Can an oath Taken with Allah be broken

Answered according to Shafi'i Fiqh by

Answered by Ustadha Zaynab Ansari, SunniPath Academy Teacher

I made a promise to Allah that I would give up playing a certain sport if He gave my wife a certain visa. She now received a visa, and I have stopped playing the sport. Is there a way I can ask Allah for forgiveness, or is this oath final?

In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful

In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful.
Praise be to Allah. May Allah’s peace and blessings bestow upon our beloved Prophet, his family, and companions.

Dear Brother,

I pray this finds you and your wife well.

According to Reliance of the Traveller, a Shafi’i fiqh manual, breaking a promise counts as a probable enormity. [Reliance, p.75.15] Obviously, it is not advisable to make an oath or promise one cannot keep.

I researched the SunniPath fiqh archives to see if I could find a situation similar to yours. Shaykh Abdurrahman ibn Yusuf Mangera says in question 470, “it states in the al-Durr al-Mukhtar of ‘Allama Haskafi:

“If one took an oath not to do such and such…, then he must refrain from it forever…. then if he does what he had [sworn not to do] he will have broken his oath, and his oath will now be ended…”

It looks like this oath is binding upon you. It would be much more praiseworthy if you could keep your oath.

However, if you really feel that you cannot do so, then I advise you to consult a local scholar who can tell you what steps to take.

According to the Hanafi School, if you were to play the particular sport, you would owe an expiation:

1. You would have to free a slave

2. Or, clothe ten poor people, giving each one a garment big enough to pray in

3. Or, feed ten poor people two meals each

4. If unable to do the above, you may fast three consecutive days.

According to the Shafi’i School, to expiate your oath:

1. You must free a slave

2. Or, feed ten poor people 0.51 liters of grain each

3. Or, clothe ten poor people

4. Or, if unable to do the above, fast three days. It is better to fast consecutively, although it is permitted to break the days up.

And Allah knows best.