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Is It Sinful to Break the Promise to Marry Someone? (Shafi’i)

Answered by Shaykh Jamir Meah

Question: Assalamu alaykum

A friend of mine committed adultery while married. He made plans with the other woman (also married) promising her of marriage, as a second wife. Once all came out in the open and his current wife found out, he tried to break it off and could not fulfill his promises. However, the other woman claims that she left her marriage to be with him, and she deserves her justice. What is the other womans right here?

Answer: Wa’alaykum assalam. Thank you for writing in.

There is a difference of opinion in the legal schools whether promises are binding or not.

Promises in the Shafi’i school

In the Shafi’i school, a promise (w’ad) does not constitute a legal obligation and so the woman in question would not deserve anything.

[Fayd Allah al Malik, ‘Iyanat al Talibin]

Promises in the Hanafi school

In the Hanafi school, promises carry much more weight. It is sinful to break a promise with the intention not to fulfil it, while disliked if one had intended to fulfil it but did not. If a greater interest is found in not fulfilling the obligation, then not fulfilling it would be permissible. Please refer to the following answers for more detail:

What is the Difference Between a Promise, an Oath, and a Vow?
Going Back on a Pledge

If your friend follows the Hanafi school, then he should carefully weigh up the situation according to the rulings outlined in the answers.

Adultery

It goes without saying that sincere repentance is required from both parties and a firm resolve not to return to such a sin again.

The situation you have described is a perfect example of the evils that such relationships produce; broken homes and hearts, and none or limited financial or emotional provision for the woman involved in the illicit relationship.

Warmest salams,
[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.

This answer was collected from Seekersguidance.org. It’s an online learning platform overseen by Sheikh Faraz Rabbani. All courses are free. They also have in-person classes in Canada.

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