days of Dhu’l-Hijjah is fasting nine days only, even though they are called ten days.