Oaths in Islam

I have heard a lot of Muslims say “I swear on my children that .. ” or ” I swear on my mother .. “. According to Islam, it is unlawful to take an oath by anyone except Allah (SWT). You can only swear by Allah.  So, if you want to take an oath by something then take an oath by Allah (“I swear by Allah” or “wallahi” or “wallahi”).

Nafi’ related from ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Umar that the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, met ‘Umar ibn al-Khattab while he was proceeding with a group of riders and he was swearing by his father. He said, ‘Allah forbids you from swearing by your fathers. If someone swears, should swear by Allah or be silent.” (Sahih Bukhari – 6270)

What is an oath?

From what I understand (and may Allah forgive me if I am wrong) an oath (or a vow) is a promise to do something. It can be a promise to stay away from cheese cake or a promise to clean someone’s backyard. However, just saying “I will come and clean your backyard” doesn’t make it an oath. You have to say “I swear by Allah I will do such and such” or “I make it obligatory on myself to keep away from such and such”.

If someone says “Wallahi I will feed 60 people tomorrow, inshallah”, then what he said is not a valid oath. “Inshallah” means “If Allah wills it” so if he didn’t feed 60 people the next day, then that just means Allah didn’t will it so he didn’t feed them. However, this is only valid if he says inshallah without a long pause. If someone says “Wallahi I will feed 60 people tomorrow” then gives a pause and says inshallah, then he will have to feed 60 people the next day or he will have broken his oath.

Conditions for an Oath to be valid:

  • It has to be taken in Allah’s name or his attributes. Oaths in the name of your children, parents, kabah, etc are not valid.
  • The one taking the oath must be sane and mature. Oaths taken by children are vain.
  • The oath/vow is not on something impossible. If you say “I swear I will grow wings on my back and fly” then it won’t be a valid oath.
  • “Inshallah” is not used in it. If someone says “wallahi I will travel to Syria tomorrow inshallah” then it is not a valid oath and the person who said it won’t have to atone for not traveling to Syria the next day.

If you take an oath, you MUST fulfil it. And, you should never take a false oath with Allah as a witness. It is one of the major sins in Islam. Quoted below are some proofs :

Do not make your oaths a means of deceiving one another or your foot will slip after it was firmly placed and you will taste evil for barring access to the Way of Allah and you will have a terrible punishment.” (16:92) Dakhalan means deceit and treachery.

6298. Ash-Sha’bi related from ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Amr that the Prophet*, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, “The major wrong actions are shirk with Allah, disobeying parents, murder and false oaths.

“Those who sell Allah’s contract and their own oaths for a paltry price, such people will have no portion in the Next World, and on the Day of Rising Allah will not speak to them or look at them or purify them. They will have a painful punishment.” (3:77)

Atonement for Breaking an Oath:

If you vow to do something and you don’t, then you have to atone for it (kaffarah). You can do so by  :

  • Feed 10 people in need. They cannot be from his usul upwards (parent,s grandparents, etc) or downwards (chlildren, grandchildren, etc). You can’t feed one person 10 times. It has to be 10 different people and they all have to be fed on the same day
  • Clothing 10 people in need. The same rules as above apply.
  • Freeing a slave.

If you cannot do any of the above because you are poor, then you can fast for 3 days. In hanafi fiqh, they have to be 3 continuous days. If you fasted the first day but didn’t fast the second and third day then you have to start over again.

Allah does not take you to task for your inadvertent oaths, but He will take you to task for oaths you make intentionally.The expiation in that case is to feed ten poor people with the average amount you feed your family, or clothe them, or free a slave. Anyone without the means to do so should fast three days. That is the expiation for breaking oaths when you have sworn them. Keep your oaths. In this way Allah makes His Signs clear to you, so that hopefully you will be thankful.(5:89)

What should you do if you break an oath more than once?

A lot of people have asked what should they do if they took an oath and broke it more than once so I decided to include this question in this post.

Let’s say you took an oath to pray one nafl prayer every night. And, you you didn’t pray a nafl prayer in the night after that, then you would have to give kaffarah for it once. Now, the oath is broken so if you  didn’t pray nafl on any night after that,  you would not have to give kaffarah.

However, if you took an oath to pray nafl every night and didn’t pray it one night after that (which broke your oath), then took another oath that you will pray nafl prayer every night and broke your oath again, then you would have to give kaffarah twice. Why? because you broke two oaths.

What about taking an oath on the Qur’an, or Ka’bah or the like

A lot of people have asked me what they should do if they took an oath on Ka’bah or Qur’an or their mother, etc. Taking an oath on anything other than Allah is haram. So, you are not allowed to swear on your mother. However, taking an oath on the Qur’an is a bit more complicated than that. Please refer to the link below regarding this issue.

http://spa.qibla.com/issue_view.asp?HD=1&ID=2847&CATE=32

I have tried to keep this post as brief as possible so it has some details  missing. If you would like to read more on this topic then below are a few links which will help you :

http://qa.sunnipath.com/issue_view.asp?HD=1&ID=2847&CATE=32
http://qa.sunnipath.com/issue_view.asp?HD=1&ID=4028&CATE=12
http://qa.sunnipath.com/issue_view.asp?HD=3&ID=13328&CATE=389
http://qa.sunnipath.com/issue_view.asp?HD=1&ID=3353&CATE=12

Author: Moazzam

Moazzam is a software developer working in the big apple. He has over a decade of experience in development. While most of his work involves developing web applications, he does development for Android and Windows Mobile in his spare time.

104 thoughts on “Oaths in Islam”

  1. Assalamualaikum. I am trying everyday to be a better Muslim. As part of that effort I need your advise on this aspect.

    Once I was talking to my wife and she made me taking a oath that I won’t talk about a specific topic ever in my life with her. Next day she started talking about that same specific topic and I reminded her about my oath. Then she gave me permission and asked me: first ask for forgiveness to Allah before talking about that topic again.

    In this case is it valid to break/withdraw an oath after asking forgiveness to Allah and with the permission from the person I took the oath for? Do I have to do Kaffara in this case?

  2. Walaikum assalam Mahmud,

    If she gave you permission to disregard your oath, then you don’t need to seek forgiveness or pay any kaffarah to the best of my knowledge.

  3. Asalamualikum, few days ago my father was angry on me and he told me take oath of him,I was scared and took the oath, the oath was that I should not specific game in my phone which made me addicted to it and, I was getting distracted from my studies , now when I asked my father he allowed me to play will, it be a kaffarah? I did know about the oath , which can be only taken for Allah! I took oath oh my father ! Will it be kaffarah !! N will I be in kaffar even if my father allowed me to play the game!
    Jazakallah!!

  4. Walaikum assalam Zubair,

    An oath upon your father is not valid (and it is not allowed). You don’t have to pay the kaffarah in your case.

    If your father asks you to take another oath on him, then let him know it is not permissible to do that 🙂 . Oaths are taken only with Allah as a witness and no one else.

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