Cupping is a well-known traditional medical treatment which draws blood from the body at certain locations using cups applied to the skin after small incisions are made.
I hold the view that cupping does not break the fast. This is the view of the majority of scholars. It was the view of many Companions, like `Ā’ishah, Abū Sa`īd al-Khudrī, Ibn Mas`ūd, Sa`d, and Umm Salamah. It was the view of many Successors as well, including `Urwah and Sa`īd b. Jubayr.
The hadīth of Abū Sa`īd al-Khudrī is cited as evidence to support the permissibility of cupping for a fasting person. He said: “The Prophet granted permission for a fasting person to sit for cupping.” [Sunan al-Nasā’ī al-Kubrā (3224, 3228) and Sahīh Ibn Khuzaymah (1967)]
The phrase “granted permission” indicates that cupping had previously been forbidden and then permission was granted later on. This is strong proof for those who argue that the final ruling on the question of cupping while fasting is that it is permissible and that the prohibition had been abrogated.
Then there is the hadīth where Anas was asked: “Did you all used to dislike cupping for a fasting person?” and he replied: “No, except because it made one weak.” [Sahīh al-Bukhārī (1940)]
There is also the hadīth related by `Abd al-Rahmān b. Abī Laylā from one of the Companions that he said: “The Prophet prohibited cupping for a fasting person – and likewise prohibited fasting consecutive days in Ramadān without breaking the fast at night – as a kindness to his Companions, but he did not make it unlawful.” [Sunan Abī Dāwūd (2374)]
The “kindness” mentioned here alludes to the fact that cupping makes a person weak and makes fasting difficult, in the same way that fasting consecutive days without breaking the fast at night weakens a fasting person and makes the fast too difficult. Therefore, the prohibition here is not one of legal proscription, but one of dislike. Cupping is merely discouraged.
As Ibn Taymiyah points out, questions of fasting are among those that all the Muslims need to know about. A number of Companions – even the Mothers of the Believers like `Ā’ishah and Umm Salamah – witnessed people undergoing the treatment of cupping during the fast but said nothing about it. Moreover, some of the Companions made it clear that cupping was only prohibited out of kindness to them.
This brings us to our question of a fasting person donating blood by modern means and the question of having blood drawn for the purpose of a blood test. Some scholars have compared these procedures to cupping, in consideration that they all entail the extraction of blood from the blood vessels in a manner that brings some harm to the individual and causes weakness.
Other scholars reject the idea that these procedures are comparable. They argue that cupping may have other aspects to it besides the mere drawing of blood that require the legal rulings for each to be different. This is the opinion that I tend towards.
Even if we hold the view that cupping breaks the patient’s fast, we should limit this ruling to cupping itself and those procedures that are very similar to cupping. As for modern methods of taking blood samples, they do not break the patient’s fast, nor the fast of a blood donor.
Indeed, many of those who hold the view that cupping breaks the fast concede that if a person suffers a small injury that results in the loss of some blood, his fast is not broken. Blood donations should be seen in the same light.
And Allah knows best.