After the three months and the fast of Shawwal

The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

The Three Months (Rajab, Shaban Ramadan, according to the Lunar Calendar based on Hijrah/the Migration from Mecca to Medina), is a time of great spiritual bounties and rewards. The spiritual efforts that we make at this time opens up special horizons in our inner worlds. However, the state of spiritual discipline acquired in those months should be continued after that time, too. For there is no certainty that we will make it to the next three months.

While leaving the three months back which drop by each year and enlighten our spiritual worlds, we cannot ever forget the eternal bliss that they have brought about. How can we forget the flood of light flowing in radiant streets at the Night of Power (Laylat al-Qadr)?

Do we not yearn for the bounty of iftar tables (meals eaten to break fast after sunset) all year long? Can we forget the abundance in sahur (meal eaten before starting fast)? Of course, we cannot forget those sacred memoirs. We yearn and wait for them.

Surely, we do not suffice with a dry wait and yearn, but try to maintain the spiritual discipline we have obtained in the three months and especially in Ramadan, throughout the year.

We still perform the prayers, fast from time to time. And help others. We mobilize with our property, life and tongue for Jihad for Allah's sake. We do not heed our lustful feelings and desires. We endeavor to continue the spiritual aura that we have attained in the sacred three months, the peaceful memoirs of which we keep inside ourselves.

We continue with the preparations for the Hereafter, not forgetting that the capital of life is continuously leaving us, and always feeling the hope for and the doubt about whether we will reach the next time of light and peace.

We thus hope to attain the sacred times of the following year with the same spirit and clean conscience. In that spirit, our life undergoes a constant change and improvement. We progress continuously on the way of attaining Allah's consent and that progress continues, God willing, till the last breath.

The Fast of Shawwal

Fasting in the month of Shawwal, which comes after the month of Ramadan, is a good tradition handed down to us.

Muslims, who got used to fasting for a month in Ramadan, have shown great interest in fasting six days in Shawwal, and even have retained that tradition with as much warm interest as that of Tarawih (the Prayer performed in Ramadan after the Night Prayer). Of course, that warm interest is not weakly grounded. Indeed, the Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings upon him, announced that the fast of Shawwal will be a means of earning such a reward as if having fasted for a year, and therefore those who fasted a month in Ramadan do not wish to miss the reward of having fasted a year by fasting six days in Shawwal. Here is the hadith about that issue and its explanation:

“Whoever fasts six days in Shawwal after Ramadan that s/he has passed fasting, is like having spent the whole year by fasting.” (Riyad as-Salihin, Vol.2,P.510,2.)

So, the person who fasts a month in Ramadan and fasts six more days in the following Shawwal and thus increases his/her fast to thirty six, acquires such a reward as if s/he has spent the whole year by fasting.

Our scholars explain 'earning reward as if having passed the whole year by fasting' as follows:

If the person who fasts the whole Ramadan gets ten rewards for his/her each fast, the total is three hundred. And when s/he gets again ten rewards each for the six days of fast in Shawwal and thus gets sixty rewards, then the amount reaches three hundred and sixty, in other words one year. So, the point indicated in the hadith is attained. S/he may get a spiritual gain as if s/he fasted the whole year.

Actually, what is essential in such spiritual issues is to perform that deed with sincerity and to be in a heartfelt expectation. Sometimes there may be such fasts that, because of the deep and pure sincerity felt in the heart of the fasting person, cause him/her to gain, let alone the reward of 360 days, but that of 360 years of extra fasts. If a person wishes anything with sincerity, our Lord may give it to him/her. That is a matter of intention.

Just like the intentions of two people one of whom brings a rock next to a road from afar with much difficulty, and the other of whom removes that rock from there with the same difficulty:

One thought as follows:

- If an old man wants to get on his mount in the middle of the desert, there is no high place which he could climb and embark his mount. So let me roll that stone next to the road so that old people and children passing by can jump on their mount easily by climbing the rock and thus I earn its reward (for the Hereafter). Our Lord was pleased with that man because of his sincere intention and gave him the reward he asked for.

The man who rolled and removed angrily that stone which was brought with such good intentions thought as follows:

- What a wrong thing it is to bring that stone here. He apparently did not think that the blind and those unaware in the dark may stumble over the stone and fall down. Let me remove that stone from here so that nobody stumbles and falls down, and I receive its reward.

And that man, too, earned Allah's consent because he removed the stone from there, and attained the reward he hoped for. Both of those two people had sincere intentions.

And if we fast six days with a pure intention, our Lord may grant us rewards as if we fasted the whole year and may forgive us our sins and mistakes for the sake of our intention and loyalty. There is no borders to our Lord's unlimited mercy. Nobody can extend his/her stinginess to Him.

It is not compulsory to fast six days in a row. It is enough to fast six days in the month of Shawwal.

If one has not fasted some days in Ramadan, it is more appropriate and lawful to fast for those missed days. Of course, it is much appropriate to be freed from debts as soon as possible. However, one may also intend to fast for missed days later. It is up to the person. Both ways are permissible.

Another point is that there is an assertion that in the month of Shawwal, that is, between two festivals (Festivals of Ramadan and Sacrifice), marriage cannot be carried out. That superstitious assertion is losing its effect. For the marriage of our mother Aisha (The Prophet's wife) was performed in Shawwal, that is, between two festivals, and neither bad luck nor a religious drawback was in question. That wrong idea might have stemmed from this: If the festival happens to be on Friday, then the time between the Festival Prayer and the Friday Prayer is a time in between two festival prayers (as Friday is also accepted as a festival by Muslims). One may also assume that some people mistook that advice which says “do not squeeze your marriages in such a short time and perform your marriages outside of the time between two festival prayers” and wrongly understood it as referring to such a long interval as between Festivals of Ramadan and Sacrifice and caused that misunderstanding.

A Story

Sufyan ath-Thawri narrates:
- I lived in Mecca for three years. Every day, one of the Meccans would come to the Kaaba, circumambulate it, perform prayers and would leave after saluting me. I got to know that person. One day he called me and said:

- When I die, you wash me with your own hands, perform my funeral prayer and bury me. That night do not leave my grave and do spend the night next to my grave. Inculcate me with Allah's oneness and unity during the questioning of Munkar and Nakir (angels assigned to question dead people).

I accepted to do what he asked for. I did what he asked me to: I spent the night by his grave. That night, half awake and half asleep, I heard:

- O Sufyan! There is no need any more for your protection and inculcation.

Then I said:

- On what grounds did you achieve this blessing?

He said as a reply:

- On grounds that I fasted Ramadan's fast and added to it six more days from Shawwal.

Then I woke up. I could not see anybody nearby. I got ablution, performed my prayer and slept; I saw it three more times. I knew then that was Divine not from the Satan. I left the grave and supplicated: “O my Lord! Make me succeed in fasting Ramadan's fast and in fasting six days of Shawwal.” And Allah made me succeed.

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