OATHS, VOWS AND COVENANTS
If a person imposes on himself to do something, he will not actually be obligated to do so except by an oath (yamen), a vow (nadhr) or a covenant (ahd). Once he has sworn an oath, vow or a covenant, he is obligated to fulfil it, and he is not permitted to violate it. If he does violate it, expiation (kaffarah) will be obligatory on him, as will be mentioned in the chapter on Expiation.
The Person Making the Oath, Vow or Covenant
Ruling 703: It is necessary for the validity of one’s oath, vow or covenant, that one is adult, sane and freely willing.
Ruling 704: The oath and the vow in particular are not valid if they are declared out of severe anger, as opposed to the covenant which is still valid as long as the intention is there. Similarly, the oath is not valid if it is made out of impulsiveness, due to having a habit of making such oaths.
Ruling 705: An oath is not effective for a son without the permission of his father, or for a wife without the permission of her husband. As for the vows and covenants, they do not require their permission, and they do not become annulled by their annulment, or by their orders to breach them, except if abiding by the vow or covenant necessitates the violation of their rights; therefore, when they seek their right which will cause the breach of the vow or covenant, the vow or covenant becomes void.
The Making of the Oath, Vow and Covenant
Ruling 706: An oath is not valid unless it is sworn on Allah’s name, be it the name of ‘Allah’ or any of His other names, in any language. Swearing on any other’s name, however great it or he may be, such as the Holy Quran, is not considered as a binding oath.
Ruling 707: It is necessary in a vow to make the vowed deed for the sake of Allah, e.g. one should say: “By Allah I vow to do such-and-such”.
Ruling 708: It is sufficient in a covenant to express a covenant with Allah Almighty, e.g. one should say: “I make a covenant with Allah that...” In fact, as an obligatory precaution, such a covenant comes into effect even if it is made in the heart, without the need to say it verbally, as opposed to the oath and vow, which must be expressed verbally.
The Subject of the Oath, Vow and Covenant
Ruling 709: The oath or vow may only be made for acts which are considered obedience to Allah Almighty, i.e. to undertake an obligatory or recommended act, or to abstain from a forbidden or disliked deed. So an oath or a vow is not valid if it is made to promise to refrain from undertaking obligatory or recommended acts or to perform prohibited or disliked deeds, or to do an act which is mubah, i.e. that act which the Sharia has not expressed its like or dislike of it; however, if such an act becomes favoured or disfavoured by the Sharia by a secondary reason, then one’s vow or oath to undertake or abstain from it respectively will be valid. The same applies to covenants, except that as an obligatory precaution a covenant to perform a mubah act will be valid.
Ruling 710: It is necessary in the oaths, vows and covenants that what is promised must be possible at the time of making them. This is so except for fasting of specified particular days, as the lapsed fasts will be performed later as qadha, and if one is not able to do so he should give one mudd of food to the poor for each missed day as an obligatory precaution.
Ruling 711: There is no expiation (kaffarah) for violating a vow, oath or covenant unintentionally, nor in violating them if the circumstances change and make the act in question unfavourable in the eyes of the Sharia. There is also no expiation if one’s vow, oath or covenant is based on thanksgiving for disobedience to Allah and dislike towards His obedience, as such are invalid.