Fasting is a religious act done by Muslims. They usually observe fast for a specific one month of the year known as Ramadan where they fast and do not eat, drink or indulge in any inappropriate activities. This fast is observed from sunrise to sunset. Fasting for six days, after Ramadan, is known as fasting for Shawwal. It is not compulsory, that is it is not wajib, but it is Sunnah mustahab. Sunnah mustahab is an act which will just get you extra good deeds but no harm if you omit it. It is advised to Muslims to fast for the six days of Shawwal after Ramadan because it is equivalent to having observed fasts for a lifetime.
Abu Ayyub said that the Holy Prophet quoted, “Whoever fasts Ramadan and follows it with six days of Shawwal, it will be as if he fasted for a lifetime.” (Narrated by Muslim, Abu Dawud, At-Tirmidhi, An-Nisa’i and Ibn Majah). The Messenger of Allah clarified this by saying ‘’Whoever fasts for six days after Eid-ul-Fitr, has completed the year’’ A different report states that a one month fast is equivalent to fasting for ten months but fasting for six days of Shawwal is equal to completing fasts for a whole year.
It has been explained in detail that fasting in these six days of Shawwal increases your good deeds even to those fasts that are nafils because every single hasanah contains ten rewards. Ibn Khuzaymah narrated: “Fasting for the month of Ramadan brings the reward of ten like it, and fasting for six days brings the reward of two months, and that is the fasting of the whole year.”
These fasts also act like fasts that can fill the gap of any fast that was missed in the month of Ramadan due to some very valid reason. On the Day of Resurrection, some of these nafil fasts will bridge the gap of the fasts missed in Ramadan. The Prophet (peace and\ blessings of Allah be upon him) said: “The first thing for which people will be brought to account on the Day of Resurrection will be their Salah (prayer). Our Lord, may He be glorified and exalted, will say to His angels, although He knows best, “Look at the Salah of my slave, whether it is complete or incomplete.”
A person can start fasting from the second day of Shawwal because observing a fast on the day of Eid is strictly not allowed. These fasts can be observed in a row or with gaps in between however the sooner they are done, the better it is. Doing something for rewards should be done as soon as possible. However, if anyone has missed their ten Ramadan fasts due to a legit reason, it is obligatory to complete them first and then observe Shawwal fasts.
Most people also question that if this practice is done once, should it be repeated every year? The answer to this is that it is simply your choice. These are not compulsory fasts hence you can observe them in any year you want but of course, it is better to do them every year to gain extra rewards!
Source: Arab News