This word is derived from meaning the right hand. This refers to what people used to do when swearing oaths, whereby each person would take the right hand of his companion. And it was said that it is because the right hand is associated with protecting things.
Types of oaths
Oaths are divided into three categories.
1A Unintentional oaths. (Yameen Al-Laghw). These are oaths that are spoken by a person but not meant from the heart and by which he does not mean to swear to something; rather he says it by way of affirmation but not by way of an oath in the sharia sense. For example, a person may say, ” By Allah, you should do this or that” or “No, by Allah” and so on. This definition comes under the heading of oaths used in jokes and arguments when a person does not mean it from the heart. The Mother of the believers Aisha raa said: ” Unintentional oaths are those which are spoken in jest, in disputes, in argument and when a person does not mean what he says from the heart. Another form of unintentional oaths is when someone swears by something he knows is wrong, when a man swears something by Allah, and he is certain that what he is swearing is correct, then he finds out that it was wrong. Imaam Malik (may Allah have mercy on him) said : ” The best that I have heard concerning this is that an unintentional oath is when a man swears to something and is certain that it is so, then he finds out that it is other than that. This is an unintentional oath (Laghw).
1B Ruling on unintentional oaths. The ruling is that no kaffara (expiation) is required for them, because the person did not mean it from the heart. The evidence for that is the Verse in which Allah says :
“Allah will not call you to account for that which is unintentional in your oaths, but He will call you to account for that which your hearts have earned. And Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most-Forbearing”. (Quran 2:225)
2A Deliberate Oaths. This is an oath which a person means from the heart, intending it to be binding and committing himself to doing or not doing something. In the Quran Allah says:
“But He will call you to account for that which your hearts have earned. And Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most-Forbearing”. (Quran 2:225)
“But He will punish you for your deliberate oaths”. (Quran 5:89)
2B Ruling on deliberate oaths. Allah tells us that the ruling on deliberate oaths is that He will call us to account for them, so they must be fulfilled or expiation must be offered if they are broken.
2C Expiation (Kaffara). The expiation for that is to feed ten poor persons, giving the average kind of food that a man gives to his own family, or to clothe them, or to free a slave. Whoever cannot do that, Must fast for three days.
“But He will punish you for your deliberate oaths, for it`s expiations is feed ten masakeen, on a scale of average of that which you feed your families, or clothe them or manumit a slave. But whosoever cannot afford that, then he should fast for three days. That is the expiation for the oaths when you have sworn. And protect your oaths. (i.e do not swear to much). Thus Allah makes clear to you His Ayaat, that you may be grateful”. (Quran 5:89)
3A False Oaths. This is an oath which a person swears by Allah knowing for sure that it is false, so as deprive another of his rights or to consume people`s wealth unlawfully or to avoid paying back a debt. This is one of the most serious of major sins. Allah says:
“And make not your oaths , a means of deception among yourselves, lest a foot slip after being firmly planted, and you may have to taste the evil (punishment in this world) of having hindered men from the path of Allah, and yours will be a great torment. ( Quran 16:94).
“Verily, those who purchase a small gain at the cost of Allah’s Covenant and their oaths, they shall have no portion in the Hereafter (Paradise). Neither will Allah speak to them nor look at them on the Day of Resurrection nor will He purify them, and they shall have a painful torment”. (Quran 3:77)
It was narrated that Abdullah Ibn Masood raa said that the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) said: ” Whosoever swears falsely when he is asked to do so in order to deprive a Muslim of his property unlawfully, will meet Allah when He is angry with him”. (Bukhari).
It was narrated from Abdullah Ibn Amr that the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) said : ” The major sins are; associating others with Allah, being disobedient to one`s parents, murder and making false oaths”. (Tirmidhi).
3B Is there any expiation for a false oath? There is no expiation for a false oath except praying for forgiveness and repenting to Allah. If it had to do with the rights of another person, then the one who swore this oath should try to ask for their pardon, and to restore to people what is rightfully theirs, and ask for their forgiveness for what he did. He should also make a lot of supplication to Allah, asking Him to forgive for his error, for Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.
4A Unlawful oaths. That is one for which Allah and His Messenger (pbuh) has not given permission to. Allah and His Messenger (pbuh) has given permission for oaths sworn by one of the names or attributes of Allah. Oaths sworn by anything else is something that is not permissable. That is because swearing oaths is an act of worship.
4B Swearing by something other than Allah. Nowadays we see people continually swearing by things other than Allah, such as by the Prophet (pbuh), or by their fathers or mothers, or by their father’s head, children’s lives or by blessings, or by the Quran, or by the Kabah. These things ar not permissable by the sharia, because there are no reports in the Sunnah to indicate that it is permissable to swear by these things. Evidence that is haram in the sunnah is the hadith of Umar raa who said that the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) said :
” Whoever swears by something other than Allah has committed kufr – Shirk”.
It was narrated by Abu Hurayra raa that the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) said : “Do not swear by your fathers or mothers or by rivals; do not swear by anything except Allah and do not swear unless you mean it”.
Swearing by Amaanah (honesty) is very widespread among the common people, but this is something that is not permitted and Islam forbids it. In the hadith of Buraydah ibn Al-Haseeb raa said that the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) said : ” Whoever swears of amanah is not one of us”.
4C Is there any expiation for swearing by something other than Allah? The expiation of swearing by other than Allah is the expiation for a sin, not the expiation for breaking an oath (Kafarat Yameen). Because the correct view is that an oath sweared by other than Allah is not an oath that is meant in the heart. So no expiation is due if one breaks such an oath. It was narrated by Abu Hurayra raa that the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) said Whoever swears and says in his oath, “by al-Laat and al- Uzza, let him say : ” La ilaha illallah (There is no God but Allah).
4D Swearing by the Noble Quran. Is the same as the ruling of swearing by Allah or by one of His Attributes or names, because the Quran is one of the attributes of Allah, as it is part of His Speech by the Noble Quran than he has to fulfil his oath, and if he wishes to break it he must offer expiation like the expiation for breaking a deliberate oath.
4E Swearing by the Mushaf. If a person wants to swear by the Mushaf by what it contains of the words of Allah, then this is like swearing by the Quran. But if he wants to swear by the Mushaf itself, the pages covers and so on, which are things made by man, then it is not permissable to swear by it and it is not binding, because that is not permissable to swear by it, and it is not binding, because that is swearing by something other than Allah, which is discussed above.
– Extracted from the book – Important Lessons for Muslims.