Answered by Shaykh Yusuf Weltch
Question: Assalamu alaykum
What is the ruling on breaking promises in Islam?
Answer: Assalam aleykum
Intentionally Breaking a Promise:
It is strictly prohibited (Haram) to make a promise which one intends to not fulfill [al-Durar al-Mubahah]. For one to say that they will do something and then not fulfill that promise is a type of lying. One should, therefore, seek Allah’s forgiveness by repenting and seek the person’s forgiveness whom the lie was committed against. Habitually breaking one’s promise is a sign of hypocrisy mentioned by the Prophet (may Allah bless him and give him peace).
The Prophet said, “The signs of the hypocrite are three, even if he fasts and prays and claims to be a Muslim: When he speaks he lies, when he promises he breaks (the promise), and when entrusted he betrays (that trust).” [Muslim]
Unintentionally Breaking a Promise:
If one unintentionally breaks a promise then they should seek Allah’s forgiveness and apologize to the person involved. This is because such an act is not becoming of the Believer. This is not, inherently, considered sinful unless it was due to direct negligence on one’s part, in which case it is highly disliked. However, as Believers, we should hold ourselves to a high standard of good character in our social dealings.
A practical way to not fall into the breaking of promises is to attach the promise to the will of Allah. That is by saying ‘In Sha Allah.’
Note: Even if one says ‘In Sha Allah’ it is still becoming of the Believer to fulfill the promise, especially when the other party is depending on it.
May Allah bless you for your inquiry and make us all of the truthful
[Shaykh] Yusuf Weltch