The topic starts with talking of oaths and so this is best started with an understanding of what it means by an Oath.
An oath is a vow or a promise to do something. As Muslims, this is something that we need to protect our tongues from uttering unless it is something we are serious about fulfilling.
Such is the importance of this mannerism that we have Allah SWT mention it to us in the Glorious Quran.
In sura Al-Maida, ayat 89 Allah SWT says:
Allah will not impose blame upon you for what is meaningless in your oaths, but He will impose blame upon you for [breaking] what you intended of oaths. So its expiation is the feeding of ten needy people from the average of that which you feed your [own] families or clothing them or the freeing of a slave. But whoever cannot find [or afford it] – then a fast of three days [is required]. That is the expiation for oaths when you have sworn. But guard your oaths. Thus does Allah make clear to you His verses that you may be grateful.
Dear brothers, from this ayat we can see that Allah SWT is asking us to guard our oaths. And how does one guard one’s oath if not by guarding one’s tongue from uttering the oath.
However in some cultures the problem is more acute than a false oath. Amongst some Muslims we have the practice of oaths being sworn on someone other than Allah SWT.
For example, Muslims have been heard to say “I swear on my children that…” or “I swear on my mother that…”. This dear brothers, in accordance with the Sunnah is not allowed.
We must only swear by Allah SWT. If we are to take an oath then swearing by someone other than Allah SWT is against the teachings of Islam.
To illustrate this point, the following hadith states that the Prophet SAWS said:
“Allah forbids you from swearing by your fathers. If someone swears, then they should swear by Allah or be silent”
Dear brothers, as with all things there is an etiquette in Islam and taking an oath is no exception.
Therefore with that being said, what follows are 4 conditions that are widely regarding as conditions for an oath to be valid. And Allah knows best.
Firstly, it has to be taken in Allah’s name or his attributes. To say “I swear by Allah” or “Wallahi” is allowed. And therefore to reiterate, oaths in the name of your children, parents, kabah etc are not valid.
Secondly, the one taking the oath must be sane and mature. Oaths taken by children are invalid.
Thirdly, the oath or vow taken is not something that is simply impossible to do. If you say something like “I swear by Allah I will grow wings on my back and fly” is an invalid oath and it is a clear example of someone in need of protecting their tongue.
And lastly, the word ‘InshAllah’ aka Allah-willing is not used in it. For example, if someone says “I swear by Allah that I will travel to London tomorrow, Insh’Allah” then it is not a valid oath and the person who said it will not have to atone for it if they do not travel tomorrow.
Dear brothers we need to be wary that we do not take oaths that are invalid, in someone other than Allah’s name or worse still oaths that we break.
The tongue has great potential to serve us well on the Day of Judgement. Using it to perform Zikr, to recite Quran enables us to bank for the next life. But equally so, it is possible to use it to utter oaths that we forget as soon as they have been uttered.
We need to be mindful that we don’t fall into this bad habit as every uttered oath will be accounted for.
Allah SWT says in Sura Saba’:
But those who disbelieve say, “The Hour will not come to us.” Say, “Yes, by my Lord, it will surely come to you. [ Allah is] the Knower of the unseen.” Not absent from Him is an atom’s weight within the heavens or within the earth or [what is] smaller than that or greater, except that it is in a clear register
Dear brothers, from this ayat we can see that Allah SWT is specifically telling us that nothing will do unaccounted for. We must strive to ensure that all the good deeds we perform for our Lord isn’t undone by the actions of our tongue.
May Allah SWT give us understanding on the importance of oaths. May Allah SWT perfect our manners in relation to oaths. And may Allah SWT reward us for our efforts in relation to oaths.