You spent the entire month fasting from sunrise to sunset. You spent your nights hunched over in prayer and humility to Allah swt. The month passed too quickly, as always, and suddenly you’re celebrating Eid al-fitr and eating during the daylight hours again. And just when you thought it was over…you have to fast again.
The month following Ramadan on the Islamic calendar is called Shawwal. The first day of Shawwal is Eid al-Fitr, a day filled with celebration, and parties, and so much food that you get full just looking at it. But the day after Eid is when it seemingly all starts again.
Fasting six days of Shawwal after Eid is a tradition practiced by most Muslim communities, as it was first practiced by Prophet Muhammad (saws). While the fasts of Ramadan are obligatory for Muslims, as one of the five pillars of Islam, the six fasts of Shawwal are only sunnah, or tradition.
It is not necessary to fast these days right after Eid, as long as you fast it within the month of Shawwal, but it is recommended to make these fasts as early as you can in case any problems arise later on. However, it is haram to fast on Eid, so the fasts can only begin on the second day of Shawwal. It is also not necessary that these fasts be done consecutively or separately – either way is accepted by Allah (swt), although it might be easier to just get them done all at once so that you’re not messing up your eating schedule more than you need to. Fasting these six days consecutively is also mustahabb, or recommended but not mandatory.
For those who missed fasts during Ramadan, due to illness or another reason, it is recommended that they must first make up these fasts before fasting the six days in Shawwal. However, Aisha (ra), the Prophet’s wife used to leave her obligatory fasts for later in the year due to the difficulty of the heat and the length of the days, so it is permissible to do that as well. However, it is not allowed to make the intention of making up the obligatory Ramadan fasts and doing the Shawwal fasts together, killing a two birds with one stone in a sense. Both intentions and fasts must be separated due to the difference in nature and virtue of both fasts.
As for virtue, there are many benefits in fasting six days of Shawwal. One of the biggest benefits is that whoever fasts these days, it will be recorded as if he has fasted the entire year, and with that comes many rewards. Abu Ayyoob (ra) reported that the Prophet 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).
Another important benefit of fasting these extra six days is that they serve as nafil, a sort of extra credit, towards your Ramadan fasts. On the Day of Judgement, if your obligatory fasts are imperfect, then some of your nafil deeds (such as the fasts you did outside of your obligatory Ramadan ones) will be used to make up your shortcomings in your obligatory fasts.
These year, Shawwal started on June 15, which was Eid, and will end on July 13, so make sure you get your six fasts in before then! Although these fasts aren’t obligatory, they can be very beneficial in the long-run. And they definitely can’t hurt!