Is It a Vow to State That Something Would Be Obligatory on Me If I Committed a Sin?

Shafi'i Fiqh

Answered by Shaykh Irshaad Sedick


If someone says, “Every time I do this certain sin, it will be wajib (obligatory) for me to fast a day,” without mentioning Allah or intending for it to be a vow. It was only a promise to oneself, but this person used the word “wajib” because it’s a common word used in everyday life for purposes other than vowing.

I heard that if someone says “I vow” or “(…) it is obligatory upon me or wajib upon me,” it’s a vow even without intention. Please help because vowing didn’t even cross her mind when she said that.


In the Name of Allah, the Most Merciful and Compassionate.

May Allah alleviate our difficulties and guide us to what pleases Him. Amin.

What you described appears to be an oath rather than a vow, but due to the statement’s ambiguity, I advise that you pay the expiation as a precautionary measure. Sins should be avoided regardless of oaths, and Allah knows best.

What are the Differences between Oaths, Vows, and Promises?

An oath is a solemn statement to do or refrain from something or that something is true, so if things turn out otherwise, the swearer must make an expiation (kafara). [Misri, ‘Umdat al-Salik]

An oath is when you say, “By Allah (…).”

A vow is when you say something sunna is now obligatory on you “for Allah’s sake or due to Allah.” If there is no mention of Allah with His names, it usually cannot become an oath or vow.

In a promise, one promises to oneself or someone else to do something. There is no penalty or anything else for breaking a promise.

That said, one should keep one’s word as a point of honor and fear that one will be asked about it on the Day of Judgment. “And be true to every promise, for you will be called to account for every promise you have made.” [Quran, 17:34]


The expiation consists of a choice of any one of the following:

  • to free a sound enslaved Muslim;
  • to feed ten people who are poor or short of money each (0.51 liters of grain)
    (Though it is not a condition that it be grain, but rather the type of food payable for the zakat of ‘Eid al-Fitr, even if not grain (and the Hanafi school permits giving its value in money));
  • or provide clothing for ten such persons, even if it consists of a wraparound or clothing previously washed, though not if ragged.

If one cannot do the above, one must fast for three days. It is better to fast them consecutively, though permissible to do so non-consecutively. [Ibid.]

I pray this is of benefit and that Allah guides us all.
[Shaykh] Irshaad Sedick
Checked and Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

Shaykh Irshaad Sedick was raised in South Africa in a traditional Muslim family. He graduated from Dar al-Ulum al-Arabiyyah al-Islamiyyah in Strand, Western Cape, under the guidance of the late world-renowned scholar Shaykh Taha Karaan.

Shaykh Irshaad received Ijaza from many luminaries of the Islamic world, including Shaykh Taha Karaan, Mawlana Yusuf Karaan, and Mawlana Abdul Hafeez Makki, among others.

He is the author of the text “The Musnad of Ahmad ibn Hanbal: A Hujjah or not?” He has served as the Director of the Discover Islam Centre and Al Jeem Foundation. For the last five years till present, he has served as the Khatib of Masjid Ar-Rashideen, Mowbray, Cape Town.

Shaykh Irshaad has thirteen years of teaching experience at some of the leading Islamic institutes in Cape Town). He is currently building an Islamic online learning and media platform called ‘Isnad Academy’ and has completed his Master’s degree in the study of Islam at the University of Johannesburg. He has a keen interest in healthy living and fitness.