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29 November 2023

Ramadan Question: If I forget how many days I missed fasting?

Dr Ali Ahmed Mashael, Grand Mufti, Islamic Affairs and Charitable Activities Department in Dubai. (Supplied)

By Mohammed El Sadafy

Q: There are a few days I missed fasting, but I do not remember the exact number of days. What do I do?

Dr. Ali Ahmed Mashael: You must re-fast for the days you missed. And if you have forgotten the number of days, then you are required to fast until you think that you have re-fasted for the days you have forgotten.

Q: One morning I woke up thirsty. I've never experienced such thirst in my life. So I drank some water but did not eat anything. And then continued the fast. What is the ruling?

Dr. Ali Ahmed Mashael: It is forbidden to deliberately eat and drink during the fasting period in Ramadan. You can have Suhoor meal and drink through the night to help you during fasting.

However, if your thirst was life threatening, then you can drink water. But you should re-fast for that day.

Q: I woke up at dawn and quickly grabbed water. While I was drinking I heard the sound of microphone from my nearby mosque and the Adhan started. I was drinking while I heard ‘Allah Akbar’. I put the cup down immediately and observed the fast. Is my fast valid? What is the ruling?

Dr. Ali Ahmed Mashael: You must re-fast for that day. You should adjust the timings of Imsak (when one stops eating). Imsak should be 5 to 10 minutes prior to Fajr.

So, you should re-fast for that day, because you drank water during the time of fasting. Adhan is a sign that you have to stop eating or drinking.

Will taking dental treatment during the day in Ramadan break fast?

Dr. Ali Ahmed Mashael: It is preferable to take the treatment at night as there will be no fear of swallowing anything as part of the treatment as dental procedures require one to open their mouth. In the event something goes down the throat, then the fast is broken.

According to the Islamic Fiqh Council the following procedures are allowed during fasting hours…

1: Pills placed under the tongue to treat angina, etc. But on the condition to avoid swallowing anything that reaches the throat.

2: Rinsing mouth or gargling and topical treatment with oral sprays is allowed, provided one avoids swallowing anything that reaches the throat.

3: Therapeutic injections to skin or muscle and infusions are allowed, except liquids and nutrient injections. Similarly, administration of anesthetic gases is allowed, as long as it does not give nourishment to patients.

Therefore, considering the above rulings, there is nothing wrong if a person who is fasting undergoes dental procedures and uses anesthesia, provided there is no ingestion of medicine.

What is the ruling on using sunscreens during fasting month?

Dr. Ali Ahmed Mashael: Using creams do not break fast the as they are used on the skin and do not enter the throat.

What happens if one eats forgetfully/unintentionally?

Dr. Ali Ahmed Mashael: Forgetfulness does not invalidate one’s fast. Most of the scholars are of the opinion that if a fasting person eats forgetfully he/she should continue fasting and is not obliged to re-fast.

The moment they realise, they should throw the food from the mouth.

However, eating due to ignorance or out of forgetfulness does not break fast.

In Sahîh al-Bukhârî [1959], Asmâ’ bint Abî Bakr has said: “We broke our fast on one overcast day in Ramadan during the time of Allah’s Messenger (Peace Be Upon Him), but then the Sun reappeared.” 

It is not written that The Prophet (Peace Be Upon Him) ordered them to re-fast.

Similarly, those who eat believing that dawn has not yet arrived and then realise that it has, their fast will be valid and they are not required to re-fast.

What is the ruling on inhaling incense during fasting?

Dr. Ali Ahmed Mashael: People observing fast are allowed to use perfume and smell incense or other similar substances.

However, care should be taken that it does not reach the throat, in which case they should re-fast. But if it was done accidently, then there is no need to re-fast.

Also, using perfume or incense to lure others is prohibited.

Does the use of asthma medication (inhalers) break one’s fast?

Dr. Ali Ahmed Mashael: Asthma patients are allowed to use medication (inhalers) during fasting if need be. However, logically it would invalidate the fast as inhalers contain suspended liquid medicament. Also, asthma patients have the freedom not to observe fast and re-fast once their health improves.

But in chronic cases, patients can instead feed the poor or give charity each day they do not fast. Alternatively, asthma patients may not eat or drink after taking medicine as respect to the holy month.

Should pregnant women fast?

What is the rule about women who are pregnant? Should they fast or can they instead feed the poor?

Dr. Ali Ahmed Mashael:  Yes pregnant women and mothers who breastfeed should fast. However, they have the liberty to break the fast in the best interest of the fetus or the baby. But then, they need to re-fast for the days they choose to miss.

Similarly, menstruating women who skip fast, ought to re-fast.

Is it permissible to check one's sugar level or undergo surgery while fasting?

Dr. Ali Ahmed Mashael: For diabetes, checking one's sugar level does not break the fast. Also, if a patient needs to undergo surgery she/he is not required to fast.

Does applying moisturiser and lip balm break the fast

Dr. Ali Ahmed Mashael: Applying balm on the lips during fasting will not break one’s fast provided the balm is not tasted or swallowed. Women should use lip balm or moisturiser at night.
However, she should avoid colouring her lips or wearing perfume. The same applies to men as well.

What about countries like Sweden, where the day is 20 hours long?

Dr. Ali Ahmed Mashael: Fasting in countries where the sun sets and rises during 24 hours is based on the timing of dawn. Sun set is the timing for iftar.

For countries where the sun doesn’t set in 24 hours, but has an extended day or night, the fasting person should follow the 24-hour timings of the nearest available country.

In case of inability to fast, then it will be considered as one who is not able to fast and can re-fast another time.

What migraine relievers can be used during Ramadan?

Dr. Ali Ahmed Mashael: Those suffering from migraines during Ramadan can use drug-free migraine relievers during the fasting period. The medium which is used in the treatment of migraine does not invalidate the fast in Ramadan.

It merely sends electrical signals to the brain to relieve pain.

Dr Lina Kouatly, adds, "The device treats migraine through neurostimulation. A stimulus that limits pain signals from the nerve centre by working on the trigeminal nerve where migraine headaches start. The treatment changes the trigger threshold of migraine headaches."

Can a person observing fast undergo endoscopy for urinary bladder during Ramadan?

Dr. Ali Ahmed Mashael: Fasting remains valid in such cases, say scholars. According to Islamic Research Academy undergoing the process of endoscopy for urinary bladder will not break one’s fast.

I am a 39-year-old woman and I do not remember the number of days I missed fasting last Ramadan?

Dr. Ali Ahmed Mashael:  You should fast for the days you missed. In case you cannot remember the exact number of days, you need to re-fast until you are convinced that you have covered for the missing days.

Dr. Ali Ahmed Mashael, Grand Mufti, Islamic Affairs and Charitable Activities Department in Dubai (IACAD), answers readers' questions exclusively for Emirates 24|7 concerning Ramadan.

What should a person with a chronic disease, who has been prescribed a daily medication, do during Ramadan?

Dr. Ali Ahmed Mashael: Scholars place such chronic patients in the category of the aged who can’t fast, or in the category of patients.

It is preferable for the person in such a case not to fast and to feed one poor person every day.

Will water entering the ear break the fast?

Dr. Ali Ahmed Mashael: Majority of scholars believe that water that enters ears can reach the abdomen and modern medicine also proves this.

Therefore, people observing the fast should take precaution while performing ablutions.

What is the Sharia ruling as regards i'tikaaf for a woman in Ramadan?

Dr. Ali Ahmed Mashael: ‘I'tikaaf’ is a nine or10-day prayer time when the person stays in the mosque. This is taken on in the last ashra (10 days) of Ramadan.

A woman has to take her husband's permission to be safe in such matters. For a woman, however, it is better to perform i'tikaaf in her house, where she has is performing her prayers.

If a pregnant woman vomits, does she break her fast?

Dr. Ali Ahmed Mashael: Vomiting does not break a pregnant woman’s fast as it is an involuntary act on her part.

Is make-up allowed for women who are fasting?

Dr. Ali Ahmed Mashael: Make-up does not break the fast because such substances are placed on the body and do not go into the abdomen.

However, if by chance, any make-up - eyeliner (kohl) or lipstick – enters the throat, then the fast will be broken and the person should re-fast that day.

However, women fasting in Ramadan should avoid being spoiled by such things.

What if an ill person dies during Holy Month? What is the Sharia ruling in such cases?

Dr. Ali Ahmed Mashael: Those people who cannot fast due to an illness or are sick and eventually pass away, are excused. Their guardians need not fast for them, either. However, those who are unwell during the holy month and they recover afterwards, should fast for the missed days later in the year. In cases of those who recover from their illness but die before fasting for the missing days, their guardians should fast on their behalf.

Can one who is fasting undergo blood transfusion?

Dr. Ali Ahmed Mashael: The first one is where scholars say blood transfusion means breaking the fast.

The second opinion, of the majority of scholars, allows the possibility of going for blood transfusion while fasting, based on the Prophet (PBUH) being treated while he was fasting.

This opinion is adopted by the majority, but they insist that the person must not be weakened by the transfusion where s/he is unable to fast.

What if food is left over in one’s mouth when the adhan of Fajr is heard?

Dr. Ali Ahmed Mashael: Eating during or after Fajr invalidates the fast. In such a case the person must re-fast the day and also should perform the ‘Kafarah’.

However, in case it is not done on purpose and the food passes into the stomach, there is nothing wrong because he did not deliberately eat. However, even in this case, the person should re-fast this day.

A fasting person should take all precaution and stop eating and drinking before the Adhan.

Is it permissible to rinse one’s mouth at each prayer during Ramadan?

Dr. Ali Ahmed Mashael: People who observe the fast may rinse their mouth and nose.

However, we should avoid excessive rinsing lest water enters the throat, leading to breaking of the fast.

There is nothing wrong in a simple rinsing out of the mouth while fasting, but ensure water does not go down the throat.

Can a person based in Sharjah break his fast when he hears Adhan of Maghreb on Dubai TV?

Dr. Ali Ahmed Mashael: People who observe fast should ensure the Sun has completely set and is absent. Or they may listen to the Adhan of Maghreb in the city they reside, which in this case is Sharjah.

It is not allowed for people fasting in Sharjah to break for Iftar relying on the Adhan from another city – in this case Dubai.

Can one use nicotine patch to quit smoking during Ramadan?

Dr Ali Ahmed Mashael: Nicotine skin patch contents can’t go through the throat of a person who is observing a fast. This is not something that equates to entering the abdomen; therefore, nicotine skin patches do not break the fast.

A fasting person must strive to refrain from smoking during Ramadan.

What is the timing of my Iftar if I were travelling by plane at 6pm and Iftar timing in the country of travel is 6.30pm and that of the destination country is 7pm?

Dr Ali Ahmed Mashael:  The timing of your Iftar and prayer will be in the space you are in and not the place where you live and not where you travel to.

In case the Sun is shining when you are on the plane and it is Iftar time for people down, in such a case you may not break your Iftar until the Sun sets in your space.

For instance, residents atop Burj Khalifa may see the Sun shining and they will not break their fast. And in case the Maghreb prayer is called for, then people on the ground floor can break their fast and not people on top floors.

What is the difference between the moon sighting for Islamic countries. What impact does this have on the beginning of Ramadan and Eid Al Fitr?

Dr Ali Ahmed Mashael:  Moon sighting is the key for the beginning of the Islamic months and the beginning of Ramadan.

There are two views on this issue.

The first is supported by the Maliki, Hanafi and Hanbali scholars, which is against taking the sighting of the moon in each country at a time.

This calls for the sighting of the moon in one Muslim country that allows the rest of the Muslims countries to begin the fast with the country where the moon was sighted.

The biggest difference between Islamic countries is seven hours.

The second opinion is adopted by the Imam Al-Shaafa'i where he supports the different sightings of  the moon in Islamic countries.

According to this opinion each country has its own moon sighting and different prayer times.

The Islamic Fiqh Council confirms that there is no need to unite on the sighting of the moon, but to leave the issue to the Islamic scholars of each country.