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There is a huge difference between voluntary fasts and fard (mandatory) fasts including the reward received when enjoining in such acts. It is said that one who does not fast on voluntary fasting days will not be held accountable. However, those who do fast will be blessed with rewards beyond imagination. Allah has given many opportunities, especially through these fasts, for us, as Muslims, to repent and rectify our actions that might have displeased Him. He has made these fasts an easy goal to reach as the opportunity is present every week.
Some examples of these voluntary fasts include fasting on Mondays and Thursdays, the six days of Shawwal, Yawm Arafah, Ashura and the day before or after it, the month of Shaban, the white days, the Sawm Dawood, and many more.
To be specific, anyone who fasts on the six days of Shawwal after fasting Ramadan, which is fard, will be rewarded as if he/she fasted a whole entire year. Similarly, those who fast on Arafah will experience the redress of the sins from the year before and the year after. Allah and Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) have clearly stated easy ways to not only gain rewards, but to achieve self-control, increase our love for the prophet, experience what the poor experience, and to bolster our gratefulness as well. They have given us convenient fasts multiple times a year including the weekly recommendation to fast on Mondays and Thursdays. These days are said to be the time when our actions are presented to Allah. Fasting on these days will show our purity, our love, and our sacrifice for our religion. We should desire for our actions to be delivered to Allah while we are fasting instead of doing anything else.
To put into perspective how much we gain from fasting voluntarily, there is a hadith sharif on it: “Even if an earthful of gold were given to a person who observes voluntary fasting for a day, it still would not be the requital of that fast” and “whoever observes voluntary fasting secretly for a day, Allahu ta’ala will grant him Paradise”. This, in simple terms, means that we should attempt to fast on these days not only for our betterment, but we should also keep in mind our intentions. We should not fast with the intention of gloating or pretending to be a good Muslim. That is why Allah (swt) states that those who fast in secret will be given Paradise as they have proven that they want to increase their Iman instead of showing off.
It is always good to be surrounded by motivating people like friends, teachers, schools, and family that will encourage fasting. Fasting opens one’s mind to being grateful, patient, open minded, helpful, and it allows us to improve and exceed our limits. Voluntary fasts provide every able human Muslim an attempt to improve their deen.