The Fiqh of Vows
Q.1: What do the Islamic scholars say regarding the following: a sister did not observe the veil as she would reveal her hair, neck, and wrists in front of non-mahram males apart from her husband. She made a vow that if a specific matter of hers gets resolved, she will observe the Islamic veil for the sake of Allah Almighty. Her matter was resolved. Is this vow a legally binding vow according to the laws of Islam?
بِسْمِ اللّٰہِ الرَّحْمٰنِ الرَّحِیْمِ
اَلْجَوَابُ بِعَوْنِ الْمَلِکِ الْوَھَّابِ اَللّٰھُمَّ ھِدَایَۃَ الْحَقِّ وَالصَّوَابِ
A: It is necessary for a woman to cover her hair, wrists, ankles, neck, etc., in front of non-mahram males. Uncovering these parts in front of them is impermissible and a sin. For an Islamic vow to be initiated, it is a condition for the thing one is taking a vow about to not already be necessary according to the Shari’ah. As it is already necessary for a woman to cover herself, in the question asked, the vow made by the sister is not an Islamic vow. The requirement to cover herself will remain as per usual.
In relation to the veil, Allah Almighty states:
وَ قَرْنَ فِیْ بُیُوْتِكُنَّ وَ لَا تَبَرَّجْنَ تَبَرُّجَ الْجَاهِلِیَّةِ الْاُوْلٰى
‘And stay in your homes and do not remain unveiled like the former unveiling in the times of ignorance,’
[Kanz-ul-Iman (translation of Quran)] (Part 22, Surah Al-Ahzaab, Verse 33)
Elaborating on this verse, Sayyid Muhammad Na’eem al-Deen al-Muradabadi رَحْمَةُ الـلّٰـهِ عَلَيْه said: Times of ignorance refers to the era before Islam. In those times, women would strut when out in public; they would display their beauty so that non-mahram men would look at them, and their clothing would not cover their body properly, (Khaza’in-ul-‘Irfan, p. 780).
Moreover, Mufti Amjad Ali al-A’zami رَحْمَةُ الـلّٰـهِ عَلَيْه adds: Apart from the face, both palms, and the soles of both feet, the whole body is an area that must be covered (‘awra) for free women and hermaphrodites whose gender cannot be ascertained. Hair that hangs down from the head, the neck, and the wrists are also part of this area; it is necessary to cover them too, (Bahar-e-Shari’at, vol. 1, p. 481).
As for the conditions of a vow, Islamic legal texts state:
والثالث ان یکون لیس واجبا قبل نذرہ بایجاب الله تعالیٰ، کالصلوات الخمس والوتر
‘The third condition is for the thing not to have been made necessary by Allah عَزَّوَجَلَّ before the vow, such as the five prayers and Witr,’ (Maraqi Al-Falah matan Al-Tahtaawi, p. 692).
And in addition: A vow that is actualised and has to be fulfilled according to the Shari’ah has these parameters:
1. The vow must be of something which has something in its type (jins) that is necessary (wajib). A vow cannot consist of visiting the sick, going to the masjid, or partaking in a funeral.
2. The worship [regarding which a vow is made] itself should be an actual objective and not the means to fulfil another act of worship. Hence, a vow to perform wudu, ghusl, or look at the Quran is not valid.
3. The vow should not be related to something which the Shari’ah itself has made necessary, whether that be presently or in the future. For example, to make a vow to perform the Dhuhr salah of today or any other obligatory prayer would not be valid, as these things are already necessary.
4. The vow should not be related to doing something sinful in itself. If it is a sin due to some external factor, then the vow will be valid. For example, it is prohibited to fast on the days of Eid. If someone vows to fast on these days, the vow will be valid, although the ruling would be that the individual should fast on some other day, and not on Eid. This prohibition is temporary, meaning it is due to the day of Eid. To fast is permissible in and of itself.
5. The vow should not be regarding something that is impossible. For example, making a vow to fast on the previous day; such a vow is not valid, (Bahar-e-Shari’at, vol. 1, p. 1015).
وَاللہُ اَعْلَمُ عَزَّوَجَلَّ وَ رَسُوْلُہٗ اَعْلَم صلَّی اللہ علیہ واٰلہٖ وسلَّم
Written by Abu Muhammad Faraz Attari Madani
Verified by Mufti Abu Muhammad Ali Asghar Attari Madani