the six fasts in shawwal

The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said:

“Whoever fasts Ramadhan and follows it with six days of Shawwal, it will be as if he fasted for a lifetime.”

[Narrated by Muslim, Abu Dawud, at-Tirmidhi, an-Nisa’i and Ibn Majah]

The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) explained this when he said:

“Whoever fasts for six days after (‘Eid) al-Fitr has completed the year: (whoever does a good deed (hasanah) will have ten hasanah like it).”

According to another report:

“Allah has made for each hasanah ten like it, so a month is like fasting ten months, and fasting six days completes the year.”

[An-Nisa’i and Ibn Majah. See also Sahih at-Targhib wa’t-Tarhib, 1/421).

Note: There are 12 months in the Islamic lunar calendar. Ramadan is the 9th month and is followed by Shawwal.

Questions:

  • Do these six fasts (regarded as sunnah mustabbah) have to be done consecutively in the month of shawwal?
  • Can a muslim woman fast for the six days and ‘use’ them as replacing some of those fasts which she missed during the month of Ramadan because of her menses?
  • What is the intention which should be uttered when starting these fasts?
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