Does Accidentally Eating Break Your Fast in the Maliki School?

Answered by Shaykh Rami Nsour

Question: Assalamu alaikum wa Rahmahtullah,

1) Is it true that Imam Qurtubi Al-Maliki was of the view that accidentally eating/drinking something in the obligatory fast, does Not break the fast?

2) Are their any other Maliki Scholars that had this view?

Answer: 1) In his tafsir of the Quran (2:187), Imam al-Qurtubi did in fact prefer the opinion that accidentally eating while fasting does not break the fast. Although he said that this is the correct opinion and used the same reasoning of Imam Shafi’i and others, his position is not the madhab of Imam Malik.

According to Imam Malik, if a person accidentally eats while fasting, it breaks his fast and he would have to make it up. The opinion of Imam al Qurtubi would be valid to follow as it corresponds to the opinions of other madhabs but a person following that opinion would not be following the Maliki position on this matter.

2) I am not aware of other Maliki scholars that held the same opinion but there may be. Even if there are though, those Maliki scholars that hold that opinion cannot consider it to be from the madhab unless one of the mujtahids of the mahdab, such as Ibn al Qasim, held that opinion and can prove it through the principles or another narration of Imam Malik.

Reasoning in a madhab

The reason for this is that when you have an explicit text of the mujtahid imam of a madhab, the followers of that madhab have to go with that text. Even the mujtahid within a madhab has to base his opinions on the opinions and reasoning of his imam just as the imam of the madhab bases his opinions on the Quran and Sunna (Muhammad al Khadir, َQam’u ahlul Zaygh wal Ilhad).

Using a Hadith in Ijtihad

In this case Imam al Qurtubi in this matter, he used a Hadith to prove the strength of his opinion and not the text of Imam Malik or his principles. If a person is to follow a Hadith for action, they would have to do so through one of the four agreed upon Imams.

While it is theoretically possible for a person in any age to reach ijtihad, the permissibility of following a mujtahid mutlaq (complete mujtahid) is that there is consensus about his level (Sidi Abdullah, Maraqi as Su’ud). There is only consensus about following the ijtihad of the four imams. Imam Suyuti claimed complete ijtihad and the scholars of his age refuted his claim.

Ijtihad in our age

In this day and age, there are many people who claim ijtihad at various levels, with some even claiming complete ijtihad. Some of them claim their ijtihad is in all areas while others claim they are mujtahid in one matter (mas’alah). The question that one should ask of those who make this claim is at what level of ijtihad are they.

Are they at complete ijtihad such as Imam Malik or Abu Hanifa? Are they a mujtahid within a madhab like Ibn al Qasim from the Malikis, Abu Yusuf from the Hanafis, or Al Muzni from the Shafi’is, none of whom claimed complete ijtihad? Or are they a mujtahid of tarjih like Al Maziri from the Malikis or Nawawi from the Shafi’is, both of whom did not claim complete ijtihad?

It would be a difficult claim for one in our age to be like any of these aforementioned scholars. Safety in faith relies on following what is clear and in following the well known positions of the widely accepted scholars.

And Allah knows best.