Answered by Shaykh Jamir Meah
I have made about three oaths earlier in life not to commit some sins. But I have been repeatedly breaking the oaths for a long time. What should I do?
I pray you’re well inshallah.
An oath that requires expiation is when one swears, by a Name or Attribute of Allah Most High, to do or not do something in the future.
To differentiate between the different types of oaths and other forms of vows and promises, please refer to the following answer:
Examples of oaths sworn in Allah’s name and that require an expiation are, ‘Wallahi, I will do / will not do such and such’ or ‘Billahi, I will do / will not do such and such’ or ‘Tallahi, I will do / will not do such and such.’ In English, ‘By Allah’ is often used.
One expiation is due when an oath is broken. The expiation does not repeat each time the event occurs after the initial oath was made. For example, if one said, ‘By Allah / Billahi, I will not enter so and so’s house’ and then enters that house, an expiation is due. If they enter the house again after the oath has already been violated, no further expiation is due.
If, however, after breaking the initial oath, they make a new oath not to enter the house, and then enter it, a new expiation is due.
As expiation, one can choose from the following (They are not obligatory to do in order of availability, except no.3):
1. Feeding 10 poor people a mudd of the main staple food of the area they are in. A mudd is dry measure consisting of a medium handful, amounting to approximately 0.51 litres. Each person gets one mudd.
2. Giving 10 items of clothing to 10 poor people, such as a thobe. The clothes have to be usable but not necessarily new, but better be so. Neither do they have to be the right size or type of clothing for the actual recipient, so a man may receive woman’s clothing and vice versa, and adults can receive a child’s item of clothing.
3. If none of the above are possible, then one must fast for 3 days. It is not obligatory to fast them consecutively.
[Mughni al Muhtaj, al Yaqout al Nafis]
As a final note, it would be advisable not to make oaths. If you are trying to hold onto a promise to Allah and to yourself, then you can set yourself some minor yet consequential forfeit that will make you think twice before doing the act, such as, ‘If I do such and such again, I promise to give $20 in charity.’
May Allah guide you to what is pleasing to Him in all that you do.
[Shaykh] Jamir Meah
Shaykh Jamir Meah grew up in Hampstead, London. In 2007, he traveled to Tarim, Yemen, where he spent nine years studying the Islamic sciences on a one-to-one basis under the foremost scholars of the Ribaat, Tarim, with a main specialization and focus on Shafi’i fiqh. In early 2016, he moved to Amman, Jordan, where he continues advanced studies in a range of Islamic sciences, as well as teaching. Jamir is a qualified homeopath.