Bringing fasting into our homes throughout the year.
"Indeed, anyone who fasts for one day for Allah's Pleasure, Allah will keep his face away from the (Hell) fire for (a distance covered by a journey of) seventy years" (Bukhari).
This short read aims to remind you, the reader, of the blessings of fasting throughout the year, and not just waiting for the month of Ramadan. By undertaking the fasts continuously, we are not simply used to fasting (and thus making the month easier to manage), but the rewards that we build will add weight upon weight to our scale of good deeds. By reading about the days that are recommended, you will realise how simple the task at hand is in reality.
The Month of Shaban
We are only a few short weeks away from reaching the month of Shaban. Prophet Muhammed (peace be upon him) used to fast more in this month than any other - except for Ramadan. We should pay heed and see if we can follow this sunnah, paying particular attention towards the end of the month where it meets Ramadan. The following hadith are self-explanatory in relation to the benefits of the month of fasting Shaban.
Usamah bin Zaid said: "I said: 'O Messenger of Allah, I do not see you fasting any month as much as Shaban.' He said: 'That is a month to which people do not pay much attention, between Rajab and Ramadan. It is a month in which the deeds are taken up to the Lord of the worlds, and I like that my deeds be taken up when I am fasting"' (Sunan an Nasa’i).
It was narrated that Simak said: "I entered upon 'Ikrimah on the day concerning which there was doubt as to whether it was Ramadan or Shaban, and he was eating bread, vegetables and milk. He said: 'Come and eat.' I said: 'I am fasting.' He adjured me by Allah to break my fast. I said Subhan-Allah twice. When I saw that he was insisting, I went forward and said: 'Give me what you have.' He said: 'I heard Ibn 'Abbas say: The Messenger of Allah said: 'Fast when you see it (the crescent) and stop fasting when you see it, and if clouds or darkness prevent you from seeing it, then complete the number of days of Shaban, and do not fast ahead of the month, and do not join Ramadan to a day of Shaban"' (Sunan an Nasa’i).
The above hadith clearly mentions how there should be a gap between the days of Shaban and the month of Ramadan, clarified again by the following hadith: Abu Hurairah narrated that the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said: "Do not precede the month of Ramadan by fasting a day or two before it, unless it is the case of a man who normally performs some fast, then let him fast it" (Tirmdhi).
So if you are intending to start fasting prior to Ramadan this year, there are indeed many opportunities for you to start. For those who still have missed fasts to make up, Shaban is the ultimate reminder, and we can look at the mother of believers for advice.. It was narrated that 'Aishah said: "I would own fasts from Ramadan and I would not make them up until Shaban came" (Sunan an Nasa’i).
The Fasts of Prophet David, (peace be upon him).
Prophet Dawood (or David, peace be upon him) was of very strong character, dividing his working day into four parts: one to earn a living and to rest, one to pray to his Lord, one to listen to the complaints of his people, and the last part to deliver his sermons (Ibn Kathir).
He also would be one who would fast for the sake of Allah. Abdullah Ibn Amr Ibn Al-As narrated: Allah's Apostle (peace be upon him) said to me: "The most beloved fasting to Allah was the fasting of the Prophet David, who used to fast alternate days. And the most beloved prayer to Allah was the prayer of David, who used to sleep the first half of the night, and pray for one third of it and again sleep for a sixth of it'" (Bukhari).
Abdullah Ibn Amr Ibn Al-As also narrated: "The Prophet (peace be upon him) said to me:
'I have been informed that you pray all the nights and observe fast all the days; is this true?' I replied: 'Yes.' He said: 'If you do so, your eyes will be weak and you will get bored. So fast three days a month, for this will be the fasting of a whole year. (Or equal to the fasting of a whole year).' I said: 'I find myself able to fast more.' He said: 'Then fast like the fasting of (the Prophet) David (peace be upon him) who used to fast on alternate days and would not flee on facing the enemy'" (Bukhari).
Fasting Monday & Thursday
But what if at this stage of your ability to fast so much seems difficult to achieve? Many western nutritionists have commented on strategies of fasting some days in the week, in order to allow the body to rest and to revitalise, allowing the organs a chance to cleans itself. The advice of fasting twice per week was presented to the believers over 1400 years ago by the Prophet Muhammed, (peace be upon him), and this in itself is the ultimate reason to fast - seeking the pleasure of Allah.
Abu Hurairah narrated that the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said:
"Deeds are presented on Monday and Thursday, and I love that my deeds be presented while I am fasting" (Tirmidhi).
Narrated Usamah ibn Zayd: “The client of Usamah ibn Zayd said that he went along with Usamah to Wadi al-Qura in pursuit of his camels. He would fast on Monday and Thursday. His client said to him: Why do you fast on Monday and Thursday, while you are an old man? He said: The Prophet of Allah (peace be upon him) used to fast on Monday and Thursday. When he was asked about it, he said: The works of the servants (of Allah) are presented (to Allah) on Monday and Thursday” (Abu Dawood).
Abu Hurairah narrated that the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said:
"The gates of Paradise are opened on Monday and Thursday. In them, (will enter) whoever has not associated anything with Allah will be forgiven, except for the two who shun each other, (about whom) it is said: 'Return these two until they make amends' "(Tirmidhi).
The White Days
Abu Dharr narrated that the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said: "O Abu Dharr! When you fast three days out of a month, then fast the thirteenth, fourteenth, and fifteenth"
The reward for fasting the white days is immense, made clear in the following hadith where it was narrated that Abu Hurairah said: "I heard the Messenger of Allah say: 'The month of patience (Ramadan) and [fasting] three days of each month is fasting for a lifetime"' (Sunan an-Nasa’i).
And so for those who struggle with the fasting of Prophet David, an ease can be found within Islam by fasting two days of the week, and for those who find this a challenge, fasting just three days of the month during the white days, along with the fasts of ramadan, earn the believer the reward of a lifetime,
From the above we can see that perhaps we shouldn’t let a month to go by, thinking that fasting is only for one month of the year. With so much reward, we should encourage each other to take up voluntary fasting throughout the year, and especially in preparation for the month of Ramadan.
After Ramadan - the 6 of Shawwal
It is often said that during the month where the devil is chained, it is made easier to fulfil our fasts. You appreciate everyone is partaking in them and that you’re not alone. In fact, the whole ummah is taking part in the holy month. But where do you see yourself after Ramadan has been completed? Envisage yourself making the intention to not give up! To continue on, in the month of Shawwal. As the reward of fasting just six of these days is equivalent to fasting a whole year!
Abu Ayub narrated that the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said: "Whoever fasts Ramadan, then follows it with six from Shawwal, then that is (equal in reward) to fasting everyday"
These simple fasts that immediately proceed ramadan can be the most challenging to an individual. Having to fight his or her own desires, fatigued from the month prior, and looking forward to indulging in the luxuries of food and drink whenever they wish, the rewards for these six fasts is multiplied until the total of these along with the fasts of ramadan adds up to fasting the whole year.
The Day of Arafah
The fasting on the 9th of Dhul-Hijjah, the day of which the pilgrims are at Mount Arafah, carries tremendous rewards for those not undertaking the rites of the Hajj. The reward was made clear, and simple, for this one day carried the weight of expiating the [minor] sins of the year that has just passed, along with [minor] sins of the year to come.
Abu Qatadah Al-Ansari (radi Allahu anhu) narrated, ‘The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) was asked about fasting on the day of Arafah (the 9th of the month of Dhul Hijjah). He replied, "Fasting on the day of Arafah is an expiation for the preceding year and the following year”... (Muslim).
The Day of Ashura, and one day with it.
Fasting the 10th of the month of Muharram was observed by the civilisations before Islam, with discussion relating to the noble day upon which Prophet Musa was saved from the army of Pharaoh. In order to differentiate the day of fasting from those of the people of the book on the same day, one day was added, to fast an additional day prior (or after) the 10th of Muharram.
Ibn 'Abbas said: ‘When the Prophet (peace be upon him) on the day of 'Ashurah commanded us to fast it, they [the Companions] said: Messenger of Allah, this is a day which is considered great by Jews and Christians? The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said: When the next year comes, we shall fast on the 9th of Muharram. But the next year the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) breathed his last’ (Abu Dawood).
A reminder - some of the rewards of fasting.
Let’s take these opportunities to increase our blessings, and let us race towards good deeds. Remembering that our fasting should be for the sake of Allah and His sake alone, there will be a blessing for us all that we will find not only in this life, but in the hereafter too.
Narrated Abu Huraira: ‘Allah's Messenger (peace be upon him) said, "Fasting is a shield (or a screen or a shelter). So, the person observing fasting should avoid sexual relation with his wife and should not behave foolishly and impudently, and if somebody fights with him or abuses him, he should tell him twice, 'I am fasting." The Prophet (peace be upon him) added, "By Him in whose Hands my soul is, the smell coming out from the mouth of a fasting person is better in the sight of Allah than the smell of musk. [Allah says about the fasting person], 'He has left his food, drink and desires for My sake. The fast is for Me. So I will reward [the fasting person] for it and the reward of good deeds is multiplied ten times"’ (Bukhari).
Narrated Abu Sa`id: I heard the Prophet (peace be upon him) saying: "Indeed, anyone who fasts for one day for Allah's Pleasure, Allah will keep his face away from the [Hell] fire for [a distance covered by a journey of] seventy years" (Bukhari).