Al-Maidah · Juz 7 · Qur'an Tafseer

Tafseer Surah al-Ma’idah Ayah 89

In this ayah we learn about the expiation for breaking oaths.

لاَ يُؤَاخِذُكُمُ اللَّهُ بِاللَّغْوِ فِى أَيْمَـنِكُمْ وَلَـكِن يُؤَاخِذُكُم بِمَا عَقَّدتُّمُ الاٌّيْمَـنَ  

“Allah will not punish you for what is unintentional in your oaths, but He will punish you for your deliberate oaths…”

Sometimes we are very careful about the food that we eat. We make sure it’s halal but when it comes to our speech we are not that careful. Sometimes we utter words that are not pleasing to Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala and we may be liable to pay kufarra upon them.

The word laghw is used in several ways. It means ineffectual, uncounted, meaningless or idle talk. People can spend hours and hours talking but at the end of the day what was it that they were talking about? There are certain words that people speak without any intention or out of habit. If a person utters something spontaneously while he didn’t mean it then he will not be held accountable.

But if a person says something while being sure what he is saying then he will be accountable for it. He consciously swore that oath. Yameen is to swear oath.

For oaths that were intended by the heart, Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala narrates the following expiation,

فَكَفَّارَتُهُ إِطْعَامُ عَشَرَةِ مَسَـكِينَ مِنْ أَوْسَطِ مَا تُطْعِمُونَ أَهْلِيكُمْ أَوْ كِسْوَتُهُمْ أَوْ تَحْرِيرُ رَقَبَةٍ فَمَن لَّمْ يَجِدْ فَصِيَامُ ثَلَـثَةِ أَيَّامٍ ذلِكَ كَفَّارَةُ أَيْمَـنِكُمْ إِذَا حَلَفْتُمْ

“…for its expiation feed ten poor, on a scale of the Awsat of that with which you feed your own families; or clothe them; or free a slave. But whosoever cannot afford, then he should fast for three days. That is the expiation for the oaths when you have sworn…”

Three options have been given (a) feed ten poor people, (b) clothe ten poor people, and (c) free a slave. And if someone doesn’t have the means to do any of these then he should fast for three consecutive days. This is his expiation for what he deliberately said.

Feed ten poor people means providing them two meals similar to what we serve our family. This means that just because they are poor it doesn’t mean they can be served spoiled or rotten food. Food quality should be of the same standard or whatever is called a decent meal. Same rule applies to clothing. Don’t get them shabby or tattered clothes. Clothe them with what you will buy for a family member. Ten clothes means ten complete outfits. They should be such that they cover a person’s aura whether man or woman, and a person can offer prayers in it.

If someone has a slave in their custody or know someone who has one then he should free that slave or pay money free him. the condition here is that the slave should be a Muslim. While this is not stated in the ayah, we learn about this condition through a hadeeth.

In the Muwatta of Malik, the Musnad of Ash-Shafi`i and Saheeh Muslim, a lengthy hadeeth was recorded that Umar bin Al-Hakam As-Sulami said that he once had to free a slave (as atonement) and he brought a black slave girl before the Messenger of Allah, sallAllahu aalyhi wa sallam, who asked her;

أَيْنَ اللهُ؟

“Where is Allah?” She said, “Above the heavens.” He said,

مَنْ أَنَا؟

“Who am I?” She said, “The Messenger of Allah.” He said,

أَعْتِقْهَا فَإِنَّهَا مُؤْمِنَة

“Free her, for she is a believer.” There are three types of expiation for breaking deliberate oaths, and whichever one chooses, it will suffice, according to the consensus (of the scholars).

Allah mentioned the easiest, then the more difficult options, since feeding is easier than giving away clothes, and giving away clothes is easier than freeing a slave. If one is unable to fulfill any of these options, then he fasts for three days for expiation.

This is the legal way to atone for deliberate oaths.

وَاحْفَظُواْ أَيْمَـنَكُمْ كَذلِكَ يُبَيِّنُ اللَّهُ لَكُمْ ءَايَـتِهِ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَشْكُرُونَ

“…And protect your oaths. Thus Allah makes clear to you His Ayat that you may be grateful.”

Protect your oath means that if you have sworn something then do not break it without a legal or physical necessity. One should also not hasten to give a sworn statement. And give an oath has been broken then one should not leave his broken oaths without paying the expiation for them. This is how Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala makes His commands clear for us so that we may be grateful to Him. if there was no expiation we would have been punished for our sins in the hereafter. But by stating kuffara Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala has shown us a way to free ourselves from the punishment of fire.


– We learn about the vastness of Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala. He doesn’t hold people about what slips from their mouth unconsciously.

– We learn about the importance of intention.

– It is the mercy of Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala that He tells us ways to free ourselves from fire.


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