The Fiqh of Oaths – Imam al-Sa’di

Imam ‘Abd al-Rahman al-Sa’di dedicated a chapter of his book of thematic tafsir to the subject of oaths, in which he first brought these ayaat and then explained them and their related issues as follows:

فصل في الأيمان ونحوها
Chapter on Oaths and related matters

يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا لَا تُحَرِّ‌مُوا طَيِّبَاتِ مَا أَحَلَّ اللَّـهُ لَكُمْ وَلَا تَعْتَدُوا ۚ إِنَّ اللَّـهَ لَا يُحِبُّ الْمُعْتَدِينَ * وَكُلُوا مِمَّا رَ‌زَقَكُمُ اللَّـهُ حَلَالًا طَيِّبًا ۚ وَاتَّقُوا اللَّـهَ الَّذِي أَنتُم بِهِ مُؤْمِنُونَ * لَا يُؤَاخِذُكُمُ اللَّـهُ بِاللَّغْوِ فِي أَيْمَانِكُمْ وَلَـٰكِن يُؤَاخِذُكُم بِمَا عَقَّدتُّمُ الْأَيْمَانَ ۖ فَكَفَّارَ‌تُهُ إِطْعَامُ عَشَرَ‌ةِ مَسَاكِينَ مِنْ أَوْسَطِ مَا تُطْعِمُونَ أَهْلِيكُمْ أَوْ كِسْوَتُهُمْ أَوْ تَحْرِ‌يرُ‌ رَ‌قَبَةٍ ۖ فَمَن لَّمْ يَجِدْ فَصِيَامُ ثَلَاثَةِ أَيَّامٍ ۚ ذَٰلِكَ كَفَّارَ‌ةُ أَيْمَانِكُمْ إِذَا حَلَفْتُمْ ۚ وَاحْفَظُوا أَيْمَانَكُمْ ۚ كَذَٰلِكَ يُبَيِّنُ اللَّـهُ لَكُمْ آيَاتِهِ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَشْكُرُ‌ونَ

O you who have believed, do not prohibit the good things which Allah has made lawful to you and do not transgress. Indeed, Allah does not like transgressors. * And eat of what Allah has provided for you [which is] halaal (lawful) and tayyib (good). And have taqwa of Allah, in whom you are believers. * Allah will not impose blame upon you for what is meaningless in your oaths, but He will impose blame upon you for [breaking] what you intended of oaths. So its expiation is the feeding of ten needy people from the average of that which you feed your [own] families or clothing them or the freeing of a slave. But whoever cannot find [or afford it] – then a fast of three days [is required]. That is the expiation for oaths when you have sworn. But protect your oaths. Thus does Allah make clear to you His verses that you may be grateful. [5:87-89]

يقول الباري: يا أيها الذين آمنوا اعملوا بمقتضى أيمانكم في تحليل ما أحل الله، وتحريم ما حرم الله، فلا تحرموا ما أحل الله لكم من المطاعم والمشارب وغيرها، فإنها نعم تفضل الله بها عليكم فاقبلوها، واشكروا الله عليها إذ أحلها شرعا ويسرها قدرا، ولا تردوا نعمة الله بكفرها، أو عدم قبولها، أو اعتقاد تحريمها، أو الحلف على عدم تناولها، فإن ذلك كله من الاعتداء، ولهذا قال: { وَلَا تَعْتَدُوا ۚ إِنَّ اللَّـهَ لَا يُحِبُّ الْمُعْتَدِينَ }  بل يبغضهم ويمقتهم على ذلك { وَكُلُوا مِمَّا رَ‌زَقَكُمُ اللَّـهُ حَلَالًا طَيِّبًا}  أي: كلوا من رزقه الذي ساقه إليكم، ويسره لكم بأسبابه المتنوعة، إذا كان حلالا، لا سرقة ولا غصبا، ولا حصل في معاملة خبيثة، وكان أيضا طيبا نافعا لا خبث فيه { وَاتَّقُوا اللَّـهَ }  في امتثال أوامره، واجتناب نواهيه { الَّذِي أَنتُم بِهِ مُؤْمِنُونَ }  فإن الإيمان لا يتم إلا بذلك، وهو يدعو إلى ذلك. ـ

The Creator said: O you who have believed, act according to your oaths concerning holding lawful (halaal) what Allah has made lawful and holding unlawful (haraam) what Allah has made unlawful, so do not consider unlawful what Allah has made lawful for you of food, drink, or other things, for these are certainly blessings with which Allah has favored you, so accept them and be grateful to Allah for them that He has made them lawful in a legislative sense and facilitated them in an divinely ordained sense. And do not reject the blessings of Allah by being ungrateful for them, or by not accepting them, or by believing them to be unlawful, or by swearing to not make use of them – for certainly all of that is transgression. Allah said concerning that, “and do not transgress. Indeed, Allah does not like transgressors,” rather, He hates and loathes them because of that. “And eat of what Allah has provided for you [which is] halaal (lawful) and tayyib (good),” – meaning: eat of what He has provided which He has sent forth for you and has facilitated it for you by various means, so long as it is halaal – not stolen or usurped or attained by wicked dealings – and it is also tayyib – beneficial with no harmfulness in it. “And have taqwa of Allah” by complying with His commands and avoiding His prohibitions, “in whom you are believers” for indeed al-eemaan is not completed except by that, and it calls to that.

ودلت الآية الكريمة أن العبد إذا حرم حلالا عليه من طعام وشراب وكسوة واستعمال وسرية ونحو ذلك، فإن هذا التحريم منه لا يحرم ذلك الحلال، لكن إذا فعله فعليه كفارة يمين، لأن التحريم يمين كما قال تعالى: { يَا أَيُّهَا النَّبِيُّ لِمَ تُحَرِّ‌مُ مَا أَحَلَّ اللَّـهُ لَكَ ۖ تَبْتَغِي مَرْ‌ضَاتَ أَزْوَاجِكَ ۚ وَاللَّـهُ غَفُورٌ‌ رَّ‌حِيمٌ * قَدْ فَرَ‌ضَ اللَّـهُ لَكُمْ تَحِلَّةَ أَيْمَانِكُمْ ۚ وَاللَّـهُ مَوْلَاكُمْ ۖ وَهُوَ الْعَلِيمُ الْحَكِيمُ } [ التحريم: 1 و 2 ]. ـ

This noble ayah demonstrates that if the servant makes (an oath declaring) something which is lawful to be unlawful for himself – whether it is food, drink, clothing, employment, pleasures and the like –  then this self-made prohibition does not (actually) make what is lawful unlawful. However if he did do that, then he must make an expiation of his oath (kaffaarah al-aymaan), because it is an oath of prohibition just as Allah said, “O Prophet, why do you prohibit [yourself from] what Allah has made lawful for you, seeking the approval of your wives? And Allah is Forgiving and Merciful. Allah has already ordained for you [Muslims] the dissolution of your oaths. And Allah is your protector, and He is the Knowing, the Wise,” [66:1-2].

وهذا عام في تحريم كل طيب، إلا أن تحريم الزوجة يكون ظهارا فيه كفارة الظهار السابقة. ـ

And this is generally applicable concerning any act of considering something tayyib unlawful, with the exception of considering a wife to be unlawful. That is thihaar for which there is the expiation of thihaar, which has already been mentioned [elsewhere in the same book].

وكما أنه ليس له أن يحلف على ترك الطيبات فليس له أن يمتنع من أكلها، ولو بلا حلف تنسكا وغلوا في الدين؛ بل يتناولها مستعينا بها على طاعة ربه

And just as it is not correct for someone to swear that he will leave off the tayyibaat (good, permissible things), so it is also not correct to for him (habitually) abstain from eating them. Even if he does this without having taken an oath, it is still asceticism and ghuloo (extremism) in the deen. Rather, he should consume it thereby seeking its aid in the obedience of his Lord.

{  لَا يُؤَاخِذُكُمُ اللَّـهُ بِاللَّغْوِ فِي أَيْمَانِكُمْ } ويشمل هذا الأيمان التي حلف بها من غير نية ولا قصد، أو عقدها يظن صدق نفسه فبان بخلاف ذلك، { وَلَـٰكِن يُؤَاخِذُكُم بِمَا عَقَّدتُّمُ الْأَيْمَانَ  }  أي: بما عقدت عليه قلوبكم، كما قال في الآية الأخرى: { وَلَـٰكِن يُؤَاخِذُكُم بِمَا كَسَبَتْ قُلُوبُكُمْ } [ البقرة: 225 ]. ـ

Allah will not impose blame upon you for what is meaningless in your oaths,” and this includes the oaths which one takes without intent or purpose, or which he takes thinking he has true resolve but then discovers the opposite of that, “but He will impose blame upon you for [breaking] what you intended of oaths,” – meaning: for what your heart determined to do, just as He said in another ayah, “but He imposes blame upon you for what your hearts have earned,” [2:225].

فإذا عقد العبد اليمين وحنث – بأن فعل ما حلف على تركه، أو ترك ما حلف على فعله – خير في الكفارة بين إطعام عشرة مساكين من أوسط ما تطعمون أهليكم، وذلك يختلف باختلاف الناس والأوقات والأمكنة، أو كسوتهم بما يعد كسوة، وقيد ذلك بكسوة تجزي في الصلاة، أو تحرير رقبة صغير أو كبير، ذكر أو أنثى، بشرط أن تكون الرقبة مؤمنة، كما في الآية المقيدة بالأيمان، وأن تكون تلك الرقبة سليمة من العيوب الضارة بالعمل، فمتى كفر بواحد من هذه الثلاثة انحلت يمينه. ـ

So if the servant took an oath and then broke it – whether by doing what he swore he would leave, or by leaving what he swore he would do – he has a choice of expiation among 1) feeding ten poor people according to the norm of what he feeds his family – and that differs according to differences of people, time and place -, or 2) clothing them which what usually wears – and that is limited to is worn during al-salaat -, or 3) freeing a slave – whether old or young, male or female, on the condition that it is a believing slave, as has come in the ayah which restricts the oaths, and that this slave is free from any unwholesome deficiencies in terms of (being able to) work. So when one offers an expiation by one of these three things, then he has dissolved his oath.

وهذا من نعمة الله على هذه الأمة أنه فرض لهم تحلة أيمانهم، ورفع عنهم الإلزام والجناح، فمن لم يجد واحدا من هذه الثلاثة فعليه صيام ثلاثة أيام، أي: متتابعة مع الإمكان، كما قيدت في قراءة بعض الصحابة، ـ

And this is a blessing from Allah upon the ummah that He has obligated the dissolution of their oaths for them and has lifted the obligation from them. So whoever is not able to do one of these three things, then he must fast for three days – meaning consecutively if able, as has been specified in the recitation of one of the sahaabah.

 ـ { وَاحْفَظُوا أَيْمَانَكُمْ } عن أن تحلفوا بالله وأنتم كاذبون، وعن كثرة الأيمان لا سيما عند البيع والشراء، واحفظوها إذا حلفتم عن الحنث فيها، إلا إذا كان الحنث خيرا من المضي فيها، كما قال تعالى: {  وَلَا تَجْعَلُوا اللَّـهَ عُرْ‌ضَةً لِّأَيْمَانِكُمْ أَن تَبَرُّ‌وا وَتَتَّقُوا وَتُصْلِحُوا بَيْنَ النَّاسِ } [ البقرة: 224 ].  ـ

But protect your oaths” from swearing by Allah while you are lying, and from making an abundance of oaths – especially concerning buying and selling. And when you take them, protect them from being broken, except when breaking them is better than what has preceded of them, as Allah said, “And do not make [your oath by] Allah an excuse against being righteous and fearing Allah and making peace among people. And Allah is Hearing and Knowing,” [2:224].

أي: لا تقولوا: إننا قد حلفنا على ترك البر، وترك التقوى، وترك الإصلاح بين الناس، فتجعلوا أيمانكم مانعة لكم من هذه الأمور التي يحبها الله ورسوله، بل احنثوا وكفروا وافعلوا ما هو خير وبر وتقوى، واحفظوا أيضا أيمانكم إذا حلفتم وحنثتم بالكفارة، فإن الكفارة بها حفظ اليمين الذي معناه تعظيم المحلوف به، فمن كان يحلف ويحنث ولا يكفر فما حفظ يمينه، ولا قام بتعظيم ربه

Meaning: do not say, ‘Verily we have swore to abandon being righteous, and to abandon taqwa and to abandon making peace among people’ so that you make your oaths something that prevents you from these affairs which Allah and His messenger love. Rather, break them, make an expiation, and do what is good, righteous and God-fearing. And also protect your oaths by making an expiation when you swear something and then renege on it, for verily the expiation of it is a protection of the oath – it being a magnification of the One who is being sworn by. For whoever swear and then breaks his oath and does not make an expiation for it, then he has not protected his oath, and he has not established the magnification of his Lord.

 ـ { كَذَٰلِكَ يُبَيِّنُ اللَّـهُ لَكُمْ آيَاتِهِ } المبينة للحلال من الحرام، الموضحة للأحكام { لَعَلَّكُمْ تَشْكُرُ‌ونَ }  فعلى العباد أن يشكروا ربهم على بيانه وتعليمه لهم ما لم يكونوا يعلمون، فإن العلم أصل النعم وبه تتم. ـ

Thus does Allah make clear to you His verses” clarifying the permissible from the impermissible, and clearing up the rulings, “in order that you may be grateful” for it is a must for the servants to be grateful to their Lord for His clarification and teaching them what they did not know. For verily al-‘ilm is the foundation of blessings, and through it they are completed.

[Taysir al-Lateef al-Manaan pg. 237-240]

To read other writings from the same work of Imam al-Sa’di, click here.

See also: Oaths are a magnification of the Creator: Imam al-Sa’di

See also: Chapter on Fasting in the Qur’an – part 1: Imam al-Sa’di

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