Islamic Laws

Rules regarding Vow (Nathr) and Covenant

2649. Vow means making 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.

2650. While making a vow, a formula declaration has to be pronounced, though is not necessary that it should 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.

2651. It is necessary that the person making a vow is baligh and sane, and makes the vow with free will and intention. If he has been coerced to make a vow, or if he makes it owing to excitement, without any intention or choice, his vow is not in order.

2652. If a person who is feeble-minded, (i.e. one who squanders his property for useless purposes) makes a vow, for example, to give something to poor, his vow is not in order. Similarly, if a bankrupt person makes a vow to pay from the wealth over which he has no right of disposal or discretion, the vow will not be valid.

2653. If a husband disallows his wife to make a vow, her vow will not be valid, if that vow in any way violates the rights of the husband. Similarly, a wife making a vow to pay from her wealth, without her husband's permission, commits an act which is not free from Ishkal, except when the vow is for Hajj, Zakat, Sadaqa or for doing a good turn to her parents, or her blood relations.

2654. If a woman makes a vow with the permission of her husband, he cannot abrogate her vow, or restrain her from fulfilling her vow.

2655. 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 fulfilment of the vow does not have any priority.

2656. 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.

2657. If a person makes a vow that he will perform a haraam or makrooh act, or that he would refrain from a wajib or mustahab act, his vow is not valid.

2658. If a person makes a vow that he will perform or abandon a normal act, the performing or abandoning of which has equal merits, 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, for example, if he makes a vow that he will eat a certain food so as to gain strength for worshipping Allah, his vow will be in order.
Also, if its renouncing is better in some respect, and the vow to renounce it is made with that intention, for example, if he finds smoking is harmful and makes a vow not to smoke, his vow is in order. However, at any time when he feels that smoking is not harmful for him, the vow will cancel by itself.

2659. If a person makes a vow, that he will offer his obligatory prayers at a place where offering does not inherently carry higher spiritual merits, for example, he makes a vow to offer his prayers in a certain room, his vow will be valid, only if, offering prayers there has some merit, like, being able to concentrate better due to solitude.

2660. 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 Sadaqa, 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 Sadaqa when a patient recovers, but gives away before the recovery of the patient, it will not suffice.

2661. If a person makes a vow that he will fast, without specifying the time and the number of fasts, it will be sufficient if he observes one fast. And if he makes a vow that he will offer prayers, but does not specify its number and particulars, it will be sufficient if he offers a two rak'at prayers.
And if he makes a vow that he will give Sadaqa, not specifying its nature or quantity, and he gives something which can be deemed as Sadaqa, his vow will be fulfilled. And if he simply makes a vow that he will act to please Almighty Allah, his vow will be fulfilled if he offers one prayers, or observes one fast, or gives away something by way of Sadaqa.

2662. 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 qadha for that fast, also give Kaffarah for it. And the Kaffarah applicable in this case is the one prescribed for violation of the Oaths, as will be mentioned later. However, travelling for him on that day is permissible, and he will not fast.
Also, it is not obligatory upon him to make a niyyat for ten days 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 Haidh, or for any good excuse, then he will give only qadha of that fast, and there will be no Kaffarah.

2663. If a person, of his own choice and volition, violates his vow, he should give Kaffarah for it.

2664. 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 helplessness, 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.

2665. 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, 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.

2666. If a person makes a vow that he/she will observe fast every week on a particular day, for example, on Friday, and if Eid ul Fitr or Eid ul Azha falls on one of the Fridays or an excuse like journey (or menses in the case of women) springs up for him/her, he/she should not observe fast on that day, but give its qadha.

2667. If a person makes a vow that he will give a specific amount as Sadaqa, and dies before having given it away, it is not necessary that that amount be deducted from his estate. It is better that the baligh heirs of the deceased give that amount as Sadaqa on his behalf, out of their own shares.

2668. If a person makes a vow that he will give Sadaqa to a particular poor, he cannot give it to another poor, and if that poor person dies, he should on the basis of recommended precaution, give the Sadaqa to his heirs.

2669. If a person makes a vow that he will perform the Ziyarat of a particular holy Imam, for example of Abu Abdillah Imam Husayn (A.S.) his going for the Ziyarat of another Imam will not be sufficient, and if he cannot perform the Ziyarat of that particular Imam because of any good excuse, nothing is obligatory on him.

2670. If a person has made a vow that he will go for Ziyarat, but has not included in his vow that he will do Ghusl or pray after the Ziyarat, it is not necessary for him to perform those acts.

2671. If a person makes a vow that he would spend some amount of money on the shrine of one of the Imams, 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.

2672. If a person makes a vow to use something in the name of Holy Imam himself, 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 Imam, for example, he should spend it on poor Zawwar 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 Imam. The same rule applies in the case of the descendants of the Imams.

2673. If someone makes a vow that he would give a sheep as Sadaqa, or in the name of a Holy Imam, and if it gives milk, or gives birth to a young one, before it is put to use in accordance with the vow, the milk or the lamb will be the property of the person who made the vow, unless he had included them in his vow. And the growth of fat on the animal will be considered part of the vow.

2674. If a person makes a vow for an act, if a patient recovers or a traveller returns home, and if it transpires later that the patient had already recovered or the traveller had already returned before he had made the vow, it will not be necessary for him to fulfil his vow.

2675. If a father or a mother 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.

2676. 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.

2677. As in the case of vow, a formal declaration should be pronounced in the case of covenant ('Ahd) as well. And it is commonly held that the covenant that one makes should be related to either acts of worship, like, obligatory or Mustahab prayers, or to acts whose performance is better than its renunciation. But this is not so. In fact, all covenants which fall within the category specified in rule no. 2680 related to oaths, are valid and ought to be fulfilled.

2678. If a person does not act according to the covenant made by him, he 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.