What Are the Consequences of an Oath of Disbelief?

Hanafi Fiqh

Answered by Ustadh Salman Younas

Question: If a women takes an oath that “if I do this or do not do this I will become a kafir forever”and breaks the oath is she a kafir?

Answer: assalamu `alaykum

This is not necessarily the case. There are more details to this issue.

Principles of Takfir

The scholars of Islam have given clear guidelines when it comes to judging whether someone has fallen outside the fold. Imam Tahawi states that, “A person does not step out of disbelief except by disavowing that which brought him into it.” In other words, it is generally the case that the performance or non-performance of an act is not in and of itself sufficient to proclaim someone a non-Muslim. Rather, one must actually disbelieve in something that is obligatory to believe.

Additionally, even in the scenario where someone holds an opinion that is deemed to be disbelief (kufr), it still does not necessarily follow that such an individual is a disbeliever. This has been detailed by Shaykh Nuh Keller in his article “Iman, Kufr, and Takfir”. The disbelief of an individual needs to be clear and decisive in order for him to be deemed a disbeliever. This means that one is not judged a disbeliever if his words are interpretable as possessing a sound meaning, or a meaning that averts the ruling of disbelief, or there are other considerations that provide sufficient reason to not deem him a disbeliever. [Haskafi, Durr al-Mukhtar; Ibn `Abidin, Radd al-Muhtar]

Swearing an Oath of Kufr

In light of the above, if an individual swore that if they performed/did not perform a particular act then they would become a disbeliever, this would not necessarily result in that individual becoming a disbeliever upon the performance/non-performance of that act.

This is because the scholars who stated that this did in fact make one a disbeliever specified that such a ruling applied only to an individual who swore such an oath with the belief that he would actually adopt disbelief upon its non-fulfillment. The reasoning behind this was that such a person demonstrates his content with falling into disbelief.

However, if an individual knew that he was merely swearing an oath and he was not content at all with falling into disbelief, he would not be judged a disbeliever upon the non-fulfillment of his oath. In fact, this is the default assumption regarding such oaths, namely that they convey the intent of an individual to stop himself from an act and don not indicate his desire or contentedness with disbelief. [Ibn Humam, Fath al-Qadir; Ibn `Abidin, Radd al-Muhtar]

Finally, it should be noted that even if we accept the position that an individual may become a disbeliever when swearing such an oath in certain contexts, there is difference of opinion on the issue as it relates to that specific scenario that could potentially offset the ruling of disbelief. As Imam Haskafi stated, “A legal verdict may not be given of the unbelief of a Muslim whose words are interpretable as having a valid meaning, or about the disbelief of which there is scholarly difference of opinion even if weak.”


Checked & Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani