Rules of Aymaan
By Ahmed Arafat
Islamic Studies Teacher, Universal School
عن أبي هريرة-رضى الله عنه- قال: قال رسول الله-صلى الله عليه و سلم-: "من حلف على يمين فرأى غيرها خيرا منها فليكفر عن يمينه و ليأت الذي هو خير." رواه مسلم
Abu Hurayrah reported that the prophet, peace be with him, said: “Whoever makes an oath by Allah [to do something] and then he finds something better than it [what he intended to do], let him expiate for his oath and do what is better.”
In the Quran Allah says: “And do not break your Aymaan after affirming them.” (Nahl: 91) This ayah indirectly refers to the legitimacy of Halif. Moreover, Allah commanded the prophet to make Halif for emphasizing the reality of resurrection and the Day of Judgment in three positions. One of them is “Say: ‘by my Lord, you shall be resurrected.” (At-Taghabun: 7) In Sunnah, the prophet was reported to have said: “By Him in Whose Hand is Muhammad’s soul, I wish you would be half of the people of Jannah.”
It should be noted that halif must be made by using the name of Allah or one of His attributes; such as, Wallahi, Warrahman, Uqsim billah (I swear by Allah) …etc. Making Halif by other than Allah is a kind of minor Shirk, the Kaffarah of which is to say: “لا إله إلا الله”
Although it is allowed to swear by Allah, the Quran does not recommend frequent Halif. Allah says: “And do not obey every hallaf, disgraceful.” (Al-Qalam: 10) The word Hallaf, according to some exegetes, refers to any person who is in the habit of making a lot of Halif. Moreover, Allah said: “And mind your Aymaan.” (Al-Ma’edah:89). Minding the Aymaan can be used to indicate avoidance of making them. It seems that the rationale beyond is that “Whoever makes halif for significant and trivial matters will get his tongue used to it. Therefore the halif will lose its significance, and it may lead to false Yameen. That is why it is Makrouh to make halif for buying and selling. The prophet said: “Halif promotes the selling of purchases but removes the barakah (blessing).”
What are the consequences of breaking a Halif? To answer this question we have to understand the different types of Yameen. There are three main categories.
1- Al-Yameen Al-Laghwاليمين اللغو
This Yameen applies to two main cases:
a) The Halif you make, in the middle of your talk or while you are angry, without intending the meaning of Yameen. For example, someone invited you to drink coffee with him. Then you said, “No, Wallahi, thank you!” or any example to that effect.
b) When you make Halif to the best of your knowledge even if it turned out to be wrong.
As for the hukm (rule) for this Yameen, the Quran teaches that there is no consequence for it if you break it or the information you gave turned out to be untrue. Allah says:
لَّا يُؤَاخِذُكُمُ ٱللَّهُ بِٱللَّغْوِ فِىٓ أَيْمَـٰنِكُمْ وَلَـٰكِن يُؤَاخِذُكُم بِمَا كَسَبَتْ قُلُوبُكُمْ ۗ وَٱللَّهُ غَفُورٌ حَلِيمٌۭ [٢:٢٢٥]
“Allah will not hold you responsible for al-Laghw in your oaths, but rather, He will hold you accountable for the intention in your hearts. And Allah is All-forgiving, All-forbearing.”
2- Al-Yameen Al-Ghamous اليمين الغموس
This Yameen applies to the case when you knowingly and willfully lie about something in the past while using a form of Halif. An example of this Yameen is to say: “Wallahi I did not hit the boy.” although you know that you did hit him. Or when you say: “Wallahi this book is mine” although you knew that it is not yours.
Making this Yameen is a major sin. Abdullah ibn Amr reported the prophet as saying: “Major sins are associating partners with Allah, being undutiful to parents, murder and al-Yameen al-Ghamous.” This Yameen was called al-Ghamous (from the verb Ghamas: to dip) because the one who makes it will be dipped in Hell because of it!
As for the hukm of this Yameen, the majority view sees that there is no Kaffarah for it. It should be understood that this Yameen is too big to be removed by a Kaffarah. Only sincere Tawbah (repentance) will help.
3- Al-Yameen Al-Mun’aqidahاليمين المنعقدة
This Yameen applies to swearing by Allah to do, or not to do, something in the future. An example is to say: “Wallahi I will attend the party tomorrow.” Or “Wallahi I will not talk to you again!”
What is the hukm of this Yameen? The Hukm depends on what the person swore to do or not to do. If al-Yameen al-Mun’aqidah was for
a) Doing something Wajib mandatory (Wallahi I will pray Thuhr today.) or abandoning something haram (Wallahi I will not smoke again!) In this case the Yameen must be fulfilled, and breaking it is unanimously haram.
b) Abandoning something Wajib mandatory (Wallahi I will not pray Thuhr today!) or doing something haram (Wallahi I will hit him!) In this case the Yameen must be broken, and a Kaffarah must be done.
c) Doing something Mustahab recommended (Wallahi I will pray the Sunnah of Fajr) or abandoning something Makrouh (Wallahi I will not look around during Salah) In this case it would be Mustahab (recommended) to fulfil the Yameen and Makrouh (disliked) to break it.
d) Doing something Makrouh or abandoning something Mustahab In this case it is recommended to break the oath and pay the Kaffarah. A text-proof for this is the hadith under discussion.
e) Doing something Mubah (permissible) In this case fulfilling the Yameen would be better.
What is the Kaffarah for breaking one’s oath?
The Kaffarah for breaking one’s oath is to do one of the following: a) feeding 10 poor people for one meal or two meals, b) clothing them or c) freeing a human being from slavery. If a person cannot do one of these three options, he must fast three days. This rule is based on the Quran (5:89)
Here are some important notes on Kaffarah:
1. A Muslim cannot fast unless he/she cannot do any of the first three options.
2. Feeding and clothing poor people is determined by people’s customs and the average standard of living.
3. According to Imam Abu Hanifah, a person can pay a suitable amount of money for feeding or clothing poor people.
4. According to Imam Abu Hanifah, ‘feeding ten poor people and clothing them’ applies to the poor among Muslims and non-Muslims alike because the ayah is so general that it includes both of them.
5. In case of fasting, it is NOT obligatory to fast the three days consecutively.
6. If a person made Halif three times to do something—then he broke his oath, only one Kaffarah would be required.
7. According to the majority view, the Kaffarah can be done before or after breaking the oath.