13 July 2024

It is highly recommended to fulfil the qada or missed fasts of Ramadan as soon as possible, writes Imam Dr. A. Rashied Omar.

The lunar month of Shawwal is the tenth month in the lunar calendar and has great significance for Muslims. One of the most meritorious aspects of the month of Shawwal is that it has been chosen by Allah, the All-Wise, for the celebration of Eid al-Fitr, one of the only two annual festival days in Islam. 

Second, the month of Shawwal is also significant from another angle. The beginning of the lunar month of Shawwal marks the onset of the hajj season. Allah, the Sublime, proclaims in the Qur’an in Surah-al-Baqarah, chapter 2, verse 197: The Pilgrimage shall take place during the well-known months.

The season of hajj comprises the month of Shawwal, the month of Dul Qa`ida and the month of Dhul Hijja.

Third, according to a well-known prophetic tradition (hadith), the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) recommended that we fast for six days during the month of Shawwal. The companion, Abu Ayyub Al-Ansari (RA) related that the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) exhorted us as follows:

“Whosoever fasts during the month of Ramadan and then follows it up with six days of fasting of Shawwal will be rewarded as if he or she had fasted the entire year.” (Narrated by Imam Muslim)

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According to the Shafi’i and Hanafi schools of Islamic jurisprudence (madh-habs), it is preferred that these days be fasted consecutively, i.e. the six days immediately following the celebration of Eid-al-Fitr. According to Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal, however, one may choose to fast on any six days of the blessed month of Shawwal, as neither practice is preferred over the other. This is also the prevailing view of many contemporary Muslim scholars.

In response to the above prophetic tradition, I encourage those of us who have not already adopted this prophetic recommendation (sunnah) to consider doing so in the remaining days of this month of Shawwal. Fasting in the month of Shawwal provides us with a wonderful opportunity to follow up on our great spiritual accomplishments of the month of Ramadan and would cultivate in us the discipline of voluntary fasting (siyam al-tatawwu’). As we have testified to during the month of Ramadan, fasting is one of the best forms of worship and spiritual disciplines which purifies the individual and nourishes our souls and draws us closer to our Creator. Voluntary fasting (siyam al-tatawwu’) has an even greater effect since it is undertaken by the free will of the believer. That is why the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) loved fasting so much. 

Furthermore, it is my considered view that the practice of fasting in Shawwal could also serve as a wonderful way of assisting those of us who may have missed some fasts during Ramadan as a result of illness, menses or travelling to make up for their lost fasts. One of the Prophet Muhammad’s wives, Umm Salamah (ra) also recommended to members of her family to fulfil the qada or missed fasts during the month of Shawwal. It is, therefore, praiseworthy to do the qada fast during the month of Shawwal. It is also highly recommended to fulfil the qada or missed fasts of Ramadan as soon as possible since this is an obligation and debt owed to Allah and this takes precedence over voluntary (sunnah) fasting. 

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The majority of Muslim scholars hold the view that one may not join the two fasts. This means that the obligatory qada fasts must be completed separately from the fasting during the six days of Shawwal. A minority opinion to which I subscribe contends that one is able to procure the benefit of both fulfilling the obligation of the qada fasting as well as getting the reward of the Shawwal fast if one combines both intentions for our Prophet (PBUH) desired ease for us, not difficulty. This will certainly make it easier for menstruating women and those who were ill who, through natural reasons, were unable to fast the entire month of Ramadan.

Moreover, encouraging the entire family to fast in solidarity with women who had their menses and others who were sick during Ramadan and have qada fasts to make up would be a wonderful gesture so such family members do not feel alone in making up lost fast days. Such a gesture would surely help to strengthen our family bonds. May Allah, the Lord of Compassion, bless us during the month of Shawwal and fortify our family bonds of love and tenderness.

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