Question: Is it rewarding to fast in the month of Shawwal?
Fasting is rewarding (thawab) at all times. A hadith-i sharif says, "The fast is a shield against the fire of Hell" (Bukhari).
The fast that is observed in the month of Shawwal earns many rewards. It is declared in hadith-i sharifs:
(Whoever fasts for six days in the month of Shawwal after [fasting in] Ramadan becomes as sinless as the day when his mother gave birth to him.) [Tabarani]
(Whoever fasts in Ramadan and also fasts for six days in Shawwal is considered to have fasted for a year.) [Ibn Majah]
(The fast of Ramadan is equivalent to 10 months. The 6 fasts that are observed after Ramadan are equivalent to 2 months. Thus, one attains the reward of fasting for a year.) [Ibn Huzayma]
Some scholars state that it is better to observe the 6 fasts immediately after Ramadan without delay. It is permissible as well to observe them intermittently. One should observe them with the intention of make-up (qada) fasts. When one keeps voluntary or make-up fasts in the month of Shawwal or at other times, it is much better to keep them on Mondays and Thursdays. Two hadith-i sharifs say:
(Deeds are presented on Mondays and Thursdays. I want my deeds to be presented while I am fasting.) [Tirmidhi]
(I fast on Mondays and Thursdays because sins are forgiven on these days.) [Muslim]
(The gates of Paradise are opened on Mondays and Thursdays.) [Muslim]
Question: The month of Shawwal has started, and I have begun performing the 6 fasts. I missed 7 fast-days in Ramadan because of my monthly period. Is the 6-day fast substituted for my missed fasts? Or do I have to fast for 13 days?
If you also intend to make up for your missed fasts when performing the 6 fasts, you will not only make up for your missed fasts but also earn rewards for fasting in Shawwal. If you keep 7 make-up fasts, you will clear all your debts.
Question: I performed the 6 fasts of Shawwal consecutively (by making intention for both make-up fasts and voluntary fasts). When some people said to me that these 6 fasts had to be performed on Mondays and Thursdays, I answered without any malice aforethought, meaning that they should be completed right away, "Let us keep the 6 fasts right away, so that we will be free." Is there anything wrong with it?
Can a person who observes fasts have a malice thought? You said it because you felt it a duty for yourself. The same thing can be said for a namaz, too. It does not cause disbelief to say, "Let me perform this namaz right away or let me perform this namaz first, so that I will be free," for with this statement one means to get rid of the debt right away.
Question: We fasted for 6 days with our neighbors. A lady said that if a woman has a day or days to make up she cannot observe the 6 fasts as voluntary fasts. Is it true?
If one has missed fard namazes, one cannot perform voluntary or sunnat namazes. However, if one has missed fasts, one can observe voluntary fasts because it is possible to make up for them until next Ramadan. When observing the 6 fasts, if one also intends to make up for missed fasts, one will not only be considered to have fasted on these days but also make up for missed fasts.
Question: Can we observe the 6 fasts anytime during the month of Shawwal?
Yes, 6 fasts can be observed anytime within 30 days.
Question: I have started to observe the 6 fasts. I will observe the second fast today. Last night I was a bit sleepy, and I went to bed immediately after eating the meal. When I got up in the morning, I remembered that I had not made the intention (niyyah). But I had said to my wife before sleeping that I would get up for pre-dawn meal and would fast on the following days. Is what I said considered intention?
You got up for pre-dawn meal and ate the meal. This is considered intention. What is more, during such times, one hastens to eat some more or to do other acts before the time is up. All of these are regarded as intention.
Fasting in Shawwal
Question: In places where Ramadan and the Eid are started by relying upon calendars instead of watching for the new moon, it is necessary to observe two additional fasts after Ramadan. In addition them, we have missed fasts because of menstruation. On the other hand, it is very rewarding to observe 6 voluntary fasts in this month. Just as it is allowed to make intention also for voluntary namazes when one performs make-up namazes, so is it allowed to make intention for both the Shawwal fast and make-up fasts when one observes voluntary fasts?
Yes, such an intention can be made. While one is observing make-up fasts in Shawwal, one is also considered to have observed those much rewarding voluntary fasts of Shawwal, even if one does not additionally intend to observe the fasts of Shawwal. Since our master the Prophet observed voluntary fasts on the 9th and 10th of Muharram, it is sunnat upon us to observe them. Similarly, our master the Prophet used to fast on the 13th, 14th, and 15th of every lunar month and on the day before Eid al-Adha. Since our master the Messenger of Allah observed voluntary fasts on these days, it is mustahab upon us to fast on these days. When one keeps make-up fasts on these days, one is considered to have fulfilled sunnat and mustahab as our master the Prophet fasted on these days, even if we do not intend for them additionally.
When observing make-up fasts on the above-mentioned days, one should also intend to make up for missed fasts; that is, one should intend, "I intend to observe the earliest Ramadan fast that I missed." There is nothing wrong with making such an intention, even if one does not have any missed fasts. If one does not have days to make up, they are counted as voluntary fasts then. One should always intend to make up for one's missed fasts when one observes fasts on sacred days.