Could you please relay the Hadith which states that the ajar [I.e. reward] of fasting 6 days in the month of Shawwaal is equivalent to that of fasting the whole year? I have not been able to locate it.
Muslim, Tirmidhi, Abu Dawood, Ibn Maajah, Ahmad ibn Hanbal and Daarimiy report the referred narrative. However, it may be of interest to note that the narrative does not (except in one reporting) state that the reward of fasting six days during the month of Shawwaal, in addition to the month of Ramadhan is equivalent to that of fasting the whole year. On the contrary, the narrative states that a person who fasts the month of Ramadhan and six days during the month of Shawwaal is as if he has fasted for the whole year.
If we look at the content of all the narratives on the referred topic, it seems that subject matter of this narrative is not to describe the reward of fasting six days of Shawwaal or that of Ramadhan; it is actually to promote a balanced approach toward life. Man, as we know, has the tendency of being driven by instinct and thereby disturbing the natural balance in his everyday life affairs. It seems that the referred narrative is actually an advice of the Prophet (pbuh) to promote and maintain the natural balance in one’s life. This apparently seems to be the case in one of the narratives reported by Tirmidhi and Abu Dawood. According to this narrative, a person asked for the Prophet (pbuh)’s permission to fast for the whole year, without break. The Prophet (pbuh) replied:
Indeed your wife has a right on you. Fast during the month of Ramadhan and then [six days] during the month that follows and then on Wednesdays and Thursdays. If you can maintain this, it would be as if you fasted the whole year.
In my opinion, as I have stated earlier, this narrative does not tell us about the reward of fasting during Ramadhan and then subsequently during Shawwaal. It actually teaches us to maintain the natural balance in our affairs. As it is quite possible that a person may get carried away to earn the extraordinary reward attached to fasting and start fasting continuously. In doing so, there is a good chance that he may ignore the duties that nature has imposed on him regarding his own self, his family members, his society and his nation. It is in this context that the Prophet’s referred advice should, in my opinion, be understood.
28th December 1999