Things That Nullify and Do Not Nullify Fasting (Shafii)

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What are the conditions that break the fast? What breaks the fast?

I. Situations Which Break Fasting and Require both Making it up (Qada) and expiation (Kaffarah)

If a competent Muslim man intentionally breaks his fast by having sexual intercourse, he must not only make up his fast later but also perform the kaffarah (expiation). During the day he breaks his fasting, he also has to pretend like he is fasting for the rest of the day. This is because the man is the active party in a sexual relation, and he becomes the one who is responsible for the expiation.

The repetition of the performance of expiation is required if the man repeats the breaking of fast by having sexual relation. (According to the Hanafi School, one expiation is sufficient).

One must be aware that such an act is forbidden and not have a legitimate excuse for ignorance. Hence, if the person fasting is new to Islam or grew up far from Muslim scholars, his engaging in sexual relations under these circumstances will require neither the making up of the fast or the expiation. In like manner, one must do so willingly. Hence, if someone were forced to have intercourse, it will require neither the making up of the fast or the expiation.

The kaffarah, which is the punishment for breaking a fast without a legitimate excuse, is to free either a male or a female slave. Conversely, since slavery does not exist in the contemporary world, expiation is performed by fasting two months in a continuous succession. Moreover, the person should fast one more day to makeup the fast that was broken. Those who are too old or too ill to fast for two months must feed sixty needy people for one day (two meals in a day) or one needy person for sixty days.

This is because the two months must be spent in perfect successions of fasts, such that if one day’s fast is invalidated, even based on a legitimate excuse, such as travel, this day’s fast will be considered a voluntary fast and the expiatory fasting would have to begin all over again due to the fact that the required continuity had been broken. In order not to violate this rule, one should not coincide the expiation with Ramadan or the days in which fasting is prohibited. However, women do not fast during their menstruation and postpartum bleeding period. Thus, they have the right to continue performing the expiation after the end of those periods and are able to complete the expiation.

II. Situations that Require only Qada not Kaffarah when the Fasting is Broken

It is a general principle that things that enter the body from standard ways and things that give pleasure nullify fasting. One who breaks his fast without a legitimate excuse should pretend to be in the role of fasting for the rest of the day.

Under the following circumstances, the fast is broken and it should be made up a day for a day.

  1. If one intentionally eats or drinks something in Ramadan, it would break his fast and it must be made up later. (According to the Hanafi and the Maliki Schools, one needs to perform an expiation (kaffarah) in such a situation).
  2. Things that enters the body through natural ways breaks the fast. Swallowing a pill, Taking in smoking tobacco, “Persian tobacco” (which is used in a narghile, or water pipe), snuff, and the like, inserting cotton into the penis, inserting medicine in one’s genital opening or anus, and dripping something or inserting a stick or similar object inside one’s ear etc. breaks one’s fast and requires that one make up the fast later but without expiation. (According to other schools, inserting hard objects into the body does not break one’s fast.)

Allowing something to reach one’s stomach, be it a large or a small amount, even if it is as small as a sesame seed or a pebble, and including even a small amount of water. However, this will only invalidate one’s fast given the following conditions: (a) The person must be ignorant of this ruling due to him having embraced Islam only recently. (b) The person must have allowed the substance to reach his stomach deliberately; if it reaches his stomach despite his efforts to prevent it, his fast will not be invalidated. (c) The substance must have reached the person’s stomach by way of a legally recognized pathway, such as his or her nose, mouth, ears, genital orifice, urethra or anus, or through a wound which leads to the brain.

Eating food that has remained lodged between one’s teeth when one would have been able to recognize what it is and spit it out; this ruling applies even if the amount of food is less than the size of a chickpea. If a piece of thread is wetted by saliva, taken out of the mouth and then put into mouth again, this breaks the fast.

  1. If one administers medicine to the body through serum, injection, etc. or has his ears washed, or if the effect of liquid medicine reaches the stomach, or if it is mixed into the blood, the fast is broken. The modes of treatment, which is performed by injecting medical tools and medicine to the body such as having  an endoscopy, colonoscopy, enema, dialysis, and anesthesia, breaks the fast.
  2. If one goes to excess when rinsing out one’s mouth or drawing water up one’s nostrils in order to force it out again [ as part of ritual ablutions], or if one performs these actions more than three times and water goes down into one’s stomach, one’s fast is invalidated and one must make it up later. This is because those who fast are proscribed from exaggerating the drawing of water into their nostrils and mouth.
  3. Deliberately, knowingly vomiting, even if the amount of vomit was not sufficient to fill one’s mouth. In this regard, Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) 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.”[1]
  4. Having an ejaculation due to sensual touching (though without entry), even if it is adulterous in nature, or due to kissing, touching and the like. As for an ejaculation resulting simply from looking [at a sexually attractive person]or thinking [erotic thoughts], this – like having a ‘wet dream’ – does not invalidate one’s fast if it is not habitual.
  5. If one continues to eat and drink after dawn assuming that there is still time, his fast will be invalidated. In like manner, if one breaks his fast before sunset assuming that sun has already set, his fast will be nullified and he needs to make it up. Asma (r. anha), the daughter of Abu Bakr (r.a.) said, “We broke our fast on a cloudy day (assuming that the sun set) at the time of the Messenger of Allah (pbuh), then the sun appeared and we were commanded to make up the fast of that day.”[2]

If one breaks the fast without a valid excuse, for example eating something in Ramadan when fasting, he should pretend like he is fasting for the rest of the day and avoid eating, drinking and having sexual relations as a punishment for his violation.  One who forgets to make the intention before dawn must do the same.

  1. If one who wakes up before dawn to have the sahur meal, and has some food remaining in his mouth at the time of dawn but spits it out, his fasting becomes valid. However, if he keeps the food in his mouth for a while, his fast will be invalidated.
  2. The fasting of those who apostatize, lose their sanity, or enter the period of menses or postpartum bleeding will be invalidated.

If the menstruation or postpartum bleeding of a woman ends during the day, it is recommended for her to pretend like she is fasting. However, she must make up the days she misses sometime after Ramadan.

III. Things That Do Not Break The Fast

  • The fasting of those who are under duress or of those who do not know the rules of religion because they live in a desolate place or of those who forget that they are fasting and eat something will not be invalidated. Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) said, “If somebody eats or drinks forgetfully then he should complete his fast, for what he has eaten or drunk, has been given to him by Allah.”[3]
  • If the dust from the road, the dust from sifting flour, flies or mosquitoes, which are very difficult to avoid, get into one’s throat despite efforts to prevent it, it does not break one’s fast.
  • If one whose teeth bleed frequently swallows blood mixed in saliva, it does not invalidate fasting. Because this is very hard to avoid. However, whenever he feels the taste of blood, he should try to spit it out.
  • Swallowing mucus that has not gotten into one’s mouth, but is felt in one’s throat does not break the fasting.
  • Even if the traces of oil and other similar materials applied to skin or kohl (eyeliner) is found in one’s throat, it does not break fasting.
  • Rinsing out one’s mouth or drawing water up one’s nose as part of ritual ablutions without exaggerating and as a result of which one unintentionally allows water into one’s stomach does not break one’s fast. According to the Hanafi and the Maliki Schools, this invalidates fasting.
  • Giving blood and bloodletting does not invalidate fasting. However, bloodletting is reprehensible for someone who is fasting, unless it is necessary.
  • Chewing additive-free gum or tasting a meal (feeling its taste by tongue) does not break the fasting. However, if it is not necessary, doing these acts are regarded as reprehensible.
  • Fast is not invalidated by brushing the teeth by a miswaq (toothpick) or a toothbrush without using the tooth paste. However, it is reprehensible to brush the teeth after Noon Prayer time. (Because of feeling the taste of the toothpaste or possibility of swallowing it, one should try to brush his teeth before dawn.)
  • Swallowing one’s saliva or feeling wetness in the mouth after performing ablution does not invalidate fasting.
  • Having a tooth pulled out. (However, swallowing blood or any material used for pulling out the tooth invalidates fasting.)
  • Applying kohl which, according to the best-attested view, is a departure from the ideal.
  • Even though it is reprehensible, kissing one’s wife does not break one’s fasting even with physical desire but without ejaculation. Having an ejaculation due to sensual touching (though without entry), even if it is adulterous in nature, or due to kissing, touching and the like. As for an ejaculation resulting simply from looking at or thinking [erotic thoughts], this-like having a ‘wet dream’ —- does not invalidate one’s fast even if it is reprehensible.
  • Taking a bath and performing major ablution without exaggerating the rinsing of the mouth and the drawing of water into the nose does not invalidate fasting. Seeing a wet-dream when sleeping while fasting or seeing a wet-dream before dawn and performing major ablution in the morning do not invalidate fasting.
  • Looking at pleasant scenes, smelling flowers, perfumes, musk etc. and listening to nice melodies do not invalidate one’s fasting.

[1] Abu Dawud, Sawm, 32

[2] Ibn Majah, Siyam, 1674

[3] Al-Bukhari, Sawm, 7

Source: Fiqh1 (According To The Shafi’i School Of Islamic Law), Erkam Publications

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