Assalamualaikum SS Dato’ Seri. Dato’, will you please explain the ruling of swimming and diving while fasting in the month of Ramadhan.
Alhamdulillah, praise and thanks to Allah for the countless blessings He has blessed us all with. Blessings and salutations to the Prophet Muhammad PBUH, his wives, his family, companions and all those that follow his teachings to the day of judgement.
It is generally known that one of the invalidators of fasting is inserting anything in one’s body cavities and open channels intentionally.
(Refer Raudhah al-Talibin Wa ‘Umdah al-Muftin, 2/356)
فْطِرُ صَائِمُ بِوُصُولِ عَيْنِ مِنْ تِلْكَ إِلَى مَطْلَقِ الْجَوفِ مِن مَنفَذِ مَفْتُوحِ مَعَ العَمْدِ وَالإِخْتِيَارِ وَالعِلمِ بِالتَّحْرِيم
"The fast is invalid for those who insert anything in their cavities or open channels intentionally with his own effort. And at the same time, they know that it is prohibited in doing so"
(Refer Nihayatuz-Zain, page 1/187)
Referring to the above question, is swimming or diving an invalidator of fasting? This issue is widely discussed in our society especially on social media, in fact this issue is highly disputed; where the main question is whether it invalidates one’s fasting or not. Regarding this, early scholars have actually had discussions on this and stated its ruling.
The jurists (fuqaha’) differed in its ruling. They are divided as follows:
The opinion of al-Ramli and Imam Bujairimi:
لَوْ عُرِفَ عَادَتِهِ أَنَّهُ يَصِلُ الْمَاءَ مِنْهُ إِلَى جَوْفِهِ أُوْ دِمَاغِهِ بِالانغِمَاسِ وَلَا يُمْكِنُهُ اَلتَّحَرُّزُ عَنْهُ أَنَّهُ يُحْرُمُ الانغِمَاسُ وَيَفْطِرُ قَطْعاً
“If it is proven that generally the water will enter body cavities and open channels when diving and it is unavoidable, therefore it is prohibited to dive and one’s fast becomes absolutely invalid”
(Refer Hasyiyah Jamal ala Syarh Manhaj, page 1/473 and Hasyiyah Bujairimi, page 2/74)
The opinion of Imam al-Azra’i:
قَالَ الْأَذْرَعِيُّ لَوْ عَرَفَ مِنْ عَادَتِهِ أَنَّهُ يَصِلُ الْمَاءُ إلَى جَوْفِهِ مِنْ ذَلِكَ لَوْ انْغَمَسَ وَلَا يُمْكِنُهُ التَّحَرُّزُ عَنْ ذَلِكَ حَرُمَ عَلَيْهِ الِانْغِمَاسُ وَأَفْطَرَ بِذَلِكَ وَهُوَ وَاضِحٌ إنْ أَمْكَنَ غَسْلُهُ بِغَيْرِ هَذِهِ الْكَيْفِيَّةِ
“If it is generally known that when a person dives, water will surely enter his body cavities, and this matter is unavoidable, then it is prohibited for him to dive, and his fast will become invalid due to this. This matter has been made clear. Even if he wishes to bath, he may choose other ways of bathing”
(Refer Hasyiah Jamal ala Syarh Manhaj, page 3/423)
The opinion of Hassan al-Basri and Imam Sya’bi:
وَكَرَهَ الحَسَن وَالشَّعْبِي أَنْ يَنْغَمَس فِي المَاءِ خَوْفًا أَن يَدْخُلُ فِي مسامعه
“It is undesirable (makruh) to dive, in the fear of water entering one’s ear”
(Refer Syarh al-Kabir Musamma bil Syafie ala Matan Maqna’, page 766)
However, one of the companions of the Prophet PBUH dived when he fast, he is Anas bin Malik:
وَقَالَ أَنسٌ إِنْ لِي أَبْزَنَ أَتقحم فِيهِ وَأَنَا صَائِمٌ
Anas said: “Indeed, there was a compartment of mine filled by water that I jump into it while I’m fasting”
Said Imam Ibn Hajar in his book Fathul Bari, page 4/197:
الأَبْزَن :حَجَرٌ مَنْقُورٌ شَبَهُ الْحَوْضِ وَكَأَنَّ الْأَبْزَنَ كَانَ مَلْآنَ مَاءً فَكَانَ أَنَسٌ إِذَا وَجَدَ الْحَرَّ دَخَلَ فِيهِ يَتَبَرَّدُ بِذَلِكَ
“Abzan / compartment: A carved stone made into a bathtub, and it is a compartment filled with water. Then, when Anas feel hot, he will dive into this to cool himself with it”
فَكَأَنَّ اَلأَبْزَنَ يُشْبِهُ مَا يُسَمَّى اَلآنْ بِـاَلْبَانِيُو
“Abzan in this time is a bathtub”
Majority of the scholars prohibit people from swimming or diving while fasting in the fear that water will enter their body cavities as well as open channels. However, it is recorded that one of the companions of the Prophet PBUH; Anas bin Malik soaked in bathtub as mentioned before.
In conclusion, we divide our opinion on this issue into three components. First, a person that fasts is prohibited (haram) to swim or dive if he is certain that water will enter his body cavities as well as his open channels.
Second, if a person swim or dive while it is uncertain whether water will enter his body cavities as well as the open channels, then it is undesirable (makruh) to do so to avoid it from happening.
Third, if a person swim or dive because it is a necessity (darurat), for example, those who work as fishermen or welders of oil rigs or scuba divers or others. By the means of this excuse, it is permissible (harus) to swim or dive with the condition of the person being cautious, so that water will not enter his body cavities as well as the open channels.
It is in congruent with the Islamic legal maxim,
إِذَا ضَاقَ اَلأَمْرُ اِتَّسَعَ
“Where a matter is narrowed, it becomes wide”
This maxim shows us the relevance of Islamic rulings where it is applicable in every situation, while in this context is the concept of eliminating hardships by facilities, in which by doing so, hardships will be eliminated.