Is It Obligatory to Fulfill My Promises?

Hanafi Fiqh

Answered by Sidi Faraz A. Khan

Question: salam,

-if i made a vow/promise/oath/covenant to Allah that i would wear hijab but i do it in my head because i didn’t know that it wont be valid if its not done verbally, i thought it will be valid if you do it in your head. Now i know that it wont be valid if its not done verbally so must i still keep it? I know i will be sinful for not wearing hijab but in this case will i be held accountable for breaking my vow/oath/covenant/promise?

-what is the fatwa in this case: if for example i made a promise/vow/oath/covenant with god that i will stop gossiping about people but i cant remember if i did it verbally or in my head? In this
case i know i will be sinful for gossiping but also for breaking my vow/oath/covenant/promise?

Answer: Assalamu alaikum wa rahmatullah,

I pray this finds you in the best of health and faith.

The Criteria of Promises

According to the prophetic hadith, one of the signs of a hypocrite is that “when he makes a promise, he breaks it.” [Muslim] Imam Khalil Nahlawi explains that what is meant by this hadith is that it is unlawful for one to make a promise while intending to break it, as such an intention is deemed hypocrisy.

If one intends to fulfill it, then making a promise is permissible.

One should strive his utmost to fulfill a promise, as doing so is sunna. Breaking a promise that one intended to fulfill, then, is disliked and unbecoming of a believer. (And if the promise were depended upon by another to make a financial commitment or significant undertaking, then it would be religiously binding to fulfill, as contemporary scholars clarify.)

[Nahlawi, Durar Mubaha fil Hazr wal Ibaha]

The above criteria would apply as well when making an internal promise to Allah Most High, without verbally pronouncing a vow or oath, as breaking the latter would necessitate expiation [depending on the vow/oath].

Your Particular Questions

Having said that:

(1) If something is already obligatory or prohibited, then it is of no consequence whether one makes a non-verbal promise to Allah to adhere to it. It remains an obligation or prohibition, and failure to abide by it entails sin.

(2) A vow or oath takes effect only if one is sure that one pronounced it verbally. If one cannot remember, one assumes it was an internal promise and so no expiation is due. But again, to break a promise that was made without resolve to fulfill it entails sin.

And Allah alone gives success.


Faraz A. Khan

Checked & Approved by Faraz Rabbani