Answered by Ustadh Tabraze Azam
Question: What are the legal maxims regarding the fast of Dawood (peace upon him)? How long can you do it?
Answer: Assalamu alaikum wa rahmatullah,
It is permissible to fast every other day as long as doing so: (a) does not weaken you from fulfilling your obligations of earning a living with the expected level of competency, supporting your dependents, praying whilst standing and the like, (b) does not entail harm to a spouse, whether physically, emotionally or otherwise, and (c) will not cause any harm to you in the long term.
If the aforementioned conditions are met, it would be a praiseworthy and recommended type of fast. Otherwise, the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) reminded us that, “Your eye has a right over you. Your body has a right over you. Your spouse has a right over you.” (Muslim) Accordingly, fasting in moderation would be superior. Consider starting with a fast once or twice a week, and then if you want to increase, see if it is reasonably possible.
The Fast of Prophet David
The fast of the Prophet Dawud (Allah bless him and give him peace) was described by the Prophet Muhammad (Allah bless him and give him peace) as being the “most beloved of fasting to Allah.” (Bukhari) He would fast every other day such that his body did not have time to fully recuperate and settle into a normative schedule.
Of course, that is likely to happen to a certain level eventually, so perhaps this is the reason why the Beloved Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace) didn’t actually do this himself. Rather, he would fast a month “until we thought he has no intention of stopping,” (Tirmidhi, al-Shama’il) and also the opposite.
The idea is that the irregularity maintains a sufficient level of hardship whereby a person can benefit more deeply from his sincere devotion and striving for the sake of Allah. Generally, what needs to be avoided is for worship to become a mere habit, or for one to lose sight of the purpose of the fast.
Important Sunna Fasts and Fasting Restrictions
However, please note that there are other, important, recommended sunna fasts which should not be omitted given the tremendous rewards transmitted regarding them. This includes the day of ‘Ashura (10th Muharram), optimally conjoined with the ninth or the eleventh of the month, and the day of ‘Arafa (9th Dhu’l Hijja). If your habit of fasting every other day would entail an omission of one of these two fasts, they should be given priority.
Moreover, it is impermissible to fast on the two ‘Eids and the three days after ‘Eid al-Adha, irrespective of whether or not you have a fasting habit. After all, fasting is a specific form of worship and if the Sacred Law (shari‘a) isn’t being followed, then one should think carefully about what one’s intentions are. I’d also recommend getting a book on praiseworthy intentions and supplications so that you can magnify the impact of the fast in your life.
(Razi, Tufat al-Muluk; Nahlawi, al-Durar al-Mubaha; Tahatwi, Hashiyat al-Tahtawi ‘ala Maraqi al-Falah; Qari, Mirqat al-Mafatih Sharh Mishkat al-Masabih)
Please also see: Fasting: A Comprehensive SeekersGuidance Reader
And Allah Most High knows best.
[Ustadh] Tabraze Azam
Checked and Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani
Ustadh Tabraze Azam holds a BSc in Computer Science from the University of Leicester, where he also served as the President of the Islamic Society. He memorized the entire Qur’an in his hometown of Ipswich at the tender age of sixteen and has since studied the Islamic Sciences in traditional settings in the UK, Jordan, and Turkey. He is currently pursuing advanced studies in Jordan, where he is presently based on his family.