Accidental eating or drinking during fasting


As per 2:187, fasting requires the abstention from all food and drink during the fasting hours, so what is the Quranic verdict on a person who unintentionally forgets that he is fasting and has something to eat or has a drink? Would his fasting on such a day be void and needing redoing on another day?


We have various pieces of glorious Quranic words that tell us that if a person accidentally eats or drinks (purely by mistake) during the fasting hours, then God's mercy does not hold him accountable, and thus he can continue his fast as usual; his fasting would not be spoilt.

In Sura 2, God gives us specific words for a prayer that we are to address to Him:

Our Lord, do not hold us accountable
if we forget or make mistakes. 2:286

Since it is God who gave us this glorious prayer to say, then when we say it God will not hold us accountable when we genuinely forget or make unintentional mistakes.
And since God will not hold us accountable for such unintentional mistakes, then our fasting would not be spoilt due to unintentional forgetting.

The same assurance about accountability is found in the following words:

God does not hold you accountable for your casual oaths, but
He holds you accountable for what your hearts have earned. God is Forgiver, Forbearing. 2:225

Once again, accountability is linked to the intention of the heart. If it happens and we forget that we are fasting and have a drink (something that can happen on the first or second day of fasting, when our minds may not yet be in sync with the change), this unintentional error is not accountable.

Finally, when we consider the bigger picture, and consider the purpose of God's commands to us, whether it is the command to fast or observe the Salat, or observe Hajj, etc , we would gain a better understanding of this matter. The following questions shed light on the heart of this matter:
- Does it matter to God whether we wash our hands to the elbows before we observe the Salat or not?
- Does it matter to God whether we walk the distance between Safa and Marwa during Hajj or not?
- Does it matter to God if we start our fasting at the first ray of light or start fasting at sunrise?

The answer to all the above questions is the same. None of these acts matter too much to God in themselves. These commands are designed merely to resolve one question: Will we obey God or not.
This truth is made evident in the following verse:

Neither their meat nor their blood reaches God,
but it is your reverence that reaches Him. 22:37

This verse, which speaks about the animal offering during the Hajj, tells us that the act itself (animal slaughter) does not mean much to God. This ritual and others are means by which God tests the people as to whether they will obey Him or not.
Obeying God and having reverence is the purpose behind this ritual (22:37).
Through obeying God and having reverence, people confirm their submission to Him.
The connection between the above and the case of accidentally eating or drinking during the fasting hours is evident.
Accident eating or drinking, due to forgetting, does not cancel a person's submission to God. This kind of error is only a result of our imperfect brains that are liable to forgetfulness. Neither our submission, nor our allegiance to God are revoked by such an unintentional error.
It is for that reason that God tells us that He would not hold us accountable when we implore His forgiveness, when we forget or make unintentional errors (2:286).