Fasting the Three White Days
Ml Yusuf Karaan
8 August 2023
Regarding the three white days of fasting, why is it referred to as the three white days and why is it Sunnah?
السلام عايكم ورحمة الله وبركاته
The story behind the epithet, “white days”, is a fairly simple one. The Arabs have historically observed a lunar calendar, such that the 13th, 14th, and 15th nights would coincide with the full moon phase. Typically, the full moon would shine all night long, resulting in a relatively brighter night. Hence, the title, “white days”.
You also inquired as to why the Sunnah is to fast these three days. The rationale behind it lies in the verse:
﴿ مَن جَاءَ بِٱلْحَسَنَةِ فَلَهُ ۥ عَشْرُ أَمْثَالِهَا ﴾
“He who does one good deed shall [be rewarded] ten times its worth.”
الأنعام ٦ : ١٦٠
This means that fasting three days of a month earns the reward of 30 days. In this way, if one were to consistently fast three days every month, one would receive the reward of unending fasting. However, as I’m sure you’ve noticed, this still doesn’t justify singling out these three days. For that, we rely upon, the report of Abū Dharr RA, among others:
عَن أَبِي ذَرٍّ رضي الله عنه قَالَ:《 أَمَرَنَا رَسُولُ اللهِ ﷺ أَن نَصُومَ مِن ٱلشَّهْرِ ثَلَاثَةَ أَيَّامِ ٱلْبِيْضِ، ثَلَاثَ عَشْرَةَ، وَأَرْبَعَ عَشْرَةَ، وَخَمْسَ عَشْرَةَ 》
“The Messenger of Allah ﷺ commanded that we fast the three white days, the thirteenth, fourteenth, and fifteenth of each month.”
النسائي (الصيام ب ٨٤|ح ٢٤٢٢)
Our scholars have noted that there are two rewards for fasting these three days specifically:
- The reward for fasting three days of the month; the equivalent of 30 days.
- The reward for following the directive of the Prophet ﷺ by fasting the 3 white days specifically.
As for your last question, in fact, the narrations never mention that the Prophet ﷺ fasted the white days. We find only that he ﷺ recommended it to us. A similar phenomenon occurs in the fasting of six days in Shawwāl, where we find only his ﷺ encouragement, and not his own practice ﷺ. This is not to say that he did not fast the white days, merely that it is not confirmed by transmission.
What we do find of his practice is that he fasted at least three days of every month. Some reports mention the first Monday, along with the first two Thursdays (or the first Thursday with the first two Mondays), some that he fasted random days, and others that he would fast when food was scarce. Some even mention he would fast so many days, people thought he would never stop. Then, he would stop fasting for so long, they thought he would never fast again ﷺ. This inconsistency is explained in the report of Sayyidah ʿĀʾishah RA:
عَن عَائِشَةَ رضي الله عنها قَالَت: نَهٰى رَسُولُ اللهِ ﷺ عَن ٱلْوِصَالِ رَحْمَةً لَهُمْ، فَقَالُوا: إِنَّكَ تُوَاصِلُ، قَالَ:《 إِنِّي لَسْتُ كَهَيْئَتِكُمْ، إِنِّي يُطْعِمُنِي رَبِّي وَيَسْقِينِي 》.
“The Messenger of Allah ﷺ prohibited [his Companions] from perpetually fasting out of mercy, so they said [to him]: ‘You fast perpetually’. He replied, ‘I am not the same as you. My Lord provides me food and drink.”
البخاري (الصوم ب ٤٧|ح ١٨٦٣)
وﷲ تعالى أعلم
And Allah knows best
DUAI Fatwa Department