The Islamic year has twelve months that are based on a lunar cycle. Allah says in the Qur’an:
“The number of months in the sight of Allah is twelve (in a year) – so ordained by Him the day He created the heavens and the earth….” (9:36).
“It is He Who made the sun to be a shining glory, and the moon to be a light of beauty, and measured out stages for it, that you might know the number of years and the count of time. Allah did not create this except in truth and righteousness. And He explains His signs in detail, for those who understand” (10:5).
And in his final sermon before his death, the Prophet Muhammad said, among other things, “With Allah the months are twelve; four of them are holy; three of these are successive and one occurs singly between the months of Jumaada and Sha’ban.”
Islamic months begin at sunset of the first day, the day when the lunar crescent is visually sighted. The lunar year is approximately 354 days long, so the months rotate backward through the seasons and are not fixed to the Gregorian calendar. The months of the Islamic year are:
1. Muharram (“Forbidden” – it is one of the four months during which it is forbidden to wage war or fight)
2. Safar (“Empty” or “Yellow”)
3. Rabia Awal (“First spring”)
4. Rabia Thani (“Second spring”)
5. Jumaada Awal (“First freeze”)
6. Jumaada Thani (“Second freeze”)
7. Rajab (“To respect” – this is another holy month when fighting is prohibited)
8. Sha’ban (“To spread and distribute”)
9. Ramadan (“Parched thirst” – this is the month of daytime fasting)
10. Shawwal (“To be light and vigorous”)
11. Dhul-Qi’dah (“The month of rest” – another month when no warfare or fighting is allowed)
12. Dhul-Hijjah (“The month of Hajj” – this is the month of the annual pilgrimage to Makkah, again when no warfare or fighting is allowed)
|Islamic Calendar 2014 Posters|
Abu Ayyub (May Allah be pleased with him) reported:
The Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said, “He who observes As-Saum (the fasts) in the month of Ramadan, and also observes As-Saum for six days in the month of Shawwal, it is as if he has observed As-Saum for the whole year.” (Riyad as-Salihin, Book 9, Hadith 1254)
You can start fasting six days of Shawwal from the second day of Shawwal, because it is haram to FAST on the day of ‘Eid. You can FAST the six days at any time during Shawwal, although the best of good deeds are those which are done soonest.
It is not a necessary condition that they should be fasted consecutively. If you fast them separately or consecutively, it is OK. The sooner you do them, the better