“The Fast of David… There is No Better Fast than That”

“The Fast of David… There is No Better Fast than That”

– Sheikh Muhammad Muhammad Salim `Abd al-Wadud


The Prophet (peace be upon him) said to `Abd Allah b. `Amr b. al-`as: “Fast one day and break your fast one day. This was the fast of David (peace be upon him), and it is the best of fasts.”

`Abd Allah b. `Amr then said: “I can do better than that.”

The Prophet (peace be upon him) replied: “There is no fast better than that.” [Sahih al-Bukhari (1840)]

This hadith shows us that a Muslim might wish impose upon himself something that is not recommended in Islam – and maybe even disliked or unlawful – thinking that he is doing something virtuous and good.

Oftentimes, a Muslim – when he wants to repent from a serious sin or turn over a new leaf in life – will swear a vow to engage in some heavy regimen of worship. A common oath is: “I swear to fast this entire year without missing a day.”

This is very ill-advised.

First of all, there is no need to swear a vow. It is indeed very good for a person who repents to regard his sins as something serious. This is a sign of faith.

The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “A believer sees his sins as if he is standing beneath a mountain that he fears is about to fall on top of him. A wanton sinner sees his sins as if they were like a fly that settles on his nose that he can easily shoo away.” [Sahih al-Bukhari (6308) and Sahih Muslim (2744)]

Likewise, it is very good for a believer who has sinned to devote himself to extra worship, since good deeds can cover up for evil ones.

Allah says: “And establish regular prayers at the two ends of the day and at the approaches of the night: For those things, that are good remove those that are evil: Be that the word of remembrance to those who remember (their Lord):” [Surah Hud 11:114]

The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “Indeed, good works do away with evil deeds.” [Sahih al-Bukhari (526) and Sahih Muslim (2763)]

The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “Fear Allah wherever you are. Follow up a bad deed with a good deed and it will blot it out. And deal with people in a good manner.” [Sunan al-Tirmidhi (1910)]

However, swearing a vow to obligate oneself to the worship is not the way to go about it. We are not advised to swear vows. We should simply do more good deeds seeking Allah’s grace and mercy.

The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “A vow will not change what is determined in the least. It is merely a way of getting deeds out of a miser.” [Sahih Muslim (3096)]

As for fasting every day of the year, this is an extremely bad idea for three reasons:

1. It implies fasting on the days of eid and the days of tashriq.

The days of eid are days in which fasting is forbidden.

`Umar said: “There are two days that the Allah’s Messenger(peace be upon him) forbade fasting on: the day when we break our Ramadan fasts, and the day that we eat during the sacrificial rites.” – meaning Eid ul-Fitr and Eid ul-Adha respectively [Sahih al-Bukhari (1990)]

Abu Sa`id al-Khudri said: “Allah’s Messenger forbid fasting on `Id al-Fitr amd `Id al-Adha.” [Sahih al-Bukhari (1991)]

The days of tashriq – the 11th, 12th, and 13th of Dhu al-Hijjah – are days which are prohibited for fasting except for people in some very particular circumstances.

The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “The days of tashriq are days of eating and drinking.” [Sahih al-Bukhari (1926)]

2. Fasting every day for a full year is overly stern and excessive.

This is not what Islam seeks after. Allah wants us to be constant in our devotions rather than excessive.

Once the Prophet (peace be upon him) came to ‘Aisha and found that there was a woman with her. He asked ‘Aisha who the woman was. ‘Aisha mentioned her name and mentioned how much the woman was observing prayer. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “You should rather do what you are capable of.” [Sahih al-Bukhari (43)]

The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “The most beloved of works to Allah are those which are performed with constancy, even if those works might be minor.” [Sahih al-Bukhari (5983) and Sahih Muslim (1305)]

3. The Prophet (peace be upon him) clearly and unambiguously negated any virtue to fasting more than the fast of David.

We read in Sahih al-Bukhari (1840):

The Prophet (peace be upon him) was informed that `Abd Allah b. `Amr b. al-`as had said: “I swear by Allah! I will fast and I will spend my nights in prayer as long as I live.”

The Prophet (peace be upon him) questioned him about it and said: “You will not be able to do that. Fast at times and abstain from fasting at times. Pray at night and sleep. Fast for three days a month, for truly every good deed is rewarded tenfold, so three days a month is like fasting every day.”

`Abd Allah b. `Amr said: “I can do better than that.”

The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “Then fast for one day and refrain from fasting for two.”

`Abd Allah b. `Amr again said: “I can do better than that.”

The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “Fast one day and break your fast one day. This was the fast of David (peace be upon him), and it is the best of fasts.”

`Abd Allah b. `Amr then said: “I can do better than that.”

The Prophet (peace be upon him) replied: “There is no fast better than that.” [Sahih al-Bukhari (1840)]

We should, therefore, fast according to one of the fasting regimens set forth for us by the Prophet (peace be upon him). We can adopt any of the regimens we wish among those that are established by the Sunnah.

One of these which is not mentioned in the above hadith is to fast on Mondays and Thursdays. Usamah b. Zayd said: “O Messenger of Allah! You fast until it seems you will never cease fasting. And you abstain from fasting until it seems that you will not fast again – with the exception of two days. If they come during your fasting regimen (good and well), and if not, you fast them (anyway). Which two days are these?”

The Prophet (peace be upon him) responded: “Monday and Thursday. They are the two days in which deeds are presented to the Lord of the Worlds, and I like it that my deeds are presented while I am fasting.” [Sunan al-Nasa’i (2358) and Sunan Abi Dawud (2436)]

Regardless of which fasting regimen you might adopt, do not swear a vow to observe it. Do not put yourself into needless difficulty that Allah does not wish to impose upon you. If difficulties arise, or some invitation comes up, or you simply become physically weak as you age, then you will not have any problem abstaining from a fast.

We can take a valuable lesson in this from the very same `Abd Allah b. `Amr b. al-`as who, as we have seen, chose to adopt the most difficult fasting regimen possible for himself. When he grew old and his strength waned, he lamented: “If only I had taken the concession that the Prophet (peace be upon him) was giving me back then.” [Sahih al-Bukhari (1839)]

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