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What can break your fast during Ramazan? Myths and misconceptions

There are many doubts that arise among people observing fasting in Ramazan over certain situations and activities that could potentially nullify their fast, or things that need to be avoided during fasting.  

There is no doubt among the four different schools of thought in Islam over things such as intentional eating and drinking, intentional vomiting and vitamin injections. However, there are some common myths that circulate due to lack of knowledge.

The Grand Mufti at the Islamic Affairs and Charitable Activities Department in Dubai Dr Ali Ahmad Mashael clarifies some of these situations whether or not they break the fast, are discouraged, or debatable.

Accidentally eating or drinking 

Dr Mashael said that when a person is forgetful, and unintentionally ate or drank, then this does not break their fast and it is still valid.

The Holy Quran says: ‘And there is no sin on you if you make a mistake therein, except in regard to what your hearts deliberately intend. And Allah is Ever Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful’ [Al-Ahzaab 33:5].”

However, Dr Mashael said that the Al Maliki school of thought requires Muslims to make up the fast after Ramazan.

Brushing the teeth and gargling

Dr Mashael says that miswak is preferable and is encouraged to be used during fasting hours to brush the teeth and eliminate bad breath.

Brushing teeth with toothpaste and a brush is discouraged because the paste can reach the throat.  He thinks that it is better to be cautious when it comes to these things.

Swimming or taking in shower

Swimming does not break the fast but if water makes its way through the mouth into the throat or inside the nose, which in many cases is believed to reach the abdomen, then it can.

Dr Mashael says that those fasting must avoid aggressive swimming strokes or showering or else their fast cannot be counted and they need to make it up after Ramazan.

Applying lipstick, nail polish and perfumes 

Dr Mashael said that applying lipstick is disliked as it could contain flavours and can reach the woman’s taste buds and throat when the tongue touches the lip.

Nail polish doesn’t break the fast but it must be removed before ablution because it does not allow water to touch the nails and the ablution then would not be deemed valid.

Dr Mashael said all kinds of frankincense, if intentionally inhaled, will reach the abdomen because of the incense smoke and break one’s fast. Other perfumes do not break a fast but applying them is disliked during fasting hours.

Cursing, shouting, lying, telling tales, false testifying, listening to music

These do not break the fast, but engaging in such behaviours deprives the person of rewards and Allah;s forgiveness, as fasting is not only about refraining from eating and drinking.”

Another Islamic scholar Khaleeq Ahmad Mufti, explaining why it is wrong to engage in such behaviours,  said that it goes against the basic ethics and morals of fasting.

“Fasting is about disciplinary behaviour, not only about avoiding food. A person needs to stick to good manners during Ramazan,” he said.

Health-related issues

Donating blood

There is some debate on this between various Muslim scholars, but the majority except Hanbali school, agree that it doesn’t break the fast.

Water or ear drops and nose sprays

Dr Mashael said that water or ear drops entering the ears are most likely to break the fast because they are open ports that can reach the abdomen. Nose sprays can also break the fast if they reach the abdomen, so people should take precautions.

As for eye drops, scholars differ on this, so Dr Mashael recommends that people avoid it unless they urgently need to take it during fasting hours.

He said that some scholars may disagree about the nose spray just as some disagree that a sorbitrate, a pill placed under the tongue for patients suffering from heart problems, can break the fast.

Insulin injections for diabetic people

Dr Mashael said that insulin injections do not break the fast, but people are advised to take doses to bring back the body sugar to the normal range. Taking too much can make the person hungry and may lead to breaking a fast.

He explained that there are two types of illnesses that determine whether a person should fast or not.

If a person suffers from any type of illness that requires immediate medication then that person is excused from fasting and must make it up. Fasting in this case can deteriorate health and delay recovery and it is acceptable to not fast.

However, a person suffering from a headache or any other illness that is tolerable can delay consuming their medication until Isha, Maghrib, or Sehri. If the pain becomes intolerable, they do not have to fast.

The elderly and permanently ill people who require continuous medication are excused from fasting.



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