The Days Prescribed To Observe Nāwafil Fast
By Sheikh Muhammed Salih Al-Munajjid
In the name of Allāh, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful;
All the praise and Thanks is due to Allāh, the Lord of al-ā’lamīn. There is none worthy of worship except Allāh, and that Muhammad, Sallallāhu alayhi wa sallam, is His Messenger.
By His Wisdom, Allāh Subhānahu wa ta‘ala prescribed that His slaves should voluntarily seek to draw closer to Him, after performing the obligatory acts of worship, by doing more of the same kinds of acts of worship, and He has assigned to that great rewards, as the Prophet (Sallallāhu `alayhi wa sallam) told us in a Hadith Qudsi that Allah Says:
“My slave does not draw near to Me with anything more beloved to Me than the religious duties I have enjoined upon him, and My slave continues to draw near to Me with supererogatory works so that I will love him, When I love him, I am his hearing with which he hears, he seeing with which he sees, his hand with which he strikes and his foot with which he walks. Were he to ask [something] of Me, I would surely give it to him, and were he to ask Me for refuge, I would surely grant him it.”
The Nāwafil Fast Fall into Various Main Categories:
1- General Voluntary Fast that is not restricted to any particular time or circumstances.
The Muslim may observe a voluntary fast on any day of the year that he wishes, except those which are known to be forbidden, such as the Two Eid Days, on which fasting is haram, and Aiyām Al-Tashrīq (the three days following Eid al-Adha), on which fasting is haram except on Hajj for those who do not have a hadiy (animal for sacrifice). It is not permissible to deliberately singling out Friday for fasting. One of the best forms of voluntary fasting is to fast alternate days for those who are able to do that, as it says in the hadith: “The most beloved solah to Allah is the Solah of Dawud (‘alaihissalam), and the most beloved fasting to Allah is the fasting of Dawud (‘alaihissalam). He used to sleep half the night, stand in Solah for one-third of the night, and sleep for one-sixth, and he used to fast alternate days.” [Al-Bukhari, 1131; Muslim, 1159]. In order for this kind of fasting to be regarded as virtuous, it should not weaken a person and make him unable to do his primary duties, as it says in the hadith: “he used to fast alternate days, and he never ran away from battle (because he used to break his fast at times of jihad).” [Al-Bukhari, 1977; Muslim, 1159]
2 - Specific Voluntary Fast.
These are superior to general voluntary fast, and are of two types:
Firstly: It is fasts which are specific to a type of person, such as young men who cannot get married, guarding chastity as mentioned in the hadith of ‘Abdallah Ibn Mas’ud (radiyallāhu`anhu): “We were young men with the Prophet (Sallallāhu `alayhi wa sallam)and we did not have anything (i.e., we could not afford to get married). The Messenger of Allah (Sallallāhu `alayhi wa sallam) said to us, ‘O young men, whoever among you can afford to get married, then let him do so, for it is more effective in lowering the gaze and guarding chastity. And whoever is not able to do that, then let him fast, for that will be a shield for him.’” [Al-Bukhari, 5066; Muslim, 1400].
This kind of fasting is more emphasized so long as a person is single, and this prescription is more emphatic the more provocation there is. There is no mention of any specific number of days in this case.
Secondly: It is fasts prescribed at specific times, which vary, with some being weekly, some monthly and some annual.
1 - The weekly fasts are on Monday and Thursday, on which days fasting is mustahabb. It was narrated that ‘Aishah (radiyallāhu`anha) said: “The Messenger of Allah (Sallallāhu `alayhi wa sallam) was keen to fast on Mondays and Thursdays.” [An-Nasa’ie, 2320; classified as sahih by Al-Albāni in Sahih Al-Jami’ Al-Sagheer, 4827]. The Prophet (Sallallāhu `alayhi wa sallam) was asked about fasting on Mondays and Thursdays, and he said: “Those are two days on which people’s deeds are shown to the Lord of the Worlds, and I want my deeds to be shown to Him when I am fasting.” [An-Nasa’ie, 2358; Ibn Majah, 1740; Ahmad, 8161; classified as sahih by Al-Albāni in Sahih Al-Jaami’, 1583]. Rasulullah (Sallallāhu `alayhi wa sallam) was asked about fasting on Mondays and he said, “On that day I was born and on that day revelation came to me.” [Muslim, 1162].
2 -With regard to the monthly fasts, it is mustahabb to fast on three days of each month. It was narrated that Abu Hurairah (radiyallāhu`anhu) said: “My close friend [i.e., the Prophet (Sallallāhu `alayhi wa sallam)] advised me to do three things which I will never give up until I die: fasting three days each month, observing Solat Duha, and go to sleep after performing Solat Witir.” [Al-Bukhari, 1178; Muslim, 721]. It is mustahabb to observe this fast in the middle of the hijri month, on the days called Aiyām Al-Beed. It was narrated that Abu Dharr (radiyallāhu`anhu) said: “The Messenger of Allah (Sallallāhu `alayhi wa sallam) said to me, ‘If you fast any part of the month then fast on the thirteenth, fourteenth and fifteenth.’” [An-Nasa’ie, 2424; Ibn Majah, 1707; Ahmad, 210; classified as sahih by Al-Albāni in Sahih Al-Jaami’ Al-Sagheer, 673].
3 - The Annual Voluntary Fast Observed On Specific Days
The specific days include the following:
1. The Day of ‘Ashura’ which is the tenth of Muharram. It was narrated that Ibn ‘Abbas (radiyallāhu`anhu) was asked about fasting on the day of ‘Ashura’. He said, “I do not know of any day on the Messenger of Allah (Sallallāhu `alayhi wa sallam) fasted that was better than this day and any month that was better than this month, meaning Ramadhan.” [Al-Bukhari, 2006; Muslim, 1132]. It is Sunnah to fast the day before or the day after along with ‘Ashura’, in order to be different from the Jews.
2. The Day of ‘Arafah, which is the Ninth Day of Zulhijjah. It is mustahab only for those who are not standing in ‘Arafah itself, as the Messenger of Allah (Sallallāhu `alayhi wa sallam) said concerning the virtue of the three fasts mentioned above: “The observance of three days’ fast every month and that of Ramadhan every year is equivalent to fasting for the entire year. I seek from Allah that fasting on the day of ‘Arafah may atone for the sins of the preceding and the coming years, and I seek from Allah that fasting on the day of ‘Ashura’ may atone for the sins of the preceding year.” [Muslim, 1162].
4. The Periods during Which It Is Sunnah To Observe The Nawafil.
The period of fast include the following:
1. The month of Shawwal. It is Sunnah to fast six days of Shawwal, because the Messenger of Allah (Sallallāhu `alayhi wa sallam) said: “Whoever fasts Ramadhan then fasts six days of Shawwal, it is as if he fasted for a lifetime.” [Muslim, 1164].
2. The month of Muharam: it is Sunnah to fast whatever one can of this month, because of the hadith: “The best of fasting after Ramadhan is the month of Allah Muharram, and the best of prayer after the obligatory prayers is prayer at night [Qiyamulail].” [Muslim, 1163].
3.The month of Sya’ban, as it was narrated that ‘Aishah (radiyallāhu`anha)said: “The Messenger of Allah (Sallallāhu `alayhi wa sallam)used to fast until we thought that he would never break his fast, and he would not fast until we thought that he would never fast. I never saw the Messenger of Allah (Sallallāhu `alayhi wa sallam) fast an entire month apart from Ramadhan, and the month in which I saw him fast the most was Sha’ban. He used to fast all of Sya’ban or all of it apart from a few days.” [Al-Bukhari, 1969; Muslim, 1156].
Muslim who is keen to do good must realize the great virtue of performing voluntary fasts for the sake of Allah, as it says in the hadith of the Prophet (Sallallāhu `alayhi wa sallam): “Whoever fasts one day for the sake of Allah, Allah will keep his face seventy years’ distance from Hell,” [An-Nasa’ie, 2247; classified as sahih by Al-Albani in Sahih Sunan Al-Nasa’ie, 2121]
5 - Forbiddance to Observe Perpetual Fast.
Fasting continually (Siyam Al-Wisal) means that a person fasts for two or more days without breaking the fast, i.e., the fast continues all night and the person does not eat or drink.
The Prophet (Sallallāhu `alayhi wa sallam) used to fast continually, and Allāh gave him the strength to do that, but he forbade his ummah to do that out of compassion and mercy towards them.
Abu Hurayrah (radiyallāhu`anhu) reported:
The Prophet (Sallallāhu `alayhi wa sallam) said: “Do not fast continually.” They said, “But you fast continually.” He said, “I am not like you. I spend my time with my Lord and He gives me food and drink.” They did not stop fasting continually, and the Prophet (Sallallāhu `alayhi wa sallam) fasted continually with them for two or three days, then they saw the new moon, and the Prophet (Sallallāhu `alayhi wa sallam) said: “If the new moon had come later I would have continued my fast” – as if to prove to them that they were not like him and could not continue fasting.
[Al-Bukhari (7299) and Muslim (1103)]
A hadith narrated from Yahya Ibn Abu Kathir who reported:
I and 'Abdullah ibn Yazid set out till we came to Abu Salamah. We sent a messenger to him (in his house in order to inform him about our arrival) and he came to us. There was a mosque near the door of his house, and we were in that mosque, till he came out to us. He said: If you like you may enter (the house) and, if you like, you may sit here (in the mosque). We said: We would rather sit here and (you) relate to us.
Yahya then narrated that 'Abdullah ibn Amr ibn al-‘As (radiyallāhu’anhu) told Abu Salamah:
I (Ibn Amr) used to observe fast uninterruptedly and recited the (whole of the) Qur'ān every night. It was mentioned to Rasūlullāh (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) or he sent for me, and I went to him and he (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said to me: I have been informed that you fast continuously and recite (the whole of the Qur'ān) every night.
I said: O Rasūlullāh, it is right, but I desire thereby nothing but good, whereupon Rasūlullāh Sallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam) said: It suffices for you that you should observe fast for three days during every mouth. I said: O Rasullulāh, I am capable of doing more than this. Rasūlullāh (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said: Your wife has a right upon you, your visitor has a right upon you, your body has a right upon you; so observe the fast of Dawud, the Apostle of Allāh (‘alaihissalam), for he was the best worshipper of Allāh. I said: O Rasūlullāh, what is the fast of Dawud? Rasūlullāh (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said: He used to fast one day and did not fast the other day (fasting on alternate days).
Rasūlullāh (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) (also) said: Recite the Qur'an during every month.
I said: O Rasūlullāh, I am capable of doing more than this, whereupon Rasūlullāh (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said: Recite it in twenty days; recite it in ten days. I said: I am capable of doing more than this, whereupon Rasūlullāh (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said: Recite it every week, and do not exceed beyond this, for your wife has a right upon you, your visitor has a right upon you; your body has a right upon you.
He (Ibn ‘Amr) said: I was hard to myself and thus I was put to hardship. Rasūlullāh (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) had told me: 'You do not know you may live long (thus and bear the hardships for a long time), and I accepted that which Rasūlullāh (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) had told me. When I grew old I wished I had availed myself of the concession (granted by) Rasūlullāh (Sallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam).
This hadith has been narrated by Yahya ibn Abu Kathir with the same chain of transmitters and he made this addition after these words: During every month, (fasting) for three days, there is for you ten times for every good and that is perpetual fasting (for three days would bring a reward for full thirty days). I said: What is the fast of the Apostle of Allāh, Dawūd? He said: Half of the age (observing fast on alternate days for the whole life). And in the hadith no mention has been made of the recital of the Qur'an, and he did not say: Your visitor has a right upon you, but (instead) he said: Your son has a right upon you.
[Sahih Muslim, Book 6, Number 2588]
Abdu'llah ibn 'Amr ibn 'As (radiyallāhu’anhum) reported:
It was conveyed to Rasūlullāh (Sallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam) that I observe fast successively and pray during the whole night. He sent for me or I met him and he (the Holy Prophet) said: It has been conveyed to me that you observe fast continuously and do not break it and pray during the whole night. Don't do that. for there is share for your eyes, share for your own self, share for your family; so observe fast and break it, pray and sleep and observe fast for one day during the ten days, and there is a reward for you (for other) nine (days besides the tenth day of the fast). I said: Rasūlullāh, I find myself more powerful than this. Rasūlullāh (Sallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam) said: Then observe the fast of Dawud (‘alaihissalam). He ('Amr) said: Apostle of Allāh, how did Dawud observe fast? He (Rasūlullāh) said: He (Dawud ‘alaihissalam) used to fast one day and break it on the other day, and he did not run (from the battlefield) as he encountered (the enemy). He said: Apostle of Allāh, who can guarantee this for me (will I also encounter the enemy dauntlessly)? 'Ata', the narrator of the hadith, said: I do not know how there (crept in) the matter of perpetual fast. Rasūlullāh (Sallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam) however, said: “He who observed perpetual fast did not fast at all; he who observed perpetual fast did not fast at all, he who observed perpetual fast did not fast at all.”
This hadith has been narrated by Ibn Juraij with the same chain of transmitters. Imam Muslim has narrated this hadith on the authority of Abu 'Abbas al-Sa'ib ibn Farrukh and he was a trustworthy and reliable (narrator) among the people of Makkah.
[Sahih Muslim Book 6, Number 2591]
'Abdullah ibn 'Amr (radiyallāhu’anhu) reported Rasūlullāh (Sallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam) as saying:
“With Allāh (in the eye of Allāh, the Exalted and Majestic) the best fasting is that of Dawud (‘alaihissalam) and the best solah [is that of Dawud (‘alaihissalam) for he slept half of the night and stood for solah for the third of it and (then) slept the sixth part of it and he observed fast one day and broke on the other (he fasted on alternate days).”
[Sahih Muslim Book 6, Number 2595]
Ibn Qudamah (rahimahullāh) said: Continual fasting is makruh according to the majority of scholars. [Al-Mughni, 4/436]
Imam Al-Nawawi (rahimahullāh) said: The ruling on continual fasting is makruh, and there is no difference of opinion among us concerning it. But is it makruh in the sense of being forbidden or makruh in the sense of being disliked? There are two opinions concerning it … (the more correct of which) according to our companions and the apparent meaning of the statement of Imam al-Shafi’e (rahimahullāh) is that it is makruh in the sense of being forbidden. [Al-Majmu’, 6/357]
Shaykh Ibn ‘Uthaymeen (rahimahullāh) said: It appears that the ruling with regard to continual fasting is that it is harām.
[Al-Sharh al-Mumti’, 6/443]
And, Allāh Almighty Knows best.
[Via Islam Q&A]