THE very nature of the understanding of Islam is to differentiate between what is obligatory and what is optional, and between what is forbidden and what is simply disliked but not forbidden. One must ?rst attend to abandoning what is forbidden and to establishing the obligations, and then one can advance to doing those things that are recommended.
The only fasts that are forbidden are to fast on any of the �Eid days, except for people perfomiing Hajj who may have to fast during the �Bid al-Adha. Those people who perform Hajj al-Tamattu and who do not sacrifice an animal should fast three days, adding another seven when they return to their homes. This is because Allah, exalted is He, says,
If anyone wishes to continue the Umrah on to the Hajj, He must make an offering such as he can a?brd. But if he cannot afford it, he should fast three days during the Hajj and seven days on his return, rnaking ten days in all. (2:196)
It is permissible to fast on any other day of the year, but it is disliked to single out a Saturday or Sunday for fasting since they are the sacred days of the Jews and Christians. It is also disliked to fast every day Without a break. Because of a well-known hadith some of the �ulama also disapprove of singling out Friday for fasting without joining either Thursday or Saturday to it. It is disapproved to fast on the day of doubt, which is the last day of Sha�ban, as a day of Ramadan when there is no decisive sighting of the moon confirmed by someone in authority.
Fard (Obligatory fasts)
These are only the fast of Ramadan.
Sunnah (Recommended Fasts)Ashura�
The strongly con?rmed smmah (ml/Vakkadah) is the fast of Ashura� on the tenth of Muharram, although there is no wrong action if it is not kept. It commemorates the Children of Israel and Musa being saved from Fir�awn and the Egyptians.
Ibn Abbas said, �When the Prophet came to Madinah he for/md the jews fasting �Ashura. They were asked about it and they said, �Wis is the day on which Allah gave Musa and the Children of Israel victory over Fir�awn, and wefast it in order to exalt it.� The Prophet, thereupon, said, �we have more right to Musa than you,� and he gave the command to fast it. (Bukhari)
Mustahabb (Recommended Fasts)
There are a number ofdifferent optional extra fasts that are Well known in the surmah and are recommended by the Prophet m�-it and so are highly meritorious. Again, there is no wrong action if they are not kept.The Sacred Months
This refers to fasting any or all of the four Sacred months � Dhu�l- Qa�dah, Dhu�l-Hiijah, Muharram and Rajah � and Sha�ban, the month immediately prior to Ramadan. Because this is an optional fast, it is permissible to leave it out entirely or do as much of it as is possible.The First Ten Days of Dhu�l-Hijjah
It is especially meritorious to Fast these ten days, often thought to be the ten mentioned in Surat al-Fajr:The First Ten Days of Dhu�l-Hijjah
It is especially meritorious to Fast these ten days, often thought to be the ten mentioned in Surat al-Fajr:
�By the dawn and ten nights.� (89:1-2)
Hafsah reported that the Prophet used to fast the ?irst) nine days of Dhu�l Hiijah. (An-Nasa�i, Ahmad and Abu Dawud)
Another well-known fast is the ninth of Dhu�l�Hi_ijah, the day of �Arejah. Abu Qatadah narrated that the Messenger of Allah said:
Three days from every month, and Ramadan up to Ramadan: this is [equivalent to] fasting all the time. And fasting on �Ara?ih, I anticipate from Allah that it will expiate the year before it and the year ajifer it. And the fast if �Ashara, I anticipatefrom Allah that it will expiate the year before it. (Abu Dawud)
Just to fast these days carries such a tremendous reward that fasting the day of �Arafah makes up for the wrong actions not only of the previous year but also of the coming year, and �Ashara makes up for the wrong actions of the previous year.
Also the Prophet clari?ed in this hadith that to fast Ramadan each year and to fast three days every month is equivalent to fasting continuously. That is because the reward of every good action is multiplied at least ten-fold, and so the three days in each month are equivalent to thirty days, i.e. to an entire month.Six Days of Shawwal
By adding the six days of fasting during Shawwal to the fasting of Ramadan, the reward of a full year of fasting can be earned, insha�Allah. These fasts may be kept consecutively or at intervals during the month of Shawwal, i.e. spread out over the month.
Mondays and Thursdays
Abu Ayyah narrates that the Prophet said, �Whoever fasted the full month of Ramaolan and then follows it with the six fasts ofShawwal, is like a person who has fasted the fall year. � (At�Targhib)
It is also recommended to fast on Mondays and Thursdays since the Prophet used to sometimes do this. When asked about it, he said:
Na? (Voluntary Fasts)
Deeds are presented on every Monday and Thursday. Allah forgives every Mitslim or every believer, except for those who shun each other. He says [about them]: �Leave thern.� (Ahmad)
A hadith that is a basis for action in respect to optional acts in general is that which Imam an-Nawawi included in his collection of Forty:
Abu Huraira narrated that �The Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless with hirn and grant hirn peace, said, �Allah, exalted is He, said, �...My slave does not draw closer to Me with anything more beloved to Me than that which I have made obligatory upon him. My slave continues to draw closer to Me with optional extra acts until I love hirn. ���
Thus the most beloved act to Allah is what He has made an obligation for us. By doing extra after that, Muslims aspire to draw closer to Him.
Among the virtues of fasting is that Allah has designated one of the gates of the Garden solely for those Who frequently fast. The Prophet said:
�There is a gate in the Garden called ar-Rayyan, which those who jast will enter through on the Day of Rising, and none except them shall enter through it. It will be said, �%ere are those who used to fast?� They will stand up, and none except thern will enter through it. Upon entry, that gate will be closed and no one else will enter through it.� (Bukhari)
Therefore it is good practice not to forget fasting as an act of worship outside of Ramadan as Well.
lbn juzayy al-Kalbi, Al-Qawanin al-Fiqhiyyah, Dar al-Kitab al-Arabi, Beirut