The virtue of fasting six days of Shawwaal
Fasting six days of Shawwaal after the obligatory fast of Ramadaan is Sunnah Mustahabbah, not waajib. It is recommended for the Muslim to fast six days of Shawwaal, and in this there is great virtue and an immense reward. Whoever fasts these six days will have recorded for him a reward as if he had fasted a whole year, as was reported in a saheeh hadeeth from the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him). Abu Ayyoob ((may Allaah be pleased with him) reported that the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said:
“Whoever fasts Ramadaan and follows it with six days of Shawwaal, it will be as if he fasted for a lifetime.”(Narrated by Muslim, Abu Dawood, al-Tirmidhi, al-Nisaa’i and Ibn Maajah).
The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) explained this when he said:
“Whoever fasts for six days after (Eid) al-Fitr has completed the year: (whoever does a good deed (hasanah) will have ten hasanah like it).”
According to another report:
“Allaah has made for each hasanah ten like it, so a month is like fasting ten months, and fasting six days completes the year.”(al-Nisaa’i and Ibn Maajah. See also Saheeh al-Targheeb wa’l-Tarheeb, 1/421).
It was also narrated by Ibn Khuzaymah with the wording:
“Fasting for the month of Ramadaan brings the reward of ten like it, and fasting for six days brings the reward of two months, and that is the fasting of the whole year.”
The Hanbali and Shaafa’i fuqaha’ explained that fasting six days of Shawwaal after fasting Ramadaan makes it as if one has fasted for an entire year of obligatory fasts, because the multiplication of the reward applies even to naafil fasts, because each hasanah brings the reward of ten like it.
Another of the important benefits of fasting six days of Shawwaal is that is makes up for any shortfall in a person's obligatory Ramadaan fasts, because no one is free of shortcomings or sins that have a negative effect on his fasting. On the Day of Resurrection, some of his naafil deeds will be taken to make up the shortcomings in his obligatory deeds, as the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said:
“The first thing for which people will be brought to account on the Day of Resurrection will be their salaah (prayer). Our Lord, may He be glorified and exalted, will say to His angels – although He knows best – ‘Look at the salaah of My slave, whether it is complete or incomplete.’ If it is perfect, it will be recorded as perfect, and if something is lacking, He will say, ‘Look and see whether My slave did any voluntary (naafil) prayers.’ If he did some voluntary prayers, [Allaah] will say, ‘Complete the obligatory actions of My slave from his voluntary actions.’ Then all his actions will be dealt with in a similar manner.”(Narrated by Abu Dawood).
When should a Muslim start fasting six days of Shawwaal?
You can start fasting six days of Shawwaal from the second day of Shawwaal, because it is haraam to fast on the day of Eid. You can fast the six days at any time during Shawwaal, although the best of good deeds are those which are done soonest.
The standing committee received the following question:
Should fasting the six days be done immediately after Ramadaan, following the day of Eid or is it permissible to do it a few days after Eid in the month of Shawwaal or not?
They replied as follows:
These days 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 Shawwaal, 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.
And Allaah is the Source of strength. May Allaah bless our Prophet Muhammad and his family and companions and grant them peace.
Fataawa al-Lajnah al-Daa’imah, 10/391
Do the six days of Shawwaal have to be fasted consecutively?
It is not a necessary condition that they should be fasted consecutively. If you fast them separately or consecutively, it is OK. The sooner you do them, the better, because Allaah says (interpretation of the meanings):
so compete in good deeds[al-Maaidah 5:48]
And march forth in the way (which leads to) forgiveness from your Lord[Aal Imran 3:133]
[Moosa peace be upon him said:] and I hastened to You, O my Lord, that You might be pleased[Ta-Ha 20:84]
And (you should hasten to fast these six days) because delaying may cause problems. This is the view of the Shaafa is and some of the Hanbalis, but it is OK if you do not hasten it and you delay it until the middle or end of the month.
Al-Nawawi (may Allaah have mercy on him) said:
Our companions said: it is mustahabb to fast six days of Shawwaal. Because of this hadeeth they said: it is mustahabb to fast these days consecutively at the beginning of Shawwaal, but if one separates them or delays them until after Shawwaal, this is permissible, because he will still be following the general guidelines of the hadeeth. We have no dispute regarding this matter, and this was also the view of Ahmad and Dawood.
Al-Majmoo Sharh al-Muhadhdhab
Should he start with the six days of Shawwaal before making up missed fasts
Fasting six days of Shawwaal is dependent upon having completed the Ramadaan fast, according to the correct view. This is indicated by the words of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him):
“Whoever fasts Ramadaan then follows it with six days of Shawwaal, it will be as if he fasted a lifetime.”Narrated by Muslim, 1164.
The conjunction thumma (then) indicates that this must be done in this order. This indicates that the fast of Ramadaan must be completed first (by observing the Ramadaan fast and making up any missed fasts), then after that one may fast the six days of Shawwaal, so as to attain the reward mentioned in the hadeeth.
The one who still owes missed Ramadaan fasts is said to have fasted part of Ramadaan; we cannot say that he has fasted Ramadaan.
But if a person has an excuse that kept him from fasting the six days of Shawwaal in Shawwaal because he had to make up missed fasts – such as a woman who was bleeding followed childbirth and spent all of Shawwaal making up for Ramadaan – then she may fast six days of Shawwaal in Dhu’l-Qa’dah, because she was excused. Similarly for anyone who has an excuse it is prescribed to make up the six days of Shawwaal in Dhu’l-Qa’dah, after making up the missed Ramadaan fasts. But the one who lets the month of Shawwaal go by without fasting these days and with no excuse, will not attain this reward.
Shaykh Ibn ‘Uthaymeen was asked:
What if a woman owes days from Ramadaan – is it permissible for her to give precedence to fasting the six days of Shawwaal over making up the days she owes, or should she give priority to the days she owes over fasting the six days of Shawwaal?
If a woman still owes days from Ramadaan, then she should not fast the six days of Shawwaal until after she has made up what she owes, because the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “Whoever fasts Ramadaan then follows it with six days of Shawwaal…” Whoever still has days to make up from Ramadaan has not fasted Ramadaan, so she will not attain the reward of fasting the six days of Shawwaal until after she has finished making up the days she owes. If we assume that this making up missed fasts lasts throughout Shawwaal, such as if a woman was bleeding following childbirth and did not fast at all in Ramadaan, then she started to make up her missed fasts in Shawaal 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 Shawwaal, because she delayed it for a necessary reason, so she will have the reward.
Majmoo’ al-Fataawa, 20/19. See also questions no. 4082 and 7863.
In addition to that, it is obligatory to make up missed fasts for the one who had an excuse, indeed that is part of this pillar of Islam. Based on this, hastening to do it and to discharge this duty takes priority over doing actions that are mustahabb. See question no. 23429.