Enormities: Breaking A Promise

This is another article in the chapter Probable Enormities from the classical manual on Sharia called Reliance of the Traveller. The articles are posted one by one in the order they are given in the book.

BREAKING A PROMISE

p75.15 The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said,

“The signs of a hypocrite are three: when he speaks he lies, when he promises he breaks it, and when entrusted he betrays his trust.”

(A: If one makes an ordinary promise to another person, it is sunna to keep the promise, though it is strictly unlawful to make a promise that one has no intention to keep, this being how scholars interpret the above hadith.)

Lying and betraying a trust have been mentioned before, while here we are discussing promise breaking. Allah Most High says,

“Of them, there is one who promised Allah, ‘If He bestows of His generosity on us, we shall certainly give charity and be of the righteous’ ” (Koran 9:75).

(n: Suyuti notes that the person referred to above “is Tha’laba ibn Hatib, who ‘asked the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) to pray that Allah would enrich him, so that he might give everyone their just due. So the Prophet supplicated for him and he became wealthy, but then he stopped coming to the Friday prayer, withdrew from the community, and refused to pay zakat, as Allah Most High says:

“‘But when He gave to them of His generosity, they hoarded it and turned away in aversion. So He punished them by putting hypocrisy into their hearts until the day they meet Him, because they broke their promise to Allah and lied’ (Koran 9:76-77).

Some time after this, he brought the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) his zakat, but the Prophet told him, ‘Allah forbids me to accept it from you,’ at which Tha’laba threw handfuls of dust upon his own head. He later (A: in the time of the subsequent caliphate] took his zakat to Abu Bakr, but he would not accept it. Then to ‘Umar, but he would not accept it. Then he took it to ‘Uthman, but he would not accept it either, and he died in the reign of ‘Uthman” (Ta/sir alJalalayn (y77), 253).)

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