Shawwal is the 10th month in the Islamic calendar following the holy month of Ramadan. It is loved worldwide because the first day of the month is celebrated as Eid al-Fitr. Though the 1st day is celebrated as a feast, Muslims keep a 6 day fast just after Eid al-Fitr. It is believed that fasting 6 days after Eid al-Fitr increases the blessings of Ramadan fasting and makes up for any unintentional deficiency left during Ramadan fasting.
‘Shawwal’—derived from the Arabic word Sawaal which means ‘raised’—draws its inspiration from the camels who carry their little one during this time. Additionally, it also means breakage/uplift, as, before the establishment of Islam, Arab tribes believed that marriages held in the month of Shawwal would always be unsuccessful.
Shawwal is the tenth month of the Islamic lunar calendar, following the sacred month of Ramadan. It holds a unique place in the hearts of Muslims due to its association with Eid al-Fitr, the festival marking the end of Ramadan’s fasting, and the opportunity to continue acts of worship and good deeds initiated during Ramadan. Here, we explore the significance, traditions, and interesting facts about Shawwal.
Significance of Shawwal
- Eid al-Fitr: Shawwal begins with the celebration of Eid al-Fitr on its first day, a joyous occasion that marks the end of Ramadan. Eid al-Fitr is a time of communal prayers, feasting, and giving charity (Zakat al-Fitr), fostering a sense of brotherhood and gratitude.
- Six Days of Shawwal Fasting: The Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) recommended fasting six days in Shawwal, following the fast of Ramadan. This practice is highly meritorious and is considered as if one has fasted perpetually.
- Hadith Reference: “مَن صَامَ رَمَضَانَ ثُمَّ أَتْبَعَهُ سِتًّا مِنْ شَوَّالٍ كَانَ كَصِيَامِ الدَّهْرِ”
- Translation: “Whoever fasts Ramadan and then follows it with six days of Shawwal, it will be as if they fasted for a lifetime.” (Muslim)
Traditions of Shawwal
- Performing Eid al-Fitr Prayer: The Eid prayer is performed in congregation on the first morning of Shawwal, symbolizing unity and offering thanks to Allah for the strength to complete the fast of Ramadan.
- Paying Zakat al-Fitr: Before the Eid prayer, Muslims are obliged to give a specific amount of charity known as Zakat al-Fitr. This act ensures that even the poor can celebrate the day of Eid.
- Fasting Six Days of Shawwal: It is a recommended Sunnah to fast six days in Shawwal. These days do not need to be consecutive, and their fast can be observed any time during Shawwal.
- Marriages in Shawwal: Contrary to pre-Islamic superstitions that considered Shawwal an inauspicious time for marriage, Islamic tradition encourages marriages in this month, reflecting the Prophet Muhammad’s (ﷺ) own practices.
- Hadith Reference: The Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) married Aisha (رضي الله عنها) in Shawwal, indicating the month’s auspiciousness for marriages and dispelling superstitions.
Facts about Shawwal
- Name Origin: The name ‘Shawwal’ is derived from the Arabic root “شَوَّلَ”, which relates to the lifting or carrying of a tail, possibly referring to the time of year when camels would normally be in heat or the lifting of the harsh conditions experienced during the previous months.
- A Time for Renewed Spiritual Commitments: Shawwal offers a transitional period where Muslims are encouraged to maintain the momentum of worship and good deeds from Ramadan into the rest of the year.
- Social and Communal Harmony: The celebrations and gatherings during Eid al-Fitr and the engagements and marriages often held in Shawwal promote social cohesion and family ties within the Muslim community.
- Historical Events: While not as historically packed as other Islamic months, Shawwal marks the beginning of the Islamic lunar “post-Ramadan” period, focusing on spiritual rejuvenation and continuation of the worship practices established in Ramadan.
Shawwal carries a blend of spiritual, social, and cultural significance that extends the vitality of Ramadan into the rest of the year. It encourages Muslims to continue striving for spiritual growth, communal unity, and the practice of charity. The traditions and practices of Shawwal serve as a bridge, connecting the intense devotion of Ramadan with the sustained worship and good deeds that characterize a Muslim’s life throughout the year.
Importance of Shawwal for Muslims
Fasting in the Ramzan month is one of the pillars of Islam. However, the month of Shawwal is also of special importance to the Muslims. It is during this month that Allah has bestowed the Eid-ul-Fitr celebration. The event is considered to be Allah’s reward for the successful completion of Ramzan.
THE SIX NAFL FASTS OF SHAWWAL
Hazrat Abî Ayyub Radiallâhu anhu relates that Rasulullâh Sallallâhu ‘alayhi wasallam has said: “Whoever fasted the full month of Ramadhân and then follows it with six soum[fasts] of Shawwâl, is like the person who has fasted the full year.” (Sahih Muslim)
In another Hadîth it is related that by observing these six fasts after Ramadhân all defaults and sins are forgiven. The reward of every good deed is tenfold or more. The thawâb of the month of Ramadhân is equal to that of ten months and that of these six voluntary siyam are equal to that of the remaining two months to complete the full year. These fast could be kept continuously after Eid-ul‑Fitr or separately during the month of Shawwâl.
Fasting during Shawwal holds a special place in Islamic practice, rooted in the teachings of Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ). After the month of Ramadan, Muslims are encouraged to fast six additional days during Shawwal, the tenth month of the Islamic lunar calendar. This practice, though not obligatory, is highly recommended and comes with significant spiritual benefits.
The Basis for Shawwal Fasting
The encouragement to fast six days of Shawwal is based on the Hadith of Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ), where he said:
“مَن صَامَ رَمَضَانَ ثُمَّ أَتْبَعَهُ سِتًّا مِنْ شَوَّالٍ كَانَ كَصِيَامِ الدَّهْرِ”
“Whoever fasts Ramadan and then follows it with six days of Shawwal, it will be as if they fasted for a lifetime.” (Muslim)
Significance and Benefits
- Spiritual Reward Equivalent to Fasting a Lifetime: The Hadith mentions that fasting the six days of Shawwal, along with the month of Ramadan, equates to fasting for an entire year, given that good deeds are rewarded tenfold in Islam. This is based on the Islamic principle that each good deed is rewarded ten times its equivalent, making the fast of Ramadan (30 days) as if fasting 300 days, and adding six days of Shawwal completes the year (360 days in the Islamic lunar calendar).
- Continuation of Spiritual Momentum: Fasting six days in Shawwal helps Muslims maintain the spiritual discipline and momentum gained during Ramadan. It acts as a post-Ramadan spiritual practice that ensures the continuation of worship habits developed in the preceding month.
- Opportunity for Those Who Missed Fasting Days: For individuals who missed certain days of fasting during Ramadan due to valid reasons, fasting in Shawwal offers an opportunity to continue engaging in acts of worship and gain additional spiritual rewards.
How to Observe Shawwal Fasting
- Intention (Niyyah): Like all acts of worship in Islam, fasting requires making an intention. Muslims intending to fast should make the niyyah either the night before or at Suhoor time before dawn.
- Flexibility in Observance: The six days of fasting in Shawwal do not need to be consecutive. Muslims can choose any six days throughout the month to fast, based on their convenience and capacity.
- Combining Intentions: For those who need to make up missed fasts from Ramadan, scholars have differing opinions on whether one can combine the intention of making up a missed fast with the six Shawwal fasts. It’s advisable to consult with knowledgeable religious authorities or scholars for guidance on this matter.
- Exemptions: Similar to the fast of Ramadan, the usual exemptions apply for the sick, elderly, pregnant, or breastfeeding women, and those on a journey, with the expectation that they can make up the fasts if and when they are able.
Fasting six days during Shawwal is a practice that exemplifies the beauty of Islamic worship, where acts of devotion seamlessly blend with opportunities for spiritual growth and renewal. This practice encourages Muslims to extend the discipline and spiritual benefits of Ramadan throughout the year, fostering a continual connection with Allah and the principles of patience, gratitude, and submission to His will.
Umrah in Shawwal
Performing Umrah during the month of Shawwal is a practice embraced by many Muslims worldwide, capitalizing on the spiritual momentum gained during Ramadan. Umrah, often referred to as the “lesser pilgrimage” in comparison to Hajj, is a non-obligatory but highly meritorious act of worship that can be performed at any time of the year, including Shawwal. The performance of Umrah involves a series of ritual acts performed in and around the Kaaba in Makkah, Saudi Arabia.
Significance of Performing Umrah in Shawwal
- Continuation of Spiritual Journey: For many, performing Umrah in Shawwal is a way to extend the heightened spiritual state and devotion experienced during Ramadan. It represents a continuation of the worship and reflection that characterize the holy month.
- Reward and Virtue: Although there’s no specific hadith stating that performing Umrah in Shawwal has a unique reward, the general virtues of Umrah apply. The Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) said: “العمرة إلى العمرة كفارة لما بينهما” – “From one Umrah to the next is expiation for sins committed in between.” (Bukhari and Muslim) This highlights the importance and benefit of performing Umrah, including during Shawwal, as a means of seeking forgiveness and spiritual renewal.
- Ease and Accessibility: For many pilgrims, the period following Ramadan, including Shawwal, may offer practical advantages, such as less congestion compared to the Hajj season, potentially making the journey and rites of Umrah more accessible and spiritually fulfilling.
Performing Umrah: Rituals and Practices
The rites of Umrah consist of a series of prescribed actions, including:
- Ihram: Entering into a state of Ihram (sacred state) from the Miqat (designated station of entering Ihram) by wearing the prescribed attire and making the intention for Umrah.
- Tawaf: Circumambulating the Kaaba seven times, starting at the Black Stone (Hajar al-Aswad), in a counterclockwise direction.
- Sa’i: Walking seven times between the hills of Safa and Marwah, reenacting Hajar’s search for water for her son, Isma’il.
- Halq or Taqsir: Shaving or shortening the hair to signify the completion of Umrah.
Considerations for Performing Umrah in Shawwal
- Planning and Preparation: Given that Shawwal follows the busy month of Ramadan, those intending to perform Umrah should plan their trip well in advance, considering visa requirements, travel arrangements, and accommodation.
- Spiritual Preparation: Pilgrims are encouraged to prepare spiritually for Umrah by seeking knowledge about the rites, making sincere repentance, and engaging in acts of worship and charity prior to their journey.
- Health and Physical Readiness: Given the physical nature of the Umrah rites, ensuring one’s health and fitness to perform the rituals is important. This includes staying hydrated and being prepared for the hot climate of Makkah, especially during the summer months.
Performing Umrah in Shawwal is a spiritually rewarding experience that allows Muslims to extend the devotion and reflection of Ramadan into the subsequent month. It offers an opportunity for spiritual cleansing, renewal, and the chance to perform acts of worship in the holy city of Makkah. While Umrah can be performed at any time of the year, doing so in Shawwal harnesses the spiritual energy post-Ramadan, making it a preferred time for many believers to embark on this blessed journey.