Al-Ayyâm Al-Bîd – The White Days

The White Days [al-ayyâm al-bîd] or “the white ones” [al-bîd] is an abbreviated way of referring to “the days of the white nights” [ayyâm al-layâli-l bîd], which correspond to the thirteenth, fourteenth, and fifteenth of every lunar month.

This term came into being as the said nights are brightly illuminated by the moon, which is then at or near full visibility. In his work entitled Adab al-Katib, the lexicologist and grammarian Ibn Qutaiba (d. ca. 270 AH) states:

The Arabs call them “the white days” [al-ayyâm al-bîd] because their nights are brightly illuminated by the moon, which is visible (in the clear desert sky) from the beginning to the end of each night.

Fasting Three Days Every Month

From amongst the meritorious voluntary fasts is fasting three days each month. Sayyiduna Abu Huraira (may Allah be pleased with him) has narrated:

“My dearly beloved friend, the Messenger of Allah (upon him be blessings and peace), bequeathed me three practices that I shall not fail to perform, until I meet him again (at the resurrection), namely: (1) fasting three days out of every month, (2) performing the night-time prayer called witr, before going to sleep, and (3) the forenoon prayer [salatu-d duha].” — Al-Bukhari (1178) and Muslim (721)

Imam Al-Nasa’i (may Allah elevate his status) reports the following in his collection:

“The Messenger of Allah (upon him be blessings and peace) said: ‘Shall I not tell you of something that will take away the evil of the heart? (It is) fasting three days of each month.’” — Al-Nasa’i (2386)

Sayyidina-sh shaikh Muhyiddin ‘Abdul Qadir al-Jilani (may Allah illuminate his resting abode) quotes in his Al-Ghunya li-Talibi Tariq al-Haqq the following two narrations:

  • On the authority of Sayyiduna Hudhaifa (may Allah be pleased with him), Allah’s Messenger (Allah bless him and give him peace) once said:

“If a person has fasted on three days out of every month, he has been fasting all year long [sama-d dahr]”

  • From ash-Sha’bi (may Allah bestow his mercy upon him):

“I heard Ibn ‘Umar (may Allah be well pleased with him and his father) say: ‘I heard the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) say: “If someone fasts three days out of every month, performs the two cycles of the dawn prayer, and does not omit the night-time prayer called witr, regardless of whether he is on a journey or at home, Allah will credit him with the reward of a martyr [shahid]”’”

Fasting “The White Days” Every Month

In addition to the above-mentioned general Prophetic narrations [ahadith] about fasting three days every month, there are other narrations that single out “the white days” in particular for voluntary fasting.

Sayyiduna Jarir b. ‘Abdu-Llah (may Allah be pleased with him) narrated that Allah’s Messenger (upon him be blessings and peace) once said:

“Fasting three days of each month, namely, the thirteenth, the fourteenth, and the fifteenth, is equivalent to fasting all year long [siyam ad-dahr].” – Al-Nasa’i (2420)

Note: The truth and reality of this statement and the earlier one from Sayyiduna Jarir is confirmed by Allah (eminent is His Glory) in his revealed verse “If someone produces a good deed, he shall have ten just like it (to his credit).” [6:161]

Imam Al-Tirmidhi (may Allah elevate his status) reports the following in his collection:

Sayyiduna Abu Dharr (Allah be pleased with him) said: ‘The Messenger of Allah (upon him be blessings and peace) said to me: ‘If you fast any part of the month, then fast the thirteenth, fourteenth and fifteenth.’” – Al-Tirmidhi (761)

Sayyiduna Ibn ‘Abbas (may Allah be pleased with him and his father) is reported as having said:

“Allah’s Messenger (upon him be blessings and peace)  never failed to fast during ‘the white days’ [al-ayyâm al-bîd], regardless of whether he was on a journey or at home.”

Sayyidina-sh shaikh Muhyiddin ‘Abdul Qadir al-Jilani (may illuminate his resting abode) states in his Al-Ghunya li-Talibi Tariq al-Haqq the following two athar that should raise the aspiration [himma] of every believing man and woman.

  • Shaikh Abu Nasr (Muhammad b. Al-Banna’) has informed us, on good traditional authority, that the following saying can be traced back to ‘Ali b. Al-Husain b. ‘Ali b. Abi Talib (may Allah be pleased with him, his father and grandfather):

“To fast on the thirteenth of the month, is equivalent in value to fasting for three thousand years. To fast on the fourteenth of the month, is equivalent in value to fasting for ten thousand years. To fast on the fifteenth of the month, is equivalent in value to fasting for one hundred thousand and thirteen years.”

  • Transmitted by ‘Abdu-l Malik b. Harun b. ‘Antara, on the authority of his father, Harun, who told ‘Abdu-l Malik that his grandfather, ‘Antara, had said:

“I once heard ‘Ali b. Abi Talib (may Allah be pleased with him and ennoble his countenance) say: ‘I came to Allah’s messenger (upon him be blessings and peace) one day, around the time of noon, while he was indoors in his room.

I saluted him with the greeting of peace, and he returned my salutation, then he (Allah bless him and give him peace) said: “O Ali, here is Jibril, offering you the greeting of peace!” So I said: “Peace be unto you, and also unto him, O Messenger of Allah!”

He (Allah bless him and give him peace) then said: “Come over here beside me,” so I moved till I was close beside him, whereupon he (Allah bless him and give him peace) said: “O ‘Ali, Jibril is talking to you.

He is saying: ‘You must fast 3 days out of every month. For the first day, the reward of ten thousand years will be recorded in your favour; for the second day, the reward of thirty thousand years; and for the third day, the reward of three hundred thousand years.’”

I sought clarification: “O Messenger of Allah, is this reward for me in particular, or is it for all mankind in general?”

He (Allah bless him and give him peace) replied: “O ‘Ali, Allah will bestow this reward not only upon you, but also upon those who come after you, provided they perform the same good works as you do.”

I sought clarification: “O Messenger of Allah, which days of the month are the three referring to?”

He (Allah bless him and give him peace) replied: “They are the three known as “the white days” [al-ayyâm al-bîd]; that is to say the thirteenth, the fourteenth, and the fifteenth of the month.”’”

‘Antara then went on to say:

“So I said to ‘Ali (may Allah be pleased with him and ennoble his countenance): ‘Why do you call these the white days?’ ‘Ali (may Allah be pleased with him and ennoble his countenance) then told me the following story:

‘When Allah (eminent is His Glory) evicted Adam (peace be upon him) from the Garden of Paradise, and sent him down to the earth, he was so scorched by the sun that his body turned black as pitch. Jibril (peace be upon him) then came to him and said: “O Adam, would you like to have your skin turn white?”Adam said yes, he would like that very much. So Jibril said to him: “In that case, you must fast on the thirteenth, fourteenth, and fifteenth of the month.” Adam (peace be upon him) accepted the challenge, and began by fasting on the first of these days. As soon as he had done so, one third of this body turned white. Then he fasted on the second day, and found that two thirds of his body had now turned white. Then he fasted on the third day, after which the whole of his body had turned white. This explains why they are called “the white days” [al-ayyâm al-bîd].’”

Caveat: 13th of Dhu-l Hijjah

In the month of Dhu-l Hijjah, the thirteenth day is also the last of the “Days of Tashriq” [Al-Ayyâm Al-Tashrîq]. These are the days of festival [‘îd] for Muslims in which fasting is prohibited [haram].

On one of the days of Tashriq, Sayyiduna ‘Abdu-Llah ibn ‘Amr ibn Al-‘Âs visited his father Sayyiduna ‘Amr ibn Al-‘Âs (may Allah be pleased with them both), where he (i.e. Sayyiduna ‘Amr) invited him to eat. Sayyiduna ‘Abdu-Llah declined to eat saying, “I am fasting”. Sayyiduna ‘Amr commanded: “Eat, because these are the days during which the Messenger of Allah (upon him be blessings and peace) commanded us to eat and prohibited us from fasting.” — Recorded by Imams Malik, Abu Dawud and others.

Sayyiduna Abu Hurairah (Allah be pleased with him) reported that Allah’s Messenger (upon him be blessings and peace) said: “The days of Tashriq are days of eating and remembering Allah.” — Recorded by Imams Ibn Hibban, Ahmad and others.

Sayyiduna Nubaishah Al-Hudhali reported that the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said: “The Days of Tashriq are days of eating, drinking and remembrance of Allaah.” — Recorded by Imams Muslim, Ahmad and others.

Sayyiduna Ka’ab ibn Malik (may Allah be pleased with him) reported that on one of the days of Tashriq, Allah’s Messenger (upon him be blessings and peace) sent him, together with Sayyiduna Aws ibn Al-Hadathan (may Allah be pleased with him) to announce to the people: “The days of Mina are days of eating and drinking.” — Recorded by Imams Muslim, Ahmad and others.

The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) commanded Sayyiduna ‘Abdu-Llah ibn Huthaafah to ride his camel among the people on one of the days of Mina and announce: “No one may fast (these days) because these are the days of eating and drinking.” — Recorded by Imams At-Tahawi and Ahmed.

Having said that, for those in the habit of observing the fast of the “White Days”, they should follow the opinion of Imam al-Shafi’i (may Allah be pleased with him and increase his rank) who says that it is desirable to fast the 16th of Dhu-l Hijjah in place of the 13th.

Addendum: The White Days and Crime

Full moon days have been traditionally associated with a myriad of effects on human behaviour. It has led to the rise of a theory known as the “Lunar Effect” or “Transylvanian hypothesis”. Critics and sceptics dismiss it as “pseudo-scientific” as they find claims of a correlation of lunar phases to human behaviour as exaggerated or simply not holding up under scientific scrutiny.

Nevertheless, it is interesting to note that some of the ardent proponents of this theory are from highly regarded professions. These include policing authorities and medical professionals who witness first-hand the “Lunar Effect” in the course of their jobs. In an article entitled, “Full Moon and Crime” [click to open], Thakur and Sharma wrote:

The incidence of crimes committed on full moon days was much higher than on all other days, new moon days, and seventh days after the full moon and new moon … The increased incidence of crimes on full moon days may be due to “human tidal waves” caused by the gravitational pull of the moon.

— Thakur, C P and Sharma, D. (1984). Full Moon and Crime. British Medical Journal. 289, p1789-1791.

Regardless of which side one takes in the “Lunar Effect” debate, it is worthwhile for Muslims to reflect on it. In a subtle way, this debate should strengthen one’s conviction that every sunna of the beloved Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) has a hidden wisdom and a higher reality.

For those of us who believe in the “Lunar Effect” theory, it behoves us to assiduously embrace the practice of fasting during the “White Days”. It is the ideal way to keep in restraint the passionate desires [hawa] and the lunatic-self [nafs].

Similarly, for the sceptics and critics, the mere possibility of the theory being true (as it has not been decisively rubbished) should encourage them to observe the fasts during the “White Days” with renewed vigour.

And Allah and His Messenger know best.

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