Getting to Know Allah

Oaths Can Be Broken

Getting to Know AllahWhat may have been one of the first revelation to the people of Medina is about homage and oaths.

48:7 To Allah belongs the hosts of the heavens and the earth, and Allah is All-Mighty and Wise.

48:8 Indeed, We have sent you forth as a witness, a bearer of good news and a warner;

48:9 That you (people of Medina) may believe in Allah and His Messenger, to honour, revere and glorify Him, morning and evening.

48:10 Those who pay you (the Prophet) homage are actually paying Allah homage. Allah’s Hand is above their hands; so he who breaks his oath only breaks it to his loss, and he who fulfills what he has pledge unto Allah, He will grant him a great wage.

Those who honour their oaths will inherit Paradise.

23:8 Those who honour their trusts and promises;

23:9 And observe their prayers;

23:10 Those are the inheritors,

23:11 Who will inherit Paradise wherein they will dwell forever.

If an oath prevents you from doing good, break it.

2:224 Do not make Allah in your oaths (when you swear by Allah) a hindrance to doing good, to fearing Allah and to making peace between people. Allah is All-Hearing, All-Knowing.

The example of the Prophet:

Narrated Zahdam:

... Once I went to Allah's Apostle with a group of Al-Ash'ariyin, and met him while he was angry, distributing some camels of Rakat. We asked for mounts but he took an oath that he would not give us any mounts, and added, "I have nothing to mount you on."

In the meantime some camels of booty were brought to Allah's Apostle and he asked twice, "Where are Al-Ash'ariyin?" So he gave us five white camels with big humps.

We stayed for a short while (after we had covered a little distance), and then I said to my companions, "Allah's Apostle has forgotten his oath. By Allah, if we do not remind Allah's Apostle of his oath, we will never be successful."

So we returned to the Prophet and said, "O Allah's Apostle! We asked you for mounts, but you took an oath that you would not give us any mounts; we think that you have forgotten your oath."

He said, "It is Allah Who has given you mounts. By Allah, and Allah willing, if I take an oath and later find something else better than that, then I do what is better and expiate my oath."

Bukhari 67.427

If you did not mean it!

2:225 Allah will not take you to task for what is not meant [to be said] in your oaths; but He will take you to task for what you mean in your hearts. Allah is Forgiving, Clement.

Oaths are not for sale:

3:77 Those who sell the covenant of Allah and their own oaths for a small price will have no share in the life to come; Allah will neither speak to them nor look at them nor purify them on the Day of Resurrection. A painful punishment is in store for them!

When and why this revelation was sent:

Narrated Abdullah bin Mas'ud:

Allah's Apostle said, "Whoever takes a false oath so as to take the property of a Muslim (illegally) will meet Allah while He will be angry with him."

Al-Ash'ath said: "By Allah, that saying concerned me. I had common land with a Jew, and the Jew later on denied my ownership, so I took him to the Prophet who asked me whether I had a proof of my ownership. When I replied in the negative, the Prophet asked the Jew to take an oath."

I said, "O Allah's Apostle! He will take an oath and deprive me of my property."

So, Allah revealed the following verse: "Verily! Those who purchase a little gain at the cost of Allah's covenant and their oaths." (3.77)

Bukhari 41.599

A parable about oaths:

16:91 Fulfil the Covenant of Allah when you make a covenant [with Him], and do not break the oats after you solemnly affirmed them, taking Allah as witness. Surely Allah knows what you do.

16:92 And do not be like her who unravels her yarn after she has spun it first; taking your oaths as means of deception among you, because one party is more numerous than another. Allah only tries you by this, and He will certainly may clear to you on the Day of Resurrection that whereon you differ.

The parable about the yarn spinner, according to Moududi, is supposed to be a warning to the Jews about breaking their oaths to Arabs; which brings up the next verse where Allah reveals that if He had been in the mood, He would have made Jews and Arabs “one nation”. 

16:93 Had Allah pleased, He would have made you one nation, but He leads whom He pleases astray and guides whom He pleases. And you will surely be questioned about what you did.

A warning for the believers about using oaths to deceive:

16:94 And do not make your oaths as means of deception among you, lest a foot should slip (lest your faith be shaken) after being firm, and lest you should taste evil on account of debarring others from Allah’s Path. Grievous will be your punishment!

As a warning about obeying some who swear oaths, Allah gives the example of one of the two most detested kinsman and enemy of the Prophet (the other being Abu Lahab) to warrant a personal rancorous condemnation on His part. 

68:7 Surely, your Lord knows better who has strayed from His Path and He knows better the well-guided.

68:8 So do not obey the unbelievers.

68:9 They wished that you would dissimulate, so that they might dissimulate too.

68:10 And do not obey every lowly swearer of oaths;

68:11 Backbiter, going around, bearing calumny;

68:12 Hinderer of good, aggressor, wicked;

68:13 Coarse, on top of that, and quarrelsome;

68:14 Because he (al-Walid Ibn al-Mughirah) has wealth and children.

More about al-Mughirah in From Merchant to Messenger, Boreal Books, 2012.