As the end of Ramadan draws near, Muslim believers are preparing to celebrate Eid al-Fitr, a three-day religious holiday following the holy month. Scholars advise believers to continue fasting for six days during the following month of Shawwal to bedeck the rest of the year with the bounties and blessings of Ramadan.
The Prophet Muhammad is said to have observed fasting on special days and recommended that his followers do the same. Among these special days are the six days of the month of Shawwal, the first 10 days of Zhul-Hijjah and the month of Muharram.
Abu Ayyub al-Ansari, a close companion of the Prophet, reported him as saying: “Whoever fasts during the month of Ramadan and then follows it with six days of Shawwal will be rewarded as if he had fasted the entire year.” Muhammad ibn İsmail as-San'aanee said: “It should be noted that the reward for fasting [the six days of Shawwal] will be given to whoever fasts them, whether separately or continually, immediately after Eid or during the month.”
According to As-San'aanee, if the 30 days of Ramadan fasting are added to the six days of fasting during Shawwal, it amounts to 36 days. Each virtue is rewarded 10 times according to Shariah, which means a believer who fasts these 36 days will be considered to have fasted for 360 days, which almost equals the days of a year.
It is highly recommended to fast six days of the month of Shawwal, as this is a meritorious act which results in abundant reward. While some scholars are of the opinion that these six days of fasting must be completed in a continuous order right after the end of Ramadan, many others say it is not required to fast six days continuously without any interruption. According to the second group, one can fast in accordance with convenience any time during the month.
Commenting on the blessing of fasting during Shawwal, Marmara University Professor Emeritus Saim Yeprem said those who fast for six days during this month after a complete fast in Ramadan are as if they have spent the whole year in complete fast. Yeprem also said Shawwal fasts don't have to be completed consecutively.
Stating that the Prophet Muhammad, who observed fasting during Shawwal, recommended that his followers do the same, Yeprem said it is continuing fasting after Ramadan that helps believers bedeck the rest of the year with blessings of Ramadan.
“After a month of intensive worship, in which people perform extra prayers, read the Quran, purify their behaviors engaging in charity and good deeds, it is not appropriate to abruptly give them up after the fasting month of Ramadan,” Yeprem said referring to a hadith which reads “The dearest of actions to Allah is that which is done regularly, even if it is small.”
Any good deed which is done continuously will also have an everlasting reward, Yeprem said and called on believers to continue to perform good deeds.
“The act of fasting redirects the heart from worldly activities and cleanses the nefis [inner soul] and induces a feeling of peace and calm. It also allows Muslims to practice self-discipline, sacrifice and sympathy for those less fortunate,” Yeprem said, adding that fasting provides worshippers the opportunity to review their lives in light of Islamic teachings and refocus their attention on God.