Fasting in Shawwal
Shawwal is the tenth month in the Islamic lunar calendar. The 1st of Shawwal is Eid ul Fitr (Festival of breaking of the fast). After the festivity of Eid, it is recommended to observe six days of fast.
Fasting of six days in the month of Shawwal is mentioned in a Hadith. Rasulullah (SAW) said, “Whosoever observes fast in Ramadan and then follows up with six fasts in Shawwal, will be regarded as though he had been fasting every day.” (Sahih Muslim) The meaning is that the reward is like the reward of a person who is always in fast every day of his/her life. It is highly recommended to fast six days in Shawwal, but it is not obligatory (fardh). It is not required to fast six days continuously without any interruption. One can fast according to convenience any time during the month and the fast is very much like the fasts of Ramadan.
Abu Ayyub (RA) reported that Rasulullah (SAW) said: “Whoever fasts Ramadan and follows it with six days of Shawwal, it will be as if he fasted for a lifetime.” (Muslim, al-Tirmidhi)
Rasulullah (SAW) explained this when he said: “Whoever fasts for six days after Eid al-Fitr has completed the year:(whoever does a good deed will have ten hasanah like it).” According to another report: “Allah has made for each hasanah (good deeds) ten like it, so a month is like fasting ten months, and fasting six days completes the year.” (Ibn Majah.)
In other words, when one fasts in the month of Ramadan, they get the reward of fasting for 10 months, and if that person fasts for 6 days in the following month, i.e. Shawwal, he/she gets reward for fasting for 60 days (2 months). Add them together, you get reward for fasting the whole year. If you continue to do that for rest of your life (as long as you are physically able to do so), it will be as if you have fasted every single day of your life! Another of the important benefits of fasting six days of Shawwal is that is makes up for any shortfall in a person’s obligatory Ramadan 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 nafl (voluntary) deeds will be taken to make up the shortcomings in his obligatory deeds.
Rasulullah (SAW) 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 know 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 (nafl) prayers.’ If he did some voluntary prayers, Allah 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.” (Abu Dawud)
Now, what if someone missed some days of fasting in The month of Ramadan (for valid reasons)? What are they supposed to do? Since the fasting of Ramadan is obligatory, they should fast for the missed ones first.
Fasting of Shawwal is only sunnah/recommended/voluntary, therefore doesn’t come close to the merits of Ramadan fasting. Since Shawwal is a blessed month as well, making up fast in this month will probably be a good idea. Even though it is permissible to spread out ones missed Ramadan fasting throughout the year or even beyond, it is advisable to make up the obligatory fasting of Ramadan first before venturing into voluntary fasting.
Allah knows best.