2 Islamic articles on: Islam and breaking oaths

IslamQA: She promised Allah not to talk to him then broke her promise

Asalam Walikum, I hope you are doing well. I really really need help 🙁 so i went through a heartbreak with someone i liked and wanted to marry. I made a promise to Allah about it, that ill stop talking to him until he is brought for marriage. He did come back after so many months and i dont know if my dua is accepted or not. He kept telling me he never moved on and etc. and i cant even respond, then i finally did to clarify why im not talking to him and my pain. i broke my promise what do i do?

I feel super guilty about breaking my promise I made. I really didnt want to break my oath to Allah at all. I really wanted to clarify and tell him that i also wanted to marry and etc but i am trying to keep the promise afterwards that conversation with him. Do I have to fast 3 days or help the needy? I feel so guilty I have no one to ask.

I just am also sad I really want to tell my parents about him but he isnt 100% ready for marriage and I don’t want to lie to them again of not talking to him when i already did that before. I just feel like a horrible person right now. i really don’t want them angry, they were tired of my heartbreak and if i tell them one day we fixed they will be super mad at me.

Alaikumassalam wa rahmatullah,

I apologize for the late reply. Sorry about your situation. It seems to me a good thing that you clarified the situation to him since it can cause a person a great deal of pain and turmoil to be left hanging without an explanation in such situations.

Regarding whether you should make expiation for breaking the oath, it depends on the nature of your promise and its solemnity. Either your promise was to put an end to regular contacts with him, or it was to never have any contact whatsoever with him. If it was the first one, then merely giving him an explanation doesn’t break the promise if you do not start talking to him regularly again. But if it was the second one, then it seems the promise is broken.

Note that breaking an oath can sometimes be a good thing, which is why the Quran allows it. The Prophet PBUH says:

"By Allah, Allah willing, if ever I take an oath (to do something) and later on I find something else better than the first, then I do the better one and give expiation for the dissolution of my oath."

Sahih al-Bukhari 6680

Merely promising God to do something and then not doing it is not the same as breaking an oath. But if when you were making the promise you had the intention of making a solemn oath (and from your description this seems probable), then breaking the promise requires expiation. What you should do is either donate enough money to feed or clothe ten needy people (you can do this online by going to Islamic Relief’s website and choosing “kafara” on the donation page), or if you can’t afford to, to fast for three days.

If you think the kafara is necessary and you perform it, then the oath no longer applies, it is like it wasn’t made in the first place, and there is no need to feel guilty about it anymore. The way forward seems to be to avoid contact with him (as I don’t recommend secret romantic relationships) as much as possible until he is ready to formally propose. 

Regarding the kind of romantic relationships that are appropriate in Islam, you may want to see my article: Dating and Relationships in Islam: What is Allowed and What is Not

Best wishes. May Allah make things easy for you.

References (regarding oaths):

IslamQA: Is swearing by God permitted in Islam? The ruling on breaking an oath or promise

Are you allowed to swear by God?

Yes, swearing by God is permitted in Islam. However, there are two types of oaths (swearing) which have different rules. The first one is a casual, rather than solemn, oath. For example many Muslims say “Wallahi (by Allah) this” or “Wallahi that” in casual conversation. This type of swear is not solemn, therefore breaking it has no legal consequences. For example if someone casually says “Wallahi I will do that tomorrow” and they do not do it, if their swear was casual, then even if they do not do the thing, there is no blame upon them.

God does not hold you responsible for your unintentional oaths, but He holds you responsible for your intentions. God is Forgiving and Forbearing.

The Quran, verse 2:225.

The other type of oath is the solemn oath or vow. When you clearly state something and swear by Allah, and in your heart you mean this oath to be solemn, then breaking it will be sinful unless you make atonement (kafāra) for it.

God does not hold you accountable for your unintended oaths, but He holds you accountable for your binding oaths. The atonement for it is by feeding ten needy people from the average of what you feed your families, or by clothing them, or by freeing a slave. Anyone who lacks the means shall fast for three days. That is the atonement for breaking your oaths when you have sworn them. So keep your oaths. Thus God makes clear His Revelations to you, that you may be grateful.

The Quran, verse 5:89.

If you make a binding oath to do something harmful, or if you later regret the oath and find a better alternative, it is recommended to break the oath and make the atonement for it.

Narrated Aisha: That her father (Abu Bakr) never broke his oath till Allah revealed the order of the legal expiation for oath. Abu Bakr said, "If I ever take an oath (to do something) and later find that to do something else is better, then I accept Allah's permission and do that which is better, (and do the legal expiation for my oath ) ".

Sahih al-Bukhari Vol. 6, Book 60, Hadith 138

However, if you vowed by God to someone (if you made a promise to them) and later you wish to break it, it is considered bad manners to do so. Therefore besides making atonement for it, you must try to get that person’s permission and forgiveness. But there is no legal ruling on breaking promises to a person, this is just a matter of etiquette.

Source on breaking promises: