When Muslims fast during Ramadan they often have the question – ‘Does vomiting break your fast?’
The majority of the scholars of Islam are in agreement. Vomiting unintentionally does not break your fast. However, throwing up and making yourself vomit deliberately will break your fast.
What constitutes vomiting in Islam?
Now let’s define what constitutes the act of vomiting and what does not entail vomiting.
Vomiting is an act where food solids and/or fluids eject from the stomach back out the mouth. Vomiting can occur if a person is unwell, feels sick or nauseous. Vomiting can also occur by smelling or looking at something unpleasant. A person need not be sick to vomit. Vomiting can also be instigated voluntarily by sticking something down the throat.
Spitting saliva or excreting phlegm and mucus from the mouth do not constitute vomiting. So one may spit saliva or clear the throat and expel phlegm during fasting. Doing so does not affect the validity of the fast at all as these acts do not constitute vomiting.
Why involuntary vomiting doesn’t break your fast?
In Islam there is a general ruling when it comes to factors that break the fast. If it happens involuntarily then it will not break your fast.
If you eat and drink and forget that you are fasting then your fast is still valid and it does not break your fast. Likewise, if you throw up and vomit without instigating it yourself then your fast is not broken.
Allah the Most High out of His Mercy and Justice forgives any act that is done unintentionally. Likewise, if someone forces you to do something that is haram (impermissible) in Islam. Then the sin is upon the the one that forced you to do the haram and there is no blame upon you.
The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “If one has a sudden attack of vomiting while one is fasting. No atonement is required of him. But if he vomits intentionally he must make atonement.” – [Collected by Sunan Abi Dawud]
This narration of our beloved Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) is clear evidence. If you vomit unintentionally then your fast does not break and you do not have to make up for it. Nor do you have to recompense for vomiting unintentionally by feeding a poor person.
However, if you make yourself vomit deliberately then your fast is broken. You must make up for your fast by fasting another day (Qadha). In Fiqh (Islamic Jurisprudence) the process of making up an unfulfilled obligation is known as Qadha.
What if I feel sick and unable to carry on with my fast can I break it?
If you are severely sick and weakened by your sickness then you may break your fast. This is only under the condition that fasting any longer may harm your body or health further.
Allah’s Messenger vomited (so he broke fast) so he performed Wudu.” So I met Thawban in a Masjid in Damascus, and I mentioned that to him. He said: ‘He told the truth, I (was present there and) poured the water for his Wudu.” – [Collected by Jami` at-Tirmidhi]
This narration shows that the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) vomited while he was sick. He then broke his fast.
The commentators of this hadith mention that the Prophet (peace be upon him) did not break his fast due to vomiting itself. Rather, he was sick and severely weakened by the vomiting and so he broke his fast as he was unable to continue.
So if you are sick, feel weak and unable to carry on with your fast then you may break your fast and make it up on another day.
What if my health is so bad that I cannot fast or make up any fasts?
If your health is so bad that you are unable to fast or make up any missed fasts on another day. Then you should feed a poor person who is fasting for each day that you miss fasting. This is known as ‘Kaffara’ in Islamic Jurisprudence (Fiqh). Whereby you expiate the inability to perform an obligatory fast by feeding a poor person.
Fasting is an obligation upon every adult Muslim and so it must be recompensed in some way. So if you are permanently sick and unable to fast or make up the fasts which you have missed. Then you should compensate for it by feeding a poor person for each day that you are unable to fulfill your obligation of fasting for Allah.
Allah mentions in the Holy Qur’an:
“So whoever among you is ill or on a journey – then an equal number of days (are to be made up). And upon those who are able (to fast, but with hardship) – a ransom (as substitute) of feeding a poor person (each day). And whoever volunteers excess – it is better for him. But to fast is best for you, if you only knew.” – [Qur’an 2:184]
This concession should not be taken as an excuse to not fast. The reward of fasting is immense. There is no amount to the reward Allah gives to His slave when he fasts and leaves his food and drink for His sake.
Every other act of worship has it’s specified reward. For example, when someone prays five times a day it is equivalent to fifty in reward. As mentioned by our Prophet (peace be upon him) in an authentic narration. However, fasting is a special act of worship between Allah and His slave. For which Allah rewards without measure.
Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) said, “Allah said, ‘All the deeds of Adam’s sons (mankind) are for them. Except fasting which is for Me, and I will give the reward for it.’ Fasting is a shield or protection from the fire and from committing sins.”
So the concession for feeding a poor person is only for those who are permanently sick with a genuine reason. Where continuing to fast will only further make their condition worse.
What should I do if I vomit unintentionally?
If you vomit unintentionally be careful not swallow any vomit. Wash your mouth carefully with water making sure that you do not swallow any water while fasting. Swallowing water will invalidate and break your fast.
Do not gargle in an upward direction with your head tilted up. This may cause water to go down your throat and invalidate your fast altogether. Rather, tilt your head downwards and rinse your mouth carefully with water.
Naturally when cleaning your mouth some vomit will travel back down the throat. This is expected and you should not worry about this. Small quantities of residual vomit in the throat will not break your fast. However, swallowing a mouthful of vomit will break your fast. Try your best to clean your mouth with water being careful not to swallow anything. Then carry on with your fast as normal.
What should I do if I purposefully made myself vomit?
Vomiting purposefully while in the state of fasting will break your fast immediately. Whether the quantity of vomit is a lot or little carries no relevance in this scenario. If you deliberately stick your finger(s) down your throat to make yourself vomit. Or you intentionally look at or smell something revolting or foul that you know will make you vomit. In this case, your fast will break if you vomit in this manner regardless of the quantity of vomit.
You should repent to Allah for deliberately breaking your fast. Then repeat the whole fast on another day and make sure your repentance is sincere and you do not do this again.
Does swallowing vomit break my fast?
Yes, swallowing vomit will break your fast and you will need to repeat your whole fast on another day. Even if you vomited unintentionally you should try your best not to swallow any vomit. Clean your mouth carefully with water and carry on with your fast as normal. If you swallow your vomit your fast will break.
Vomiting specifically refers to the act of something ejecting from the stomach back through the mouth. Unintentional vomiting does not break your fast. Intentional vomiting breaks your fast.
And Allah the Most High and Most Knowledgeable knows best.
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Peace be with you all.