There is a sadness that envelopes the believer when they realise the last days of Ramadan are upon them. It is a span of nights filled with the beautiful bond of community, standing side by side in the tarawih prayer. The time has passed trying to achieve self-betterment through supplication (dua’) and prayer. But the believer need not worry as Allah Most High replaces the month of Ramadan with the month of Shawwal.
How beautiful is Shawwal that Allah marks its beginning with the celebration of Eid-ul-Fitr, a reward from Him for completing the month of fasting. Shawwal is also singled out for the observance of supererogatory (nafl) fasts, encouraging the believer to continue with what has been established in Ramadan. In fact, continuing with fasting is an indication that a person’s Ramadan fasts have been accepted as Allah allows us to continue with good deeds upon good deeds, when there is acceptance.
The rewards for the one who fasts in the month of Shawwal are numerous. Abu Ayyub Al-Ansari relates that Allah’s Messenger (may Allah bless him and give him peace) said: “Whoever fasts the month of Ramadan and then follows it with six days of fasting in the month of Shawwal, it will be as if he had fasted the year through.” (Sahih Muslim)
Scholars, such as Imam Nawawi, have explained that the reward for fasting Ramadan is that of fasting 10 months and the reward for fasting six days in Shawwal is that of fasting two months – coupled together, the reward is that of an entire year!
For a woman who needs to make up (qada) fasts she was exempted from due to menstruation (hayd) or post-natal bleeding (nifas), Shawwal presents her with the perfect opportunity. She is already in the habit of fasting and can continue easily. But this also raises an important fiqh question – can she combine her qada fasts with her fasts of Shawwal?
- In this specific situation, there is a difference of opinion among scholars as to whether the intention for Shawwal can be combined with qada fasts. Our position is that in order to attain the specific rewards of fasting in Shawwal, the fasts should not be combined with qada fasts.
- If she has obligatory fasts to make up, it is preferred that she fulfill this obligation first and complete the fasts of Shawwal thereafter. Her fard fasts are a liability and will remain in her debt until completed.
- If a woman is confident that she will be able to complete her fard fasts at a later time, it is permissible for her to fast the days of Shawwal before making up her obligatory fasts. In the situation where her fard fasts are minimal, she can easily complete these and then earn the added reward of nafl fasts.
- Lastly, when she makes intention for her qada fasts, she should remain hopeful and steadfast that she will earn reward for completing her obligation as quickly as possible during Shawwal. She should have faith that through Allah’s favour, she will be rewarded for her efforts.
As this month of Ramadan ends, a believer should feel grateful for the opportunity she was presented with. Going forward, she can continue the good habits that she started, beginning with fasting and earn even more reward from her Creator in the month of Shawwal. She can involve her family as well, by encouraging them to keep fasts and still enjoy suhoor and iftar together. This can help keep the Ramadan energy alive instead of experiencing a spiritual withdrawal after the month’s end.
With continuous effort, the month of Shawwal can be the believer’s first step in maintaining the spiritual benefit of Ramadan throughout the year.