Oath, Vow and Covenant

In this video, we want to talk about the rules of Oath, Vow and Covenant; or in Arabic: اليمين , النذر , العهد.

Sometimes we make an obligation upon ourselves to perform a certain act by taking an oath, making a vow, or a covenant. According to the Islamic laws each one of these commitments have different rules, and if someone, using these methods, binds himself to do a useful act, he must do it. If he violates it, he has committed a sin and he must pay a Kaffarah.
In this episode we will define and discuss the rules related to these commitments.
A vow, covenant and oath in Islam take place by uttering a certain formula in which a person makes it obligatory upon himself to do or to refrain from doing an act.
These three types of obligations have similarities and differences.
First let’s review what the similarities are then we’ll move on to the differences:
For taking a lawful oath, or making a vow or covenant one should have these conditions:
First, one should be free, sane and at the age of puberty. So it is not accepted from a minor, insane or a person who is coerced.
Second, one should have a clear intention of what he’s doing.
Third, except as for a dumb person, a special formula declaration has to be pronounced for each type. Though it is not necessary that it should be in Arabic.
Our actions according to Islamic law are divided into 5 categories:
Wajib or Compulsory, Mustahab or recommended, Mubah or permissible, Makrooh or disliked and Haram or forbidden.
The fourth condition is that a vow, covenant and oath, is acceptable for Wajib and Mustahab acts or to refrain from a Haram or Makrooh act.
And it’s not allowed for doing a Makrooh or Haram act.
But for Mubah acts, it varies; It might be accepted or void in some situations. Please refer to the Islamic laws book for more details.

Fifth, one should be able to fulfil his commitment. If one intends doing an impossible act like visiting the shrines of all Imams in one day, his oath or vow is void.
Sixth, in many cases the permission of the father, mother or husband is needed.
Seventh, one shouldn’t be declared as incompetent for dealing with his wealth by the legal governor.
And finally, the oath, vow and covenant can include doing or not doing an act directly or stipulated by the occurrence of something else. For example someone makes a vow to give some charity if his child is born healthy. There are many details in these types of commitments. Please refer to the Islamic laws book.

The Declaration Formula
As we said there is certain wording which should be pronounced for each type:

For making a vow (Nadhr) it’s conditional to be made for the sake or the pleasure of God. So the wording should include Allah’s name or any of His other exclusive names and attributes. For example one says: “For the sake of Allah, if I arrive home safely, I will fast tomorrow.”

For making a covenant (‘Ahd) one should say “I pledge to God or Allah” or “I make my covenant to Allah” to do a certain thing.

For the oath (Yameen) it must be sworn by the name of God or one of His exclusive names or attributes. Like saying “by the name of Khaliq or The Creator I will do such and such”.

Important note: know that there are two types of oaths which are not considered lawful: First is to swear that something happened or is happening or will happen. Here the intention is to inform others and not to do an act, therefore it’s not a valid oath. This type of oath, if it’s true, is considered Makrooh and it will be Haram if it’s a lie. Second is to swear to God that someone else should do something. Like to swear that your friend should eat with you. According to the Islamic laws this oath is void and has no consequence.

If a person, out of his own choice and volition, violates his lawful vow, covenant or oath, he should give Kaffarah for it.

The Kaffarah of breaking oath or breaching vow:
Is to fully feed ten needy persons. This can be by giving each of them 750 grams of food. Or by providing ten needy persons with clothes.
And if this is not possible for him, he has to fast three consecutive days.

The Kaffarah of breaching the covenant:
Is to fully feed 60 needy persons. This can be by giving each of them 750 grams of food. Or to fast two consecutive months.