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FaithPractice

Eight Important Things to Know About Vows in Islam

Making a nidhr or vow is a highly recommended practice in Islam – but make sure you know its ins and outs before committing!

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Making a nidhr or vow is a highly recommended practice in Islam – but make sure you know its ins and outs before committing!

The nidhr or vow is when you make it obligatory for yourself to do something or promise to refrain from a specific activity. Some communities may call it a mannat or minnat.

Why Do Muslims Make a Nidhr?

A Muslim might be trying to achieve something in their life but is struggling to progress. For example, they may be trying to pass a difficult exam, get married or find a job. However, a¬†nidhr isn’t always about gaining something. Others make a vow to stop doing something – such as a haram activity.

Is There an Islamic Basis for Nidhr?

There are numerous examples of vow-making both in the Quran and hadith literature. One example of a vow from the Qur’an is one made by Maryam (as). Upon giving birth to Isa (as), she makes a vow with Allah (SWT) to not speak to anyone:

so eat, drink, be glad, and say to anyone you may see: ‚ÄúI have vowed to the Lord of Mercy to abstain from conversation, and I will not talk to anyone today.”

[19:26]

The mother of Maryam (as) also made a vow to Allah (SWT) that whatever is in her womb, i.e. her child, will be dedicated to the service of God:

Imran‚Äôs wife said, ‚ÄėLord, I have dedicated what is growing in my womb entirely to You; so accept this from me. You are the One who hears and knows all,”
[19:26]
Allah (SWT) accepted this vow.
And lastly, the Prophet (PBUH), has given us explicit permission to make vows:
Whoever vows to do some act of worship and obedience to Allaah, then let him do it, and whoever vows to do some sin, let him not do it.‚ÄĚ
[Sahih Bukhari]
Unfortunately, there are misconceptions about vows, and some Muslims may be (unintentionally) practising vows incorrectly. Here are eight things you need to know before you make your next vow.

Establishing the Nidhr Correctly

There is a method to establishing a nidhr.

For example, one cannot say, “I will fast for one week if I pass my exam.” This¬†nidhr may be valid in a general sense but is not Sharia-binding.

You can recite your vow in any language, but it must contain the phrase lillhai alay¬†or, “I vow for the sake of Allah.”

Not mentioning anywhere in the vow that it’s for Allah’s (SWT) sake invalidates it from a Shariah perspective.

It’s also important to know the difference between a vow and a dua. A dua is:

“Oh Allah, please send me to Hajj, and I will donate ¬£100 to charity.”

A vow is:

“I vow for the sake of Allah that if He sends me to Hajj, I will donate ¬£100 to charity.”

Essentially, it’s making sure you’ve used the words ‘vow’ and ‘for the sake of Allah’

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Uttering the Nidhr Out Loud

You don’t need witnesses present to validate your¬†nidhr. It is something between you and Allah (SWT) therefore, does not require any involvement from a third person. However, you must utter it out loud. You can’t say the vow in your heart or your mind. It has to be said out loud to the extent you can hear yourself say it – this makes it Sharia-binding.

Scenarios That Invalidate a Nidhr

If someone says the nidhr formula correctly and out loud, it is still invalid if the following occurs:

  • The person is not in a sound mental state
  • The person has been forced to make the vow
  • The person is pre-pubescent

The vow needs to come from a genuine intention. If an individual is not in the right mental state, there is no way of knowing if the vow is sincere. Similarly, if they’re forced, it is not Sharia-binding. Children who have not reached¬†bulugh¬†or puberty can technically make vows, but they don’t become obligatory to fulfil – much like praying and fasting wouldn’t be an obligation.

The Nidhr Has To Be Physically Possible

All¬†nidhrs¬†that are impossible to fulfil are automatically invalidated. For example, you can’t make a vow saying you will pay ¬£100 to charity if you are able to run 45 miles in 10 seconds! It’s literally impossible!

The Nidhr Has To Be For Something Halal

It goes without saying you can’t make a vow for something haram. For example, you can’t say, “I vow, for the sake of Allah, that if I get this job, I will buy my new colleagues a bottle of wine each.”

The Nidhr Can’t Be Overly Difficult

Don’t set yourself up for failure. Even if the conditions of your¬†nidhr are possible but extremely difficult, it’s best not to commit to it. Choose a nidhr¬†that you know you can accomplish.

For example, “I vow, for the sake of Allah, that if I pass this exam, I will pray 50 extra rakah every day for the rest of my life.”

Technically, it’s possible. Practically, it’s extremely difficult. Go easy on yourself!

The Nidhr Doesn’t Need to Be Tied to An Outcome

Your vow to do something for the sake of Allah (SWT) doesn’t need to depend on a specific action occurring or specific gain on your part.

For example, you can simply say, “I vow, for the sake of Allah, that I will stop listening to music.”

You can leave it at that, and it doesn’t need to be tied to an outcome, e.g. passing an exam, getting a job etc.

Consequences For Breaking a Nidhr

In a¬†nidhr,¬†you have made something¬†wajib¬†on yourself. Breaking the vow intentionally carries consequences, much like the consequences of intentionally eating during Shahr Ramadan. The specific consequences of breaking the vow depend on the legal school you follow – as a result, we don’t detail this, and you should speak to a trustworthy scholar before making the vow.

All the best!

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