Sawm: What Doesn’t Break the Fast?
Updated: Feb 17, 2022
By Dr. Mateen Khan (Trenton, New Jersey)
The following is part of Enter the Sunnah’s Fiqh Series, concise posts on various fiqh topics about why we do what we do with proofs from the primary sources in Islam according to the usool of the Hanafis.
In our last post, we discussed what breaks the fast. Now, we’ll look at the other side of things—what doesn’t break the fast?
Eating, drinking, sexual intercourse or anything similar to these three if done while forgetting that one is fasting
The Prophet (Allah bless and give him peace) said, “If somebody eats or drinks forgetfully, then he should complete his fast, for what he has eaten or drank, has been given to him by Allah.”1 According to the Tabi’ūn2 al-Hasan and Mujāhid, if someone were to have sexual intercourse while forgetting that he or she was fasting, it would not break his or her fast.3
In all three situations, they should continue to fast as if it did not happen.
Medicines or fluids entering the body in a place other than the gastrointestinal tract
The Qur’an outlines that fasting is refraining from eating, drinking, and sexual intercourse.4 Intravenous, intramuscular, subcutaneous, or intravaginal medicines and fluids and eardrops are not from among these three. Eye drops do not break the fast as suggested by the Prophet’s wife ‘Aisha’s (May Allah be pleased with her) statement, “Sometimes the Prophet would apply kohl5 while he was fasting.”6
Simply tasting something or using toothpaste without swallowing any of it
The Companion Ibn ‘Abbās (May Allah be pleased with him) said, “There is no harm in a fasting person tasting a thing.”7 It is extremely disliked (makrūh tahrīmī) due to the high risk of a person swallowing even a small amount of it and hence, breaking their fast unintentionally.
Generally, anything exiting the body such as unintentional vomiting, non-purposeful ejaculation, bleeding or having blood taken from you
The Companion Ibn ‘Abbās (May Allah be pleased with him) said, “The fast is broken by those things which enter the body and not by those things that exit the body.8 The exceptions are those that have been explained in the our previous post, such as intentional vomiting and purposeful ejaculation. The Prophet (Allah bless and give him peace) said, “A person should continue fasting if he unintentionally vomits, ejaculates while sleeping (wet-dream), or has cupping done9.”10
Swallowing smoke, dust, insects or a small amount of food stuck in the teeth unintentionally
The scholars have agreed that to avoid these is impractical and a hardship (haraj). A “small amount” is considered less than the size of a small raisin or chickpea.
False speech and backbiting
The Prophet (Allah bless and give him peace) said, “Whoever does not leave false speech, and acting according to it, then Allah is not in any need of him leaving his food and his drink.” Hence, the fast is still valid, but its reward is lessened or lost.
Using a miswāk is commendable
One of the Companions stated, “I cannot count the number of times I saw the Prophet using a miswāk while fasting.”11
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_____ 1 Sahīh al-Bukhārī 1933 2 Tabi’ūn are the successors to the Companions constituting the second generation of the salaf al-sālīhīn. 3 Sahīh al-Bukhārī, The Chapter on If a Fasting Person Ate or Drank Forgetfully 4 Al-Baqara 187 5 Kohl is a fine powder used as medicine for the eyes and to darken the eyelids. 6 Sunan li al-Bayhaqī 8259; The scholars have also explained that the route requiring fluids to entire the GI system from the eye is circuitous enough to not break the fast. 7 Sunan li al-Bayhaqī 8254 8 Sahīh al-Bukhārī, The Chapter on Cupping and Vomiting While Fasting 9 Cupping is the process of drawing blood from the body with the application of a cupping glass. 10 Sunan Abī Dāwūd 2376 11 Jāmi’ al-Tirmidhī 725