And just like that, an entire month of fasting has gone by. Even though the thought of fasting for weeks on end may have felt intimidating before Ramadan began, many of us simply blinked and time was up. We have been left with a profound sense of bitter-sweetness now that the month is over. “What do I do next?” we may ask ourselves, “How can I maintain that spirit of Ramadan?”
The Prophet ﷺ gave us the solution we need when he encouraged us to fast 6 days in the month that immediately follows Ramadan: Shawwal.
Fasting the 6 days of Shawwal is not obligatory, but voluntarily carried out in hope of its reward. Plus, you do not have to fast these days consecutively either–fasting any six days within the month is acceptable.
[Check out this video for some other common questions about Shawwal.]
So what are the benefits of fasting in Shawwal?
1. You get the reward for fasting the entire year
The Prophet ﷺ said, “Whoever fasts Ramadan and then follows it with six [days] from Shawwal, it’s as if they have fasted a year” [Sahih Muslim].
Scholars explain that this is because Allah promises us 10 times the reward for every deed that we do. So fasting one month of Ramadan is equivalent to 10 months of fasting, while fasting 6 days of Shawwal is equivalent to 60 days (i.e., 2 months), totally an entire year of fasting.
Imagine what this means for those who follow their Ramadan fasting with 6 days of Shawwal every year: they will meet Allah as if they have fasted their entire lifetime!
2. You can revive the Ramadan spirit
Bring the Ramadan spirit to your Shawwal fasting by encouraging friends and family to fast with you. That way, you can motivate one another while also experiencing the communal joy of breaking fast together.
3. You can help make up for any of your shortcomings in Ramadan
The Prophet ﷺ tells us, “The first thing for which a person will be brought to account on the Day of Resurrection will be their prayer. If it is complete, then the voluntary (prayers) will also be recorded for them (as an increase). If it is not complete then Allah will say to His angels: ‘Look and see whether you find any voluntary prayers for My slave, and take them to make up what is lacking from their obligatory prayers.’ Then all their deeds will be reckoned in like manner.” [Sunan Ibn Majah]
Our voluntary fasts will be used on the Day of Judgement to both increase us in our good deeds as well as make amends for any of our deficiencies when we fasted Ramadan.
4. You can maintain your momentum after Ramadan and build long term habits
After spending a month excelling in good deeds, many of us feel like it’s impossible to continue that lifestyle after Ramadan is over. But that was never the point. Ramadan serves as an opportunity to reset. As the Prophet ﷺ promises us, if we complete our worship in true faith throughout the month, then we leave the month with our sins forgiven. With a clean slate and reinvigorated energy, we have the ideal momentum to transform some of our Ramadan practices into habits.
For example, spread your six days of fasting throughout Shawwal. Perhaps you fast every Monday and Thursday, and/or during the three middle days of the month–both of which were practices of the Prophet ﷺ. This helps you plant the seeds for a long term habit of fasting on those days. Remember, the Prophet ﷺ emphasized that Allah loves actions that are consistent, even if they’re small. Slow and steady wins the race.
[For more tips on how to build habits, check out our video series.]
5. You build an attitude of gratitude
One of the spiritual benefits of fasting is that it nurtures gratitude in the heart of the believer. The more often we fast, the more spiritually aware we become of Allah’s favors in our lives. Abstaining from food and drink reminds us that these too are blessings from Allah that we take for granted. Find out more ways to making gratitude a consistent feature in your life by downloading our Shukr journal.
For those who are unable to fast due to health or other reasons, you still have plenty of opportunities to reap some of these rewards. Check out our video mashup for other ways to beat the post-Ramadan blues and make the most of the year ahead of you.