What is supererogatory fasting? What are the nafl fasts?
Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) would continue the supererogatory fasting from time to time after the month of Ramadan. He was careful about fasting on Mondays and Thursdays and he explained its reason as follows: “Deeds of people are presented (to Allah) on Mondays and Thursdays. So I like that my actions be presented while I am fasting.” (Tirmidhi, Sawm, 44)
He also liked to fast on the thirteenth, fourteenth, and fifteenth of lunar months (which are called ayyām biḍ) and advised his companions to do the same. Ibn ‘Abbas (r.a.) expresses how regular the Prophet (pbuh) was about fasting on ayyām biḍ in the following saying:
“Our Prophet (pbuh) did not leave fasting on ayyām biḍ neither when he was at home nor when he was on a journey.” (Nasai, Sawm, 70) In ayyām biḍ, which are the days of a full moon, water in the human body rises because of the moon’s increasing force of gravity, and consequently humans are more inclined to follow their selfish desires during those days. Fasting, which is the best device to control the inner self and the strongest shield against the sins, becomes the best and the most effective solution to calm humans during those days.
The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) encouraged his followers to fast for six days in the month of Shawwāl and stated its merits as follows:
“He/she who observed the fast of Ramadan and then followed it with six (fasts) of Shawwal would be as if he/she fasted the entire year.” (Muslim, Siyām, 204)
Fasting in the month of Shawwāl plays a completing role for those who have not had the chance to get the proper benefit from the month of Ramadan. The statement of being considered as if fasting the entire year is based on the principle that good deeds will be rewarded ten-fold.
Fasting on the day of Ashūra is another type of supererogatory fasting. Aisha (r.a.) reported that the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) had ordered to observe fasting on the day of ‘Ashura before the fasting in Ramadan was made obligatory. But when it became obligatory, then he who wished fasted on the day of Ashura, and he who wished did not observe it (on that day). (Muslim, Siyām, 115)
Allah the Almighty saved Moses (pbuh) from Pharaoh and his people on the day of Ashūra. Moses (pbuh) showed his gratitude to Allah by fasting on that day. Then, fasting on that day became a tradition among the people of the Book and the Arabs. Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) did not abolish this custom and said about its merits:
“I hope from Allah the Almighty that fasting on the day of Ashūra will become atonement for the sins of previous year.” (Tirmidhī, Sawm, 48)
Fasting the day before the feast of sacrifice is also recommended.
We should not neglect the supererogatory fasting after properly observing the obligatory ones, for they are very important means of getting closer to Allah the Almighty.
 Because in those days mornings are enlightened by the Sun and the nights by the Moon for the whole day, they are called “ayyām biḍ or white days.” Today the effects of the Moon upon human beings have been a subject of scientific research. According to discoveries of contemporary scientists, the Moon affects the human body, which is made up of 80% of water, just like it affects the oceans on Earth. In those days the balance of the fluids of the body are disrupted; the systematic operation of the human brain gets unbalanced and the heart beats increase. The full moon may cause serious problems to those who have heart problems and diabetes. And it may disrupt the operation of the nerve cells and break their balance. It is a scientific fact that the full moon has more effects on women. Scientists summarize these effects as follows:
- Women become more sensitive and inclined to cry easily.
- Birth rates increase by twenty percent.
- Full moon disrupts the balance of menstruation and increases bleeding.
- Because it increases the hormones, it rises the sexual desires.
- It causes increased migraine pains, and thus women become more stressed.
The changes happening in the human body in those days also causes an increase in crime rate. On the days of the full moon of August 1993, a significant increase was observed in the rate of crimes, hysterical attacks, and suicides in Germany. Psychologists talk about the full moon’s effects on the human psychology. French researcher René Claude Guillot examined the crimes committed in those days and wrote a book about them titled Full Moon Hysteria. In his book, he says that “it is possible to confirm the increasing rates of crimes during the days of full moon from not only the French but also the American police reports.” The news which was titled “Full Moon and Crime” and published in the journal of Bilim ve Teknik also presents similar findings. “Two Indian scientists announced that the rates of getting poisoned and crimes were increased on the full moon days of 1980 and 1984. Their findings are published in British Medical Journal. According to researcher professor C. P. Thakur, the reason for the increase rates of suicide and homicide by poison is the tide waves in the human body. Since the Earth, Moon, and the Sun come into a straight line during the days of the full moon, the moon’s power of gravity upon the human body rises and the level of water in the human body exceeds sixty percent. Physical and spiritual changes caused by increased levels of gravity also increase the tendency of taking poison and committing crimes. The researcher reached these finding by inputting a five-year long police reports to a computer and comparing them with the dates of the full moon.” (http://www.kalbinsesi.com/konu/dolunay.asp)
Source: An Excellent Exemplar, Osman Nuri Topbaş, Erkam Publications