VOWS

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A vow is a solemn promise to do, in God’s name, something that resembles an act of worship and make obligatory upon oneself that which is not obligatory. A vow is considered “Islamic” only if it is made in God’s name and involves an obligatory or necessary act of worship (e.g., to fast or help the poor). Therefore, one can vow to perform two rak’ats of prayer or fast, but not to make a prostration of recitation or perform ablution, for these latter two acts are not obligatory acts of worship in themselves but rather are the means to such acts. Also, vows can be made concerning only that which can be fulfilled.

There are two kinds of vows: appointed and unappointed. An appointed vow can be, for example, vowing to fast on a certain day if one’s desire for something religiously lawful is met. If the desired thing happens, the vow must be fulfilled. An unappointed vow can be, for example, a vow to fast for one day or to give charity to the poor if one’s desire for something religiously lawful is met. If the desired thing happens, the vow must be fulfilled.

If one vows to do something resembling an act of worship if something does not occur, he or she must either fulfill the vow or make an expiation. For example, if one addicted to lying vows to fast for a week if he or she does not lie again, but then does so, he or she either has to fulfill the vow or make an expiation like that made for broken oaths.