As Ramadan departs, we all are encouraged to extend the momentum by observing the six fasts of Shawwal.
The famous Hadith in Sahih Muslim states:
“Whoever observes the fast of Ramadan and follows it up with six fasts in Shawwal will be rewarded as if he has fasted the entire year”
The Commentators have explained that since every deed is multiplied ten times, by fasting in Ramadan we are actually rewarded for 300 days and not just the 30 in Ramadan. Therefore if we follow that up with six more we will be rewarded for sixty thereby attaining the reward of fasting for 360 days.
An Interesting query
The question arises: The promise of Allah Ta’ala (in Surah: Al-An’am, Ayah: 160) to multiply the rewards of all deeds by at least ten applies throughout the year. Hence if someone observes six more fasts in any other month besides Shawwal, he should be attaining the reward of those additional sixty days too. So why does the Hadith specify the month of Shawwal for these additional fasts?
The general Hadith commentators have said that the reason for this is:
(1) So that a Muslim does not delay in accruing this grand reward.
(2) Another reason is that it is indeed easier for people to fast these six days immediately after Ramadan.
(3) Some have said that these fasts are to make up for the deficiencies in our Ramadan fasts.
(Al-Mufhim, vol.3 pg.238; Fathul Mulhim, vol.5 pg.328-Dar al-Qalam and Mirqat, vol.4 pg.477)
A Different Perspective
Some Scholars have actually given a different perspective to this.
(4) Hafidh Ibn Rajab Al-Hambali (rahimahullah) has answered the above objection with the following:
“…the answer to that is: that the reward of fasting in Shawwal will be linked to the reward of Ramadan, and one who observes the Shawwal fast will receive the reward of observing the Fardh fast for the whole year. This is how Imam ‘Abdullah Ibnul Mubarak (rahimahullah) explained the issue.” (Lataiful Ma’arif, pg.314-315)
So those who fast the additional six fasts in Shawwal specifically, will actually receive the reward of observing the Fardh fast for the entire year! Through this Allah Ta’ala has blessed the ummah by ordaining the fast of 30 day only, but they can achieve the reward of 365 days of obligatory fast!
The difference in reward for Fard and Nafl deeds
‘Allamah Nawawi (rahimahullah) has cited the grand scholar of the Shafi’i madhab; Imamul Haramain Al-Juwaini (rahimahullah) to have quoted from certain ‘Ulama that the reward of a fard act is actually equal to 70 nafl (voluntary) deeds!!
(Sharh Sahih Muslim, vol.1 pg.324)
Consolation for those who miss the fast in Shawwal.
If one missed the six fasts of Shawwal, the reward of fasting the entire year can still be achieved if one fasts the six additional fasts in any other month after Shawwal. Since every act is rewarded tenfold. However, in this case, the six extra fasts will yield the reward of sixty nafl (voluntary) fasts & not the reward of the mandatory fast.
This explanation has been cited by the commentator of Sahih Muslim, ‘Allamah Al-Qurtubi (rahimahullah). (Al-Mufhim, vol.3 pg.238)
Mulla ‘Ali Qari (rahimahullah) and others, also concur with this explanation.
(Mirqat, vol.4 pg.477, & Fathul Mulhim, vol.5 pg.328-Dar al-Qalam)
And Allah Knows best.
P.S. For a detailed discussion on the authenticity of the six fasts of Shawwal, click here.