Accidental & Forgetful Breaking of the Fast: What Is the Difference?

Hanafi Fiqh

Answered by Ustadha Naielah Ackbarali

Question: I am completely confused by the concept of accidental break up of fast and forgetfulness during fasting. Could you please clarify?

Answer: Bismi Llahir Rahmanir Rahimi

Many people get confused between these three categories. But they are quite simple once one gives it a little thought.

There are three ways that one can break the fast:

a. deliberately

b. accidently or mistakenly, and

c. forgetfully.

Deliberately Breaking the Fast

Breaking one’s fasting deliberately requires a makeup fast and necessitates expiation.

Deliberately means that one remembers that one is fasting and purposely performs a specific action that breaks the fast without an excuse. [ibn Abdin, Radd al-Muhtar]

The specific actions that break the fast in this category are:

  1. Purposely eating or drinking something that humans would normally consume and this consummation nourishes, medicates, or pleases the body in some way
  2. Purposely performing actual sexual intercourse, in the front or rear private part, regardless if one ejaculated or not
  3. Swallowing the saliva of one’s spouse

Accidentally Breaking the Fast

Breaking one’s fast accidently requires a makeup fast but does not necessitate expiation. This also applies to actions that one was coerced to do.

Accidentally means that one remembers that one is fasting but broke the fast by one’s own doing without the intention to purposely break the fast. [Tahtawi, Hashiya al-Tahtawi; Related in Radd al-Muhtar]  As such, one did not intend to break the fast; however, a situation occurred where something entered the body cavity through a normal passageway due to one’s own action whilst one was consciously aware that one was fasting.

Example: Anas is making ablution for Asr prayer. He knows that he’s fasting for Ramadan today. While washing his mouth, he accidentally swallows water. He did not purposely intend to swallow water, but it mistakenly happened. Thus, his fast is vitiated because something entered the body cavity through a normal passageway while he consciously knew he was fasting. He doesn’t fall into category A because he didn’t purposely intend to do an action that would break the fast. He owes a makeup without expiation.

Forgetfully Breaking the Fast

If any of the actions that break the fast are performed forgetfully, then one’s fast is not vitiated. Forgetfully means that one does not have the presence of mind that one is fasting when performing the action. [Shurunbulali, Imdad al-Fattah]

The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said, “Whoever forgets that he is fasting and eats or drinks, then he still completes his fast. It is only Allah who fed him and gave him drink.” [Bukhari]

In another narration, the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said, “If a fasting person eats forgetfully, it is only provision Allah put forth to him and there is no makeup upon him.” [Bukhari]

Example: Sarah is fasting for Ramadan. Suddenly, she feels thirsty. She goes into the kitchen and drinks a glass of water, completely forgetting that she’s fasting. After she finishes, she suddenly realizes that it is Ramadan and she drank something forgetfully. She was not conscious of the fact that she was fasting when she drank. Her fast is not broken according to the hadiths mentioned above. Rather, she should continue to fast for the remainder of the day. Her fast is valid and she no makeup is upon her.

I hope this is clear.

Barak Allah fikum.

Checked & Approved by Faraz Rabbani

UstadhaNaielah Ackbarali is a female student of Islamic knowledge from the US. She studies with leading Hanafi scholars from Syria and elsewhere.