Those who object to fasting part or all of Rajab and Sha`ban cite the following:
However, this does not constitute a valid objection as `Umar's act was solely due to some people's emphasis of Rajab -- which used to be fasted during the Jahiliyya -- over Ramadan as the fasting month. This is clearly not feared for present-day Muslims. There was also a sacrifice named rajabiyya performed in that month, a practice carried over from the Jahiliyya. Several hadiths in Abu Dawud and Ahmad show that it became obligatory in Islam until the obligation was abrogated. Certain pre-islamic survivals were fought even in the time of `Umar, as is shown by the latter's uprooting of a tree for fear of its veneration by some people.
It must be understood that Umar never said "Don't fast," rather, he said: "Break your fast," i.e. do not complete it as you would be obliged to if it were Ramadan. And no-one fasted Rajab and Sha`ban completely, this was reserved for Ramadan. However, if someone makes the intention to fast Rajab and Sha`ban completely, it is permitted in the Shari`a, with the understanding that it is mustahabb to break it shortly before Ramadan begins.
Ibn Qudama states in al-Mughni:
It is disliked that Rajab be singled out for fasting. Ahmad said: "If a man fasts during that month, let him break the fast for one day in it, or several, just so as not to fast it all."
The reason for this is what Ahmad has narrated with his chains:
· from Kharasha ibn al-Hurr: I saw `Umar striking the hands of the mutarajjibin until they helped themselves to the food, and he would say: "Eat! For it is only a month which the Jahiliyya used to magnify";
· from `Abd Allah ibn `Umar that he would dislike to see the people make preparations for Rajab and would say: "Fast some of it and break fast some of it";
· from Ibn `Abbas, something similar;
· from Abu Bakrah: He saw his household preparing new baskets and clay jugs and said: "What is this?" They said: "For Rajab, so that we may fast it."He said: "Did you change Rajab into Ramadan?" Then he took apart the baskets and broke the jugs.
Ahmad said: "Whoever fasts all year round may fast all of Rajab. Otherwise, let him not fast all of it but only some of it so that he will not liken it to Ramadan."13
The above makes it clear that:
The opinion of Sayyid Sabiq whereby "Fasting during Rajab contains no more virtue than during any other month" etc. is certainly incorrect in view of the fact that Rajab is a sacred month, and the Prophet emphasized the merit of fasting in the sacred months and in Sha`ban. This is established by Nawawi's commentary of the hadith of Sa`id ibn Jubayr in Muslim cited above, as well as the following hadiths:
As for hafiz Ibn Hajar's opinion it only applies to the pure singling out of the month of Rajab at the exclusion of Ramadan, or Sha`ban, or the sacred months, or the rest of the entire year, which does not have a basis. But his opinion does not provide a basis for the claim of the objectors that fasting during Rajab is forbidden or that it is an innovation: for neither the Imams of the fours schools, nor Bayhaqi, nor Nawawi, nor Ibn Hajar, nor even Sayyid Sabiq have claimed this! Furthermore, there is also no sound hadith from the Prophet forbidding the fast of Rajab or disavowing its merit.
In conclusion, it is at the very least allowed to fast Rajab and Sha`ban in part or in whole, and we say it is recommended, as the clarity of the intention to follow the Sunna and the knowledge that only the fast of Ramadan is obligatory, preclude the reprehensibility of those who used to honor Rajab in rivalry with Ramadan. Sufficient proof of the month of Rajab's status as a great month lies in the fact that it is the month of the Prophet's rapture and ascension to his Lord (al-isra' wa al-mi`raj), and they are blessed who commemorate this month and that night for the sake of Allah's favor to His Prophet and the Community of His Prophet. And Allah knows best.17