in category Other Beliefs

Is it allowed to go back on oath?

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In a Nutshell: If a person swears an oath to do something and then realises that it was a mistake or that it may harm him or others, he may break his oath without incurring a sin. Similarly, if circumstances change in such a way that the performance of the oath becomes impossible or extremely difficult, breaking the oath may also be permitted.

The judgment on the oath reversal

It is permissible to swear to do one thing and then reverse it, unless the reversal involves a prohibited act. If this is the case, the person concerned must atone for his oath. In this regard, Bukhari (6718) and Muslim (1649) reported from Abu Musa al-Ashari that the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) said:

"Certainly, I do not swear to do one thing and then realize that one can do better without atoning for my oath and do what turns out to be better, if it pleases Allah."

Bukhari (6622) and Muslim (1652) reported from Abdurrahan ibn Samurah that the Prophet (pbuh) said to him:

"Abdurrahlan ibn Samurah, do not ask for power, for if you are given it at your request, you will be left to manage it alone. If you swear to do one thing before you realize that another is better, expire your oath and do what turns out to be better."

Muslim (1650) reported from Abu Hurairah that the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) said:

"When one swears to do one thing and then realizes that another thing is better, let him do what is better and atone for his oath."

An-Nawawi (radi allahu an) writes in his commentary on Muslim (11/108):

"These hadiths indicate that when one swears to do or not to do something and then realizes that it is better to back out, one should do so and perform an act of atonement." This is accepted by all."

Then he refers to the difference of opinion as to whether the act of atonement should be carried out before the oath is broken. And then he says:

"They all agreed that it is not obligatory to perform the act of atonement before the violation of the oath and that the act can follow the violation and should not precede the oath. There is a difference of opinion on the possibility of performing the atonement after the oath and before its violation.Malick, al-Awzaaie, ath-Thawri, ac-Shafiye and 14 Companions in addition to groups of the successors of the Companions allow it."

This is the opinion of the majority of the ulama. However, they recommend that the act should follow the oath. Shafi'i makes an exception for the expiatory act of fasting since he says that it cannot precede the violation of the oath because for him it is a cultic act that involves the body. Therefore, it should not be performed before its time like the prayer and fasting of Ramdan. When the act takes the form of a financial contribution, it may precede the violation of the oath as one anticipates the payment of zakat.

Some of our fellow students (Shafiites) make an exception to the violation which involves an act of disobedience to Allah. It is not permissible to anticipate the expiation of it as this would be cooperating in an act of disobedience. The majority of the ulama consider that antipation is permitted as a violation unrelated to an act of disobedience.

Abu Hanifah, his followers and the Malikite Ashhab believe that the act of atonement can never precede the violation of the oath. The majority of the ulama derive their argument from the appearance of the hadith and the reasoning by analogy which is based on the anticipation of the payment of zakat.

When the reversal results in the commission of an act of disobedience to Allah

When the change of mind leads to the commission of an act of disobedience, it is not permitted. This is like the case of the person who swears never to fornicate or drink wine, who must keep his oath since he is forbidden to violate it.

Al-Qadi Iyadh writes in Ikmaal al-muallim (5/408):

"The meaning of his words: 'and I see a better thing...' is in relation to what he has sworn to do or not to do.If the thing forsaken suits him better in his present or future life or proves to be better suited to his desires and does not comprise a sin."

Violation of the oath or reversal may be prohibited as in the previous example. It may also be obligatory, as if one swears not to pray or not to pay zakat or not to maintain one's kinship, one must go back on one's oath.The reversal may be desired, frowned upon or just allowed depending on the purpose of the oath. The reversal may be desired, frowned upon or just allowed depending on the purpose of the oath. Therefore, it may be included in the five sections (appreciations).

When the oath concerns the fulfilment of a duty or the abandonment of a prohibition, its violation is forbidden since it must be respected. If it is about doing what is desired or abandoning what is reprobate, its violation is reprobate since it is advisable to respect it. If it is a matter of committing a forbidden act or omitting a desired act, its violation is desired and compliance is reprobated. If it is a question of committing a prohibition or abandoning a duty, its violation is a duty and its performance forbidden. The violation of an oath concerning a lawful act is permitted but its performance is preferable.

If by reversal the author of this question means a cancellation without any effect, this is not possible. If it were possible, the Prophet (peace be upon him) would have done so and would have advised the one who wants to go back on an oath when he sees that not doing what he has sworn to do is better for him.He (the Prophet) did not say so. He (the Prophet) did not say so. On the contrary, he recommended reversing the oath when it is the best option, even if it means performing an act of atonement.


It is important to note that taking an oath is a serious matter in Islam, and one should strive to fulfill their oaths whenever possible. If there is a possibility of changing the wording of the oath in a way that makes it easier to fulfill without breaking it, this should be done instead of breaking the oath altogether.

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