Voluntary Fasts in Islam
The Ramadan fast is over and most people are in the middle of the Shawaal fast. May Allah make it easy for us. There are obligatory fasts such as the just concluded fast of Ramadan and voluntary fasting which we will discuss below. There are several benefits to fasting, not just from the religious view point but from the perspective of one's health.
Fasting will be an intercession for the slave on the Day of Resurrection, when it will say: “O Lord, I stopped him from eating and drinking during the day, so let me intercede for him.” - Ahmad
“Fasting is a protection and a strong fortress against the Fire.” - Ahmad
“Whoever fasts one day for the sake of Allah, Allah will keep his face seventy years’ distance away from the Fire because of it.” - Muslim
The Prophet Muhammed (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
It is advisable to start fasting from the second day of Shawaal but it depends on one's preference. One can fast continuously or every other day.
- The Ashura Fast
The fast of the 10th of Muharram was observed by the Quraish before the advent of Islam and they attributed this fast to the Prophet Ibrahim(A). The Jews also had the common practice in attribution to Prophet Musa(A).
Prophet Muhammed (SAW) said in reply to the Jews: "We have a greater right upon Prophet Musa than you, and so we shall also fast on this day." Then the Prophet not only observed this fast but instructed his followers to also observe it. - Bukhari, Muslim
We are however advised to add the day before or after to the fast so as to not resemble the practices of the Jews. It is narrated by Ibn Abbas that:
"The Prophet Muhammed (SAW) observed the fast of the 10th of Muharram and urged his followers to do the same. When they said: 'O Messenger of Allah! This day is also held sacred by the people of the book and therefore our observance will closely resemble that of theirs; the Prophet (SAW) replied: 'If Allah wills, we shall observe another fast next year on the 9th as well.' but before the next Muharram came, the Prophet had passed away." - Muslim
- The Arafah Fast
The day of Arafah is the 9th of Zil-Hijjah. It is recommended for everyone except those who have made Hajj and are actually at Arafah. As a matter of fact, the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) enjoined us to also fast the first 10 days of the month of Zil-Hijjah. (Excluding Eid)
"I hope from Allah that He will accept the Fast of the Day of Arafah as expiation for sins of both the previous and the coming year. - Muslim
"The worship performed in the first ten days of Zil-Hijjah carries the highest regards in the sight of Allah; and the fast observed on each of thee days merits the reward of fasting the whole year. and the voluntary prayer offered in each of these nights merits the reward for the voluntary prayers of laylatul Qadr." -
Besides it was the day Allah's favor upon us was completed and He descends to the lowest heaven seeking out those to forgive. Furthermore, there is no other day when more inmates of Hell are released than on this day.
"....This day I have perfected for you your religion and completed My favor upon you and have chosen for you Islam as your religion" - Q5:3
- The Fast of the White Days
This fast is the mid-month fast according to the lunar calendar. This is when the moon becomes full and the light beams strong. It is the 13th, 14th and 15th of each lunar month.
The Prophet Muhammad (SAW) said: "Fasting on the 13th, 14th and 15th of each lunar month merited the reward for fasting year round." - Abu Dawood
- Fasting on Mondays and Thursdays
The Messenger of Allah (SAW) said: " Deeds are presented before Allah on Mondays and Thursdays. I want to be fasting on the day when my deeds are presented." - Muslim, Tirmizi
It (Monday) was also the day the Prophet (SAW) was born and the days he received revelation of the Quran.
- Fast of Prophet Dawud
Ahmad related from Ibn Amr that the Prophet Muhammed (SAW) said: "The fast most loved by Allah is that of Dawud's., and the most loved prayer is that of Dawud's. He would sleep half the night, pray for a third of the night and then sleep the last sixth of the night. He would also fast one day and then eat the next day,"
I would In Sha Allah be adding these dates to the website's calendar which can be found here (Islamic Calendar) as a reminder. And we must remember that once we commence a voluntary fast, it must not be broken without due reason. The voluntary that is broken has to be made up on another day.