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Medication & Injections in Ramadan

Question: Does taking medication or injection ruin my fast?

Dr. Shabir Ally: The Quran is very clear that eating or drinking is going to break the fast. But what if you're taking medication orally? Well, classical Muslim scholars had to think about this. The Quran doesn't mention medicine, but what qualifies as eating? Suppose you put something in your mouth. That seems to be allowed so long as you don't swallow it. So the swallowing it is going to break the fast. So a principle emerged that if something enters the stomach orally, then that breaks the fast. Medicine does that, so they concluded that it breaks the fast.

If it's injected intravenously or under the skin, does that break the fast? Scholars said no, because it's not entering orally and passing through the stomach. It may eventually reach by some means, but it's not the conventional means.

But then what about if somebody's getting IV saline drops for nourishment? Here, the opinion is divided. Some say in principle this breaks the fast, because basically you are eating in a different way. And some say that just as medicine doesn't break the fast, if the method of taking medicine intravenously does not break your fast, then neither would this intravenous insertion break the fast. They would maintain that you shouldn't use it if you don't have to, but they say it wouldn't break the fast.

In my humble judgment, it seems that putting all of this together, we should say if someone is at the stage where they need to have intravenous nutrition, then they qualify as sick and they shouldn't be fasting. They should delay and fast an equal number of other days in the future. And if they do not expect to get better, they can give charity for each day of the fast. But if they choose to fast, that's between them and God. God is being merciful on them to accept their fasting even when they're not really feeling hungry.

If they're taking medication orally, then one might be inclined to wonder if we want to deprive people from the spirit of fasting just because of a little bit of medication. So some people have asked me, for example, "What if I take the pill without any water?" Because some people are able to swallow pills without water, right? Or somebody says, "What if I take just a little sip of water, just enough?" Because people long for the experience of fasting. So who am I to stand in their way? That's between them and God. If they feel they can do it and they feel that they're still fasting and it's still in keeping with the spirit of fasting that they're doing this while protecting their bodies for the sake of God by using the right medication as prescribed by reputable doctors, then I don't want to stand in their way.

But if we're thinking of in legalistic terms, what would the scholars say applying the legal maxims which are already established in our classical jurisprudence? They would say that this breaks the fast. And so you should pay the compensation which is feeding one poor person one meal for each day of the fast. It doesn't have to be an expensive meal. And of course, you might find a poor person in another country where the cost of living is much less and where the cost of a meal will not be that burdensome. So maybe somebody wants to do both. As a precaution, you're still going through the fasting while taking your medication as much as you need, and at the same time, you have this fallback, your plan B almost, that if God says, "Your fasting wasn't enough. Where was the compensation?" Well, you did that too. I think that's a reasonable compromise.

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