GREATNESS OF SHAWWAL By Prof. SULAIMAN A. OSHO

In the name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful. Praise be to Allah, the Cherisher and Sustainer of the worlds; Most Gracious, Most Merciful; Master of the Day of Judgment. Thee alone do we worship, and Thine aid we seek. Guide us in the right path. The path of those on whom Thou hast bestowed Thy Grace, Not the path of those who have gone astray (Qur’an 1: 1 – 7). The Almighty Allah says in Qur’an 2:21-22, “O ye people! adore your Guardian-Lord who created you and those who came before you that ye may have the chance to learn righteousness. Who has made the earth your couch and the heaven your canopy; and sent down rain from the heavens; and brought forth therewith fruits for your sustenance; then set not up rivals unto God when ye know (the truth)”?

The Festival of Fast-breaking (Eid-l-Fitr) no doubt serves as the end of the Ramadan fast. It falls on the first day of Shawwal, the tenth month of the Muslim year. This is a Day of peace and Thanksgiving; A Day of forgiveness and moral victory; A day of good harvest and remarkable achievements; and a day of festive remembrance. The ‘Eid day is indeed all of these and much more; because it is a Day of ISLAM, a Day of Allah.

But there are other benefits in this month of Shawwal. It serves as one of the months of hajj when the journey to the Holy lands of Mecca and Medina in Saudi Arabia begins. (Q. 2:197). It is the month when all Faithfuls from different parts of the world troop out in large numbers toward the holy mosque in the city of Monotheism in the world for the annual congregation of Muslims for the hajj. Through Zul-Qa'da, the rites of hajj only reach its peak in the first ten days of Zul-Hijjah, the 12th lunar month especially when the concourse of pilgrims are performed on the 8th, 9th and 10th of that month. But the journey for the world convention where not less than fifteen million Muslims converge annually to worship Allah begins in Shawwal.

That is why it is important for the Nigerian Government should be alive to its responsibilities on the citizenry, especially the greater percentage of the populace, the Muslims to allow them perform the hajj without any form of exploitation or suffering. Hence, rather than subject them to exchange their money through the Autonomous Foreign Exchange market that is unstable, it is important to allow Nigerian pilgrims to exchange at the official rate of in the banking sector. It is out of place to make the Muslim pilgrims exchange their Basic Travel Allowance (BTA) in the autonomous market. More so, when this religious duty is an obligatory act commanded by Allah and not self-imposed or adduced to be good as some other do.

Another spiritual benefit of the 10th lunar month of Shawwal is the six days of fasting called Sittu-Min Shawwal. It is practiced by the Holy Prophet Muhammed (SAW) and recommended it for the Faithfuls. According to the tradition (Sunnah) of Rosulullahi, any Muslim, that could fast extra six days in the month of Shawwal after the full fast in the month of Ramadan will enjoy special treatment in paradise. Also, such a believer will be rewarded as though he observed fast for a full one-year consecutively.

At least the Prophet (SAW) says for every good deed there are ten rewards. And ten rewards multiplied by 30 days of fast in the month of Ramadan will give us 300 days while six days of fast in the month of Shawwal multiplied by ten rewards will give us 60 days. The total will be 360 days giving us extra rewards as the total number of days in the Muslim lunar calendar year is 354 days.

Thus, this month of Shawwal provides another golden opportunity for the Muslims to move closer to Allah. It provides another big spiritual benefit for the Faithfuls in the Unity of Allah that least exists in any other religion. It provides another big moment for us to uplift ourself spiritually so that our prayers may be granted by Allah. The Sittu Min-Shawwal gives us another golden chance to fast and pray fervently so that we may have satisfaction of mind, peace for our immediate communities and the country in general.

The month of Shawwal is to further check us from heinous acts, and tame our behaviour through the six days of fasting which may be staggered or observed consecutively at a stretch as practiced by the Holy Prophet Muhammed (SAW). We should endeavour to observe it. And to remember Nigeria in this trying period so that we may all repent our sins, desist from wasteful spending and extravagance, having absolute confidence in the Almighty Allah as the only solution to our socio-economic and political problems, and to resolve to be good and committed to Him alone. Abu Ayyub reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “Whoever fasts the month of Ramadan and then follows it with six days of fasting in the month of Shawwal, it will be as if he fasted for the entire year” (Source: Sahiḥ Muslim 1164).

Meanwhile, Shawwal is singled out for the observance of extra fasts, since this month follows immediately after Ramadan. The six days of voluntary fasting are to the obligatory fast of Ramadan what the Sunnah prayers are to the obligatory prayers. Thawban reported that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “The fast of Ramadan is like observing 10 months of fasting. Fasting six days of Shawwal is like observing two months of fasting. This together is like fasting throughout the year” (Sahih Ibn Khuzaymah, Sunan Al-Nasai Al-Kubra; authenticated by Al-Albani). Also, Al-Nawawi says: “Scholars have explained that it is like observing a year of fasting because the reward of one’s good deeds are multiplied 10-fold. Therefore, fasting the month of Ramadan is like fasting for 10 months and fasting six days in the month of Shawwal is like fasting for two months” (Sahih Muslim).

Indeed, the virtues of six days fast in the lunar month of Shawwal include the following:1. Fasting 6 days in Shawwal after Ramadan gives the person the reward of fasting throughout the year. 2. The fasts of Sha’ban and Shawwal are like the Sunnah prayers that accompany the five obligatory prayers. Like the Sunnah prayers, these extra fasts cover up for the deficiencies in our performance of our obligatory worship. On the Day of Judgment, our voluntary acts of worship will compensate for the shortcomings in how we carried out our duties. Most of us have deficiencies in our observance of our Ramadan fasts and we need something to cover up for those deficiencies. 3. Our return to the habit of fasting right after Ramadan is a sign that our Ramadan fasts were accepted. When Allah accepts our worship, He blesses us to engage in further acts of piety. The saying goes: The reward of virtue is further virtue. Therefore, following one good deed with others like it is a sign that the first deed had been accepted by Allah. By contrast, if a person’s good deed is followed by a sinful one, it is an indication that the first good deed might not have been accepted. 4. Those who observe the fast of Ramadan are given their recompense of the day of Eid Al-Fitr, the day when the fast is rewarded. Getting into the habit of fasting again soon thereafter is a means of giving thanks to Allah for the blessings that we have received. There is no blessing greater than forgiveness for one’s sins, and we know that fast of Ramadan is recompensed with forgiveness of one’s previous sins. Truly, Allah has commanded us to give thanks for the blessings of the Ramadan fast and to do so by making mention of Him and through other means of giving thanks. Allah says: “(He wants you) to complete the number of days, and to glorify Him in that He has guided you; and perchance you may give thanks” (Qur’an, 2:185). It is known that some of the pious predecessors would try to get up at night to pray the Tahajjud prayer. When Allah blessed them to wake up and do so, they would fast the next day in thanks to Allah for blessing them to observe that prayer. Every blessing that Allah gives us is something that we have to be thankful about. Moreover, when Allah blesses us to show thanks, this is a further blessing from Allah that deserves further thanks from us. If we show further thanks, this in turn is another blessing deserving our gratitude. There is no end to this and we can never be thankful enough. When we recognize that our thanks is never enough, this is the highest expression of gratitude we can give. Al-Shafii, Ahmad bin Hanbal and Ishaq Al-Rahawayh hold that is preferable and recommended to fast six days in the month of Shawwal. This opinion has also been related from Ibn Abbas, Kab Al-Ahbar, Tawus, Al-Shabi, Maymun bin Mahran, and Ibn Al-Mubarak. They base their opinion upon the Hadith that we have discussed above. Others have regarded fasting six days in the month of Shawwal to be something disliked. This view has been related from Malik and Abu Hanifah. They argue that it is feared from the general public that they might misconstrue fasting these six days to be something obligatory. They also see it as emulating the People of the Scripture to exceed the number of fasting days in the prescribed month of fasting. However, these objections are spurious in the face of the clear statements of the Prophet (peace be upon him) that encourage this fast. If we were to abandon a Sunnah act on the grounds that we are exceeding what is obligatory, then we would have to abandon all recommended fasts, including the fast of Ashura and the fast of the middle of the month. It has been related that Malik used to personally fast six days in Shawwal. Also, later Hanafi scholars decided that there is no objection to fasting these days. The Maliki jurist Ibn Abd Al-Bar explains (Al-Istidhkar, 3:380): Malik did not know of the Hadith related by Abu Ayyub Al-Ansari, even though it is a Hadith from the people of Madinah. No one possesses all the knowledge held by others. Malik explained and clarified what he disliked about it. He was afraid that it would be added to the obligatory fast of Ramadan by the general public. Malik was extremely cautious when it came to matters of religion. As for fasting six days in the month of Shawwal to seek extra blessings, as Thawban depicts it, this is something that Malik had no objection against — and Allah knows best — since fasting is a person’s protective shield and its virtues are well-known. When we give up our food and drink for Allah’s sake, it is a virtuous and good deed. Allah says: “O you who believe, bow down in Ruku and bow down in Sajdah, and worship your Lord and do good deeds, so that you achieve success” (Qur’an, 22:77). There are various opinions about how to observe the fasts in Shawwal: a. Some scholars hold the view that it is preferable to fast the six days in consecutive order, starting from the second day of Shawwal. This is the view of Al-Shafii and Ibn Al-Mubarak. b. Others are of the opinion that it is preferable to fast the six days intermittently, spreading them out throughout the month of Shawwal. This is the position of Ahmad bin Hanbal and Waki. c. Then there are those who hold the view that the days should all be postponed until later in the month and not close to the day of Eid, which is a time of celebration and feasting. They prefer fasting the three days in the middle of the month (Ayyam Al-Bid) along with the three days right before or after. This is the opinion of Mamar and Abd al-Razzaq. There is considerable flexibility in all of this. We can choose to follow any of these approaches that we wish.

We should remember the promise of Allah to us that He would Grant the prayers of those who worship Him and pray fervently to Him. The Almighty declares in Holy Qur'an 2:186, in the midst of discussing about Ramadan fast that: "When My servants Ask thee concerning Me, I am indeed close to them: I listen to the prayer of every supplicant when he called on me: let them also, with a will, listen to my call, and believe in Me: that they may walk in the right way".

The month of Shawwal is unique as the month of Harvest of faith, month of mercy, and month of Islam when we joyously break a full month fast. It also provides a golden opportunity for us to change the heinous deeds of corruption politically, economically, and socio culturally as a nation, as taught in the month of Ramadan. We must remember the warning of Allah that no nation will rise until they amend themselves. According to the Holy Qur'an 13:11: "For each person, there are Angels in succession, before and behind him they guard him by command of God. Verily never will God change the condition of a people until they change it themselves with their own souls and hands. But when God willeth a people's punishment, there can be no turning it back; besides Him, any to protect".

Now that Ramadan has taught us to be dutiful to the worship of Allah, we should use the month of Shawwal, to sustain the acts of worship through the six days fast in the month. Besides, Shawwal, is the first month of Hajj when Muslim pilgrims from different parts of the world move in millions towards Makkah, Saudi Arabia to answer the call of Allah. The Glorious Qur'an chapter 22:27 says: "And proclaim the pilgrimage Among men: they will come to thee on foot and mounted on every kind of camel, learn on account of journeys through deep and distant mountain highways".

May Allah Grant us the Will, the Zeal, and fortitude to worship Him better and Bless us. (Amen).

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