Apart from hayd (menstruation) and nifaas (post-natal bleeding), other things that can break the fast are only considered to do so if the following three conditions apply:
- If a person knows that it breaks the fast and is not ignorant
- If he is aware of what he is doing and has not forgotten that he is fasting
- If he does it of his own free will and is not forced to do it.
Among the things that break the fast are actions that involves the expulsion of bodily fluids, such as intercourse, vomiting, menstruation and cupping, and actions that involve ingesting matter, such as eating and drinking. (Majmoo’ al-Fataawa, 25/148)
Things Classified as Eating and Drinking
Among the things that break the fast are things that are classified as being like eating or drinking, such as taking medicines and pills by mouth, or injections of nourishing substances, or blood transfusions.
Injections that are not given to replace food and drink but are used to administer medications such as penicillin and insulin, or tonics, or vaccinations, do not break the fast, regardless of whether they are intra-muscular or intravenous. (Fataawa Ibn Ibraaheem, 4/189). But to be on the safe side, all these injections should be given during the night.
Kidney dialysis, whereby the blood is taken out, cleaned, and put back with some chemicals or nourishing substances such as sugars and salts added, is considered to break the fast. (Fataawa al-Lajnah al-Daa’imah, 10/190)
According to the most correct view, suppositories, eye-drops, ear-drops, having a tooth extracted and treating wounds do not break the fast. (Majmoo’ Fataawa Shaykh al-Islam, 25/233, 25/245)
Puffers used for asthma do not break the fast, because this is just compressed gas that goes to the lungs – it is not food, and it is needed at all times, in Ramadaan and at other times.
Having a blood sample taken does not break the fast and is permissible because it is something that is needed. (Fataawa al-Da’wah: Ibn Baaz, no. 979)
Medicines used by gargling do not break the fast so long as they are not swallowed. If a person has a tooth filled and feels the taste of it in his throat, this does not break his fast. (From the fataawa of Shaykh ‘Abd al-‘Azeez ibn Baaz, issued verbally)
The following things do not break the fast:
- Having the ears syringed; nose drops and nasal sprays – so long as one avoids swallowing anything that reaches the throat.
- Tablets that are placed under the tongue to treat angina and other conditions – so long as one avoids swallowing anything that reaches the throat.
- Anything inserted into the vagina, such as pessaries, douches, scopes or fingers for the purpose of a medical examination.
- Insertion of a scope or intra-uterine device (IUD or “coil”) and the like into the uterus.
- Insertion into the urethra – for males or females – of a catheter, opaque dye for diagnostic imaging, medication or solutions for cleansing the bladder.
- Dental fillings, tooth extractions, cleaning of the teeth, use of siwaak or toothbrush – so long as one avoids swallowing anything that reaches the throat.
- Rinsing, gargling or applying topical mouth sprays – so long as one avoids swallowing anything that reaches the throat.
- Subcutaneous, intramuscular or intravenous injections – except for those used to provide nourishment.
- Anaesthetic gases – so long as the patient is not given nourishing solutions.
- Medications absorbed through the skin, such as creams and patches used to administer medicine and chemicals.
- Insertion of a catheter into veins for diagnostic imaging or treatment of blood vessels in the heart or other organs.
- Use of a laparoscope (instrument inserted through a small incision in the abdomen) to examine the abdominal cavity or to perform operations.
- Taking biopsies or samples from the liver or other organs – so long as this is not accompanied by the administration of solutions.
- Gastroscopy – so long as this is not accompanied by the administration of solutions or other substances.
- Introduction of any instrument or medication to the brain or spinal column.
What to do When Your Fast is Broken Early
Anyone who eats and drinks deliberately during the day in Ramadaan with no valid excuse has committed a grave major sin (kabeerah), and has to repent and make up for that fast later on. If he broke the fast with something haraam, such as drinking alcohol, this makes his sin even worse. Whatever the case, he has to repent sincerely and do more naafil deeds, fasting and other acts of worship, so as to avoid having any shortfall in his record of obligatory deeds, and so that Allaah might accept his repentance.
If you forgot
“If he forgets, and eats and drinks, then let him complete his fast, for Allaah has fed him and given him to drink.” (Reported by al-Bukhaari, Fath, no. 1933). According to another report, “He does not have to make the fast up later or offer expiation (kafaarah).”
If a person sees someone else who is eating because he has forgotten that he is fasting, he should remind him, because of the general meaning of the aayah (interpretation of the meaning): “… Help one another in righteousness and piety…” [al-Maa’idah 5:2], and the hadeeth, “if I forget, remind me”; and because of the principle that this is an evil action (munkar) that must be changed. (Majlis Shahr Ramadaan, Ibn ‘Uthaymeen, p.70)
In order to save a life
Those who need to break their fast in order to save someone whose life is in danger, may break their fast and should make it up later on. This applies in cases where someone is drowning, or when fires need to be put out.
By having intercourse or sexual emissions
If a person is obliged to fast, but he deliberately has intercourse during the day in Ramadaan, of his own free will, where the two “circumcised parts” (genitals) come together and the tip of the penis penetrates either the front or back passage, his fast is broken, whether or not he ejaculates, and he has to repent. He should still fast for the rest of the day, but he has to make up the fast later on, and offer expiation (kafaarah), because of the hadeeth narrated by Abu Hurayrah (may Allaah be pleased with him): “Whilst we were sitting with the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him), a man came to him and said: ‘O Messenger of Allaah, I am doomed!’ He said, ‘What is the matter with you?’ He said, ‘I had intercourse with my wife whilst I was fasting.’ The Messenger of Allaah said, ‘Do you have a slave whom you could set free?’ He said, ‘No.’ He said, ‘Can you fast for two consecutive months?’ He said, ‘No.’ He said, ‘Do you have the wherewithal to feed sixty poor people?’ He said, ‘No’…” (Reported by al-Bukhaari, al-Fath, 4, no. 1936). The same ruling also applies in cases of zinaa (adultery or fornication), homosexuality and bestiality.
[Translator’s Note: Having Intercourse from the back passage, adultery, homosexuality, and bestiality are major sins in Islam and are magnified if done during the day of Ramadhan.]
If a person has intercourse during the day on more than one day during Ramadaan, he must offer expiation for each day, as well as repeating the fast for each day. Not knowing that kafaarah is obligatory is no excuse. (Fataawa al-Lajnah al-Daa’imah, 10/321)
If a man wants to have intercourse with his wife but he breaks his fast by eating first, his sin is more serious, because he has violated the sanctity of the month on two counts, by eating and by having intercourse. It is even more certain in this case that expiation is obligatory, and if he tries to get out of it, that only makes matters worse. He must repent sincerely. (See Majmoo’ al-Fataawa, 25/262)
Kissing, hugging, embracing, touching and repeatedly looking at one’s wife, if a man is able to control himself, is permissible, because it is reported in al-Saheehayn from ‘Aa’ishah (may Allaah be pleased with her) that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) used to kiss and embrace his wives whilst he was fasting, but he was the most in control of his desire. With regard to the hadeeth qudsi, “he keeps away from his wife for My sake”, this is referring to intercourse. But if a person get aroused quickly and is unable to control himself, then it is not permissible for him to kiss or embrace his wife, because that will lead to him breaking his fast, as he cannot be sure that he will be able to avoid ejaculating or having intercourse. Allaah says in a hadeeth qudsi: “and he leaves his desire for My sake.” The Islamic guideline is that anything that leads to haraam is also haraam.
If a person is engaged in the act of intercourse and dawn comes, he is obliged to withdraw, and his fast will be valid even if he ejaculates after withdrawal, but if he continues having intercourse until after dawn, he has broken his fast, and he must repent, make the fast up later, and offer expiation.
If morning comes and a person is in a state of janaabah (impurity following sexual intercourse), this does not affect his fasting. He or she is permitted to delay doing ghusl, whether it is for janaabah or following menstruation or post-natal bleeding, until dawn has appeared (though well before sunrise), but it is better to hasten to do ghusl so that one can pray.
If a person who is fasting sleeps and experiences a wet dream, this does not break his fast, according to scholarly consensus (ijmaa’), so he should complete his fast. Delaying doing ghusl does not break the fast, but he should hasten to do ghusl so that he can pray and so that the anegls will draw close to him.
If a person ejaculates during the day in Ramadaan because of something that he could have refrained from, such as touching or repeatedly looking at a woman, he must repent to Allaah and fast for the rest of the day, but he also has to make up that fast later on. If a person starts to masturbate but then stops, and does not ejaculate, then he has to repent but he does not have to make the fast up later on, because he did not ejaculate. The person who is fasting must keep away from everything that may provoke his desire, and he must repel any bad thoughts that come to him. However, according to the most correct opinion, if he emits prostatic fluid (madhiy), this does not break his fast.
The emission of wadiy, a thick sticky substance that comes out after urination, with no sense of physical pleasure, does not break the fast, and a person does not have to do ghusl, but he does have to do istinjaa’ (clean his private parts) and do wudoo’. (Fataawa al-Lajnah al-Daa’imah, 10/279)
The Ruling on Vomitting
“Whoever vomits unintentionally does not have to make up the fast later on, but whoever vomits on purpose does have to make up the fast.” (Saheeh hadeeth narrated by al-Tirmidhi, 3/89). A person who vomits deliberately, by sticking his finger down his throat or applying pressure to his stomach, or deliberately smelling a repulsive odour, or looking at something that could make him vomit, is obliged to make up the fast later on. If he feels that he is about to vomit, but then it subsides by itself, this does not break his fast, because it is not something that he can control, but if the vomit comes into his mouth and he swallows it back down, this does break the fast. If a person feels sick in his stomach, he does not have to suppress the urge to vomit, because this could cause him harm. (Majaalis Sharh Ramadaan, Ibn ‘Uthaymeen, 67)
If a person unintentionally swallows something that is stuck between his teeth, or if it is so small that he could not tell it was there or spit it out, this is counted as being part of his saliva and it does not break his fast. But if it is big enough to spit out, he should spit it out. If he spits it out, this is okay, but if he swallows it, this breaks his fast. If it can be diluted in the mouth, in whole or in part, and it has an added taste or sweetness, it is haraam for him to chew it. If any of this substance reaches the throat, this breaks the fast. If a person spits out water after rinsing his mouth, his fast is not affected by any moisture or wetness that is left behind, because he cannot help it.
The Ruling on Bleeding
If a person suffers from a nosebleed, his fast is still valid, because this is something that is beyond his control. (Fataawa al-Lajnah al-Daa’imah, 10/264)
If he has gum ulcers or his gums bleed after using the siwaak (tooth stick), it is not permissible for him to swallow the blood; he has to spit it out. However, if some blood enters his throat by accident, and he did not mean for that to happen, there is no need to worry. Similarly, if vomit rises in his throat then goes back down to his stomach without him intending for this to happen, his fast is still valid. (Fataawa al-Lajnah al-Daa’imah, 10/254)
With regard to mucus coming from the head (nose and sinuses) and phlegm coming from the chest by coughing and clearing the throat, if it is swallowed before it reaches the mouth, this does not break a person’s fast, because it is a problem which all people have; but if it is swallowed after it reaches the mouth, this does break the fast. However, if it is swallowed unintentionally, it does not break the fast.
Inhaling water vapours, as may happen to people working in desalination plants, does not break the fast. (Fataawa al-Lajnah al-Daa’imah, 10/276)
The Ruling on Tasting Food
It is disliked (makrooh) to taste food unnecessarily, because this carries the risk that the fast may be broken. Examples of cases where it is necessary to taste food include a mother chewing food for an infant when she has no other way to feed him, tasting food to make sure that it is OK, and tasting something when making a purchase. It was reported that Ibn ‘Abbaas said: “There is nothing wrong with tasting vinegar or anything that one wishes to buy.” (Classed as hasan in Irwa’ al-Ghaleel, 4/86; See al-Fath, commentary on Baab Ightisaal al-Saa’im, Kitaab al-Siyaam)
The Ruling on Using Miswaak, Perfumes, etc.
Using siwaak is Sunnah for the one who is fasting at all times of the day, even if it is wet. If a person who is fasting uses a siwaak and detects some heat or other taste from it and swallows it, or if he takes the siwaak out of his mouth and sees saliva on it then puts it back in his mouth and swallows the saliva, this does not break his fast. (al-Fataawa al-Sa’diyyah, 245). He should avoid any substance that can be diluted, such as the green siwaak, or siwaak that has any extra flavour added to it, like lemon or mint. He should spit out any small pieces that come off the siwaak in his mouth; he should not swallow them deliberately, but if he swallows them accidentally, there is no harm done.
If a fasting person is injured or suffers a nosebleed, or gets water or petrol in his mouth by accident, this does not break his fast. If he gets dust, smoke or flies in his mouth by accident, this does not break his fast either. Things that one cannot avoid swallowing, like one’s own saliva, or dust from grinding flour, do not break the fast. If a person gathers a lot of saliva in his mouth then swallows it on purpose, this does not break the fast, according to the most correct opinion. (al-Mughni by Ibn Qudaamah, 3/106)
If tears reach one’s throat, or if a person applies oil to his hair or moustache, or uses henna, and then detects the taste of it in his throat, this does not break his fast. Using henna, kohl or oil does not break the fast. (See Majmoo’ al-Fataawa, 25/233, 25/245). This also applies to creams used to moisturize and soften the skin.
There is nothing wrong with smelling pleasant fragrances, using perfume or applying scented creams and the like. There is nothing wrong with a fasting person using bukhoor (incense), so long as he does not use it as snuff. (Fataawa al-Lajnah al-Daa’imah, 10/314)
It is better not to use toothpaste during the day, and to leave it till night-time, because it is too strong. (Al-Majaalis, Ibn ‘Uthaymeen, p. 72)
To be on the safe side, it is better for the fasting person not to be treated with cupping (hijaamah). There is a strong difference of opinion on this matter. Ibn Taymiyah suggested that the one who has cupping done breaks his fast, but the one who does it does not break his fast.
The Ruling on Smoking
Smoking breaks the fast, and it cannot be used as an excuse not to fast. How can a sin be taken as an excuse?!
The Ruling on Swimming or Immersion in Water
Immersing oneself in water or wrapping oneself in wet clothes in order to cool down does not break the fast. There is nothing wrong with pouring water over one’s head to obtain relief from heat and thirst. Swimming is disliked, because it might make one break the fast (by swallowing water). If a person’s work involves diving and he can be sure that he will not get water in his mouth, there is nothing wrong with this.
Breaking the Fast Unintentionally
If a person eats, drinks or has intercourse, thinking that it is still night, then he realizes that dawn has already broken, there is no harm done, because the aayah clearly states that it is permissible to do these things until one is sure that dawn has come. ‘Abd al-Razzaaq reported with a saheeh isnaad going back to Ibn ‘Abbaas (may Allaah be pleased with him) that he said: “Allaah has permitted you to eat and drink so long as there is any doubt in your mind.” (Fath al-Baari, 4/135; this is also the opinion of Shaykh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyyah, Majmoo’ al-Fataawa, 29/263)
If a person breaks his fast, thinking that the sun has already set when it has not, he must make up the fast later on (according to the majority of scholars), because the principle is that it is still day, and a fact that is certain cannot be rejected in favour of something doubtful. (Shaykh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyah thought that it was not necessary for a person in this situation to make up the fast).
If dawn breaks and a person has food or drink in his mouth, the fuqaha’ are agreed that he should spit it out, and his fast is valid. This is like the ruling on one who eats or drinks because he forgets, then remembers he is fasting – if he hastens to spit out the food or drink in his mouth, his fast is still valid.
And Allah knows best.