Is Water Entering the Nose or Ears during Ablution Excused While Fasting? (Shafi’i)

Answered by Ustadh Shuaib Ally

Question: Assalamu alaykum

There have been many fasts during which water has gone up my nose while performing wudu. Each time I’d apply water to my face then it would go up my nose to the extent at which the fast would break. Likewise whashing the side of my face woudl result in water going in my ear. Are these things excused because they have happened while performing wudu?

Answer: Assalamu alaykum

In the Shafi’i school, water can enter the nose and the outer ear without breaking one’s fast. It seems unlikely based on what you described that your fast was in some way compromised.

Water Entering the Nose

For one’s fast to be broken due to water intake via the nose during ritual ablution, water would have to enter the upper nasal cavity. This is usually accomplished by quickly sniffing up the water, and would likely require some effort otherwise. Normally cleaning the nose by sniffing up water does not usually lead to water entering the upper nasal cavity. It seems unlikely that this happened in your case of regular washing of your face.

Water Entering the Ears

For one’s fast to be broken due to water entering the ear, water would have to enter the inner portion of the ear, not the area that people can see and clean. Regular washing of the face and region surrounding the ear does not usually lead to water entering the inner ear canal, unless one is using an excessive amount of water. It is unlikely that your normal washing of your face led to this.

Precautionary Measures

It is Sunnah to wash your face thrice, even while fasting, not twice out of precaution.

The precautionary measure mentioned in classical Shafi’i texts with respect to the face during fasting is to not exaggerate in sniffing up water lest it enter the upper nasal cavity, because it would then break the fast.

If a person does not exaggerate in this manner, but water inadvertently ends up going beyond the nose and entering the upper nasal cavity during ritual ablution, the fast would remain valid. The same goes for water inadvertently entering the ears while washing oneself to remove a major ritual impurity (ghusl).
If this happens in other than ritual ablution or ghusl, water entering the upper nasal cavity past the nose would break one’s fast, irrespective of whether or not the person meant it or exaggerated in washing or not.

Source: al-Hawashi al-Madaniyyah

Shuaib Ally