Fasting Six Days of Shawwal Disputed
Imam Muslim narrates a Hadith via Ismael Ibn Jaafar, via Saad ibn Said ibn Qays, via Omar Ibn Thabet Ibn Alhareth Alkhazraji, via Abu Ayyub al-Ansari, that the Prophet, peace be upon him, said: “Whoever fasts Ramadan then follows that with six Days from Shawwal, it is like fasting perpetually.” The authenticity of this Hadith as well as its implementation are annually raised to be questioned at the end of Ramadan.
Sharia scholars are divided in proofs about how authentic this Hadith is. While some scholars converge about the weak liability in Hadith narration of the Sahabi (prophet companion) Abu Ayyub Al Ansari, others dare not tarnish his Hadith narration reputation.
When it comes to implementation; in other words, fasting six days of Shawwal, the lunar month that follows Ramadan, most scholars consider it highly desirable though.
Sufyan bin al-Thawri, Abu Hanifa, and Abu Yusuf never approved of fasting these days. In fact, they all disliked Shawwal six days fast. The early Hanafis saw this fast as an imitation of the Christians, meaning their adding nonobligatory fasting days to their obligatory fast. The present Hanafi scholars see no wrong with fasting these days. They justify their position by the separation that occurs [between these days and Ramadan] since the day of Eid breaks the continuous fast. This view is clearly stated in Al-Kafi fi Sharh al-Wafi by Abu Barakat Abdullah bin Ahmad al-Nasafi.
Imam Malek mentions in the Muwatta that he did not know any scholar or jurist who fasted six days of Shawwal. He said that he had never heard of any of his predecessors fast these days. According to Imam Malek, scholars held it to be an undesirable practice for fear it might create a Bidaa (an innovative practice) and that the following generations of lay or ignorant Muslims would chain the fast of these days to Ramadan if they saw or heard of people of knowledge fasting them.
It is mentioned, though, that Imam Malik fasted these days privately and stated it to be disliked to fast them in a manner that gave the impression that their fasting is obligatory and they would consequently be joined to Ramadan, while they are not a part of it.
As for the proponents of fasting these six days, their opinion is divided into three sets concerning the actual implementation of this fast:
1st set of implementation: It is highly desirable to fast them from the beginning of the month on successive days; in other words, starting from second day of Shawwal. This is the opinion of Imam al-Shafi’i. It has been related in a Hadith on the authority of Abu Hurayra, “Whoever fasts six consecutive days after Eid al-Fitr it is as if he has fasted the entire year.”
2nd set of implementation: There is no difference between fasting the six days consecutively or intermittently throughout the month. This is the opinion of Imam Ahmad.
3rd set of implementation: They are not to be fasted immediately after Eid al-Fitr for these are days of eating and drinking. Rather they should be fasted along with the three white days of the month (the three days of the full moon, the thirteenth, fourteenth and fifteenth days of the lunar month), either before or after them making the fast one of six days.
-Mohammed Mansouri is a visiting professor at University Hassan 1st Settat- Faculté Polydisciplinaire de Khouribga.
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