Assalamualaikum ustaz. If we accidentally eat and drink while fasting, it is forgiven. My question is, what if when he almost finishes his food, only then he remembers that he is fasting. Is it permissible for him to drink in order to avoid choking?
Alhamdulillah, praise and thanks to Allah for the many countless blessings He has blessed us all with. Blessings and salutations to the Prophet Muhammad PBUH, his family, companions and all those that follow his teachings to the day of judgement.
Eating and drinking are categorised under actions which invalidate fasting. There are many evidences and narrations which state this, among them, is narrated by Abu Hurairah RA, he said that the Prophet PBUH narrated from Allah:
يَتْرُكُ طَعَامَهُ وَشَرَابَهُ وَشَهْوَتَهُ مِنْ أَجْلِي
“He has left his food, drink and desires for My sake”
Sahih al-Bukhari (1894)
Still, humans are not named insan (إنسان) without the attribute of being forgetful as mentioned by scholars. Therefore, generally, Allah SWT will lift sins from the actions done when a person forgets.
This is as mentioned in a hadith narrated by Abu Dzar al-Ghifari RA where he said that the Prophet PBUH said:
إِنَّ اللَّهَ تَجَاوَزَ عَنْ أُمَّتِي الْخَطَأَ وَالنِّسْيَانَ وَمَا اسْتُكْرِهُوا عَلَيْهِ
Allah has forgiven for me my nation their mistakes and forgetfulness, and what they are forced to do.
Sunan Ibn Majah (2043)
The same goes to those who fast where they are also not free from being forgetful like eating and drinking while forgetting. In this case, even if the fasting person does something which invalidates his fast, however, as long as he did that while being forgetful, it is not considered as invalidators of fasting according to syara’. This is what is mentioned in a hadith narrated by Abu Hurairah RA where he said that the Prophet PBUH said:
إِذَا نَسِيَ فَأَكَلَ وَشَرِبَ فَلْيُتِمَّ صَوْمَهُ، فَإِنَّمَا أَطْعَمَهُ اللَّهُ وَسَقَاهُ
"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."
Sahih al-Bukhari (1933)
Based on this hadith, the Prophet PBUH clearly states that eating and drinking while being forgetful for those who are fasting will not invalidate the fast, which means, their fasts are valid. Therefore, the Prophet PBUH command those who forgot to just go on with their fasting.
A question arises, what is the limit for these actions? Is it forgiven while being forgetful includes eating and drinking in small and large quantity? So, the Shafi’i scholars have differing opinions on this issue and they are divided into two main opinions. We share some of the opinions as the following:
First: Imam al-Nawawi used the general meaning of hadith narrated by Abu Hurairah RA above as evidence, then he states his own opinion stating:
إذَا أَكَلَ أَوْ شَرِبَ نَاسِيًا لَمْ يُفْطِرْ عِنْدَنَا سَوَاءٌ قَلَّ ذَلِكَ أَمْ كَثُرَ هَذَا هُوَ الْمَذْهَبُ
“When someone eats or drinks while being forgetful, it does not invalidate his fast according to us (al-Shafi’ie scholars) whether it is (the quantity of eating and drinking) a little or a lot. This is the opinion of the madhhab.”
Refer Al-Majmu’ Syarh Al-Muhazzab, Al-Nawawi (6/324)
Second: However, it is undeniable that some scholars among the Shafi’e scholars themselves state a different opinion on this issue. This is as what is mentioned by Sheikh Taqiyuddin al-Hisni:
فَلَو كثر ذَلِك فَوَجْهَانِ الْأَصَح عِنْد الرَّافِعِيّ يفْطر لِأَن النسْيَان مَعَ الْكَثْرَة نَادِر
“If it (the act of drinking and eating) is in large quantity, then there are two opinions (on this issue). The most sahih opinion according to Imam al-Rafi’e is it invalidates fasting. This is because being forgetful with large quantity is something uncommon (not normally happens).”
Refer Kifayah Al-Akhyar, Taqiuddin Al-Hisni (pg. 199)
As a conclusion, after we analyse some of the above evidences and arguments, we are inclined towards the final opinion in madhhab al-Shafi’e that eating in large quantity while being forgetful will not invalidate fasting according to the general meaning of hadith in this issue. However, once he realizes that he is fasting, he should stop right away. If after that, he drinks knowing that he is fasting at the time, then we state that his fasting is invalidated. Wallahu a’lam.
Lastly, we pray to Allah SWT to give us all correct understanding in religion. Ameen.