Contemplating the six days of Shawwal following Ramadan

“Are you ready to become a Muslim now”, my friend’s husband asked me. I laughed. His wife and I had just returned from the mosque where I had listened to a talk about the days following Eid.  After prayers, my friend had showed me how to “make wudu”, the ritual washing before prayers.

Some thoughts from the talk:

  • Some fast for six days during the month of Shawwal following the month of Ramadan.
  • Fasting should not happen during Eid, but there should be a rest between the Ramadan and any new fast.
  • Scholars recommend spreading the six fast days out throughout the month, but some do it all at once to get it over with.
  • Excessive worrying about whether one has been generous enough is a sign that one may be going to Jenna.
  • Story about The Prophet: when he went away from his companions for a while then came back, he told them he had asked Allah that they be permitted to enter heaven and Allah granted that ⅓ would be permitted in Jenna. The Prophet then went back and prayed again and was granted an additional ⅓. Praying a third time the Prophet was granted by Allah that all of the ummah would be granted entrance into Jenna.
  • There are several Zikats (charity gifts?) during Ramadan, but an obligatory one is the one at the end of Ramadan for 2% (or was it 2½ %?) of the money that has been saved during the year.
  • The salat al-layl is a prayer for waking up at night.  You do two rakans or more, in groups of two. If you are not waking up for this prayer it is because you are not living a good enough life.  Try to live a better life and you will be waking up for this.

How to make wudu:

Say, “bismillah, al-rahman al-raheem” (In the name of Allah, the merciful the compassionate). Under running water: Wash right hand then left hand three times.  With right hand rinse mouth with water and wipe front upper gum with forefinger three times. Brush water into nostrils with right hand, brush water downward away from nose three times with left hand. Wipe face with water in a circular motion with right hand three times.   With both hands wet, wipe hair backwards, then rinse hands and wipe hair from underneath. Wash the ears, thumbs behind ears and forefinger in ear three times. Wash arms to the elbow. Wash feet going between each toe. Each time you wash something with a hand, rinse the hand off afterwards. Say “I testify there is no god but Allah” in Arabic. You can dry off if you want, but some like the water.  I can imagine how refreshing this must feel in a 105-degree desert heat.

The six fasting days of Shawwal are supposed to be a highly spiritual time.  So what do I make of it? Why fast? Why wash? I know Islam means submission to Allah, but I like to know why. And you can argue with Allah?–at least if you’re a prophet…And unlike the tithe or the widow’s mite, the proper zikat donation is based on extra money–those living hand to mouth will not be expected to donate. The beginning of Ramadan to me a very special time that I look forward to. The Eid feast is a great excuse to contact people you haven’t seen in a while.  But Shawwal?  I just can’t characterize it.

Note: the calligraphy graphic says “Bismillah al-rahman al-rahheem” (in the name of Allah the merciful the compassionate).

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