With the closing of Ramadan and the end of Eid festivities, many muslimahs, including myself, find themselves facing a confusing dilemma: We want to fast the Six Days of Shawwal and reap its benefits (“Whoever fasts Ramadan then follows it with six days of Shawwal, it will be as if he fasted a lifetime.” Narrated by Muslim, 1164.”) but we have several days of obligatory fasting to make up for, and for some of us, the period of time from one menses to the next is so short that it either makes it difficult, or it’s simply not enough time to do it all (make up days + 6 of Shawwal).
So what’s a girl to do? Are we to just accept that many of us, due to reasons beyond our control, won’t get the benefit of fasting those 6 days? This is a dilemma men don’t face, so how can this be fair?
Initially, I’d been following the advice I was given a few years ago by a shaikhah whose knowledge I respect, and that was to fast the 6 days of Shawwal and then fast my make up days whenever I could throughout the rest of the year. She said this opinion is supported by some of the scholars, citing as their evidence the narration from Aishah – may Allaah be please with her – that she used to make up her obligatory fasts throughout the year all the way up to Sha’ban, the month before Ramadan, and that it was from the distinguishing habits of the companions that they were keen to never leave off performing optional acts of worship, the 6 of Shawwal included. So the conclusion is that since she most likely observed the 6 of Shawwal, and there’s evidence that she was still making up obligatory days until just before the next Ramadan, then it’s permissible for a woman to do just that. This is not to say that fasting the obligatory days first is not better; in fact it is, but this ruling is an exception for those women who find it difficult or impossible to do it that way.
So this is the opinion I’ve been following since that time. I thought it was an easy and fair solution to my dilemma and was satisfied with it. However, something got me to re-thinking the subject this year…I’m not exactly sure what, perhaps just a case of Allaah in His infinite mercy wishing to teach me something, which is always a blessing alhamdu lillaah. I did some reading about it, and in my research I came across an interesting fatwa by Shaykh Ibn Uthaymeen – may Allaah have mercy on him. In it he states that the woman should indeed perform her obligatory make up days before the 6 days of Shawwal, and that if Shawwal ends before she has completed the 6 days, then she can fast them in the following month, Dhul Qi’dah, and still reap the rewards, since her intention was to fast them in Shawwal but she was prevented, and because actions are based on intentions, as the famous hadeeth of Umar bin Alkhattab states. Here is the full text of the fatwa:
Shaykh Ibn ‘Uthaymeen was asked: What if a woman owes days from Ramadaan – is it permissible for her to give precedence to fasting the six days of Shawwaal over making up the days she owes, or should she give priority to the days she owes over fasting the six days of Shawwaal?
He replied: If a woman still owes days from Ramadaan, then she should not fast the six days of Shawwaal until after she has made up what she owes, because the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “Whoever fasts Ramadaan then follows it with six days of Shawwaal…” Whoever still has days to make up from Ramadaan has not fasted Ramadaan, so she will not attain the reward of fasting the six days of Shawwaal until after she has finished making up the days she owes. If we assume that this making up missed fasts lasts throughout Shawwaal, such as if a woman was bleeding following childbirth and did not fast at all in Ramadaan, then she started to make up her missed fasts in Shawaal and did not finish that until Dhu’l-Qa’dah began, then she may fast the six days, and she will have the reward of one who fasted them in Shawwaal, because she delayed it for a necessary reason, so she will have the reward.
Majmoo’ al-Fataawa, 20/19.
I don’t know about everyone else but I am much more inclined to this opinion. For one, Shaikh Ibn Uthaymeen is more knowledgeable than the shaikah I mentioned; and for two, it just makes more sense to me! I still hold the other opinion as valid, and wouldn’t blame a person for following it, but to me, this just sounds more sensible, to me.
It’s always a breath of fresh air learning something new mashaa Allaah, especially when it reinforces one’s faith and conviction that this religion is indeed easy…and fair! Allaahu Akbar!
May Allaah increase us in knowledge that will benefit us and then bless us by causing us to implement that knowledge, ameen. May Allaah accept our fasts and ALL our deeds done sincerely seeking His pleasure, ameen.