The Shawwal Fast
Salam, I do hope we all had fun and enjoyed the Eid ul-Fitr celebration. It is one of the iconic celebrations in Islam. However, the end of that celebration brings us to the start of another form on self sacrifice - the Shawwal fast. As most of us may already know, it is recommended to fast for six days within the month of Shawwal (the month immediately after Ramadan). The best way and most virtuous way to do this is by fasting the six days consecutively, immediately following the Eid-ul-Fitr. That means, one should start his/her fast on 2nd Shawwal*. Although it is permissible to fast the six days later as well as non-consecutively in Shawwal, it is important to understand that:
1. performing this fast consecutively - one after another - until completed; and
2. performing this fast immediately after Eid (i.e. starting 2nd Shawwal)
- are two separate Sunnahs.
Most scholars would explain the reasoning for this as being:
"In order to hasten to do the good, and because of the problems inevitable in delaying..." - such as becoming lazy and not actually fulfilling this Sunnah in the end, though he points out that the Sunnah is fulfilled by both consecutive and non-consecutive fasting of six days in Shawwal.
With regards to the evidences for the Six Days Fast of Shawwal from the hadith of the Prophet Muhammad (SAW), these are as follows:
Ayyub RA relates that the Rasulullah (SAW) said:
"Whoever fasts Ramadan and follows it with six days from Shawwal, it is as if they fasted the entire year." (Muslim, Abu Dawud, Tirmidhi, and Ibn Majah)
In further elaborating on this, it is mentioned in Nuzhat-Al-Mutaqin, the commentary of Imam Nawawi's Riyadh-us-Salihin (2/132) that:
"Whoever fasts Ramadan and follows it up with six (days) from Shawwal, it is as though he has fasted all of time, because each day is equivalent to ten days."
This is supported by the Hadith:
"Whoever performs a good deed, he will have ten like it."
Hence, the holy month of Ramadan would count as ten months; whereas the six days fast multiplied by ten would equal two months. Both added together will make - one whole year.
It is then explained:
"It is best that one fast the six altogether and directly after the day of Eid."
According to the above, our understanding is that the reward of one's fasting is according to how much one fasts. Should Allah accepts our fasts, and then counts each day of fast as equivalent to ten, it will be considered as such, from Allah's Limitless Mercy. Due to the fact that a Hadith has not come to us about fasting less than six days in Shawwal, one can assume that his worship (in attaining the virtue of one year fast) would not be complete unless he/she performed the full number.