Question # 218: Asalam alykum; what is the ruling regarding the six days fast of shawwal. Should one fast all continuously or can one break them throughout the month? Also, is it permissible for me to fast the six days of Shawwal with the same intention as making up the days I did not fast in Ramadan or the two are separate?

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: The six days of Shawwal do not have to be fasted immediately after Eid al-Fitr and it is permissible to start fasting these days after Eid, consecutively or separately during the month of Shawwal, according to what is easier for a person.

Secondly, since the six days of Shawwal are connected to Ramadan, these days can only be fasted after making up missed Ramadan fasts to attain the reward mentioned in the hadith. However, if making up missed fasts lasts throughout Shawwal, such as in the case of a woman with post-natal bleeding, who did not fast in Ramadan at all, then she may fast her six days until after Shawwal and have the reward of one who fasted them in Shawwal.  

Long Answer: The Standing Committee said: “[The six] days [of Shawwal] do not have to be fasted immediately after Eid al-Fitr; it is permissible to start fasting them one or more days after Eid, and they may be done consecutively or separately during the month of Shawwal, according to what is easier for a person. There is plenty of room for maneuver in this matter, and this is not obligatory, it is Sunnah.”

Next, fasting six days of Shawwal is dependent upon having completed the Ramadan fast, according to the correct view. This is indicated by the words of the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم): “Whoever fasts Ramadan then follows it with six days of Shawwal, it will be as if he fasted a lifetime.” (Narrated by Muslim)

The conjunction thumma (then) indicates that this must be done in this order. This indicates that the fast of Ramadan must be completed first (by observing the Ramadan fast and making up any missed fasts), then after that one may fast the six days of Shawwal, so as to attain the reward mentioned in the hadith.

Shaykh Ibn ‘Uthaymeen said in Fataawa al-Siyaam: “Whoever fasts the day of ‘Arafah, or the day of ‘Ashoora’, but still owes days from Ramadan, his fast is valid, but if he intends to fast this day to make up for a missed Ramadan fast, he will have two rewards: the reward for the day of ‘Arafah or ‘Ashoora’ along with the reward for making up the missed fast. This has to do with voluntary fasts in general that are not connected to Ramadan. With regard to fasting the six days of Shawwal, they are connected to Ramadan and can only done after making up missed Ramadan fasts. If he fasts them before making up missed Ramadan fasts he will not attain that reward, because the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) said: “Whoever fasts Ramadan then follows it with six days of Shawwal, it will be as if he fasted for a lifetime.” It is well known that whoever still owes days from Ramadan is not regarded as having fasted Ramadan until he makes up the days he missed.”

Also, Shaykh Ibn ‘Uthaymeen said: “If [someone] still owes days from Ramadan, then [one] should not fast the six days of Shawwal until after [one] has made up what [he/]she owes, because the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) said: “Whoever fasts Ramadan then follows it with six days of Shawwal…” Whoever still has days to make up from Ramadan has not fasted Ramadan, so [he/]she will not attain the reward of fasting the six days of Shawwal until after [one] has finished making up the days owes. If we assume that this making up missed fasts lasts throughout Shawwal, such as if a woman was bleeding following childbirth and did not fast at all in Ramadan, then she started to make up her missed fasts in Shawwal and did not finish that until Dhu’l-Qa’dah began, then she may fast the six days, and she will have the reward of one who fasted them in Shawwal, because she delayed it for a necessary reason, so she will have the reward. (Majmoo’ al-Fataawa) [As Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) said: “If a person falls sick or travels, Allah will decree for him (the reward of) what he used to do when he was not travelling and was healthy.” (Narrated by al-Bukhari in his Saheeh)]

[In summary,] if [one] wants to earn the reward mentioned in the hadith … then [one] should complete Ramadan fasts first, then follow it with six days of Shawwal, so that the hadith with be applicable …and [one] will gain the reward mentioned in it. As regards the matter of permissibility, it is permissible for [one] to delay making up Ramadan fasts, provided that [one] makes them up before the next Ramadan comes along. (Sheikh Muhammed Salih Al-Munajjid) [In other words,] fasting the six days of Shawwal before making up the missing days of Ramadan is acceptable. (Dr. Main Khalid Al-Qudah, Member of the Fatwa Committee of Assembly of Muslim Jurists in America)

(Most part of the above answer is based on various answers provided by Shaykh Muhammad Saalih al-Munajjid on similar topics) 

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