Is Public Benefit Superior or Private Benefit? Extra Sunna Prayer Vs. Serving People?

Answered by Ustadh Tabraze Azam
Question: A friend had volunteered to help at the masjid to serve iftar food, along with other friends, but became delayed because he was reading extra sunna prayer. Some people became annoyed at him for the delay and a discussion ensued about which was more important in a situation such as this. Can you please clarify?
Answer: Assalamu alaikum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh,
I pray that you are in the best of health and faith, insha’Allah.
Preparing the iftar should have been given preference.
A general principle is that general benefit is superior to personal benefit.
Further, it is proper that a Muslim keeps his word. This is the mark of a strong believer. If entrusted with a task, the basis is that one should fulfil it by following the sunna, doing so with excellence, and as a means of being of service.
However, this does not negate the virtue of the post-Maghrib voluntary prayer. The Prayer of the Oft-Returning (salat al-awwabin) is the prayer of the righteous. If one missed it with the firm intention that one would have prayed it if one was able to, then one will get the full reward, insha’Allah. And the trueness of such an intention would manifest in praying it, even if quickly, at a time when there was no immediate assistance required.
Please also see: Is It Obligatory to Fulfill My Promises?
And Allah alone gives success.
Tabraze Azam
Checked & Approved by Faraz Rabbani

Dealing With Difficult Parents and Keeping Promises

Answered by Saira AbuBakr

Question: Assalamu alaikum

I find it hard to keep some of my promises and I live with a father who is sometimes cruel. I’m trying to find a way to stay on the right path, but it is hard.  Could you please advise me?

Answer: Walaikum salaam wa RahmatuAllah,

May Allah ease your situation for you and give you well-being in this World and the Next.

Dealing With Your Father

Know that prophets have been tested with difficult families and it is a sign of righteousness and expiation of sins, to be tested with those closest to us, especially parents. Make dua that Allah grants your father righteousness and facilitates ease for you in your patience with him.

Maintaining a Promise

Most of us, at some point or another in our lives, have broken promises, whether intentionally or unintentionally.

If one was sincere at the time of making the promise but was unable to fulfill it due to unforeseen circumstances, then one is not sinful in the matter. The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) is reported to have said,

“Actions are by intentions and each person has what he/she intended….” [Imam AlBukhari and Muslim]

If one feels one has intentionally not kept a promise then the sunnah is to follow-up a wrong action with a good one. The former is erased by the latter.

The Prophet (Allah blesse him and give him peace) is reported to have said,

“….follow-up a wrong action with a good one, it will (the good action) erase it (the bad action). [Imam alTirmidhi]


” All Children of Adam are sinners and the best of sinners are those who repent often”. [Narrated by Imam al-Tirmidhi, Ahmad and others].

And Allah knows best.


Related Answers:

Ridding Oneself of Depression and Suicidal Thoughts

Dealing With Depression Caused by Unemployment and Loneliness

Breaking Promises and Repentance

Does the Qur’an Mention OCD or Waswasa (Baseless Misgivings) Being Caused by Jinn?

Advice to a Young Man with OCD and Struggling with Pornography and Other Major Sins

Is It Obligatory to Fulfill My Promises?

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