The Prophet (pbuh) stated in an authentic hadith, “Whoever fasts the month of Ramadan and then follows it with six days from Shawwāl then it will be as if they fasted the entire year.” There are many things that can be benefited from this hadith, a few of them are as follows:
– It is the practice of the Prophet to fast at least six days in Shawwāl in order to acquire the benefit mentioned in the hadith.
– Fasting is one of the greatest types of worship and the reward for it is with God, as mentioned in the hadith qudsi, “Fasting is for Me and I reward for it.” Therefore, Ramadan gives us a yearly chance to make fasting part of our regular routine of worship. It is well established that the Prophet (pbuh) used to regularly fast Mondays and Thursdays, as well as the three “white days,” (the middle days of the month when the moon is fullest) and that he would also encourage others to do so as well. If one fasts the month of Ramadan and then follows that with six days in the following month then they are well on their way to establishing fasting as part of their regular routine.
– The reward of carrying out these fasts is equivalent to fasting the entire year. This is clarified in another tradition where the Prophet (pbuh) reminds us after stating the reward of fasting these days that the reward of good deeds is multiplied by ten. This is one of the secrets behind the reward of this action because in carrying out the fast of Ramadan and six days in Shawwāl the person would have fasted roughly 36 days, which, when multiplied by ten, equates to 360 days.
Make up Missed Days of Ramadan First or Not?
There a couple of things to consider when thinking about this question.
The first is that it is not required to make up missed days of Ramadan immediately. It is necessary that one make them up before the next Ramadan but they may do that at any point throughout the year.
The second issue is that the hadith mentions that the person who fasts Ramadan and then follows it with six days of fasting in the month after, then it will be as if they fasted the whole year. This implies that one would have to finish the fasts of Ramadan before starting the six of Shawwāl. As such, a number of scholars required the completion of the missed days of Ramadan before the six of Shawwāl in order to receive the reward mentioned in the hadith. However, this is an area of disagreement amongst the scholars and if the person wants to fast the six days before making up their missed fasts of Ramadan in order to follow the sunnah then that is also okay.
The third issue is as to whether or not one can combine intentions between making up their fasts from Ramadan and fasting the six days of Shawwāl. Some scholars have held that it is permissible to subsume the intention of a voluntary deed under an obligatory one and as such this would be acceptable. However, they also noted that the one who did this for these days would receive the reward of following the sunnah of fasting six days in Shawwāl, but their overall reward would be less than the one who makes up their missed fasts and then fasts the six days.
Fasting the six days of Shawwāl is a meritorious sunnah which should be followed as much as possible. The best case scenario is to make up any missed days from Ramadan first and then fast the six days. However, if this is not possible or very difficult upon the person then they can either fast the six days first and then make up their missed days later or combine intentions between making those days up and completing the six days of Shawwāl.
One should also remember that in voluntary fasts the intention is not required from the night before and as long as the intention to fast is made before midday and the person has not done anything up to that point that would invalidate the fast then it is acceptable.
And God knows best.