Answered by Mufti Muhammad ibn Adam al-Kawthari
Question: Is it a Sunnah to fast the first nine days of Dhul-Hijjah? I have heard some people say that it is not a recommended practice, and some say that it is a Bid’a. Can you please clarify?
Answer: In the name of Allah, Most Compassionate, Most Merciful,
The first ten days and nights of Dhu’l Hijjah are considered to be blessed and virtuous, and thus it is highly encouraged to carry out as many acts of worship as possible in them.
Sayyiduna AbdAllah ibn Abbas (Allah be pleased with him) relates that the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) said, “There are no days in which righteous acts are more beloved to Allah than in these days – meaning the ten of Dhu’l Hijjah.” They asked, “O Messenger of Allah, not even Jihad in the way of Allah?” He replied, “Not even Jihad in the way of Allah, except for the man who goes out with his life and his wealth and does not return with either of them.” (Bukhari no: 926, Tirmidhi no: 757, Abu Dawud no: 2430 and others; the wording is Abu Dawud)
This hadith indicates that there is added significance and extra rewards for carrying out ‘all’ types of righteous deeds and acts of worship during the first ten days and nights of Dhu’l Hijjah, without any exception. This includes fasting, since it is a righteous deed; in fact, it is one of the highest forms of worship. As such; this hadith indirectly establishes the recommendation of fasting for the entire first nine days of Dhu’l Hijjah, as fasting is included in the general context of this hadith.
Furthermore, there are some other narrations that make specific mention of fasting the first nine days of Dhu’l Hijjah.
Sayyida Hafsa (Allah be pleased with her) says, “The Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) would not leave four matters: Fasting on Ashura [10th of Muharram], the ten days [of Dhu’l Hijja, with the exception of the 10th], three days of every month; and performing two Rak’ats of prayer before dawn.” (Nasa’i no: 2416 & Ahmad)
Hunayda ibn Khalid relates from his wife, who relates from one of the wives of the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace), who says, “The Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) would fast the [first] nine days of Dhu’l Hijja, the day of Ashura and the three days of every month: The first Monday of every month and the following two Thursdays”. (Nasa’i no: 2417 & Abu Dawud no; 2429; the wording is of Nasa’i)
Note that the ‘ten days’ in the various hadiths refer to the first nine days of Dhu’l Hijja, since it is agreed upon that it is prohibitively disliked and sinful to fast on the tenth day which is the day of Eid al-Adha. Imam Ibn Sirin used to dislike the phrase “fasting the ten of Dhu’l Hijja”; since it gives an impression that the tenth day is also included. However, the majority of the scholars do not see any problem with this phrase, saying that “ten” refers to fasting those days in which it is permitted to do so – i.e. the first nine days. The phrase “ten” is used in a metaphorical sense. (See: Nawawi, Al-Minhaj sharh Sahih Muslim & Ibn Rajab al-Hanbali, Lata’if al-Ma’arif p: 330)
Moreover, to fast during these first nine days was a common and known practice during the era of the Companions and early Muslims (Allah be pleased with all of them). Those who would fast or encouraged these fasts include Abu Hurayra, AbdAllah ibn Umar, Qatada, Ibn Sirin, Hasan al-Basri, Mujahid and others (Allah be pleased with them). (See: Sunan al-Bayhaqi 8395 & Lata’if al-Ma’arif p: 329)
As such; classical scholars generally agree that it is recommended (mustahab) to fast during the first nine days of Dhu’l Hijja, with extra significance for fasting on the Day of Arafah (9th of Dhu’l Hijjah). This is the position of all four Sunni Schools of Islamic law:
1) For the Hanafi School, it is stated in Al-Fatawa al-Hindiyya, “It is recommended (mustahab) to fast during the first nine days of Dhu’l Hijja, as stated in Al-Siraj al-Wahhaj.” (Al-Fatawa al-Hindiyya 1/201; see also: Bada’i al-Sana’i 2/108 & Al-Mabsut 3/92)
2) As for the Maliki School, it is stated in Hashiyat al-Sawi, “It is recommended to fast on the Day of Arafah (9th of Dhu’l Hijjah) for the one not performing Hajj, but disliked for the pilgrim (haji) – since not fasting will give the pilgrim strength in executing the standing (wuquf) in Arafah. And it is recommended to fast [both for a pilgrim and a non-pilgrim] during the eight days before the Day of Arafah.” (Hashiyat al-Sawi ala ‘l-sharh al-Saghir 1/691; also see: al-Khurshi, Sharh Mukhtasar Khalil 3/16-17 & Minah al-Jalil sharh Mukhtasar al-Khalil 2/119)
3) In the Shafi’i School, Imam Nawawi states, “It is a Sunna to fast during the first ten days of Dhu’l Hijja, with the exception of the Day of Eid [i.e. the 10th].” (Nawawi, Rawdat al-Talibin 2/388; see also: Kifayat al-Akhyar 1/207)
4) In the Hanbali School, Imam al-Mardawi states, “It is recommended to fast the ten of Dhu’l Hijja, without any disagreement. Of these, the most virtuous is the 9th which is the Day of Arafah, then the 8th which is the Day of Tarwiyah. This is the position of the [Hanbali] Madhab, as affirmed by the Imams.” (Al-Insaf fi Ma’rifat al-Rajih min al-Khilaf 3/345; also see: Abu Bakr ibn al-Athram, Nasikh al-Hadith wa Mansukhihi p:153)
Finally, there is a hadith which seems to indicate that the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) did not fast the days of Dhu’l Hijja. Sayyida A’isha (Allah be pleased with her) says, “I did not see the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) fast during the ten days [of Dhu’l Hijja] ever.” (Muslim no: 1176, Abu Dawud, Tirmidhi & others)
Classical scholars offer various explanations of this hadith. Imam Nawawi (Allah have mercy on him) states, “This hadith will be interpreted, for there is no dislike in fasting these nine days; in fact it is strongly recommended to do so, especially the 9th which is the Day of Arafah… As such, her statement will be understood to mean that he (Allah bless him & give him peace) did not fast due to illness, travelling or some other reason; or that she did not see him fast, which does not negate him observing the fast…” (Al-Minhaj sharh Sahih Muslim 8/320 no: 1176)
Some other scholars state that A’isha’s (Allah be pleased with her) account negates the fact that he (Allah bless him & give him peace) fasted, whilst other narrations affirm; and the general principle is that affirmation (ithbat) takes precedence over negation (nafi’). (Lata’if al-Ma’arif p: 330)
In conclusion, it is recommended and highly virtuous to fast during all or some of the first nine days of Dhu’l Hijja. Of these, it is particularly recommended to fast the Day of Arafah (9th of Dhu’l Hijjah).
Abu Qatada (Allah be pleased with him) relates that the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) said, “Fasting the Day of Arafah expiates for two years, one prior and one forthcoming. And fasting the Day of Ashura (10th of Muharram) expiates for the past year.” (Muslim, Abu Dawud, Nasa’i, and Ibn Majah)
This, according to the Hanafi School, applies even for the one performing Hajj – if it does not weaken the pilgrim from spending the day in worship. As for the hadiths in which the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) commanded against fasting this day for the pilgrim at Arafah, this was understood by the Hanafi Imams to refer to those who would weaken or tire because of the fast. This is due to the numerous hadiths that have come in praise of this day in particular and fasting in it. (See: Tahawi, Sharh Ma’ani al-Athar 2/82-83 & al-Kasani, Bada’i al-Sana’i)
And Allah knows best
[Mufti] Muhammad ibn Adam
Leicester , UK