With the holy month of Ramadan now well behind us, it is easy to feel a sense of loss. We are no longer in a time of abundant blessing, and the opportunities of prescribed fasting and Laylat’ul Qadr are gone till next year. However, there is no need to feel despondent! The chance to achieve great reward from Allah remains. Following Ramadan, He gifts us with the month of Shawwal.
Shawwal is the tenth month of the Islamic calendar, following Ramadan. As it immediately follows the month of fasting, Shawwal also offers benefits from abstinence. Abu Ayyub al-Ansari reported that the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said:
“Whoever fasts the month of Ramadan and then follows it with six days of fasting in Shawwal, it will be as if he had fasted the year through.” (Sahih Muslim, 1163)
Shawwal, then, is not to be taken lightly. It is a bounty of benefits waiting to be taken. Fasting just six days in this month can and will do so much for any Muslim. Outside of the above year’s worth of reward from just six extra fasts, there are three major benefits to keeping six fasts in Shawwal:
- Returning to the habit of fasting so soon after Ramadan is a sign of our fasts truly being accepted. When our acts of worship are acknowledged by Allah, He bestows us with the energy to continue in our piety. Virtue breeds virtue, after all. Following one good deed with an equal or similar one suggests acceptance of worship, and generates further reward with the Almighty.
- Fasting in both the months of Sha’ban and Shawwal before and after Ramadan, respectively, is akin to praying Sunnah prayers before and after obligatory (fardh) prayers. That is, these extra acts of piety work to make up for any shortcomings in our fardh worship. For any wrongs you feel you may have committed while fasting during Ramadan, you can more than make up for them by fasting in Shawwal!
- Shawwal fasting is not just a way to add to Ramadan blessings. It is also a way to give thanks to Allah for the blessings we have just received. During Ramadan, we are blessed with constant opportunities for sawaab. Immediately after, we are rewarded for our efforts with the celebration of Eid-ul-Fitr. By fasting in Shawwal, and continuing those very efforts, we show gratitude to the Almighty for all he has just given to us. Giving thanks improves our relationship with Allah. This in turn boosts our mental health and wellbeing by helping us maintain a state of gratitude and joy.
The benefits of fasting during Shawwal are made abundantly clear. Of course, these fasts are not obligatory! Allah always makes things easy for us, and Shawwal is no exception. If it is easy for you, keeping these six extra fasts is a wonderful thing to do this month. If not, you now know of this opportunity, and can keep it in mind for next year!