The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, has exhorted us to observe some voluntary fasts during the following days: six days of the month of Shawwal, first ten days of Dhul-Hijjah for those not performing the pilgrimage, the month of Muharram.

1-Six Days of The Month of Shawwal:

Abu Ayyub Al-Ansari reported that the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, said: “Whoever fasts during the month of Ramadan and then follows it with six days of Shawwal will be [rewarded] as if he had fasted the entire year.” (Related by “the group,” except for Al-Bukhari and An-Nasa’i.)

According to Ahmad, one may fast on these days consecutively or nonconsecutive, as neither practice is preferred over the other.

Hanafiyyah and Shaf`iyyah maintain that it is preferable to fast on consecutive days after the `Eid.

2-The First Ten Days of Dhul-Hijjah, Especially The Day of `Arafah, for Non-pilgrims:

Abu Qatadah reported that the Messenger of Allah said: “Fasting on the day of `Arafah is an expiation for two years, the year preceding it and the year following it. Fasting the day of `Ashurah is an expiation for the year preceding it.” This is related by “the group,” except for al-Bukhari and At-Tirmidhi.

`Uqbah ibn `Amr reported that the Messenger of Allah said: “The day of `Arafah, the day of sacrifice, and the days of Tashreeq are `Eids for us-Muslims-and they are days of eating and drinking.” (Related by “the five,” except Ibn Majah. At-Tirmidhi grades it Authentic.)

Abu Hurairah stated: “The Messenger of Allah forbade fasting on the day of ‘Arafah for one who is actually at `Arafah.” (Related by Ahmad, Abu Dawud, An-Nasa’i, and Ibn Majah. At-Tirmidhi comments: “The scholars prefer that the day of `Arafah be fasted unless one is actually at `Arafah (i.e. performing pilgrimage).”

3-Fasting during the month of Muharram, especially the day of `Ashurah and The Preceding and Following Days:

Abu Hurairah reported: “I asked the Prophet: ‘Which prayer is the best after the obligatory prayers?’ He said: ‘Prayer during the middle of the night.’ I asked: ‘Which fast is the best after the fast of Ramadan?’ He said, ‘The month of Allah that you call Muharram.’ ” (Related by Ahmad, Muslim, and Abu Dawud.)

Mu`awiyyah ibn Abu Sufyan reported that he heard the Messenger of Allah saying: “Concerning the day of `Ashurah, it is not obligatory upon you to fast on it as I do. Whoever wishes may fast and whoever does not wish to is not obliged to do so.” (Related by al-Bukhari and Muslim.)

`Aishah stated: “The tribe of Quraish used to fast on the day of `Ashurah in the days before Islam, as did the Prophet. When he came to Madinah, he still fasted on it and ordered the people to do likewise. Then, when fasting during the month of Ramadan became obligatory, he said: ‘Whoever wishes may fast [`Ashurah] and whoever wishes may leave it.’” (Related by Al-Bukhari and Muslim.)

According to al-Bukhari and Muslim, Musa Al-Ash`ari reported: “The Jews would honor the day of `Ashurah as an festival. The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, said: ‘You [Muslims] are to fast on it.'” Ibn ‘Abbas reported: “The Messenger of Allah fasted on the day of `Ashurah and ordered the people to fast on it. The people said: ‘O Messenger of Allah, it is a day that the Jews and Christians honor.’ The Prophet said, ‘When the following year comes-Allah willing–we shall fast on the ninth.’ The death of the Prophet came before the following year.” (Recorded by Muslim and Abu Dawud.) In one version the wording is: “If I remain until next year, we shall fast the ninth,” meaning, in addition to the the tenth. (Related by Muslim and Abu Dawud.)

The scholars have mentioned that the fast of `Ashurahis of three levels:

1. Fasting three days–that is, on the 9th, 10th, and 11th of Muharram;

2. Fasting on the 9th and 10th; and

3. Fasting only on the 10th.

4. Fasting Most of The Month of Sha`ban:

The Prophet would fast most of the month of Sha`ban. `Aishah said: “I never saw the Messenger of Allah fast a complete month save for Ramadan, and I have never seen him fast more in a month than he did in Sha`ban.” (Related by Al-Bukhari and Muslim.)

Usama ibn Zaid inquired: “O Messenger of Allah, I never find you fasting in any month like you do during the month of Sha`ban.” The Prophet responded: “That is a month the people neglect. It comes between Rajab and Ramadan. It is a month in which the deeds are raised to the Lord of the Worlds. I love that my deeds be raised while I am fasting.” (Related by Abu Dawud, An-Nasa’i, and by Ibn Khuzaimah in his Authentic.)

Some people fast on the 15th of Sha`ban in particular, thinking that that day contains more virtues than the other days. This is an unsubstantiated claim.

5. Fasting During The “Forbidden” Months:

The “forbidden” months (during which killing is forbidden) are Dhul-Qi`dah, Dhul-Hijjah, Muharram, and Rajab. It is preferred to fast a lot during these months.

A man from the tribe of Bahila came to the Prophet and said: “O Messenger of Allah, I am the man who came to you during the first year.” The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, said: “What has changed you? You used to be much more handsome!” He answered: “I did not eat save during the night since I left you.” The Messenger of Allah asked: “Why did you punish yourself? Fast during the month of patience [that is, Ramadan] and then one day of every month.” The man said: “Add something to that for me, for I have more strength than that.” The Prophet responded: “Fast two days [a month].” The man said: “Add more for me.” The Prophet said three times: “Fast from the forbidden months, then leave fasting.” He pointed with three of his fingers by clenching them and releasing them. (Recorded by Ahmad, Abu Dawud, Ibn Majah, and Al-Baihaqi with a good chain.)

Fasting during Rajab contains no more virtue than during any other month. There is no sound report from the Sunnah that states that it has a special reward. All that has been related concerning it is not strong enough to be used as a proof. Ibn Hajar says: “There is no authentic hadith related to its virtues, not fasting during it or on certain days of it, nor concerning exclusively making night prayers during that month.”

6. Fasting Mondays and Thursdays:

Abu Hurairah reported that the most the Prophet would fast would be Monday and Thursday. He was asked about that and he said: “The actions are presented on every Monday and Thursday. Allah forgives every Muslim or every believer, except for those who are boycotting each other. He says [about them]: ‘Leave them.’ ” (Related by Ahmad with an Authentic chain.) It is recorded in Sahih Muslim that the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, when asked about fasting on Monday, said: “That is the day on which I was born and the day on which I received revelations.”

7. Fasting Three Days of Every Month:

Abu Dharr Al-Ghafari reported: “The Messenger of Allah ordered us to fast for three days of every month–that is, on the days of the full moon (the 13th, 14th, and 15th of the lunar month). And he said: ‘It is like fasting the whole year.’ ” (Related by An-Nasa’i and by Ibn Hibban, who graded it Authentic.)

It is related that the Prophet would fast on Saturday, Sunday, and Monday of one month and on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday of the next month. He would also fast for three days at the beginning of the month, or on the first Thursday and the next two Mondays of the month.

A Person Performing Voluntary Fasting Can Break His Fast:

Umm Hani reported that the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, entered her room during the day of the conquest of Makkah. He was offered something to drink and he drank from it. Then he offered it to Umm Hani and she said: “I am fasting.” The Prophet said: “The one who is fasting voluntarily is in charge of himself. If you wish you may fast and if you wish you may break your fast.” (Recorded by Ahmad, Ad-Daraqutni, and Al-Baihaqi.)

Abu Said Al-Khudri said: “I prepared food for the Prophet. He came to me with some of his Companions. When the food was laid out, one of the men said: ‘I am fasting.’ The Messenger of Allah said: ‘Your brother has invited you and incurred expenses in your behalf.’ Then he asked [him], ‘Break your fast and fast another day in its place if you wish.’ ” (Related by Al-Baihaqi. Al-Haafidh says it is of a Sound chain.)

Most scholars maintain that one who is performing a voluntary fast can break it. It is, however, preferred to make up that day later on. The preceding view is clear and authentic hadith are support for that position.