A Nadhr is a pledge to do something for God’s sake, a Muslim is encouraged to do good deeds without making pledges, but if he makes a Nadhr he must fulfil his commitment.
In Islamic terminology, the Arabic word nadhr means ‘an adult Muslim pledges to do something for Allah’s sake.’ To make such a commitment is legitimate according to the Qur’an, the Sunnah and the unanimous agreement of scholars, as we will presently explain.
It should be clear that making such a pledge is discouraged from the Islamic point of view.
Ibn 'Umar reported that ‘the Prophet (peace be upon him) told us not to make pledges
‘saying that they do not prevent anything. It is merely a means to get a miserly person to part with some of his money.’
Related by al-Bukhari, hadith No. 6,692; Muslim, hadith No. 1,639.
This is because making such a pledge is to commit oneself to do what he is not obliged to do, causing himself some hardship. A Muslim is encouraged to do good deeds without making such pledges.
However, if a person pledges himself to do something good, he must fulfil his commitment.
‘Whatever alms you give or pledges you make are known to Allah.’
‘They [are those who] fulfill [their] vows and fear a Day whose evil will be widespread.’
:A’ishah reports that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said
‘Whoever pledges to obey Allah must obey Him, and whoever pledges to disobey Allah must not disobey Him.’
Related by al-Bukhari, hadi>span > No. 6,696
Allah praises those who fulfil their pledges and vows, and He commands that pledges should be fulfilled. This shows that what the Prophet (peace be upon him) said about it does not prohibit it altogether, but simply discourages it. What is discouraged is to initiate such a commitment through a pledge. However, once it is made, it should be fulfilled in obedience to Allah. It should be remembered that a pledge must be made to Allah and not to anyone else. Therefore, if one makes a pledge that he would do something at a grave or to some deceased person who was thought to be very pious during his lifetime, such a pledge is a form of associating partners with Allah, and that is the gravest of sins.
Conditions and wording
A pledge is valid only if it is stated by a sane adult person making a free decision. It cannot be done by a child, a madman or a person of impaired mental faculty, or one acting under compulsion.
To make a pledge, a person should say: ‘I owe it to Allah that I will do such and such’, or ‘I commit myself to do this and that’, or other words stating what he is pledging to do.
Pledges may be valid or invalid; permissible or forbidden; binding or worthless. A pledge is valid and binding if it involves something good, such as a voluntary act of worship, with the pledging person hoping to earn Allah’s pleasure. It is invalid and worthless when a person pledges to do something at the grave of someone he thinks to have been pious, or pledges to kill someone or to do some other forbidden act, such as drinking intoxicants. If anyone makes such a pledge, he must not do it, because he would be doing what Allah has forbidden and he incurs Allah’s displeasure and becomes liable to His punishment.
Pledges may be conditional or general. If a person makes a pledge without attaching it to any condition, his pledge is general. It may be made for no reason, or in a token of gratitude to Allah. For example, if he says: ‘I pledge to Allah that I will fast for two days,’ such a pledge must be fulfilled. A conditional pledge is one which the speaker attaches to an event. For example, a person may say: ‘If Allah cures my sick daughter, I will give so much to charity.’ When the thing he mentions in his pledge takes place, he must honour that pledge.
Rulings: There are five types of pledges with regard to the rulings that may apply to what people commit themselves to:
1- An open-ended pledge: This refers to a case when one says, ‘I pledge to Allah’, but does not specify anything. In this case, the pledge is considered like an oath and atonement for unfulfilled oath applies whether the pledge is conditional or unconditional.
:Uqbah ibn Amir reports that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said
‘The atonement of an unspecified pledge is the same as the atonement for an oath.’
Related by Ahmad, hadith No. 17,301; Abu Dawud, hadith No. 3,323; al-Tirmidhi, hadith No. 1,528.
2- A pledge in anger or in an argument: This refers to a conditional pledge intended to prevent or force something, or to imply that what another person is saying is true or false. For example, a person may say to another, ‘If I speak to you again’, or ‘If I do not tell you when I receive it’, or ‘If this be true then I will spend a whole night in prayer’. Such a pledge is treated like an oath, because it is not intended as a commitment. It is to encourage or prevent something. Therefore, the person who says it is given a choice: either to do what he said or to atone for it like an oath.
3- A pledge to do what is permissible: This refers to a pledge to do any ordinary and permissible thing, such as pledging to wear a blue shirt, or to drive a car, etc. According to Ibn Taymiyyah, this does not commit the person saying it to anything.
:Ibn Abbas reports
‘The Prophet (peace be upon him) was speaking to the people when he noticed a man standing up. He enquired about him. He was told that his name was Abu Isra’il and that he pledged to stand up in the sun, without a shade, and not to speak, and to fast. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “Tell him to speak, move into the shade and sit down, but he should continue his fast.’
Related by al-Bukhari, hadith No. 6,704.
4- A pledge to do what is forbidden: This is when a person pledges himself to do something that Allah has forbidden, such as to drink wine, or to give a donation to graves, or to fast on the Eid day, or a woman pledging to fast when she is in the period. Such pledges are ineffective and must not be fulfilled. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: Whoever pledges to disobey Allah must not disobey Him.’ To do what is forbidden is unacceptable at all times. No atonement is due for such a pledge.
5- A pledge to do an act of worship: As when a person pledges to offer a number of prayers, fast for a number of days, go on pilgrimage or give charitable donations. This may be conditional on a future event or totally unrestricted. In the latter case, it must be fulfilled, but if it is conditional, it becomes due when the event to which it is attached takes place. The Prophet (peace be upon him) says: ‘Whoever pledges to obey Allah must obey Him.
- Ibid., p. 392.
- Al-Nadawi, Al-Fiqh al-Muyassar, p. 392
- Al-Nadawi, Al-Fiqh al-Muyassar, p. 392.
- Ibid., p. 393.
- Ibid., p. 394.