Deen Digest | What Breaks and Invalidates Fasting in Islam

by Abu Hanifa
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“So now have sexual relations with them and seek that which Allah has ordained for you (offspring), and eat and drink until the white thread (light) of dawn appears to you distinct from the black thread (darkness of night), then complete your Sawm (fast) till the nightfall.” [al-Baqarah 2:187]

Every Muslim, especially in Ramadan, struggle to perfect their fasting, as a way of pleasing Allah and getting unquantifiable rewards here on earth and in the hereafter. This is why Muslims regularly assess their deeds while on fasting, be it in Ramadan or after Ramadan. Inwardly, they say to themselves: “I hope this/that won’t invalidate my fasting; Am I really doing the right things while fasting?; I hope this act I’m about to do won’t reduce my rewards from Allah?” These and other related self-checklist help a person who is fasting to stay focused and adhere strictly to the tenets and principles of fasting in Islam.

Before delving into what invalidates fasting in Islam, it is important to clarify here that, according to Islamic scholars, there are three main things to be considered when deciding whether an act invalidates fasting or not. These conditions are:

  • Is the person fasting aware of things that break or invalidate fasting or not?
  • Is person fasting conscious of what they’re doing and have not forgotten that they’re fasting?
  • Does person fasting do it of their own free will and are not being compelled or forced to do it. (i.e. it is the choice of the person)?

If the answers to the three questions above are YES, then fasting becomes invalid. Hence, once this happen, only seeking for the forgiveness from Allah and facing the prescribed consequences would save the concerned person from displeasing Allah, subuhana’u wa ta’allah.

Now we can answer this: What invalidates fasting in Islam?

According to scholars, there are two categories of things which break the fast. The first is what we ingest into our body and the second what expel from our body.

Category 1 – Things ingested which break the fast:

Eating

It has been made permissible for you the night preceding fasting to go to your wives [for sexual relations]. And eat …until the white thread of dawn becomes distinct to you from the black thread [of night]. (2:187)

Eating intentionally automatically invalidates the fast. However, if you sincerely forgot and ate out of forgetfulness your fast is not broken.

It was narrated from Abu Hurairah that the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said: “Whoever eats out of forgetfulness while fasting, let him complete his fast, for it is Allah Who has fed him and given him to drink.” (Sahih Al Bukhari Hadith 1673)

Drinking

It has been made permissible for you the night preceding fasting to go to your wives [for sexual relations]. …and drink until the white thread of dawn becomes distinct to you from the black thread [of night]. (2:187)

Brushing your teeth will only break your fast if it reaches the back of the throat or if it reaches the stomach because you have swallowed the water and paste. You can brush your teeth before Suhoor and after Iftar, but if you fear smelly breath during the day It is recommended to follow the Sunnah of Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) and use Miswak instead.


Medicine, injections, pills, transfusions.

Islamic scholars unanimously opine that:

  1. Using an inhaler if you are medically prescribed it will not break your fast (Mufti Shaykh Ibn Al-Uthaymeen and Shaykh Muqbil)

See the fatwa of the Islamic Fiqh Assembly of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) Decision Number: 93 (10/1). Session Venue: Jeddah, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Session Date: Safar 23rd – 28th, 1418 A.H. / June 28th – July 3rd, 1997 C.E.:

  1. Taking nutritional injections does break the fast.
  2. Diabetic on Insulin. Taking an insulin injection while fasting will not break the fast. Scholars advised that you consult physician if you are a diabetic in order to see if fasting is safe for you.
  3. Taking anesthetic injection for any medical procedure does not break your fast according to Shaykh Ibn Al-Uthaymeen.

Kidney dialysis, where blood is recycled back and put into the body.

Islamic scholars believe that doing kidney dialysis while fasting, especially when it is It is then restored with the addition of salts, sugars, or/and vitamins, does invalidate the fast. [Fataawa al-Lajnah al-Daa’imah, 10/190]

Essentially, according to Majmoo’ Fatawa Ibn ‘Uthaymeen, 20/113, “if the substances that are mixed with the blood do not include nutrients, rather they simply cleanse the blood, then this does not break the fast. In this case one may use dialysis even if one is fasting. One should refer to the doctors about this matter.”

Ultimately, in case they find it difficult to fast in dialysis, they are permitted not to fast. Allah (SWT) say: “And as for those who can fast with difficulty, (e.g. an old man), they have (a choice either to fast or) to feed a Miskeen (poor person) (for every day)” [Al-Baqarah 2:184]

 

Additionally, note that there is no divergent opinion among Islamic scholars on the fact that nose bleeding, blood for lab testing and wound or injury wherein blood is releases do not break the fast.

However, with regards to donating blood, there is a difference of opinion among Muslim scholars as to whether it breaks the fast or not. The difference in their opinion came up as a result of these two hadiths:

(i) Narrated Thawban, the client of the Prophet (ﷺ): The Prophet (ﷺ) as saying: A man who cups and a man who gets himself cupped break their fast. [Sunan Abi Dawud 2370]; and

(ii) Narrated Ibn `Abbas: The Prophet (ﷺ) was cupped while he was fasting. [Sahih al-Bukhari 1939]

Where the two parties conclude is that if the amount of blood released from an unintentional action such as a nose bleed or wound is as large and the person has become weak then it is permissible for him to break the fast (Surat Al-Baqarah 2:184).

 

Category 2: Actions that lead to bodily fluid from being expelled from the body.

They include:

Sexual intercourse

The Qur’an has verses mentioning rules for fasting, particularly in Ramadan. Specifically, in Surah Baqarah verse 187, it gives us a clear ruling to abstain from sexual activities during this month and to avoid drinking and eating until sunset.

Allah (Subuhanahu wa ta’alaa) says: “It has been made permissible for you the night preceding fasting to go to your wives [for sexual relations]. They are clothing for you and you are clothing for them. (Qur’an 2:187)

Narrated Abu Hurairah: A man came to the Prophet (ﷺ) and said: I am undone. He asked him: What has happened to you? He said: I had intercourse with my wife in Ramadan (while I was fasting). He asked: Can you set a slave free? He said: No. He again asked: Can you fast for two consecutive months? He said: No. He asked: Can you provide food for sixty poor people? He said: No. He said: Sit down. Then a huge basket containing dates (‘araq) was brought to the Prophet (ﷺ). He then said to him: Give it as sadaqah (i.e. alms). He said: Messenger of Allah, there is no poorer family than mine between the two lave plains of it (Medina). The Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) laughed so that his eye-tooth (canine tooth) became visible and said: Give it to your family to eat. Musaddad said in another place: “his canine teeth”. [Sunan Abi Dawud 2390; al-Bukhari, 1936; Muslim, 1111]

However, what is permissible with your spouse is kissing, hugging, and embracing as long both can control your desires. The Prophet was said to be affectionate while keeping his fast but he was able to show self-restraint from it escalating further.

Narrated ‘Aishah: The Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) used to kiss and embrace while he was fasting, but he was the one of you who had most control over his desire. [Sunan Abi Dawud 2382. Also, in Jami at-Tirmidhi 727, Ibn Majah Vol. 1, Book 7 Hadith 1685, Sahih Muslim 1106, and Sahih al-Bukhari 1928]

 

Masturbation
This means causing ejaculation or climax by using the hand etc.

The evidence that masturbation is one of the things that invalidate the fast is the words of Allah in the hadith qudsi in which He says of the fasting person: “He gives up his food and drink and desire for My sake.” (Narrated by al-Bukhari, 1894; Muslim, 1151) Causing ejaculation comes under the heading of the desire which the fasting person gives up.

Whoever masturbates during the day in Ramadan has to repent to Allah and refrain from eating and drinking for the rest of the day, and he has to make up that fast later on.

If he starts to masturbate then stops without ejaculating, he has to repent, but his fast is still valid, and he does not have to make it up later because he did not ejaculate. The fasting person should keep away from everything that provokes desire and shun bad thoughts.

With regard to the emission of madhiy (prostatic fluid), the most correct view is that it does not invalidate the fast.

Menstruation or/and Post-natal Bleeding

Imam Malik was asked what a woman menstruating should do about her fasting and prayer, and he said, “This blood is like menstrual blood. When she sees it she should break her fast, and then make up the days she has missed. Then, when the blood has completely stopped, she should do ghusl and fast.” Muwatta Malik Book 18, Hadith 49. In addition to this, in Sahih Al Bukhari 304, it says, “…woman can neither pray nor fast during her menses”.

When a woman sees the blood of her period or nifas (postpartum bleeding), her fast becomes invalid even if that is one moment before sunset.

If a woman feels that her period has started but no blood comes out until after sunset, her fast is still valid.

If the bleeding of a woman who is menstruating or in nifas ceases at night and she has the intention of fasting, then dawn comes before she does ghusl, the view of all the scholars is that her fast is valid. Al-Fath, 4/148.

It is preferable for a woman to keep to her natural cycle and to accept that which Allah has decreed for her, and not to take any medicine to prevent her period. She should accept what Allah has decreed for her of not fasting during her period, and make up for those days later on. This is what the Mothers of the Believers and the women of the Salaf used to do. (Fatawa al-Lajnah al-Daimah, 10/151)

In addition, it has been medically proven that these means of preventing menstruation are harmful and many women have suffered menstrual irregularities as a result. If a woman takes pills and her period stops as a result, that is fine, she can fast and her fast is acceptable.

Deliberately Vomiting

According to a Sohih Hadith narrated by Abu Hurayrah, Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) said: “if one has a sudden attack of vomiting while one is fasting, no atonement is required of him, but if he vomits intentionally, he must make atonement.” (Sunan Abu Dawud 2380). In another narration, Abdullah ibn Umar, one of the companions of the Prophet (PBUH), used to say: “If someone makes himself vomit while he is fasting he has to make up a day, but if he cannot help vomiting he does not have to make up anything.” [Muwatta Malik Book 18, Hadith 47]

Some people deliberately vomit by sticking fingers in the throat or pressing on the stomach. While is unlikely to happen, some deliberately smell something nasty or watching grotesque videos on social which they know might make them throw up. Therefore, The hadith above mentions that the one who deliberately vomits has broken the fast and should seek forgiveness.

According to Ibn al-Mundhir, Islamic scholars agree that the fast of one who vomits deliberately is invalidated. (Al-Mughni, 4/368)

Thus, who so ever vomits deliberately by sticking his finger in his throat, pressing their stomach, deliberately smelling something nasty or persisting in looking at something that makes them vomit have to make up their fast later on.

 

Cupping or Blood donation (for blood donation there’s a difference of opinion).

Narrated Thawban, the client of the Prophet (ﷺ): The Prophet (ﷺ) as saying: A man who cups and a man who gets himself cupped break their fast. [Sunan Abi Dawud 2047, 2370]

Donating blood affects the body in the same way as cupping does. Therefore, it is not permissible for a person who is fasting to donate blood unless it is essential, in which case it is permissible. In that case, the donor has broken his fast and must make up that day later on. (Ibn ‘Uthaymin, Majalis Shahr Ramadan, p. 71)

However, regarding bleeding resulted from extraction of a tooth, surgery or a blood test, the fast becomes valid because it is not cupping or something that is similar to cupping. I can only become invalid if an effect on the body similar to that of cupping.

Finally, even using curse words or lying does not break the fast, it does take away from its rewards and is discouraged in Islam as it is termed as a makruh (disliked) behavior.

Abu Huraira reported Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) as saying: Allah the Exalted and Majestic said: Every act of the son of Adam is for him, except fasting. It is (exclusively) meant for Me and I (alone) will reward it. Fasting is a shield. When any one of you is fasting on a day, he should neither indulge in obscene language, nor raise the voice; or if anyone reviles him or tries to quarrel with him he should say: I am a person fasting. By Him, in Whose Hand is the life of Muhammad, the breath of the observer of fast is sweeter to Allah on the Day of judgment than the fragrance of musk. The one who fasts has two (occasions) of joy, one when he breaks the fast he is glad with the breaking of (the fast) and one when he meets his Lord he is glad with his fast. [Sahih Muslim 1151]

Be it in Ramadan or not, detach yourself from Shaytan by fighting your bad behaviors. None of us is perfect, but we must strive to avoid intentionally repeating sinful acts and seek for Allah’s forgiveness with sincerity. A philosopher once said: It’s easy to be short tempered than seeking to understand. Easy to get angry than remain calm. Easy to lie or deflect than face the truth. If you do what is hard your life will be easy, if you do what is easy your life will be hard. Remember that Allah sees and hears you, especially your open and secret deed. The way to Jannah (paradise) is the way of Allah conveyed to the Ummah by His prophet. Follow Allah and you’ll never be astray!

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