Chapter 31: On Oaths and Vows

[This deals with what is permitted in oaths and vows and what is not permitted or binding. It meas with kaffara (expiation) of the oath and swearing. The yamin (oath, right hand) is real in the limb and metaphorical in other contexts. It is said that the yamin is the limb and the oath is called yamin because when they made oaths, one of them strike the other persons right hand with his right hand. So it was called an oath.]

31.1 The form of an oath

31.1a Oaths are by Allah

Anyone who swears an oath should either do so by Allah

[He should swear by the name of Allah, not by the Prophet or anything else which is esteemed in the Shari'a or one of His attributes, like Oneness, timelessness and existence.]

31.1b. Not making an oath

or keep quiet.

[He should keep quiet unless he makes a proper oath since he is not swearing by Allah. He is forbidden to swear by other than Allah since the Prophet said, "Allah forbade you to swear by your fathers. Whoever takes an oath, should swear by Allah or be silent." So he commands the silence for what is other than oath by Allah.]

31.1c. Oaths involving divorce or emancipation

Anyone who swears an oath to divorce a wife or free a slave is to be punished for doing so although he still has to hold to his oath.

[This is when he is adult and has knowledge and deliberately makes such an oath. That impairs his testimony, It is clear from his words that he is punished, whether he breaks the oath or not. According to Malik the punishment is not defined but is up to what the ruler thinks best: beating, cursing, or the like, which can vary with different people. In addition to punishing someone who makes an such an oath, he is obliged to carry out the oath he made about divorce or freeing when he breaks the oath. If he unsure whether he broke it or suspects it or thinks it probable, he has broken it in the well-known position. If he doubts whether he said , "You are divorced" or not or is unsure about whether he made an oath and broke it or did not make an oath and did not break it, he does nothing.]

31.1d. "If Allah wills" is not said in the oath

No one should make an oath containing the safety clause, if Allah wills.

[This is not done.]

31.1e. No kaffara for oaths in which Allah is not mentioned

There is no kaffara (expiation) except for an oath made using the name Allah or one of His other names or attributes.

[Kaffara is pointless otherwise. It is also done if he uses a name, like the Almighty or the Creator, or one of His essential Attributes, like knowledge, power, will, hearing, seeing, and speech and life. As for actions like provision, an oath is not made by them. The literal meaning of his words is that "Allah willing" has no force when connected to divorce, as when he says, "If I enter the house, you are divorced, Allah willing." Ibn al-Majishun says that if he means an action, like entering the house, it has force. The position of Ibn al-Qasim is that it does not apply, even if he means the action. When he enters the house, then the divorce occurs. It is that which is believed by Khalil, and is is the well-known position.]

31.1f. Saying it at the same time as the oath

If someone does use a safety clause he does not have to do kaffara as long as he intends the provision and says 'Insha'allah' at the same time as he makes his oath. If this is not the case such a provision bears no weight.

[When he swears by Allah or one of His attributes, he does not have to do kaffara with three preconditions.

  1. He must have meant the provision, i.e. intended to dissolve the oath without any difference in the aim is that it was before the oath, during it or after he finishes, then it applies as at-Tata'i states. If he does it without intention, as out of forgetfulness or for blessing, it does not dissolve the oath.
  2. He must say "Allah willing"; the intention alone is not enough.
  3. It must be connected to the oath before it. So if he is silent more than enough necessary for a breath or sneezes. If he is forced to stop, there is no harm.]

31.2. Kinds of oaths

There are four kinds of oaths which can be sworn by Allah.

31.2a. Oaths for which there is kaffara

You do kaffara for two of these; namely, if you swear by Allah, "If I do such-and-such a thing, I will do such-and-such a thing", or if you swear by Allah, "I will do such-and-such a thing."

[One of the two is that the oath in the promise to perform a good deed. The first is when he swears that he will do something or not do something, and then if he fails to do, he has broken it.

31.2b. Oaths for which there is no kaffara

The two kinds you do not do kaffara for are firstly when you make an oath about something, thinking at the time it is true and later realising that it isn't. In this case you do not do kaffara, nor is there any wrong action involved.

[The first category is when you think that it is true. This does not mean that you think it is probable. What is meant is feeling certain, not it being unequivocal according to the evidence, but then later the opposite becomes clear. This is what he believes to be true. Belief is strong assumption. If it is not strong, then there in lack of clarity or even doubt. He owes no kaffara and there is no sin involved since Allah says, "Allah will not take you to task for inadvertent statements in your oaths, but He will take you to task for oaths you make intentionally." (5:89) We read in the Mudawwana, "There is no inadvertancy except in the oath by Allah or a vow which cannot be avoided, ' i.e. the unclear vow, as when he says, "If I do this, then I have a vow" and the inadvertant has no effect in divorce, setting free or an unclear vow.]

31.2c. Oaths for which there is no kaffara

The other kind is if you swear an oath about something knowing it to be untrue or having doubt about it. In this case there is a wrong action involved but no kaffara.

[A doubtful oath is one, for instance, where you swear that you met someone the previous day but you did not meet him or are unsure about it. Doubt is weak supposition. So he swears to a lie or is unsure, and so he definitely sins, even if what he swears is true. But there is no kaffara if it is connected to the past. If it is connected to the present or future, there is kaffara. It is like that when the inadvertant oath is connected to the future. If it is connected to the past, there is no kaffara.]

31.2d. Repentance in any case.

You must, however, do tawba to Allah, glory be to Him, on account of it.

[Because it is one of the major wrong actions and you should draw near to Him with what you can do of freeing slaves, sadaqa and fasting.]

31.3 Kaffara

Kaffara for oaths consists of

[There are four types of expiation. There is choice between three forms feeding, clothing or freeing, and fourth follows the lack of ability to do either of the three: it is fasting. The best of the them is feeding which is why he began with it.]

31.3a. Types

31.3a1. Feeding

feeding ten needy people, who are muslim and free, giving one mudd to each measuring by the mudd of the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, but according to us it is better to increase that by a third or a half.

[From this is clear that feeding has five preconditions

  1. Number (ten) and so it is not allowed to give it to more or less, nor to one several times. When he gives five people two mudds each, he gives to five and completes it with another five people. He can give a larger amount provided that it remains in the possession of the poor and he does not destroy it. The time of paying it must be made clear that it is kaffara. If he feeds twenty people half a mudd, that is not allowed.
  2. That they are poor, If he gives it to rich people knowingly, that is not allowed.
  3. That they are Muslims. If he gives it to the poor of the dhimmis, it is not allowed, as is the case with zakat.
  4. That they are free. If he gives it to a slave, that is not allowed.
  5. That what is given of the mudd to each poor person is by the mudd of the Prophet and it not allowed with anything else,.

Two things can take the place of the mudd: two ratls of bread with seasonings of oil or yoghurt, or meat. As for feeding them lunch and dinner, or two lunches or two dinners, and to have lunch or supper, that is not enough, even if it reaches a mudd. We think it better to increase give more than a mudd.]

You add a third or a half according to what the prevailing standard of living is and whether the price of staples at the time is high or low. However if you only give one mudd regardless of these considerations, you have fulfilled the obligation.

[This is based on the medium standard of life and the type of grain usually eaten, no matter what the price. Any a mudd in any land and in every time without adding to it satisfies it because it is the obligation.]

31.3a2. Clothing

If you give clothing you should give a man a robe and a woman a robe and a head-covering.

[If he chooses clothing, then he clothes 10 poor people. There is no difference between the child and the adult in giving the clothing and support. It is not a precondition that the clothing be from the middle of its people because Allah made that a precondition in food but not clothing.]

31.3a3. Freeing

Kaffara can also be done by freeing a believing slave

[They stipulate preconditions in it. One is that the slave is a believer, and so an unbeliever is not adequate. The second is that the slave is free of faults which would impair him, like blindness, senility, and great lameness. As for that which does impair, it is allowed. The third is that it is someone who has firm ownership after buying, and not a conditional purchase. The fourth is he has full ownership, and is not shared, The fifth is that there is no contract to purchase freedom.]

31.3a4. Fasting

but if you cannot do this or feed people, then you should fast three consecutive days although if you do them separately, you have still fulfilled the obligation.

[If all three are impossible, then there is fourth course which he indicates. It is recommended to fast for three consecutive days because it is hurrying to discharge responsibility. If the three are separate, then it is still correct, but there must be an intentionmade each night.]

31.3b When kaffara is obliged

You can do kaffara either before or after failing to fulfill a vow, although doing it afterwards is preferable according to us.

[This appears to be generally applicable, whether the oath is for an act of piety or on account of failing to do something, like kaffara for the fast or something else, but it is preferable to expiate it afterwards.]

31.4 Vows

31.4a. Which vows must be fulfilled

Anyone who makes a vow involving obedience to Allah must fulfill it whereas anyone who makes a vow involving disobedience to Allah must not fulfill it and no reparation is necessary.

[Linguistically nadhr means making something binding, and in the Shari'a it is to oblige oneself to do something which is an act which brings one near Allah. There are two categories: a vow involving obedience which must fulfilled, and a vow involving disobedience which must not be fulfilled. When it is not obligatory to fulfil it, according to Abu Hanifa there is kaffara for it, but that is not the position of the majority, as he stated here.]

31.4b. Vows made respecting other people's property

Anyone who makes a vow to give sadaqa with someone else's money or to free a slave belonging to someone else is not under obligation to fulfill it.

[He owes no sadaqa or freeing in that which has no precondition. If it is connected to a precondition, then he must do it when the precondition exists according to the famous position, like, "I would free so-and-so if I owned him."

31.4c Fulfilling the vow

Anyone who makes a vow that if he does a particular thing, he will do a specific good action, such as praying or fasting or going on hajj or 'umra, or giving away something specific as sadaqa, must do what he said he was going to do even if he fails to fulfill his vow straightaway.

[Whether it is obligatory or forbidden, and so he binds himself to do what he vowed what he stipulated. This is when he mentions a specific thing with his tongue or in his heart and it is a pious action. The unlawful and permissible are excluded and so a vow which does not involve a good action would not be binding. So in the case of sadaqa, he may name an amount or simply make an intention connected to worship and ability. That is then binding. He must carry it out, even if he did not intend an amount. If it is prayer, then it is the least of that to which the name prayer applies, which is two rak'ats. In the case of fasting, when it is not specified, it is the the minimum which can be fasting is applied, which is a day. If he says, "If I speak to so-and-so, then I must walk to Makka," then it is obliged for him to walk on hajj or 'umra. As for sadaqa, if he does not name anything, he must give a third of his property. If he names, then the literal meaning of his words is binding, even if it is all his property. Ibn 'Umar said. "If he mentions his house and it is all that he has, then he must do that.]

31.4d. When the vow is not accompanied by an oath

This is the case even if his vow is not backed up by an oath.

[It is binding.]

31.4e. An unspecified vow

If anyone makes a vow without specifying a particular good action to be done if he fails to fulfill it, and then does fail to fulfill it, should atone for it by doing the kaffara for oaths.

[If he does not name anything specific in his vow so that it can be achieved, as when he says, "By Allah, I have made a vow" without saying whether it is prayer, fasting, hajj or the like, he owes kaffara for an oath in the School.]

31.5. Oaths and vows to do wrong

31.5a. There is no reparation for a vow to do a wrong action

Anyone who makes a vow to do a wrong action such as killing someone or drinking wine or something similar, or to do something which is neither a good action nor a wrong action, does not have to make any reparation for failing to fulfill it, but should seek forgiveness from Allah.

[Or something permissible or disliked. He does not have to do kaffara.]

31.5b. Kaffara for such oaths

If anyone swears by Allah to do a wrong action he should do the kaffara for oaths and not do the thing he swore to do. However, if he is so bold as to do the thing he swore to do he has committed the wrong action but does not have to do the kaffara for breaking his oath.

[If he swears by the name of Allah or one of His attributes, then he should do kaffara. If he does not action without concern for its consequences, then he does not have to perform kaffara.]

31.6. Kaffara for various oaths and vows

31.6a. When there is a double kaffara

Anyone who says in his oath "By the pact of Allah and His covenant" and then fails to fulfill it has to do a double kaffara.

[Because the covenant is an oath and the pact is an oath. If he combines them, he swears two oaths. What he mentions differs from the famous position which is found in at-Tawdih that the kaffara is not repeated when the oath-taker intended to stress the oath or it was unintentional.]

31.6b A single kaffara

However, anyone who emphasises his oath about one specific thing by repeating it only would have to do a single kaffara.

[Ibn al-Hajib said when the oath is repeated on the same thing, it is not a new oath, if the aim is repetition, i.e. there is not another kaffara. Ibn 'Abdu'l-Salam he means that when he swears to someone by one of the Names or Attributes of Allah and then repets the oath by that specific Name or Attribute connected to that specific thing. If he intends a second oath to stress the first or or does not have an intention, he does not have to do the kaffara again. If he intended multiple kaffara, then it is agreed that it is multiple. If he intends to formulate and is not alluding to a multiple kaffara, then the famous position is that it is not multiple. It is understood that it as about one thing. If, for instance, he repeats it about two things, he owes the kaffara of an oath for each, as when he says, "By Allah, I wil not speak to so-and-so, and by Allah, I will not eat from this food, and by Allah, I will not wear this garment."]

31.6c. Oaths for which there is no kaffara

Anyone who says, "I am a mushrik," or that he is a Jew or a Christian if he does such-and-such, does not have to make any reparation and nothing is binding on him except that he must seek Allah's forgiveness

[I seek refuge with Allah - or any similar sort of expression. He owes no kaffara because it was not by any of the Names of Allah or His Attributes and so does not entail a binding oath. He must only repent and no shahada is demanded of him. Of course, asking forgiveness is an act of devotion to Allah, like emancipation, sadaqa and fasting.]

31.6d. No kaffara for making something lawful unlawful

and anyone who makes something haram for himself which Allah has made halal does not have to do kaffara

[In the form of food or drink. He owes no kaffara but must ask forgiveness for that sin because it is Allah who makes things lawful and unlawful and he has criticised Allah by doing that by the words of the Almighty, "Say: 'What do you think about the things Allah has sent down to you as provision which you have then designated as lawful and unlawful?' Say: 'Has Allah given you authority to do this or are you inventing lies against Allah?'" (10:59)

There are two exceptions to that.]

31.6e. An exception: divorce

except in the case of his wife who then does become haram for him until after she has been through another marriage.

[This is when someone says that his wife is haram for him. This is because making her haram amounts to a treble divorce and so she is not lawful for him until she has been through another marriage which has been consummated. If it has not been consummated, then a treble divorce must have occurred in it unless he intended the minimum. The second case is when he makes his slavegirl unlawful and intends to free her. By that she becomes unlawful to him.]

31.6f. A vow to give away all of one's property

If you make an oath or vow to give your wealth away as sadaqa or as a free gift [to the House of Allah} giving away a third is sufficient to fulfil the oath.

[Ibn 'Umar said that if that that is the case in an oath or vow and also when he does not name something specific. If he names it, it is binding on him, even if it is all of his property. This is also the case when he gives it to a specific person like Zayd or the Banu Zayd: all of that is binding when he makes the oath unless he would be reduced and then he is left what a bankrupt is left.]

31.6g. A vow to sacrifice one's son

If you make an oath to sacrifice your son, then if you remember what happened with Ibrahim you should sacrifice an animal which should be slaughtered in Makka and the minimal sacrifice for this is a sheep. If, however, the example of Ibrahim does not enter your thoughts there is no need for you to make any reparation.

[As when you say, "If I do not do such-and-such, I will sacrifice my son," and then recall the story of the Prophet Ibrahim and his son, then you sacrifice an animal, a camel, cow or sheep, in Makka or at Mina if you stop at 'Arafat. It is said to be recommended or obligatory, which is the more likely. The minimum is a sheep which is disliked if a larger animal is possible. It can be male or female. If you do not remember the story at all, then there is no sacrifice or kaffara, but you should ask Allah's forgiveness.]

31.7 An oath to walk to Makka

31.7a. Such an oath is binding

If you make an oath to walk to Makka and fail to do so it is still binding on you to walk from the place where you made the oath and it is up to you whether you go for hajj or 'umra.

[As when you say, "If I do a certain thing, I will walk to Makka." If you do that thing, then you must walk from the land in which you made the oath, not from the place in which you resides, unless you specified a place. You have a choice about whether it is in hajj or 'umra when you did not intend either. That is the famous position: there is a choice when there is no intention. The end of achieving the oath in 'umra is after finishing sa'y. In the hajj it is after finishing the Tawaf al-Ifada.]

31.7b. When riding becomes impossible

If it becomes impossible for you to walk at any point you should ride. But if you later become able to walk you should walk that part of the journey where you rode. If you are certain you will not be able to fulfill the oath you stay where you are and make a sacrifice. What 'Ata' said about this is that you should not go over any part of your journey a second time and that you can sacrifice instead.

[This oath is dependent on ability. If you become able to walk, then you ride and later you can return and walk. If you know that he cannot, you make a sacrifice - preferably a camel, or a cow, or a sheep. If you do not know what you walked and what you rode, you walk the whole way. If you know that you will not be able to walk, you sacrifice and do not have to return again. 'Ata' ibn Abi Rabah, one of the mujtahids, said that you do not have to return again and the sacrifice takes care of it. This is part of the disagreement in the Maliki School in which there is choice.]

31.7c When someone who has not performed hajj makes this vow

If you have not yet gone on hajj (and it was not part of your intention when you made the oath to walk to Makka to do so) you must do an 'umra first and when you have finished your tawaf and sa'y and shorten your hair, you may then go into ihram from Makka for the fard of hajj as a mutamatti'. In any other case you should shave your head but in this instance it is recommended to merely shorten the hair in order to retain an unkempt appearance during the hajj.

[If you not have not yet performed hajj when you make an oath to walk to Makka, then it is mandatory that the walking be in 'umra, based on what the Mukhtasar states, when there is no intention. When you have an intention, you walk as you intended. It is recommended that after the tawaf, sa'y and shortening your hair, you then assume ihram from the mosque according to the Mudawwana or at its door according to Ibn Habib. Then you make the intention for the hajj of Islam, and you add 'umra to hajj if it is in the months of hajj. He should shorten only shorten and not shave his hair in this case.

31.7d. An oath to walk to Madina or Jerusalem

If you make an oath to walk to Madina or to Jerusalem it is alright to ride to them if your original intention was to do the prayer in either of the two mosques. If you meant something else you do not have to fulfill you oath at all.

[You can walk to them in the well-known position. Ibn Wahb said that you must walk to them while al-Lakhmi, al-Maziri and and others recommended that because it is can act of piety which should be fulfilled. You are obliged to go to them only if you intend an obligatory prayer - although some say a voluntary prayer and retreat in their mosques. If you do not intend to pray, you owe nothing because walking itself is not worship.]

31.7e. An oath to walk to any other mosque

If you make an oath to pray in any mosque other than one of these three, you should not go either walking or riding, but you should do that prayer in the place where you are.

[Whether it is near or far based on what is reported in Muslim where the Prophet said, "Animals are only saddled for three mosques: my mosque, the Masjid al-Haram, and the Masjid al-Aqsa."]

31.8 A vow to man the frontier

If you make an oath to man a post in any place on the frontiers of Islam you have to do it.

[Even if he is one of the people of Makka and Madina. That vow should be fulfilled because manning the frontier is an act of devotion to Allah and if you vow an act of devotion, you must fulfil your vow.]

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