The Immorality of Breaking Promises

The Immorality of Breaking Promises

Naveed Akhtar Attari (Dawra Hadith student of Markazi Jamiat al-Madina, Faizan-e-Madina, Faisalabad)

Allah instructs the believers:

یٰۤاَیُّہَا الَّذِیۡنَ اٰمَنُوۡۤا اَوۡفُوۡا بِالۡعُقُوۡدِ ۬ؕ

Translation from Kanz al-Iman: “O believers! Fulfil your promises (ʿuqūd).”[1]

ʿUqud means promise or affirmation. These we have been commanded to fulfil. What type of promise does this refer to? The exegetes are divided on this, with most leaning to one of two interpretations:

1.   Sayyidunā ʿAbdullah b. ʿAbbās رَضِیَ الـلّٰـهُ عَنْهُمَا said, “These promises refer to faith and the Quranic injunctions pertaining to halal and haram.”

2.   Some commentators opined that this refers to the mutual agreements between believers.[2]

The definition of a promise and its ruling

The literal meaning of promise is pledge, statement, agreement, oath, or asseveration. Technically speaking, it refers to giving hope of something taking place.[3] Mufti Amad Yār Khān Naʿīmi رَحْمَةُ الـلّٰـهِ عَلَيْه mentions:

It is necessary to fulfil a promise. Whether you make a promise to a Muslim or disbeliever, to a dear friend or stranger, or to a teacher, shaykh, the prophets عَـلَـيْـهِمُ الـصَّلٰوةُ وَالـسَّـلَام or to Allah; you must fulfil all promises. If the one making a promise has an intention to fulfil it, but is unable to do so due to a valid excuse or necessity, then he is not sinful.[4]

Imam Ahmad Raza Khan states: “It is haram to break a promise.”[5]

The word “promise” is not necessary

It is not necessary to mention the word “promise” when making a promise. Rather, it will be considered a binding promise if one made apparent the solemness of their statement with their manner and words; for example, he said as a promise, “I will do such-and-such thing,” or, “I will not do such-and-such thing.”[6]

Condemnation of breaking promises in light of hadith

While fulfilling promises augments one’s honour, violating promises and not honouring pledges lowers one’s standing among people. Here are three hadith of the beloved Prophet صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم which denounce the breaking of promises.

1.   The final Prophet of Allah, our master Muhammad صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم said:

If four signs are found within a person, he is a total hypocrite, and even if one of them is found in him, then one sign of hypocrisy is within him until he leaves it: When he is entrusted with something, he is dishonest; when he speaks, he lies; when he makes a promise, he breaks it; and when he argues,  he swears.[7]

2.   The beloved Prophet صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم stated, “The nation that breaks promises causes murder and shamelessness to become widespread amongst them, and the nation in which evil becomes apparent has death set upon them by Allah, and the nation which withholds zakat has Allah withhold rain from them.”[8]

3.   The noble Prophet صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم said, “Whosoever oppressed a person they have an agreement with, dishonoured the agreement, compelled him to work beyond his ability, or took something from him without his approval, I will make a case against him on the Day of Judgement.”[9]

May Allah protect us from breaking promises. اٰمین

[1] Quran, 5:1

[2] Al-Khāzin, Al-Ma’idah, under verse no: 1, vol. 1, p. 458

[3] Mirāt al-Manājī, vol. 6, p. 488

[4] Mirāt al-Manājī, vol. 6, pp. 483, 492

[5] Fatāwā al-Razawiyyah, vol. 25, p. 69 with reference to al-Ashbāh wa al-Naẓāʾir.

[6] Ghībat Ki Tabah Kāriyan, p. 461

[7] aī al-Bukhāri: 34

[8] Al-Mustadrak: 2,623

[9] Sunan Abī Dāwūd: 3,052




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