A Brief of Islamic Law

Vow and Covenant (nadhr and `ahd)

  1. Vow means malking it obligatory upon oneself to do some good act, or to refrain from doing an act which it is better not to do, for the sake of, or for the pleasure of Allah.

  2. While making a vow, a formule declaration has to be pronounced, thought is not necessary to be in Arabic. If a person says, 'When the patient recovers from his ailment, it will be obligatory upon me to pay $10 to a poor man, for the sake of Allah, his vow will be in order. And if one says,’ I vow to do so and so for the sake of Allah', he should, as an boligatory precaution, do it. But if a person does not utter the name of God, and says only, 'I vow', or utters one of the names of the holy prophet or Imams, the vow will not be in order. If the vow is in order, and the person under the vow does not perform it intentionally, he has committed sin and should pay kaffarah, which is like Kaffarah of violation of an oath as will be explained later.

  3. If a husband disallows his wife to make a vow, her vow will not be valid, providing that vow in any way violates the rights of the husband, even if it is made before the marriage contract. Similarly, if a wife makes a vow to pay from her wealth, without her husband's permission, she commits an act which is not free from Ishkal, except when the vow is for A*ajj, Zakat, Sadaqah or for doing a good turn to her parents, or her blood relations.

  4. If a woman makes a vow with the permission of her husband, he cannot apogate her vow, or restrain her from fulfiling her vow.

  5. If a child (son or daughter) makes a vow, with or without the permission of his/her father, he/she should fulfil his/her vow. However, if his/her father or mother disallows him/her to fulfil the vow, his/her vow is void, provided that the prohibition is due to their compassion and to oppose them will result in their annoyance.

  6. A person can make a vow only for an act which is possible for him to fulfil. If, for example, a person is not capable of travelling up to Karbala on foot, and he makes a vow that he will go there on foot, his vow will not be in order. And if a person is capable when making the vow, but becomes incapable later, his vow will be invalidated, and there is no obligation on him, except when the vow is to fast, in which if the person becomes incapable of fasting, he should, as an obligatory precaution, either give 750 grams of food to poor person as Sadaqah, or give 1.5 kilos of food to a person to fast in behalf of him.

  7. If a person makes a vow that he will perform or abandon a normal permissible act, the performing or abandoning of which has equal merits in Shari`ah, his vow is not in order. But if performing it is better in some respect, and a person makes a vow keeping that merit in view, his vow will be in order.

  8. If a person makes a vow to perform an act, he should perform it in strict accordance with his vow. If he makes a vow to give Sadaqah or to fast on the first day of every month, or to offer prayers of the first of the month, if he performs these acts before that day or after, it will not suffice. Also, if he makes a vow that he will give Sadaqah when a patient recovers, but gives away before the recovery of the patient, it will not suffice.

  9. If a person makes a vow that he will observe fast on a particular day, he should observe fast on that very day; and if he does not observe fast on that day intentionally, he should, besides observing the Qada' for that fast, also give Kaffarah for it. However, travelling for him on that day is permissible, and thus he will not fast. Also, it is not obligatory upon him to make an intention for staying ten days when he is an a journey, so as to be able to fast. If a person who made the vow could not fast on the particular day because of being on a journey, illness, or in the case of a woman, being in the state of Haydh, or for any good excuse, then he will give Qada' of that fast, and there will be no Kaffarah.

  10. If a person, of his own choice and volition, violates his vow, he should give Kaffarah for it.

  11. If a person makes a vow to renounce an act for some specified time, he will be free to perform that act after that time has passed. But if he performs it before that time, due to forgetfulness or hellessness, there is no liability on him. Even then, it will be necessary for him to refrain from that act for the remaining time, and if he repeats that act before it without any excuse, he must give Kaffarah for it.

  12. If a person makes a vow to renounce an act, without setting any time limit, and then performs that act because of forgetfulness, helplessness or carelessness or compulsion, or ignorance, it is not obligatory for him to give a Kaffarah, but after the first instance, if he repeats the act again at any time, voluntarily, he must give Kaffarah for it.

  13. If a person a vow he would spend some amount of money on the shrine of one of the Imam or the descendants of the Imams, without having any particular project in mind, he should spend it on the repairs, lighting, carpeting etc. of the shrine. And if this is not possible, or the shrine is needless, it should be spend for its needy pilgrims.

  14. If a person makes a vow to use something in the name of the holy prophet (s.a.w.a), Imam or their descendants or passed scholars or the like, and has an intention to put it to a specific use, he should spend it for that very purpose. And if he has not made an intention to put it to any, specific use, it is better that he should use it for a purpose which has some relationship with that person, for example, he should spend it on poor pilgrims of that Imam, or on the shrine of the Imam, like its repairs etc. or for such purposes which would glorify the memory of that person.

  15. If a father or a mather makes a vow that he/she will marry their daughter to a Sayyid, the option rests with the girl when she attains the age of puberty, and the vow made by the parents has no significance.

  16. When a person makes a covenant with Allah, that if his particular lawful need is fulfilled, he will perform a good act, it is necessary for him to fulfil the covenant. Similarly, if he makes a covenant, without having any wish, that he will perform a good act, the performing of that act becomes obligatory upon him.

  17. As in the case of vow, a formal declaration should be pronounced in the case of covenant (`Ahd) as will. And it is not necessary for the covenant to be a better act in Shri`ah, but it is enough that it is not forbidden in Shar`ah, or has a preference according to the wise, or is advisable for the person. If after making a covenant, it happens to be no more advisable or preferable, it is not necessary to act according to it, even if it has become Makruh.

  18. If a person does not act according to the covenant made by him, he has committed a sin and should give a Kaffarah for it, i.e. he should either feed sixty poor persons, or fast consecutively for two months, or set free a slave.